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Geneva Summit Opens At U.N.: Dissidents And Activists Testify

GENEVA, May 14, 2024 

Today, at the United Nations' European headquarters in Geneva, the 2024 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy debuted, casting a spotlight on the human rights records of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela. The event, supported by a cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights groups, featured poignant testimonies from dissidents and human rights activists highlighting issues under these authoritarian regimes.

Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic who endured 804 days in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, highlighted Iran's use of hostage diplomacy.

Reflecting on her imprisonment, Dr. Moore-Gilbert declared, "My fellow prisoners would beg me to speak out if I was freed, and I promised them that I would use my voice to draw attention to what the brutal regime in Iran is doing to its own people. Never has the Iranian people’s desperate cry for freedom been clearer."

Amid a major legislative push in The Gambia to repeal the anti-FGM law, women's rights activist Fatou Baldeh, a survivor of FGM, delivered a compelling speech on the urgent need for collective action to retain the anti-FGM law. Her impactful speech served as a prelude to her receiving the 2024 Women's Rights Award at tomorrow's main event.

She emphasised, "There is no doubt in my mind that if we act collectively and swiftly, we can save the FGM law in The Gambia. Yes, the challenges are huge. But as the late Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done," said Baldeh.

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Job Sikhala, a prominent member of the Zimbabwean opposition, vividly accounted his struggle to challenge Zimbabwe’s authoritarian government and campaign for democracy. He recounted his harrowing 595 days in arbitrary detention following politically motivated charges.

Sikhala expressed, "I am deemed to be committing a crime just by talking to you today. It's no wonder millions of Zimbabweans have fled persecution abroad. They desperately want to come home to live in a free and democratic society."

Iran International television anchor Pouria Zeraati and the publication's executive editor Aliasghar Ramezanpour both testified on becoming a target of the Islamic Republic regime due to their fearless reporting on human rights violations, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights in the country. The publication is set to be awarded the esteemed Courage Award tomorrow at the Geneva Summit's main event.

The summit will continue tomorrow, featuring an opening address by former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and further stirring accounts from dissidents, political prisoners and global activists.

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