The Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF) Freedom Fellowship is a unique one-year program in partnership with CANVAS that gives human rights advocates, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit leaders from authoritarian regimes the opportunity to increase the impact of their work. Through mentorship and hands-on seminars, fellows develop critical skills and join a growing community of human rights activists.
Meet the 2023-24 Freedom Fellows
Joey Siu is a Hong Kong activist based in Washington, D.C, who played a vital role in Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests. She organized city-wide protests and co-founded a student advocacy coalition. After fleeing in 2020, she served as an advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and a policy advisor to Hong Kong Watch. Siu is also a dedicated advocate for the Tibetan, Uyghur, and other communities oppressed by the Chinese Community Party. In exile, she’s created a cross-movement coalition with young activists and successful advocacy initiatives, including the #NoBeijing2022 campaign.
Ramy Essam, an Egyptian rock artist and human rights defender, is considered one of the most prominent figures of the Egyptian Revolution. He began as a voice on the streets of Egypt and has risen to the international stage, with viral hits and winning several awards. His music, inspired by rock and hip-hop, has an Egyptian flavor, and he sings in both Egyptian Arabic and English. Essam uses his music platform to promote social justice and human rights worldwide.
Zineb El Rhazoui is a Moroccan-French human rights activist and journalist. She published several articles on religious minorities in the independent publication Le Journal Hebdomadaire, which the Moroccan government banned in 2010. She co-founded the pro-democracy, pro-secularism movement MALI before joining the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2011. After the Arab Spring, during which she was a spokesperson for Morocco’s February 20 Movement, she was forced into exile in Slovenia. She continues speaking out against religious extremism and supporting women’s rights under theocratic regimes.
Raphael Adebayo is a Nigerian human rights activist, author, and co-founder of the #EndSARS-ReformPoliceNG movement. In 2020, Adebayo helped coordinate the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria. He documented attacks by hired thugs and the use of excessive force by security agencies. He also exposed the government officials who recruited these thugs to brutally attack peaceful protesters. His involvement in the protests resulted in serious threats against him, forcing him into exile, where he has continued his activism.
Babur Ilchi is a program manager for the Uyghur Human Rights Project and a former program director for the Campaign for Uyghurs. Since he was a student at the University of Calgary, Ilchi has been involved in grassroots and student activism, program management, and corporate accountability campaigning, especially concerning Uyghur forced labor supply chains. He has been interviewed by several major news outlets, including BBC, ITV News, and the Globe & Mail.
Yunier Suárez is a Cuban human rights defender and artist. Through theater, he has exposed the mechanisms of repression and violence employed by the Cuban regime. After several years of political threats and censorship by the Cuban Ministry of Culture, he resettled in Spain, where he remains an active member of the citizen platform Cuba Decide, voicing grievances and advocating for systemic and democratic change in Cuba.
To learn more about the program, and to witness the testimonials of previous Freedom Fellows, watch the program recap video below: