Activists have been targeted by governments and corporations for a long time. The “Green Scare” has painted people who are concerned about the environment and animal rights as terrorists. These “eco-terrorists” were once even labeled as the number one domestic terrorist threat in the United States, even though they never actually killed anyone. People in power who feel threatened can resort to some pretty horrific things to protect it, even going so far as to take someone’s life.
Here are ten instances in which activists were silenced, de-platformed, or killed.
1. Houayheuang Xayabouly
Houayheuang Xayabouly was arrested by her government in Laos after she criticized their lackluster response in helping rescue people from a flood. Xayabouly, who’s a blogger, made a video saying that many of the villagers were left stranded. The government then charged her with defamation and sentenced her to five years in prison, and she was also saddled with a hefty fine. The 32-year-old woman had a past of criticizing her government’s response to disasters, corrupt politicians, and even traffic police who accepted bribes, which may have played a role in her arrest. Please visit this link to learn some of the ways you can help “Muay.”
2. Chen Mei and Cai Wei
In April of 2019 Beijing police arrested Chen Mei and Cai Wei, the founders of Terminus 2049, which was a crowd-sourced project that saved documents from the press and social media that government would censor. After their arrests, authorities detained them for almost two months in an unknown location. Once they were formally arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” authorities assigned them state lawyers instead of the ones their families had hired for them. Before they were detained, many of the more recent articles that surfaced on Terminus 2049 were critical of the government’s cover-up of the coronavirus. Chen Mei and Cai Wei were released on August 15, 2021, for “time served” after they were sentenced to a year and three months in jail two days prior.
3. That Vegan Teacher
In 2021, a popular Canadian Tiktoker known as That Vegan Teacher was banned from the social media platform. The exact reasons for the ban remain unknown, but TikTok has stated it was for “community guideline violations.” The thought is, however, that she was booted because she made a rather mild joke about another YouTuber named TommyInIt, who streams videos of himself playing Minecraft. In a video posted to TikTok, she said, “nice vegan girls don’t want to play with your buttons, but if you want them to play with your buttons, you’ll have to show them your fruits and vegetables.” To help support That Vegan Teacher you can subscribe to her YouTube channel here and donate to her Patreon here.
4. Gonzalo Cardona Molina
Gonzalo Cardona Molina was a conservationist from Colombia who spent over 20 years working to save the yellow-eared parrot from extinction, as well as the wax palm tree. Because of his work, Molina occasionally found himself in dangerous situations with members of the military and other groups. On his foundation’s website, ProAves, he stated that working with members of the community was one of the hardest parts of his job because of the way they treated him. In January 2021, it was reported that he was murdered by a criminal group. To help support ProAves you can send them a donation here.
5. Wael Abbas
An activist for human rights, Wael Abbas, was banned from Twitter and Facebook around 2017 and then arrested by Egyptian authorities in 2018. One of the charges laid against him was “misuse of social networks.” Abbas, who is also a journalist, showed videos and reported on police brutality, corruption, and other human rights abuses. His videos of police brutality have even sent some officers to jail. The corruption was so deep that even the largest newspaper in Egypt, Al-Ahram, showed support for his ban on Twitter. His Facebook account has since been restored.
6. Berta Caceres
Source: UN Environment Programme/YouTube
Honduran human rights activist Berta Caceres was murdered in 2016 after killers forced their way into her home. Caceres was known for organizing an indigenous community in Honduras to rally against the construction of a dam being built in a sacred spot for several indigenous peoples. In 2015, she received the Goldman Environmental Prize. For her role in stopping the construction of this project, Caceres received several death threats and her sons had to leave the country out of fear for their safety. Please visit this website to learn some of the ways you can help honor her memory.
7. Wu Gan
Wu Gan, a human rights activist blogger from China, was sentenced to eight years in jail for “subverting state power” in 2017. Gan often voiced his displeasure with government corruption online and at protests in a way that shamed authorities. He campaigned for people who alleged they had been wrongfully convicted of a crime and supported a woman who had killed her rapist, a member of the Communist Party. Gan’s sentence was part of a larger campaign from the government to crack down on activists that started in 2015.
8. Frozan Safi
In 2021, Frozan Safi, a women’s rights activist, was shot multiple times and murdered in northern Afghanistan. A short while before she was killed, Frozan was called from an unknown number telling her to depart for a safe house. Zahra, another activist who had accompanied Frozan to a recent protest against the Taliban, said that she had been hacked and was afraid to use social media. Although the reason she was killed is unknown, the Taliban has become increasingly violent against anyone voicing dissent since their return to power last year, and Safi was one of the most prominent dissidents. To learn more about how you can help support women and girls in Afghanistan, please visit this link.
9. Vladimir Kara-Murza
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a high-profile human rights activist who voiced his opposition against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was sentenced to 15 days in jail recently after he walked out of his home, which was against police orders. It’s unclear if Kara-Murza’s arrest has to do with his anti-war rhetoric, but Russia has ramped up its efforts to silence any dissent. Before he was put in detention, Kara-Murza made an appearance on CNN and described the Russian government as a “regime of murders.” He’s among a tiny percentage of well-known Russian opposition activists still living in Russia.
10. Khurram Zaki
In 2016, Pakistani human rights activist Khurram Zaki was shot and killed while eating at a restaurant with other activists. Zaki campaigned against extremists and terrorists and was known for being a bit reckless as he even confronted them in person. A Taliban group admitted to killing Zaki because he attempted to file charges against extremist clerics.
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