As we’ve rounded out the halfway mark of 2022, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the progress and impact of HRF’s work thus far. Over the past few years, HRF’s programs have expanded dramatically in diversity and scope, paving the way for new collaborations and innovative tactics for protecting human rights globally.
I encourage you to read the following highlights. Please know that none of this would be possible without the support of our community. Thank you for being part of this community, and for your unwavering commitment to protecting freedom and human rights around the world.
Director of Legal & Programs
Art in Protest
HRF kicked off the second cycle of our Art in Protest Residency with Syrian contemporary artist Tammam Azzam and Sudanese political cartoonist Khalid Albaih. Both artists are currently attending tutorials on digital art, animation, and 3D mapping, hosted by HRF’s partner, Gray Area Foundation. Check out Transmuting Borders, a digital showcase we debuted at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, which features pieces by Tammam, Khalid, and more artists in our community!
At the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, we also premiered a video detailing the CCP’s directly-ordered vandalism of a sculpture in California’s Liberty Sculpture Park, depicting Xi Jinping’s head as a coronavirus molecule. Art in Protest sponsored the creation of a new sculpture, and our vision is to magnify the power of art by exploring recreating memorials to the crimes of authoritarian regimes around the world.
Belarus Solidarity Fund
HRF launched the Belarus Journalist Initiative, in partnership with First Look Institute, to support journalists working in exile to report on the crimes and corruption of Lukashenko’s regime. We sent 38 microgrants of $1,500 each to individual journalists, and $45,000 to three independent Belarusian media organizations to ensure they can continue their important work. Even small grants can provide a lifeline to journalists and their families, who need help resettling in nearby countries.
Bitcoin Development Fund
In the past six months, HRF has announced 18 new gifts to activists, software developers, and journalists who are trying to make Bitcoin a more accessible tool for civil society movements. Just one example: HRF gave 1.5 Bitcoin (about $30,500) to international media outlets to help them expand their coverage of Bitcoin adoption, and government targeting of dissidents through the banking system.
CCP Disruption Initiative
HRF took bold steps to address Beijing’s role in the 2022 Winter Olympics by co-hosting a peaceful demonstration in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC, among other actions. We erected standing posters of Badiucao’s #NoBeijing2022 artworks in front of the Capitol, and a representative from HRF spoke at the event.
HRF also signed a joint letter calling on US universities to divest from investments in Chinese companies that are linked to human rights abuses. We’re hoping to kick-start a national initiative to have universities investigate any potential ties they may have to the Uyghur genocide.
Most recently, at the 43rd Annual Telly Awards in May, our Lifeline film about Nathan Law won: gold in the Social Video Craft-editing category, silver in the Social Video General-Documentary and General-Social Impact categories, and bronze in the Social Video General-Public Service & Activism category!
Celebrities & Dictators
Following our letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver requesting a private meeting to discuss the Basketball Africa League’s future events in Egypt and Rwanda, Silver canceled his trip to Rwanda for the game. HRF also sent letters to the 10 Oscars nominees for Best Actor and Actress, urging them to take a stance on the CCP’s influence on the film industry.
Dissidents & Dictators
After Putin invaded Ukraine, HRF hosted PutinCon Live, a series of conversations exposing the lies of the Putin regime, with two episodes on Twitter Live. The series received a record amount of over 30,000+ listens across media platforms — 50x the average number of listeners! — with podcasts released across platforms.
We’ve also been posting Oslo Freedom Forum talks as episodes on “Dissidents & Dictators” — don’t forget to share with the podcast-lovers in your life!
HRF welcomed our 2022 class of Freedom Fellows, including activists from Cuba, the Gambia, Tibet, and Belarus, among others. Freedom Fellows met for the first time at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, and will continue their training with the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies throughout the year.
Human Trafficking & Authoritarianism
To expand its work on human trafficking, HRF hired three Research Fellows as part of our Human Trafficking & Authoritarianism program to produce op-eds, legal petitions, policy briefs, and a human trafficking victims database. The program has a focus on Cuba, which uses forced labor in its medical missions to perpetuate its totalitarian regime, and Saudi Arabia, whose kafala system oppresses women and sustains forced labor practices.
Impact Litigation & Anti-Corruption Initiative
As part of our efforts to support Ukraine, HRF joined the Russia Sanctions Working Group, in partnership with other leading NGOs and activists. We signed an open letter to the Biden Administration, asking to support continued Internet access for the Russian people and to counter disinformation from the Kremlin, as well as an urgent appeal calling on the international community to invest in documenting war crimes.
These portraits were featured at our OFF Impact Litigation booth, where guests wrote postcards to support political prisoners.
In collaboration with Harvard University and Tufts University, HRF helped place 9 students at internships with 7 partner organizations, including IranWire, the Albert Einstein Institution, CANVAS, Now Action & Unity for Human Rights, Shuddhashar, One Day Seyoum, and the Khalifa Ihler Institute.
HRF recently launched the Defund Dictators tool, which allows investors to see how much capital Emerging Markets Exchange Traded Funds are allocating to authoritarian countries. Try out the tool here to make sure your investments are not propping up dictatorships!
Ukraine Solidarity Fund
HRF started the Ukraine Solidarity Fund to support humanitarian work in Ukraine, in partnership with Operation Sunflower. We raised more than $180,000, which has contributed to over 640 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including essential food and medical supplies. As part of our creative advocacy efforts, we also ran provocative ads in Times Square, and debuted the chilling “Voices from Inside Ukraine” project at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Wear Your Values
HRF’s campaigns about Uyghur forced labor continue to garner the attention of the general public and the creative industry. At the 26th annual Webby Awards, our Uyghur Forced Labor Checker won The Webby People’s Voice Award in the Public Service & Activism: Advertising, Media & PR category and The Webby Award in the Web Services & Applications: Websites and Mobile Sites category. Most recently, at the 2022 Cannes Lions Awards, HRF won a Bronze Lion in the Outdoor Not-for-Profit/Charity/
The Oslo Freedom Forum is returning to New York City this Fall for a special one-day event, featuring a half-day of theater talks by renowned human rights defenders, followed by a special Gala Dinner in the evening. You will hear first-hand stories from intrepid activists who are promoting freedom against all odds, and connect with a community of philanthropists, technologists, investors, artists, journalists, policymakers, and activists aiming to make the world a more free, open, and peaceful place. Be on the lookout for our upcoming formal announcement, with information on how to register for the event!