Category Archives: Fighting for Freedom

Social Responsibilities of Human Rights Activists

Human rights activist is a term that describes individuals who work to protect and promote issues concerning human well-being. Human activists may work as a group or as individuals. They address the issues under human rights on behalf of certain group(s) of people in the society.

What Human Right Activists Do?

They seek realization and protection of economic, social, and cultural rights of people. The concerns of human right defenders may include female genital mutilation, summary execution, employment issues, health care, discrimination, environment pollution, forced evictions, and arbitrary arrests among other. The activists are active in support and defense of human right to life, water, food, education, non-discrimination, and nationality. Besides, human rights defenders address economic, social and cultural issues affecting specific groups of people in the society, for instance, rights of children, women’s rights, the rights of the indigenous people, rights of the internally displaced persons, refugees, sexual minorities or national linguistic rights.

Where to Find Them

The human rights activists are found everywhere in any part of the world. For instance, their presence is heavily felt in countries divided by internal conflicts, non-democratic states, and democratically stable countries. They ensure protection of human rights in context challenges such as policy structural adjustments, HIV/AIDS, migration, and political transitions.

Local, Regional, National, and Global Activists in Action

Majority of the activists operate at local or regional level protecting the rights of the people within their regions or communities. In such scenarios, the main counterpart is usually the local or regional authorities, who are responsible for maintaining respect and protection of human rights within the locality. However, there are human rights defenders who work at international level. Such defenders, like Yeonmi Park, monitor a globally renowned human rights situation and submit their research to a global human rights protection bodies such as United Nations Human Rights Council.

Yeonmi Park grew up in a repressive country of North Korea, where she drew all her inspirations. She witnessed massive innocent killing and the arbitrary arrest of her father under the ruthless dictatorship of the rulling government in her country. Fearing for their life, their family escaped to South Korea where they found freedom. The memories of the mental, economic, and social slavery experienced while at their native country inspired her to become the voice and face of the voiceless she is today. She has addressed several forums touching on the needs of embracing human rights for all especially her native country North Korea.

The defenders collect information about cases where human rights have been violated. They attract the attention of the key judicial, political officials as well as the public to their reports using lobbying techniques to ensure the violations are addressed. Alternatively, the human rights organization may publish their findings on national magazines or newspapers to achieve the same results.

Yeonmi Park Fights for Freedom

Across the globe, there are many international issues garnering attention. Within each major problem is the plight of the people being effected. There is no better example of human rights issues than those that arise from the defectors that have successfully made it out of the North Korean regime. One survivor has made the decision to tell her story detailing the horrors she survived now that she has reached freedom. For Yeonmi Park, her story is far from over but she will continue to tell it for those that have been left behind.

North Korean Regime
As the lucky few are able to escape from North Korea, a clearer picture of life endured there begins to emerge. Currently ruled by Kim Jong-un, the country is considered by the rest of the world to be a totalitarian dictatorship, although North Korea considers itself to be a socialist state. Since taking over the supreme leader position in 2010, Kim Jong-un has been aggressively threatening multiple countries. In 2013, this included threatening the United States and South Korea with a nuclear attack. In response, the United States has pushed for sanctions against North Korean nuclear testing as well as attempted peace talks between North and South Korea for the last two years.

In addition to threats of destruction and nuclear attacks, North Korea has a long and familiar history with human rights violations. Although the country makes it extremely difficult to enter or leave their country, reports have extensively documented extreme violations of freedoms. In order to keep citizens in the dark about acceptable living conditions, North Korea does not allow free speech, religion, press, or any connection to the outside world such as radio, television, music or news of any kind unless it is approved by the government.

Defectors have also detailed what happens when these laws are violated. It has been reported that North Korea has many internment camps throughout the country to hold and punish prisoners for any reason deemed fit. At these camps, prisoners are expected to perform slave labor and are subjected to horrible living conditions, abuses, or even death.

Yeonmi Park
One defector in particular is fighting not just to get her story heard, but to try to save others from a terrible fate back in North Korea. Born in North Korea in 1993, she witnessed horrible atrocities under the regime at a young age. In 2002 after her father was arrested and forced into a labor camp, the family agreed escape from North Korea was now necessary. The women of the family made their heroic escape in 2007, finally making it to South Korea by way of China after crawling across the Gobi desert.

Now that she has achieved freedom, Yeonmi Park of youngvoicesadvocates fights for others to do the same. She has written a book about her hardships so that the world will know what life is really like in North Korea as well as spoken publicly many times about the regime.