For people standing up for human rights, social media is an outlet to make their voices heard. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all proving more and more popular when it comes to activism across the world, providing a space where people come together, exchange ideas, learn from one another, organise and have their say.
If you want to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to inspiring activism on the ground, here are some accounts to follow in 2018…
Activists of New York City
Since President Trump took power, New York City has become one of the main stages of protest against what is seen as a rollback of human rights. So, if you want to know what’s happening on the ground, check out Activists of New York. It’s a “documentary photo project about activism, protests and social justice movements in New York City”.
Cindy Trinh, a lawyer turned photographer, is the mastermind behind the project. “It is a documentation on what is happening in the streets of New York, as the events happen,” Cindy reveals.
“As you see what is happening in the news and we see the response to these tragic events happening, I wanted to document what activists are doing in response to these events.”
The photography is beautiful, the message powerful – and she’s covered Amnesty International’s Human rights Conference in the USA!
Befeqadu, also known as Befekadu Hailu, is an award-winning Ethiopian writer, activist and blogger who has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Befeqadu, along with other members of the Zone 9 blogging group, was arbitrarily arrested and charged with terrorism in 2014 due to his online and offline activism and campaigning on human rights in Ethiopia. Although he has now been released, Befeqadu is still facing trial for a charge of “inciting violence through writing”.
He’s a prolific writer – he came third in the 2012 Burt Award for African Literature for his novel Children of their Parents (2013) and was awarded the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2015. He tweets about human rights in Ethiopia.
State's Human Rights Commission in #Ethiopia, revealed sever physical abuse perpetrated by police against 16 defendants of #QilintoFire case. Agbaw Setegn, for e.g., had his left leg pierced with nail. ? pic.twitter.com/kRbcu82bab
— BefeQadu Z. Hailu (@befeqe) November 22, 2017
Kurdish journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist Behrouz Boochani is using social media to protest against his detention by Australian authorities on Manus Island, a remote part of Papua New Guinea where refugees are being held. Behrouz fled Iran after the authorities detained several of his colleagues. But in 2014, when he arrived in Australia, authorities forcibly transferred him to the infamous detention centre on Manus Island, where he is one of around 700 refugees being held in the camp. Over the past four years, he has been detained in the refugee centres, where he has been targeted by authorities for his role in peaceful protests.
Behrouz bravely documents his continuing ordeal for a number of media outlets, penning a heart-breaking diary about the reality of what it’s like to be detained on Manus Island, and advocating for the rights of himself and others. He is also co-director of the film “Chauka Please Tell Us the Time”, filmed entirely on his phone camera within the refugee detention centre. Take a bit of time to scroll through his Twitter and Facebook, and you will see an activist brave enough to shed light on one of the major human rights crises of our time.
Here is the Manus resistance manifesto I have written based on my experiences over the past months. I would like to invite Australian society to read this piece. I wrote it in a way to wake Australia up.#Manus https://t.co/dpVoaJ6KdU
— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) December 9, 2017
Charlie is a DJ and poet from London, UK. He is the founder of the successful Run Dem Crew, formed in 2007. Run Dem Crew is a running club, but with a difference – they are a multifaceted organisation dedicated to changing and empowering the next generation. The organisation works with young people all over London providing mentoring, advice and opportunities for exploring the city in a safe and inclusive environment.
Charlie is also part of the Amnesty Collective: a diverse group of young artists, activists and influencers using their platforms to speak out about issues that are important to them.
Franchesca Leigh AKA Chescaleigh
Franchesca Ramsey is a comedian, activist and actress. From racism to pop culture, Chescaleigh isn’t afraid to speak out about the issues she is concerned about. Plus she’s fun and her videos are too. For her, the internet provides a space for activists to meet no matter where they are from and share what’s going on in their world.
“For a black activist, for an activist of all walks of life, the internet has become this kind of meeting place where we can exchange ideas, where we can learn from each other, where we can get inspired about new ways that we can make changes within our own communities and own homes. It’s a really exciting time for all activists.”
Libyan-American Hend Amry is quick-witted, sharp and funny when it comes to firing off Tweets. An inspiration in fact. Although she doesn’t see herself as an “activist”, she’s not afraid to challenge issues such as racism, Islamophia or inequality, tweeting funny responses with a unique spin. Hend proves that as long as we care, we all have the capability to make a difference.
“I think we are all activists when we comment on the news of the day, and bring attention to events that require our consideration.”
Oh, and her Tumblr is very funny too.
"Anti-blackness among Asians and Arabs is seeped in history, partly a hangover from colonialism & has continued on largely due to ignorance, choice & of course the role of global media in this." Not just failed statehood,criminality & impunity-racism underpins #SlaveryInLibya https://t.co/fYikDzDoNO
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) November 30, 2017
Kat Blaque is a feminist YouTuber, illustrator, animator and writer. Her videos are honest, authentic and bold, with a focus on gender, sexuality, race and how they intersect.
“I’m a woman, I’m black, I’m curvy and I’m trans. There are a lot of things that I deal with. When I talk about those things, I am literally talking about my embodiment of these intersections.”
As a black, female feminist, Kat frequently faces a torrent of online harassment, but she’s bold and unafraid in her response – and her fans love her for it. Last year, Kat called out a man who was harassing her online. She blogged about it for The Huffington Post and sparked a response from many others who shared her outrage. The activists’ response triggered an investigation by the man’s employer and he was subsequently fired from his job. Result.
Mai Khoi is an outspoken musician who has been described as “Viet Nam’s Lady Gaga”. She is a pro-democracy activist in a country where political opposition and dissent are not tolerated. Having spoken out about sexuality, LGBTI rights, violence against women, and voicing her opinions about Donald Trump, she has been targeted and harassed by Vietnam’s authorities for peacefully exercising her right to publicly express her opinion. As a result, she has been evicted without being allowed to collect her possessions, stalked, harassed and arbitrarily detained. Her concerts have also been raided.
“There is no such thing as freedom of expression here, not in any meaningful sense, anyway. You can’t sing and play your guitar on the street or organize a private show in your own house without having to first ask for permission.”
In 2016, she hit international headlines when she became the first Vietnamese celebrity to run as an independent candidate in the Communist-controlled National Assembly, but her application was rejected. In the same year, she met with then US President Barack Obama to discuss the situation of human rights in Vietnam. Much of her social media is focused on her music, but her lyrics remain critical, touching on many human rights issues of our time.
Nancy is a young woman from Norway, who cares about human rights. In 2016, she wrote the article, “We are the shameless Arab women and our time starts now” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” began. In 2017, Nancy, along with Sofia Nesrine Srour and Amina Bile, wrote the book “Shameless”, which included stories from girls who had personally experienced shaming for not conforming to gender norms. The book was a huge hit, with Nancy saying “I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too. This is what fighting against injustice is about.”
“By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger… it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”
Noan Sereiboth is a political blogger and integral part of Cambodia’s active political youth. He is a standing member and regular contributor to the now-suspended “Politikoffee”, a website encouraging youth debate on current political and social issues. Due to the repressive political climate in Cambodia, Politikoffee decided to suspend its activities on 27 November 2017.
Sereiboth has a strong social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, where he shares his opinion on current political events and developments in Cambodia – and it’s really worth checking out. A tweet from Politikoffee on New Year raised hopes that it will resume activities this March in a crucial year for Cambodia’s future.
Crackdowns make activists, CSOs, union leaders afraid to talk & run their activities, less active & collective work while voters just remain silent. #ElectionsKH is coming soon but…people are very worried & pessimistic. People just wish both big parties not in conflicts anymore
— Noan Sereiboth (@noansereiboth) December 24, 2017
Sakris was a teenager when he realised that the gender he was given at birth doesn’t express who he is. Since then, he has faced many challenges in Finland. First, he needed to be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” in order to change his name to one that he felt better matched his identity. Then he learned that in order to have his gender legally recognized, he would need to be sterilized.
“It felt like I was categorized subhuman based on my gender identity. I felt sick.”
Despite facing intimidation and threats, Sakris is bravely campaigning for a fairer system for transgender people in Finland, so that nobody else has to go through this.
Last but not least, follow us! We will be sharing loads of inspiring stories from people doing incredible work and standing up for human rights throughout the year. Plus, we’ve been campaigning globally for human rights since 1961. We work to protect women, men and children wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. And the only reason we’re able to do all the great work we do, is because of you. Make sure you’re following us this year!