If we do not speak out, write our blogs or our poems, we cannot achieve change

On the 29th of September 2017 Shelter City guests Zar Ali from Pakistan and Midhat from Sudan participated in a workshop on online activism and radicalisation.

The workshop was organized by the digital platform Voice4Thought and was held at Leiden University as part of the Festival V4T@Leiden 2017. Both Zar Ali and Midhat are actively engaged in online activism. Leiden University was a very inspiring environment for Zar Ali and Midhat to follow the workshop. Together with other human rights defenders, bloggers, poets and students our Shelter City guests discussed and shared their experiences on their take on online activism and radicalisation.

‘We have to take up our own power. If we talk softly people will not listen to us’

Zar Ali works as a human rights defender in Pakistan’s FATA region. Due to the unstable security situation in FATA Zar Ali was forced to close down his office. He then turned to social media to continue his human rights work, where he highlights human rights issues in FATA. As a trainer in digital and physical security, Midhat shows human rights defenders how to better protect themselves against invasions of their privacy, hackings and cyber bullying. Midhat also has his own blog.

During the workshop Zar Ali and Midhat stressed why it is so important to raise your voice, even in challenging circumstances. They also underlined that the online world offers a great platform to share stories.

‘If we remain silent, people will suffer more and we will just be spectators’.

By sharing a personal story with the other participants of the workshop, Zar Ali demonstrated the power of his online activism. When three human rights defenders from Pakistan’s FATA region were incarcerated a while ago, Zar Ali decided to write about their cases. This article was widely spread throughout Pakistan and eventually led to the release of the three human rights defenders.

By meeting other human rights defenders, bloggers, poets and students Zar Ali and Midhat were introduced to a group of driven and inspiring individuals who use the online space to strive for justice, accountability and freedom of speech.

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