Front Line Defenders launched an online and social media campaign to focus attention on the plight of 12 human rights defenders (HRDs) from Eastern Europe and Central Asia coinciding with the launch of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The ‘Rights. Risks. Change!’ campaign calls on the public to take solidarity action to support these 12 defenders and to pressure local officials to respect the work of HRDs.
All 12 of the HRDs highlighted in the campaign have displayed great courage and integrity in their work on a range of human rights issues. From those who are suffering long-term imprisonment like Ales Bialiatski in Belarus and Azimjan Askarov in Kyrgyzstan to Russian HRDs like Stephania Koulaeva and Evgeny Vitishko who face criminalization for their work challenging discrimination and defending the environment (respectively), the Olympic Team of HRDs face extraordinary challenges in their work defending the human rights of others.
“With global attention focused on the incredible talent and commitment of athletes gathered from around the world these Winter Games, which are supposed to be conducted in a spirit of sportsmanship and fair play, Front Line Defenders draws attention to other heroes in our societies who work at great personal risk, against seemingly insurmountable odds to secure fundamental rights and freedoms for others,” announced Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders at the launch of the campaign.
“Just as these athletes could not compete, let alone win, at the Olympics without a substantial support team, so too do human rights defenders need support for their protection in order to achieve. And just as an energized crowd can spur a new world record, Front Line Defenders believes that by taking a few minutes to join the campaign, the public can make a major difference in the lives of these human rights defenders,” explained Adam Shapiro, Head of Campaigns.