CFF at Stanford
November 16, 2015
The event was a joint initiative in partnership with Stanford STAND, CS + Social Good, and the Stanford Korean Students Association.
Iranian former prisoner of conscience Marina Nemat shared her moving personal story about her journey to freedom and her continued activism as a voice of the voiceless. After being jailed at age 16 for criticizing the brutal regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, she spent two years in the notorious Evin Prison where she was interrogated, tortured, threatened with execution, raped, and ultimately forced to marry her captor. After being released from prison, Nemat moved to Canada where she wrote her best-selling books, “Prisoner of Tehran” and “After Tehran.”
Ugandan LGBT rights activist Kasha Jacqueline discussed the state-sponsored homophobia resulting from her government’s anti-homosexuality laws. Jacqueline is the founder and director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), one of the only lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersexual organizations in a country where homosexuality is criminalized by a long-ruling regime. In retaliation for her brave advocacy, she has been harassed, attacked, and threatened with arrest and death.
Encryption expert and DEFCON organizer Nico Sell gave a talk about her work championing private communications and encryption. Sell is also the CEO and co-founder of r00tz Asylum, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children about the values of white-hat hacking, and the founder of Wickr, a free messaging app enabling anyone to send self-destructing messages that are anonymous, private, and secure.
Egyptian activist, computer engineer and entrepreneur Wael Ghonim discussed new opportunities in digital activism and his own journey as an advocate of the internet. He is a co-founder of Parlio, and previously was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Google Ventures. Ghonim spent six years at Google, during which he headed up Marketing and Product in the MENA region and was responsible for driving the growth of Google's products across the region, evangelizing the use of the internet, and growing its Arabic content. During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, he created the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Saeed” after the death of an activist at the hands of state security forces, which became an open forum for posting information about Egyptian police brutality.
Chinese human rights advocate Ti-Anna gave a moving speech about her mission to free her father, leading democracy activist Wang Bingzhang, who is a political prisoner of the Chinese regime. In 2002, he was abducted in Vietnam by Chinese government agents, convicted on charges of espionage, and sentenced to life in prison – even though no evidence was presented against him. Since her father’s arrest, Wang has launched an international campaign for his release and partnered with daughters of other imprisoned activists to advocate for democratic change in China.
CFF at Yale
March 26, 2015
The event was a joint initiative in partnership with Yale ThiNK (There is Hope in North Korea).
Iranian former political prisoner Marina Nemat shared her moving personal story about her journey to freedom. After being jailed at age 16 for criticizing the brutal regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, she spent two years in the notorious Evin Prison where she was interrogated, tortured, threatened with execution, raped, and ultimately forced to marry her captor. After being released from prison, Nemat moved to Canada where she now lives and teaches at the University of Toronto.
North Korean refugee Yeonmi Park shared her story of living in North Korea before escaping to freedom. She grew up in a society where propaganda, executions and starvation were part of the landscape of life. When she was nine, her father was sent to prison for smuggling goods to China and her life became unbearable. She fled North Korea with her mother and eventually made it to South Korea. Park, an expert on the country's black markets, showed students how outside information and culture are transforming North Korea.
Serbian nonviolence expert Srdja Popovic discussed the pivotal role he played in Otpor! as they peacefully toppled the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic and also shared stories from his years of experience working with democratic movements around the world as the founder of CANVAS.
Slate politics and foreign affairs editor Will Dobson analyzed the battle between modern-day authoritarian leaders and their citizen opponents. As Dobson describes in his book The Dictator’s Learning Curve, dictatorships are constantly evolving, but civil society has the ability to learn and adapt faster than its oppressors.
CFF at University of Colorado Boulder
March 11, 2014
Chinese political dissident and lawyer Chen Guangcheng details various instances of China’s violent suppression of dissent, and reminds us that human rights issues must remain a concern for everyone, from Colorado to rural China.
Ugandan LGBT rights activist Kasha Jacqueline discusses the state-sponsored homophobia resulting from her country’s anti-homosexuality law and urges those who advocate for human rights to express solidarity with Ugandans affected by this intolerance and hatred.
Bahraini activist Maryam al-Khawaja explains how demands for democratic reforms evolved into calls for the monarchy in her country to step down, and tells the story of courageous protestors who expressed their rights to freedom of speech and protest in the face of violent oppression.
Park Sang Hak
North Korean defector Park Sang Hak shares the story of his indoctrination under the Kim regime before he and his family escaped to South Korea. He talks about how he now works to deliver the truth to the countrymen he left behind using balloons carrying pro-democracy literature, DVDs, USB drives, and transistor radios.
CFF at Tufts
November 5, 2013
The event was a joint initiative of HRF and the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership (IGL).
Iranian former political prisoner Marina Nemat describes how her opposition to Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime in the 1980s led to a sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Despite enduring two years of torture, Nemat has never stopped fighting for a free Iran and serves as a vocal advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi describes how young, tech-savvy activists used social media to spread their pro-democracy message and triggered protests in the region. Since the Arab Spring, however, their influence has decreased; to counter this, Benchemsi explained how he has partnered with journalists, activists, and artists to found FreeArabs.com.
Human rights lawyer Tutu Alicante reveals the deplorable human rights situation in his country, Equatorial Guinea, where the decades-long kleptocratic dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang has resulted in endemic corruption and widespread poverty.
Liberty in North Korea CEO Hannah Song explains how North Koreans learned to provide for themselves after surviving economic catastrophe and famine, and shared examples of how grassroots activism and technology are driving change in the world’s most closed society.
Egyptian journalist and Financial Times Gulf editor Abeer Allam discusses the powerful influence of social media in Saudi Arabia, where platforms like Twitter are removing barriers and allowing people to openly communicate with not only their fellow citizens, but also their political leaders.