The Oslo Freedom Forum: “Like Comicon, only the heroes are real.”
December 21, 2017
This summer, a few of our teammates attended the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), a series of global conferences run by the Human Rights Foundation that provides a global platform for human rights defenders to share their stories.
Uncharted teammate Quinn Middleton reflects on her time below in a unique setting: a dance floor.
Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, was holding his phone out to me, smiling.
He was showing me the windowless shack that was his prison after a dictatorial coup had overthrown him at gunpoint. For 18 months, he’d lived in solitary confinement, writing books in his head to pass the time. He’s published six of them.
We were in a dimly lit bar in Oslo, at an after-hours party for the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), an annual gathering put on by the Human Rights Foundation that celebrates and connects the most influential human rights activists from around the globe. Teju, Uncharted’s Co-Founder, and I were there to lead a workshop on how to mentor activists. A band comprised of three diplomats (fittingly named Diplomatic Immunity) was playing rock music in the background; next to us, scores of global dissidents, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, artists, and world leaders were dancing like it was New Year’s.
Mohamed put his phone back on the table, and explained that he was now living in the UK. I asked if he planned on ever returning to the Maldives, and he immediately responded, “Yes. They’ll throw me right back in jail though.” Again, he was smiling. “I’d rather be in prison in my home country than in exile anywhere else.” Aside from being a jovial and welcoming person, Mohamed — like the other OFF speakers and attendees — had endless love and dedication for the country he’d sacrificed so much for.
And then the smiling made sense.