The 10 best known individuals campaigning for human rights

October 22, 2021 Listing 0

There are many people around the world who use their voice to amplify the cause of human rights. From ordinary citizens protesting in Myanmar, to high-profile figures like the Pope, human rights are fought for by people of all social classes and cultures. Human rights apply to all people on Earth, but unfortunately not all people have equal access to human rights. In this list, 10 people, some famous, but also relatively unknown people are listed who could be considered as those which are the most important human rights activists. Obviously, there are many other private persons which have fought for human rights, but this list seeks to list both people who should be known more and those people which are already known. From the support of refugees to indigenous people, these people have fought for a different and specific human right, but in the end, all are similar in their fight for people to have equal rights and to be treated in a humane way. This should be a goal of all of us living on this planet. The list does not reflect any political opinion of the authors.


1. Rigoberta Menchú

Issues such as ethnocultural reconciliation and Indian rights had a strong promoter in Ms. Menchú, both in the Western world and in her native Guatemala. She assisted on the farm of her family when she was young and was brought up with the influence of Mayan culture, specifically its Quiché branch. Religious beliefs of Ms. Menchú played a role in her involvement in politics, more specifically the movement “Liberation Theology” which said that the reading of the Bible should primarily be done through the poor people’s viewpoints and that poor people were the recipients of a message of freedom from Jesus Christ. Vicente Menchú, the father of Ms. Menchú, was a participant in the Peasant Unity Committee, whose main goal was for peasants to gain land and for the land of the peasants to be secure from any affluent landowner who could potentially subjugate that land, and another source of her motivation. Ms. Menchú became part of the committee in 1979 and her task was for the 22 Indian groups present in Guatemala to come together and fight against exploitation. She, unfortunately, faced tragedies caused by the army of Guatemala, as they killed her brother, her father, and her mother. Military officers presided over Guatemala after a coup d’état in 1954 which the CIA had aided. A global movement was started by Ms. Manchu after she ran away from Guatemala to Mexico, which stood up for Guatemalan Indians and their struggles. She also became a part of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Indigenous peoples around the world had a leading representative in Ms. Menchú mainly due to her book. Being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for work on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples was something Ms. Manchu became aware of in October 1992.  A supporter of human rights, the new president Ramiro de León Carpio and the circumstances that led to his election saw an important part being done by Ms. Menchú herself. The issue of indigenous rights therefore became more widely known thanks to her efforts.


2. Richard Gere

Famous for movies such as Pretty Woman, Mr. Gere has been focused on Tibetan people and supporting their human rights. He recalls the experience of how his humanitarian course of action started in 1978 when he travelled to Nepal. Inscribed on a sign in a village was, “Tibetan refugees” where he eventually saw people who instead of thinking in the matter of themselves, they thought in connection with the community. The goal of Tibetan independence has been worked towards as well by Mr. Gere. He has not only supported the rights of Tibetan people, but also is passionate about the topic of AIDS, especially treatment for AIDS, to which he is dedicated to. He also is speaking out on the topic of AIDS in India, specifically focused on how people in India who have AIDS do not have enough care facilities available for them. Mr. Gere has therefore supported the human right of self-determination of the Tibetan people and the improvement of health for people with AIDS.


3. Angelina Jolie

Born in 1975, the world-famous actress, known for her roles in movies as diverse as Lara Croft or Mr. and Ms. Smith, is also famous for being a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She got this role in 2001 and camps for displaced people in developing countries have been visited by Ms. Jolie. In April 2012, she became a Special Envoy and has had about 60 field missions to many countries, such as to Thailand to see refugees from Myanmar. She has had the opportunity to voice support for human rights of refugees, as for example a joint solution for Rohingya refugees being able to lead lives of dignity in Bangladesh has been voiced by Ms. Jolie to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. She does not concentrate on displaced people primarily, but she also focuses on sexual violence around the world and how to stop it. Alongside the former Foreign Secretary of Britain, William Hague, she was the founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012. She has had top-level meetings with top-ranking people like Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, where she campaigned for a permanent body that would, when there are instances of war crimes or other violations of human rights, collect evidence. Ms. Jolie has spoken up for those without a voice, and that is a big achievement.


4. Malala Yousafzai

Born in 1997 in Pakistan in the Swat Valley, Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest person on this list yet has been just as influential in her support for human rights as the older people on this list. Her father was in charge of a learning institution in the city and was a supporter of education. Ms. Yousafzai was known to be wanting to know more when she was young, however this dream that most of us in the West took for granted, changed in 2007. The Swat Valley came under the command of the Taliban and being present at school became impossible for girls, as they were not allowed to go. Ms. Yousafzai did not accept this, and condemned the Taliban on Pakistani TV. In Pakistan, Ms. Yousafzai and her father became famous because of their fight for free education that would be available to girls. The Taliban shot Ms. Yousafzai in 2012 and worldwide support came for her recovery from the shooting. She won the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi in 2014. She is the co-founder of the Malala Fund, which is supporting girls in choice of their future and the chance for that to happen. Her support for the right to an education for girls is an extremely important fight that everyone should support.


5. Martin Luther King, Jr.

No list of human rights supporters can omit Martin Luther King. Born in 1929, he served as a pastor, just like his father and grandfather. He was a part of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and African-Americans, and their civil rights had a strong advocate in Mr. King. The initiative was taken by Mr. King for a bus boycott, which went on for 382 days, was the first protest that did not use violence by African-Americans. Both Africans-Americans and white people then could both ride buses, since it was decided that segregation on buses was violating the constitution according to the Supreme Court of the US. Seeking to provide. So that a new leadership for the civil rights movement would be present, there was a creation of an organization called Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Mr. King was chosen as its president. Gandhi inspired its modus operandi and Christianity shaped the organization’s ideals. Both the nation’s eyes and the world’s eyes were set on the so-called Birmingham Campaign of Mr. King where he sought for the recruitment policies that were segregationist to be ended. A non-violent philosophy was advocated for by Mr. King in his now famous Letter from Birmingham jail.  His famous speech where he expressed his belief that brotherhood among all men was possible. His famous phrase “I have a dream” was heard by 250,000 people, African-Americans and Caucasian people, in Washington, D.C.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  In 1968, Mr. King was assassinated and there is discussion surrounding his death. His message and his way of protesting for civil rights of African-Americans is still extremely influential today.


6. Bono

Born in 1960, he is also known for promoting human rights while being a rock star for the band U2. U2, including Bono, was devoted to Christianity as a religion and the band gained fame with its albums. So that the tour Conspiracy of Hope would include U2 was a request put forward in 1985 by the head of Amnesty International to U2. The idea was that violations of human rights would be highlighted by the tour and so that the violations would be opposed by the fans, who would be motivated to do so due to the tour. Difficulties that people were facing in developing countries became an interest of Bono after Nicaragua and El Salvador, which were ravaged by war, had been visited by him. Bono wanted to become a politician for the world despite being elected and while being part of U2. This choice was made by Bono through using his stardom status, which meant that he could actually meet with world leaders. In 2002, he established an organization which would use outreach campaigns for the spread of AIDS, as well as poverty and hunger to be eliminated. This anti-poverty struggle primarily in Africa was also the goal of the  ONE campaign in 2004 where Bono was the co-founder. Fighting for a life with dignity for people in developing countries is something that Bono has helped promote and is a very important fight for human security.


7. Alison Des Forges

The former Senior Advisor for Human Rights Watch Africa, and when it came to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, she was the one to forecast it happening. Ms. Des Forges therefore is an important addition to this list of human rights defenders, especially since had she been listened to, the Rwandan genocide may have been averted and thousands of people’s lives could have been saved. She wanted the world to do something, as she anticipated organized violence and its risk during the months prior to the Rwandan genocide. Both describing the inability to take steps by the international community in regard to the genocide and compiling the evidence of the violence in the genocide has been done by Ms. Des Forges. The genocide has been described in her thorough 789-page book called Leave None to Tell the Story, which is seen as an authoritative book on the subject. In eleven trials for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, she also was the expert witness. She also believed that not only the Rwandan government should be answerable for their crimes during the genocide, but also the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who won against the government. She unfortunately died in 2009, but her work is still important to consider even today.


8. Nadia Murad

Born in 1993, Ms. Murad has a similar story like Ms. Yousafzai. She is a steadfast supporter of human rights, and is a young woman that has challenged a big enemy. She has experienced horrors such as being captured by the Islamic state and becoming a sex slave after she was sold as such. Both sexual violence and human trafficking are issues that are close to Ms. Murad’s heart and are issues that she talks about. As she is part of the Yazidi ethno-religious minority, she has also described their genocide in Iraq in her book The last girl: My story of captivity, and my fight against the Islamic State. Women’s rights being safeguarded through legislation is an effort backed by Ms. Murad, and she recommended this to G7 countries. In 2016, she was selected as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and in 2018 she received a Nobel Peace Prize.


9. George Clooney

Starring in films like Ocean’s Eleven, the Hollywood super-actor George Clooney is known for being a co-founder of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, alongside his wife Amal Clooney. Courtrooms that are utilized by countries in such a way for those critical of the government as well as minorities to be persecuted will be monitored through an index that has been established by the Trial Watch program of the foundation. There is another program established by this foundation called The Sentry, where those people that violate human rights will have their dirty money monitored by the program. Additionally, through this monitoring, the foundation seeks for financial repercussions that those people would be forced to contend with. Mr. Clooney is not focused just on this topic, but peacekeeping efforts of the UN have been backed by him. Mr. Clooney together with his wife, Amal, is therefore an important figure in making sure that all people have the right to a fair trial with his efforts.


10. Natasa Kandic

Ms. Kandic has been important for documenting the horrors of genocide, just like Ms. Des Forges. Instead of the Rwandan genocide, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre where Bosnian Muslim men and boys died and what part Serbia played is where Ms. Kandic has been influential in supplying evidence. Six Bosnian Muslims were executed by a Serbian paramilitary group, the Scorpions which was seen in the video that Ms. Kandic distributed to the world. The UN war crimes tribunal then could receive two very famous people thanks to this video: Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs and Ratko Mladic, the military commander of Karadzic. Kosovar Albanians also provided evidence against Serbs who attacked them, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Kandic. Seeking peace and reconciliation in the Balkan region is the goal of the Humanitarian Law Center that Ms. Kandic established. Ms. Kandic is an underappreciated person who led people that engaged in attacks against innocent people to justice.

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