This year has seen a lot of upheaval and change on a global scale, and though the media has a tendency to only report the bad or insignificant stuff, there has been some tremendous victories for human rights this year, ones that should be acknowledged and celebrated. Here’s our top 10.
10. South Sudan Wins its Freedom
Two decades of civil war and South Sudan has finally won its freedom from the North. July 9th, 2011 was its official independence day and the newly formed countries hopes for the future remain high, even though there is still plenty of unrest between the two countries. To read more and get involved look at the The Enough Project.
9. New York Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
New York becomes the sixth and perhaps most prestigious state to legalize gay marriage, and this is the first couple to get married. Not exactly what I expected either, but some believe now with New York’s support, its not a matter of ” if ” but “when” for marriage equality across the whole country.
8. Arab Spring Inspires Hope
This last year has seen a wave of democratic uprisings across the Middle East and Africa. It’s amazing to think it was all sparked by a young man in Tunisia who was willing to set himself on fire to protest the repressive regime that had ruled for 23 years. This sparked Tunisians coming out in huge numbers and voting in their countries first free election. This movement has spread across the Arab world to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and several other countries.
7. American Hikers are Finally Released from Iran Prison
I can’t imagine spending two years in an Iran prison just for hiking. But thats exactly what these two Americans, who were charged with espionage and trespassing, did. Supporters across the country rallied together with the hiker’s families and fought tirelessly for their release, which finally came on Sept. 21/ 2011.
6. The Occupy Wall Street Movement
It all began in New York’s Zuccotti Park where a group of frustrated people pitched some tents and were determined to Occupy this space until the 1%, the wealthy, took accountability for the part they have played in the current state of the economy. This Occupy movement has spread like wildfire across the globe, and has sparked a world-wide conversation about unemployment, greed, income and economic inequality. The outcome is still unclear, but as the sign says ” We are the 99%, we’re too big too fail “, let’s hope that’s true.
5. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Officially Ends
September 20, 2011 marked the end of ” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”- a law that banned service members from openly serving in the military. It seems to me that if you’re willing to die for your country, that country shouldn’t make you hide who you are. This has been a long time coming and is a another major milestone for gay rights.
4. Famed Artist Ai Weiwei Released on Bail from a Chinese Prison
After two and half months of detention and international outcries, Famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was finally released on bail from a Chinese prison. This Architect and sculptor, was a former darling of the Communist Party,turned into an out-spoken and very active critic of the government’s repression and human rights violations. Some believe his arrest was an attempt to silence his activism, and its good to see that this activist will be silenced no longer. For an in-depth interview of his prison experiences read here.
3. Nepal Is Finally Landmine-Free
The United Nations finally declared Nepal land mine free, as of June 14, 2011, after thousands of anti-personel land mines had been removed over the past five years. They had been planted by the Nepalese military to combat the Maoist rebels who they fought with in a ten years insurgency that began in 1996. The persistence and tireless effort of these land mine removers has now made this country a much safer place to live and to visit.
2. Aung San Suu Kyi Returns To Politics
After spending the better part of two decades under military house arrest, this opposition leader of the Democratic party in Myanmar has finally made big strides in returning to politics. On Dec. 13,2011, with incredible support from the Myanmar people and the international community, her political party was given the go ahead to run in the next bi-election.Their hope is to return democracy to the area and to try end Myanmar’s oppressive regime which has a terrible track record of human rights violations.
1. Three Brave Women Win The Nobel Peace Prize
Over 112 years, only 12 women have ever been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This year however, three brave and influential women were given this prestigious award because of their tremendous work in their fight against injustice, dictatorship and sexual violence. The women are Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee (C), Yemeni human rights activist Tawakul Karman (R) and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. After receiving their award, they made a call for all women to stand up and fight for their rights.
“My sisters, my daughters, my friends—find your voice,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
I hope this list highlights all that we’ve accomplished this year, and illustrates that positive change is possible when we realize it is in our control, and that we, the 99%, have the power.