The five individuals named here represent only a few of those who risked, and are risking, their lives in the ongoing fight for justice, freedom and human rights in all corners of the world.
1. Anthony Shadid, journalist
Pulitzer-prize winning foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died in February, from an asthma attack while he was in Syria, just 45 minutes from the border of Turkey. He and photographer Tyler Hicks had entered the war-torn country secretly and spent a week with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), to report on Syria’ nearly two-year-old bloody civil war for the New York TImes.
Based in Beirut and Baghdad, Shadid (who was of Lebanese-American descent) had most recently written about the protests of the Arab Spring in Cairo and elsewhere in the Middle East. In March of 2011, he, Hicks and two other journalists had been kidnapped and beaten by forces under Col. Muammar el-Gadaffi. For his coverage of the Syrian conflict, Shadid and his family were stalked by Syrian agents in Lebanon.
As the New York Times notes, much of Shadid’s reporting was “centered on ordinary people who had been forced to pay an extraordinary price for living in the region — or belonging to the religion, ethnic group or social class — that they did.”
Photo by Terissa Schor/Flickr
2. Chut Wutty, environmental activist
44-year-old Chut Wutty was shot and killed on April 26 while escorting two journalists from the Cambodian Daily through a forest in Koh Kong province in southwestern Cambodia. While showing them some of the wildlife unique to the forest, Chut Wutty and the journalists were confronted by a security guard, two uniformed soldiers and three military police officers.
Chut Wutty was the Founder and Director of the Natural Resource Protection Group (NRPG) and sought to protect his country’s rainforests from illegal logging. The Cambodian government dismissed his alleged murder case in October but his family is still calling for justice. Chut Wutty’s supporters continue to fight against logging and deforestation which are robbing the country of its natural resources and destroying the livelihoods and futures of too many Cambodians.
Video via Global Witness/YouTube
3. Li Wangyang, human rights activist
62-year-old Li Wangyang had been imprisoned by Chinese authorities for two decades when he was found hanged in his hospital room in June. While the government claims that Li’s death was a suicide, his family and supporters remain suspicious.
Li had called for independent trade unions in the central province of Hunan. He was arrested on June 9, 1989, five days after the Chinese army cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, and accused of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement.” Sentenced to an 11-year term doing hard labor, Li was held in solitary confinement and beaten so badly that he required hospitalization. He was sentenced to a second prison term on the grounds that he had incited “subversion” for requesting government assistance for the health problems he developed in prison and for mistreatment.
Video via Zubenelgenubiii/YouTube
4. Nabeel Rajab, human rights activist
Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison in August for participating in an “illegal demonstration.” Following an appeal, Rajab’s sentence has been changed to two years. At the time of his arrest, Rajab (the president of the Bahrain Center For Human Rights) was already serving a three-month sentence on charges of writing anti-government comments on Twitter including one in which he demanded that Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s prime minister and the longest serving in the world, step down. International human rights groups and twenty US politicians have demanded Rajab’s immediate release.
Since February 2011 — when mass demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring were held in the capital of Manama – Bahrain has been the site of constant protests, many led by the tireless Rajab, against the country’s Sunni Muslim monarchy.
Photo by Conor McCabe/Flickr
5. Malala Yousafzai, human rights and women’s rights activist
In October 15-year-old education campaigner Malala Yousafzai was shot three times in the head by a Taliban hitman for the “crime” of campaigning for girls to go to school. Malala was on a bus taking her and her classmates back from school through the Swat Valley. But the brutal attack on the teenager has only increased support for the rights of women and girls in regions where the Taliban is established. In November, the Pakistani government announced that it will open sixteen “Malala schools” for children in areas affected by conflict or natural disasters.
Before the Taliban’s attack, Malala had inspired many for her advocacy for literacy and peace. Back in 2009, she had written an anonymous blog about what it was like to live under the Taliban. She survived the shooting and is now recovering in a hospital U.K. Some have said that, for her advocacy and her courage, Malala deserves to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
I believe she does — Malala’s fearlessness, determination and belief in the rights of all to an education are not only inspiring, but call all of those to support her work and those of so many other other activists around the world in the new year and so long as there is injustice.
Video via uhbvideo/YouTube
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