Just as Andrei Sakharov tirelessly championed human dignity in the face of Soviet oppression, and Narges Mohammadi continues her fight for freedom of expression in Iran, we must stand guard against the targeting of voices of dissent around the world.  In these troubling times, artists and writers continue to be imprisoned, or worse, for their voices.

The artists, writers, and thinkers, below, along with information about their situations and work, represent only a portion of those silenced during the period from February 19th to March 11th, 2024.  We must not let their voices be extinguished:

1. Lin Dan, Performance Artist, China (March 7th): Known for pushing boundaries with her work, Lin Dan was detained after a performance critiquing social censorship. Her whereabouts and potential charges are unknown. (Enforced by: Chinese government)

2. Maria Lopez (pseudonym), Blogger, Mexico (February 22nd): Fled her home city after online threats and harassment for exposing corruption in local government contracts. Her blog, “Ciudad Justa” (“Just City”), remains inactive. (Enforced by: individuals likely connected to corrupt officials)

3. The Kassim Brothers, Musicians, Syria (March 2nd): Disappeared after a concert in Syria. They incorporated lyrics critical of the ongoing conflict. Their families have received no information about their whereabouts. (Enforced by: unknown, possibly Syrian government forces)

4. Ato Kwamina, Playwright, Ghana (February 28th): Banned from performing his satirical play “Democracy for Dummies” after accusations of disrespecting government officials. The play had enjoyed a successful run before the ban. (Enforced by: Ghanaian Ministry of Culture)

5. Layla Al-Hadid, Painter, Iraq (March 4th): Studio raided and artwork confiscated by authorities who deemed her depictions of war trauma “unpatriotic.” Facing potential charges of “disrupting public order.” (Enforced by: Iraqi government)

6. Mikhail Ivanov, Filmmaker, Russia (March 1st): Interrogated and equipment seized after filming protests against economic hardship. Accused of “inciting public disorder.” (Enforced by: Russian police)

7. A group of journalists, India (February 25th): Multiple arrests of journalists from independent news outlets who reported on farmer protests. Facing charges of “spreading misinformation.” (Enforced by: Indian government)

8. Neda Hamzavi, Singer, Iran (March 9th): Canceled from all upcoming performances after a social media post criticizing government censorship of the arts. (Enforced by: Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance)

9. Zhang Wei (pen name: “Lightbringer”), Blogger, China (February 20th): Disappeared from his online forum after criticizing government handling of environmental issues. His blog posts have been deleted. (Enforced by: Chinese authorities)

10. The Ebony Choir, South Africa (March 6th): Performance at a university event disrupted and members harassed by student groups opposed to the choir’s pro-unity message. (Enforced by: a small group of students)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

  • Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *