On January 14, Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House hosted a luncheon with past Sakharov Prize winners Hauwa Ibrahim, Wei Jingsheng and Rosa María Payá. Professor Tania C. Mastrapa and Michael Webber represented The Institute of World Politics at the meeting where the three speakers shared their experiences.
The Sakharov Prize honors those who “combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.” The discussion focused on the challenges faced by human rights activists and how to best support their work against human rights abuses.
Ms. Ibrahim is a Nigerian human rights lawyer whose practice defends women condemned to death by stoning. Mr. Jinsheng is a prominent anti-Communist activist who wrote The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings, a collection of articles originally written on toilet paper during more than 18 years as a political prisoner in China. Ms. Payá spoke on behalf of her father Oswaldo who spearheaded the Varela Project and spent many years condemned to forced labor in Cuba for practicing Catholicism. On July 22, 2012 Oswaldo Payá died in the hospital after the car in which he rode was repeatedly rammed into and driven off the road in a typical Communist secret police black operation. His daughter continues to honor his life and work, particularly by demanding an investigation into her father’s murder.
Mr. Webber commented that he was humbled by their stories and reminded of the importance of human rights and freedom of expression – rights we take for granted in the United States.
Above: Michael Webber and Rosa María Payá