“Being a human rights defender is the meaning of my life”

Tomy, currently staying in the The Hague Shelter City initiative, presented to local students what inspired her to become a human rights defender.

“Being a human rights defender is extremely satisfying. But first, you should take into serious consideration such a decision”. With these few words Tomy decided to finish her speech with the Amnesty International Student group of The Hague, which was held at the Leiden University Campus last Wednesday. Tomy is a human rights defender who is temporarily staying in The Hague, under the Shelter City Initiative by Justice and Peace. Her main purpose was to give a thorough image of the human rights violations against students in Honduras. As a starting point she used her personal experiences when Honduran authorities attacked against university students, in July 2009.

During the coup in Honduras lots of violations were carried out by the local authorities against university students. At that time Tomy was still a student in journalism and law. When she saw the students protesting for their rights and ignoring the danger, she decided to participate in the University Reformist front. Their main purpose was to ensure university’s  autonomy by keeping away the military forces. Nevertheless on the 3rd of July, military officers spread out in the streets, while students were protesting, and violently hit everybody including Tomy. Dina, a human rights defender, rescued Tomy from the attack and took care of her injuries.  A few weeks later, as Tomy was trying to recover, she realized through all these experiences she had been through that helping those whose rights are being violated was the meaning of her life. After a short while, she started working for a digital newspaper ran by a humans rights organization and slowly learned how to accompany other victims of human rights violations.

Although time was passing, the political background at Honduras hadn’t changed much. The authorities banned the demonstrations and arrested those who protested. Six university students were expelled from the country as they were accused of committing insurrection. Until today they are still looking for justice. Tomy with some other groups turned for help to the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in Honduras where they explored the tremendous violations against people’s rights in the context of the Coup. Student groups carried on their attempts to search for justice. They managed after a while to put pressure on the authorities and negotiate their proposals. Through a press conference, Tomy and other human rights defenders fought for their rights, reporting the hostile situations they’d been through.

Tomy’s speech inspired Leiden’s students and encouraged them to make questions and find out more about political situation in Honduras. They also expressed high interest for the role of human rights defenders. They wanted to explore how they can contribute as local citizens and assist those who are in danger. Tomy advised them that this is a difficult path that takes many risks and that sometimes human rights defender’s lives can get in danger. Tomy continued saying that the current situation in Honduras is hard to change but people don’t give up on their efforts. She mentioned that being a human rights defender is a very responsible and at the same time risky role, which demands serious consideration first. “Before you do anything, consider how risky this can be, not just for yourselves but also for your loved ones”.

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