With 2022 coming to a close, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) would like to thank you for continuing to support our efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide. This year presented new challenges for democracy and freedom. Despite the obstacles, HRF made significant strides — from winning legal challenges to leading award-winning campaigns to supporting individuals on the perilous frontlines.
We hope you enjoy learning about our major victories in 2022, all of which were possible with your support. If you want to help us make an even greater impact in 2023, we hope you’ll consider donating or getting involved in our work today.
This year, HRF garnered remarkable news coverage, receiving 130 billion global impressions, 23,000 mentions by media outlets, and coverage in 133 countries. Among others, National Review and Tablet Magazine published in-depth features of the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF); The Washington Post, Guardian, and TIME profiled several OFF speakers; MSNBC discussed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with HRF Board Chairman Garry Kasparov; HRF CEO Thor Halvorssen and President Céline Boustani stressed the need for a “General Assembly for Dissidents” in the Daily News; and The Wall Street Journal gave voice to Iranian activist and HRF International Council member Masih Alinejad.
HRF’s work has also generated more than 32.3M social media impressions, totaling more than 389K followers across all platforms and counting.
On October 7, the Norwegian Nobel Committee convened in Oslo to announce that two of our speakers at the Oslo Freedom Forum received the Nobel Peace Prize. Belarusian dissident Ales Bialiatski and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, headed by Oleksandra Matviichuk, were the 2022 laureates. The Committee recognized their “outstanding effort” toward challenging tyranny, documenting state abuse of civil liberties, and upholding human rights and democracy.
Just four days before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Oleksandra Matviichuk spoke at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum in New York, decrying Vladimir Putin’s illicit attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. Since February, the Russian military has destroyed cities and displaced millions to overthrow the democratically elected Ukrainian government.
Soon after Putin’s invasion, HRF launched the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, in partnership with organizations delivering aid to Ukrainians. Since its launch, HRF has raised more than $350,000, allowing 120 staff and 3,000 volunteers to assist more than one million people.
HRF was instrumental in getting Starlink devices to Ukraine in the early days of the war, providing crucial Internet access to war-torn regions. We also partnered with Free Press Unlimited’s Media Lifeline Project to provide journalists on the frontlines with physical and digital protection. And to combat Putin’s propaganda machine, HRF collaborated with the Open Minds Institute to launch more than 15 online informational campaigns in Russia, reaching more than 50 million people.
HRF’s work to expose Putin’s corruption continues to reach mainstream media and pop culture. This year, HRF worked with Academy Award-winning director Bryan Fogel to produce the sequel to his 2017 film, “Icarus,” titled “Icarus: The Aftermath.” The film follows Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, for five years after the original documentary.
The new film received wide praise at the Telluride Film Festival in September and is currently seeking distribution in the US.
Belarusian activists continue to speak against tyranny and call for a democratic transition in Belarus. Through HRF’s Belarus Solidarity Fund, we collaborated with local NGOs and diaspora communities in the US to assist civil society on the ground. Since its inception in August 2020, the fund has raised more than $1.16 million.
Moreover, HRF’s Belarus Journalism Initiative has disbursed more than $100,000 to independent media organizations and journalists working to progress civil liberties in Belarus. These grants fund the equipment, salaries, and security resources necessary for journalists to continue their essential work.
Thousands of miles away from Minsk, the Iranian regime continues to stifle women’s rights and freedoms. On September 16, the Iranian “morality police” brutally murdered 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, sparking peaceful protests across the country.
One of the biggest catalysts for this recent protest has been the longtime work of Iranian rights advocate Masih Alinejad. For years, HRF has fiercely supported Alinejad, providing her with a platform to amplify her voice and share the stories of valiant Iranian women. She has spoken at the Oslo Freedom Forum multiple times, most recently in New York.
“Compulsory hijab is like the Berlin Wall: if men and women successfully tear it down, then the religious dictatorship won’t exist anymore.” - Masih Alinejad
We are happy to share that Alinejad joined HRF’s International Council this year. She has expressed how, without HRF, she would have been unable to do what she does.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remains one of the biggest threats to fundamental freedoms in the region and the world. From Urumqi to Hong Kong, from Shanghai to Beijing, people are courageously voicing their desire for freedom. This year, through our CCP Disruption Initiative, HRF spearheaded creative campaigns, private letters, and public education initiatives to increase awareness about the CCP’s attacks on civil liberties and to stand firmly with communities oppressed by the Chinese regime.
“The tactics used by the CCP are duplicates from other authoritarian regimes. They are bound to fall when we rise above, trade notes, and learn from each other to unlock the power that solidarity has.” - Chemi Lhamo, Tibetan activist
HRF also stands with the citizens of North Korea, whose regime continues to threaten global democracy through nuclear proliferation and deny individual freedoms by isolating citizens from the outside world. Through our Flash Drives for Freedom (FDFF) program, HRF aims to liberate North Koreans from Kim Jong-un’s propaganda machine by smuggling outside information into the country via flash drives and SD cards.
This year, HRF welcomed a new FDFF program lead, Seongmin Lee, who defected from North Korea at 23. Based in South Korea, Lee has bolstered HRF’s partnerships, holding 50+ meetings with key policymakers, government officials, NGO leaders, and journalists. He has also helped us send thousands of flash drives and SD cards to North Korea.
The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway
The Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) returned to its namesake city in May for its 14th annual event. More than 1,200 attendees from around the globe gathered to hear powerful talks from various human rights defenders, including Free Russia Foundation’s Evgenia Kara-Murza, former Syrian political prisoner Omar Alshogre, Cuban art historian Carolina Barrero, and daughter of “Hotel Rwanda” Hero Paul Rusesabagina Carine Kanimba.
Interactive programming included engaging panel discussions on topics such as Putin’s billion-dollar corruption, attacks on LGBTQI+ rights, and how authoritarian regimes “sportswash” their international records. HRF also offered office hours with experts from organizations such as Twitter and the Canadian civil society watchdog Citizen Lab.
Next year, HRF is thrilled to return to Oslo for the 15th anniversary of the Oslo Freedom Forum on June 13-15. We hope you can join us for this special event.
The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum in New York
HRF held a second OFF event on October 3 at the historic Town Hall in New York City. More than 700 human rights advocates, investors, journalists, philanthropists, and students joined to watch intrepid human rights defenders and performers. A celebratory Speaker Gala followed the theater program, where we successfully held our first-ever auction, raising significant funds for our programs.
The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum in Taiwan
One month later, on November 3, we returned to Taipei, Taiwan, for the third OFF held in the country. The Forum is a powerful symbol of Taiwan’s resilience in response to authoritarianism in the region. Attendees heard first-hand stories from renowned global activists standing up to tyranny in Burma, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Ukraine, the Gambia, and Saudi Arabia. Through roundtable discussions and an interactive exhibition, we connected with Taiwan’s thriving civil society.
HRF firmly believes Taiwan can become a capital of freedom and human rights. We hope to continue bringing our OFF experience to Taipei for years to come.
HRF seeks to elevate artists and performers who challenge authoritarianism through creativity. Our Art in Protest program supports dissident artists by providing mentorship, artistic training sessions, exhibition spaces, and a global platform to showcase their art.
In June 2021, Chinese sculptor Weiming Chen created a unique sculpture in California’s Liberty Sculpture Park, criticizing the Chinese government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. One month after its construction, the “CCP Virus” was mysteriously set ablaze and destroyed. HRF sponsored the creation of a new sculpture made of indestructible stainless steel, titled “CCP Virus II” and unveiled on June 5, 2022.
This year, HRF also kicked off the second cycle of its Art in Protest Residency, a six-month program that supports dissident artists by facilitating the production of original work. The second cohort of resident artists includes Tammam Azzam, a Syrian contemporary artist, and Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese creative and political cartoonist.
Similar to the Art in Protest Residency, HRF offers the Freedom Fellowship, a unique, one-year program that gives human rights advocates, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit leaders from challenging political environments the opportunity to increase the impact of their work. Through mentorship and hands-on training sessions, fellows develop critical skills and join a growing community of human rights activists.
If you are interested in learning more about or donating to the Freedom Fellowship, we encourage you to contact Jhanisse Vaca-Daza at [email protected].
Beyond providing training and direct resources to human rights defenders, HRF supplies pro-bono legal support to individuals targeted by authoritarian regimes. HRF’s Impact Litigation program represents dissidents who have been wrongfully detained by presenting their case before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). In 2022, our team of international attorneys filed several petitions to the UNWGAD, advocating on behalf of dissidents from Belarus, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
This year, HRF’s Legal & Policy team also submitted a record number of Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) to the UN Human Rights Council. In our UPRs, we identified widespread curtailments of freedom of expression, association, and assembly; arbitrary detention; and extrajudicial killings.
Through our research, HRF has found that authoritarianism is among the structural roots of many global crises, including human trafficking. Over the past year, HRF expanded its Human Trafficking & Authoritarianism program by hiring three Research Fellows. In August, HRF published a report showing how Cuba has engaged in a state-run human trafficking enterprise involving its medical missions program.
Surveillance and control of financial systems are central ways dictators repress dissidents. HRF’s Financial Freedom initiatives connect activists in closed societies with world-class technologists who can provide the resources and expertise to protect their communications and privacy, fight state surveillance, and advance free expression.
Defund Dictators, launched in June as part of our Responsible Finance program and in partnership with Life + Liberty Indexes, educates investors on the exposure of Emerging Market Exchange-Traded Funds (EM ETFs) to authoritarian countries. The first of its kind, this project aims to advance democracy and human rights in global business transactions.
HRF’s Bitcoin Development Fund has supported software developers in making the Bitcoin network more private, decentralized, and resilient, so it can better serve as a financial tool for human rights activists, civil society organizations, and journalists. The fund has allocated more than $1.5 million in grants to projects in closed and closing societies.
From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to North Korea’s restriction of information access to Iran’s crackdown on peaceful protests, the world witnessed severe threats to civil liberties and democracy in 2022. Yet, time and time again, tyranny is challenged by the unrelenting resistance, bravery, and hope of dissidents and civil society leaders across the globe.
HRF’s team is committed to aiding dissidents in their struggles for human rights, especially where freedom is most at risk. To do this, we depend on our community’s contributions, big and small. Thanks to your generosity, we can build upon our existing work and continue uplifting human rights causes to create a more free, humane, and prosperous world.
We hope you will continue supporting HRF in our efforts to promote and protect human rights globally, in 2023 and beyond.