Dissidents in Dictatorships Get Powerful New Tool

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Dissidents struggling for basic human rights are about to get a major push from an innovative new platform, Movements.org, built by Advancing Human Rights

A new solution to an old problem that can help tip the balance of power away from dictators and toward dissidents.

At the nexus of technology and human rights, Movements.org connects dissidents in closed societies with individuals around the world with skills to help. This powerful combination provides those fighting for human rights in dictatorships with the tools and expertise needed to strengthen their voice.

In 2012, Movements.org, co-founded by Jared Cohen (now head of Google Ideas), merged with and Advancing Human Rights (AHR). AHR was founded in 2010 by Robert L. Bernstein (founder of Human Rights Watch) and David Keyes (AHR’s executive director and a “pioneer in online activism” according to The New York Times). In support of the merger, Google contributed $250,000. This week, Movements.org, is being relaunched as an innovative new human rights platform.

Movements.org is taking out the middle man in human rights thus allowing for the creation of many more links to strengthen dissidents and weaken dictators. In the beta test phase, activists from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and closed societies around the world asked for help and quickly found it.

A Syrian opposition leader who spent 10 years in prison under Assad posted a request for press. A short time later he had an op-ed in The Daily Beast. The former employer of Sergei Magnitsky asked for a song to commemorate the tax lawyer who died in Russian prison. A NYC-based song-writer produced just such a song and activists in Russia are making a music video. Syrian activists who desperately needed asylum were met by NYC-based lawyers who are now representing them. A Saudi expert on state-sponsored incitement wanted to meet with German parliamentarians due to their tough laws against hate-speech. He connected with senior German officials through the platform.

Dictatorships are paying hundreds of millions to PR firms. Why shouldn't every democratic dissident also have PR help? This platform can be a force multiplier for those struggling against tyranny. It gives average people with unique skills the ability to help dissidents in need.

The human rights field is transforming away from long-form reporting. Crowdsourcing the fight for human rights will provide critical on-the-ground support to activists in need. It is a new solution to an old problem and can help tip the balance of power away from dictators and toward dissidents.

Today it is easy to feel overwhelmed by events in Iran, Syria, Russia, China and elsewhere. How can individuals in free societies help advance human rights across the world? Movements.org is the platform where anyone with a unique skill--artists, writers, journalists, translators, technologists, PR experts, policy-makers and more--can connect directly with human rights activists in closed societies. Everyone has a role to play.

About AHR

Advancing Human Rights supports activists in closed societies by leveraging democratic tools. On its board sit luminaries such as Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. Yelena Bonner, Andrei Sakharov’s wife, was a founding board member until her passing. AHR’s chairman, Robert L. Bernstein, previously founded Human Rights Watch and headed Random House for 25 years. AHR has led campaigns to free dissidents in dictatorships around the world and briefed senior policy-makers. According to CBS, the confrontation of AHR’s executive director, David Keyes, with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, led to the release on furlough of one of Iran’s most famous political prisoners, Majid Tavakoli. AHR originated the idea (recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee) to rename the street in front of the Chinese embassy, “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.”

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David Keyes