Clarion Project is a non-profit organisation that educates the public about the dangers of radical Islam.The web site delivers news, expert analysis, videos, and unique perspectives about radical Islam, while giving a platform to moderate Muslims and human rights activists to speak out against extremism..
One of the UK’s most respected politicians warned Americans that eventually the persecution of Christians will affect members of the church everywhere. Lord Alton of Liverpool made the comment during an address to members of Coptic Solidarity on Capitol Hill at the end of June.
Known for his human rights work, David Alton is a devoted Christian who draws attention to attacks on his co-religionists particularly in the Middle East and Africa.
In this video from the DC policy day, he warns that if we in the U.S. and the West in general ignore the warning signs and fail to act, our day could well follow.
Eventually They Will Come for Me - YouTube
Clarion’s film Faithkeepers looks at the Genocide of Christians in the Middle East and the persecution of other minorities.
The Church is in free-fall in the Middle East. The once vibrant Christian Coptic community of Egypt is in serious decline, beset by racism, discriminatory policies and terror. American Coptic Solidarity President George Gurguis explains and suggests what we can do to help…
A Neo-Nazi event in Skokie, Illinois (Illustrative photo: Scott Olsen/Getty Images)
On Sunday, June 24, 2018, Muslims Facing Tomorrow hosted a book launch of books in Toronto, Canada by two of our board members, Dr. Salim Mansur and Hasan Mahmud. Both books deal with current dilemmas facing Muslims in the 21st Century and are part of the Islamic reform we are involved in.
Hasan Mahmud’s book, How Sharia-ism Hijacked Islam: The Problem, Prognosis, and Prescription, is a life-changing book for Muslims everywhere. It details the greatest threat most of us (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) face today: radicalization and extremism based on flawed principles and dangerous theologies. This book identifies the theo-mechanism of radical Islam and offers a counter mechanism from the same scriptures to defeat radical Islamism.
The event was held at a community library, and there was a great turnout of diverse people on that beautiful day. There were Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists in the room.
However, there was one gentleman, who I will call Mr. Nut Job, who came to the event early. He carried with him pieces of paper with Quranic verses written on them and said that he was thinking of converting to Islam. He also said is had many questions.
We were happy to welcome him. However once the event started, he began to show his true colors. It was obvious that he was never thinking of converting to Islam – he actually hated Islam and Muslims. Mr. Nut Job started loudly and aggressively throwing verses at the speakers and demanding answers (even though none would ever convince him).
We quickly caught on that he was there to create trouble, but in the interest of freedom of speech, we let him rant and rave. As per our mandate, we always encourage healthy and respectful debate and discussion. But Mr. Nut Job was not looking for answers – he was there to challenge us. Eventually he said, “I don’t want to see any Muslims in the Western world.”
Mr. Nut Job and those like him are the flip side of Islamist extremists. Like the Taliban, Boko Haram and ISIS, they use selective lines from the Quran with no context. Like the extremists, Mr. Nut Job was not willing to hear a reasonable explanation of why we call ourselves “Muslims Facing Tomorrow” – namely to leave behind some of the text in the 7th century parking lot and promote the more compassionate and tolerant verses of the Quran (which are in the majority).
Mr. Nut Job incessantly yelled and screamed at our speakers. At one point, an audience member asked him: “Do you have a plan? Do you have a militia to do your dirty work or a lobby to influence the Canadian parliament about your plan?” He was stumped. The guest reminded him that eliminating a community has been tried before, and it’s not the solution.
Rather, the solution is exactly what we are doing, which is to reform the way in which Muslims interpret and implement the Quran in their lives. We reminded him that while Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God, it has a human interpretation that is open to various ways of understanding it. The two books that we were launching at the event dealt exactly with this issue. If he would take the time to read them, he might have found some answers to his questions.
The event with Muslim Facing Tomorrow
However Mr. Nut Job and those like him are not interested in solutions. He harassed most of the audience and especially the younger people, inviting someone to punch him so he could say, “Muslims are violent.”
This episode was a wake-up call for many of us. We could have shouted “Islamophobia,” but that is not a solution either.
One thing it showed us is that reformist Muslims like ourselves are facing challenges on many fronts:
First, we are battling two kinds of extremists: On the one hand, the mullahs and jihadists from whom we want to take back the faith; and on the other hand, the Islam-hating, Muslim-bashing white supremacists. Neither of these groups are willing to adhere to reason and logic.
To top it off, we are dealing with organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which, without any proof, lambasts moderate Muslims as extremists. The SPLC just lost a law suit to one such Muslim and his organization — Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation.
Groups like the SPLC create confusion for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Mr. Nut Job also showed us that stifling healthy discussion and debate has created a vacuum in which people like him can easily fill with the seeds of hate.
As we were leaving the event, Mr. Nut Job stood outside and shouted at us, “You are all a bunch of f——g terrorists!” A good day to you, too.
The World Health Organization estimated that over 200 million women and girls around the world are the victims of female genital mutilations, with three million at risk every year. FGM is one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time and one that is mostly ignored.
This is the story of one man who is trying to change the world and eradicate this brutal practice:
My Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr started with an incredible and unbelievable tweet by the Canadian parliamentarian and the MP for Mississauga Centre, Omar Alghabra, which went viral:
“Eid Mubarak, friends! I wish I could celebrate it with you but @AndrewScheer couldn’t set aside partisanship for 1 day and is forcing votes for 30 hrs straight on one of the holiest days for Muslims!”
In response, MP Erin O’Toole wrote, “It is clear you recognize your tweet was misleading Omar. Considering the context you really should apologize” to which Mr. Alghabra responded by tweeting “You don’t believe Islamophobia exists! You disrespect the importance of Eid!”
Seriously? Mr. Alghabra is citing Islamophobia? The vote was called for by the Liberals, the party that Mr. Alghabra belongs to. But he decided to make Eid a political issue and embarrass Canadians. He certainly embarrassed me by making such an ignorant remark.
Mr. Alghabra has a clear choice: Whether to identify as Islamist or Canadian. His constituents are not just Muslim – they are Canadians of every faith.
Eid is a celebration of the feast after the fast of Ramadan for Muslims. Eid is a time where one is meant to think about others, and what better way to do this than to spend time resolving Canadian issues in parliament?
Therefore, this Eid was very meaningful for me. I was in Ottawa where I attended an event hosted by the Hungarian ambassador about persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority areas of the Middle East. Following this, I attended an event about the continued genocide of the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.
It was heartrending to meet some of the victims of ISIS brutality. At this event, it was mentioned more than once that the Canadian government is dragging its feet about bringing Yazidi families into Canada, especially those that already have some family members here.
Canada has agreed to bring 40,000 Syrian refugees, which is a good thing. However, Syrians are victims of a civil war and many will be able to go back home when things clear up. The Yazidis, on the other hand, have no place to go because they have been persecuted for centuries and have now been ousted from their place of birth.
Even though I was unable to be with my family for Eid celebrations, the fact that I was able to contribute in some small way to the cause of justice for humanity definitely made it worthwhile.
Canadians should be aware that we are going down a slippery slope – first with M103 (the motion condemning Islamophobia and all forms of religious discrimination in Canada) and second with this latest tweet by Mr. Alghabra – which may be the first shot to show how Islamophobia will be used as a weapon at every turn, even in parliament.
So if Mr. Alghabra wants to know the real meaning of Eid, he should stop being selfish and consider the intention of the holiday. Although Muslims are a large part of the Canadian mosaic, if he wants to observe all Muslim holidays at work in a secular country, he should not be in the Canadian parliament. I hear there are vacancies (due to members who whose heads have been chopped off) in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In her capacity as special envoy for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Angelina Jolie tours Mosul, Iraq, speaking with residents who are are not leaving but rather committed to rebuilding — stone by stone if necessary.
Iraq: 'The worst devastation I've seen' - Angelina Jolie visits Mosul on Eid - YouTube
Rev. Majed el Shafie (Video screenshot: Clarion Project)
Meet Majed el-Shafie. He is the founder and president of One Free World International, a humanitarian aid organization that helps minorities across the world including the Christian community. He currently lives in Canada, but his origins and roots lie elsewhere.
He grew up Muslim in Egypt and became interested in Christianity while in university studying law. He started looking into Christianity specifically because the Copts were so discriminated against and persecuted in Egypt.
As he says, “It is my opinion that you don’t torture or persecute somebody unless you are afraid of the truth that they carry.”
Majed eventually decided to act on his convictions and converted to Christianity. However, this choice was not without its consequences.
He was arrested by the government and put in prison for seven days. His head was shaved, his shoulder cut to the bone (from which he still bears the scars): He was waterboarded, beaten, hung upside down and hung on a cross for two and half days.
Although he was released from prison, he was eventually summoned to court to receive sentence for his “grave” crime. The judge sentenced him to death by hanging for sowing “national disunity and rebellion against the government,” a common phraseology used to incriminate Christians and other minorities.
Seeing that he did not have much time, Majed quickly figured out a way to be smuggled out the country and miraculously escaped to Israel by jet ski, from where he would become a free man.
Unbelievable Story of Christian Faith Against Radicalism - YouTube
This is but one story featured in Clarion’s documentary, Faithkeepers. Executive-produced by Roma Downey and Clarion Project, the film tells the story of the persecution that Christians and other minorities face in the Middle East. With riveting animation, stories, and exclusive interviews, Faithkeepers will move the hearts of all who see it to take action to help those in need.
With the rise of ISIS and radical Islam spreading across the region, individuals and communities across the Middle East are suffering rape, pillage, kidnapping, murder, etc. because of their faith and identity.
However, the present does not tell the full story. We need to understand that ISIS is only an extreme example and is part of 100 years of Middle Eastern Christianity waning in its birthplace. The statistics bear this out.
In 1910, Middle-Eastern Christians made up 20 percent of the population. Today they represent 4-5%, and predictions suggest in the next 20-30 years they will fall below 3%.
In Egypt, Coptic (Greek for Egyptian) Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East and once a majority of the population with their own language and culture, are a mere 8-10% of the population. The Coptic Christians explain that they are considered second class citizens and are often at the mercy of targeted spontaneous violence and a law enforcement that couldn’t care less about them.
In Iraq, over a million Christians fled the country because of war and religious persecution leaving the community at 400,000 (roughly 0.7% of the population).
In Syria, an estimated 400-700,000 fled since 2011 and now make up around 2.7% of the population.
In Lebanon, the Christian community has fallen from 76% to 34%.
In Turkey, the Christian community that was 20% in 1910 now makes up 0.2% of the population. This is a due to a genocide that was committed against the Armenian Christian community that left 1.5 million of them dead. Although it was one of the first genocides committed in the 20th Century, it remains unrecognized by many countries. Hitler would later remark about his confidence in getting away with committing mass atrocities, saying “Who remembers the Armenians?”
(As an aside, the only place where the Christian community is officially growing is in Israel.)
By any measurement, this is a dire situation that requires the help of the entire world.
Why should I care?
The American Christian community has been slow to react and help ease the situation. There is a severe disconnect between communities across the world and too often doctrine and geographical distance become excuses not to help. Below are several reasons why you should care.
Christian roots are disappearing in the region: The Middle East is the region where Christianity began and its communities, influence and presence are dwindling.
Intolerance is spreading: Christian persecution is a sign of general hateful intolerance spreading across the region. Radical Islam is spreading across the region and the same ideology that leads people to attack and kill others not like them is the same ideology that will attack the West in Europe and America. One does not need to count the many examples of terrorist attacks in America and Europe that have been committed against an “infidel and crusader West.”
Genocide: I have a confession to make. I am religious Jew not connected or a part of any of these Christian communities. However, I care because I know from my own history what genocide means. I know what it means to have your community, life and history swept away as it was for the Jewish people in Europe and in Arab lands across the Middle East. So we need to realize that genocide has happened on our watch and the United States and several international bodies have recognized it as such.
Faith by choice: Faithkeepers is a story not only of persecution, but of perseverance; not only of suffering and sadness, but of hope and inspiration. It shows the self-sacrifice and harrowing choice made by these communities and individuals to keep their faith and identity despite all odds.
Women in a modern Muslim city (Illustrative photo: Wikimedia Commons/Chriss Schuepp/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)
I’ve just returned from visiting four prominent cities of the Muslim world which are considered moderate in their lifestyle.
Outwardly, everything looks good. In recent months there have been no extremist incidents. So we should be encouraged. Yes?
But to dismay I was not. Here’s why:
Upon speaking with approximately hundred-plus people of varied age groups and diverse backgrounds, I was concerned to find out that the extremist views we are battling against and the reformist views I uphold exist only in a small minority.
For the majority, non-violent radical views are the norm.
The mindset is as follows:
It’s all the fault of the West and Israel. Case in point, I was at a women’s coffee gathering where all the women were educated and well read. However most of them were speaking of Israel in negative terms. One who is a Canadian citizen said that the only thing wrong with Canada is that our prime minister supports Israel and must stop doing this right away. Anti-Semitism has taken a new turn and there’s no room for debate
Sharia must be implemented. There is no room for reform unless everyone is sharia-compliant, therefore practices like beheading are legitimate
Murderers are heroes and heroes (bloggers and activists) are traitors
Islam is under attack and Muslims are victims.
There is no discussion about appalling human rights in their own countries, the oppression of women and minorities or the misogyny that permeates society
Have we lost the war against radicalization? Maybe not. But we have definitely lost the battle.
This battle of ideas began in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution when Khomeni said he would “export the revolution,” starting a turf war between Iran and Saudi Arabia costing thousands of lives and pushing the mindset of Muslims towards a thought process that is totally incompatible with the 21st century.
Violent extremism is on the retreat due to the defeat of ISIS and their ilk. However, the challenges of battling non-violent extremist ideas can only take place if Muslims find allies and work harder to reverse the process.
To bring about the desired change, Muslims have to wake up and smell the coffee, which needs to be extra-strong
First established in March 2007, the annual Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award honors women around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
The 2018 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award honored 10 women during a ceremony at State featuring remarks by First Lady Melania Trump March 23, 2018.
The following is a video of the event, which was originally broadcast live. Below are bief bios of the awardees:
2018 Annual International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony - YouTube
1.L’Malouma Said (Mauritania)
L’Malouma Said was born into slavery in 1972 in the far south-eastern town of Boutilmitt in Mauritania. When she was 17 years old, she was a leading activist at her school for the emancipation of Haratines. Before becoming one of only four Haratine women elected as deputy (Member of Parliament) to the Mauritanian National Assembly in 2006 and again in 2013, she was the president of a cooperative of women traders.
She was also the officer in charge of women within the El Hor movement (Movement for the liberation of Haratines in Mauritania) as well as a founding member of the Mauritanian anti-slavery organization S.O.S. Esclaves, currently led by her husband Boubacar Messaoud. Said is well known for speaking out on human rights issues and her powerful national and international advocacy for the improvement of prisons in Mauritania.
She believes Mauritania’s prisoners suffer from a lack of social and educational opportunities, as well as poor safety and health conditions, leading to escape attempts and the spread of diseases among the prison population. Said has a long history of defending human rights and equality, as well as the fight against all forms of discrimination in Mauritania. She is a vocal leader on these issues within the Mauritanian parliament.
2.Godelieve Mukasarasi (Rwanda)
Godelieve Mukasarasi dedicated her life after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide to fighting for a culture of peace and non-violence in Rwanda, as well as promoting the rights of women and girls affected by sexual violence in conflict zones worldwide. Founder and coordinator of the organization Solidarité pour l’Épanouissement des Veuves et des Orphelins visant le Travail et l’Auto, Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods (SEVOTA), Mukasarasi works with communities across Rwanda to reset human, social, and economic relations destroyed during the Genocide.
In 1996, she was approached by the United Nations team putting together the case against former Mayor of Taba Jean-Paul Akayesu for his role in the genocide. Overcoming intimidation by community members and the murder of her daughter and husband, likely for her decision to testify at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, she mobilized four members of SEVOTA to testify against Akayesu. Although rape has been considered an international war crime since 1919, it had never been prosecuted as a war crime until the conviction of Akayesu.
These women’s actions, through Mukasarasi’s leadership, changed the world of criminal justice forever, giving women who were sexually assaulted in conflicts a voice and access to justice. Since 1994, SEVOTA has reached over 300 genocide rape victims and helped them to reintegrate socially and economically into their communities. They have organized more than 1,300 households to participate in micro-savings clubs and 2,000 youth and children in peace and development clubs.
Mukasarasi received the John Humphrey Freedom Award by Law & Democracy (2004); the Outstanding Achievement Award for Rural Women’s Creativity Award from the World Women’s Summit Foundation in Geneva (1996); and, SEVOTA was honored with the Award for Human Rights for its contribution to the promotion of the rights of vulnerable women by Human Right International (2011).
3.Sirikan Charoensiri (Thailand)
In the immediate aftermath of Thailand’s May 2014 coup d’etat, lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri (known as June) co-founded Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a lawyers’ collective set up to provide pro bono legal services in human rights cases and to document human rights issues under the military government.
TLHR has represented hundreds of clients since the military coup, often as the only alternative for those facing politically-motivated charges. Because of the political sensitivity of the organization’s work, TLHR lawyers and staffers, and June in particular, have been subjected regularly to harassment, intimidation and criminal charges. As a consequence of her advocacy, June is currently facing three sets of criminal charges for her work as a lawyer, including a charge of sedition – the first for being a lawyer under the military government. Nevertheless, June continues undeterred in her work.
4.Dr. Feride Rushiti (Kosovo)
Dr. Feride Rushiti is founder and executive director of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. Through almost two decades of research and advocacy, Dr. Rushiti has secured access to healthcare and justice for civilian victims of Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war.
In 2017, her advocacy led to a landmark government decision to fund pensions for Kosovo’s victims of wartime sexual violence, setting a precedent for governmental engagement in efforts to deal with Kosovo’s wartime past. Dr. Rushiti, a medical doctor, began treating civilian victims of war during active conflict in 1999. She was among the first doctors to recognize the need for treatment of psychological trauma for refugees fleeing the violence, particularly among women and minority groups. She pioneered a multi-disciplinary approach to address the needs of conflict victims, envisioning a single organization providing psycho-social support, legal assistance, medication, treatment and policy advocacy.
Dr. Rushiti also played a key role in developing Kosovo’s legal framework for the humane treatment of prisoners and other detainees, advocating successfully for independent monitoring of detention facilities.
5.Sister Maria Elena Berini (Italy)
Nominated by the U.S. Embassy in the Holy See, Sister Maria Elena Berini was born on December 9, 1944 in Sondrio, Italy. When she was 15, she dropped out of school to work in a textile factory to help her father support their family of six. There, she discovered firsthand the difficult working conditions for laborers, as well as a strong sense of worker solidarity.
Out of a deep commitment to service, at the age of 19, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Anthide Thouret. From 1963 to 1969 she undertook religious, biblical, theological and teacher training. She became a children’s teacher but felt a calling to go to Africa. In 1972, she went to Chad where she discovered a love for the people, their traditions, culture, language and religion. She also witnessed war, hate, injustice and “indescribable horrors.”
She continued her work in rural “bush” schools until 2007, when her congregation sent her to the Central African Republic (CAR). Sister Maria Elena has been working at the Catholic mission in Bocaranga, CAR since then and lived through the war in 2013 and 2014. Most recently, in February and September 2017, the rebel movement “TROIS R” attacked Bocaranga. Thousands of internally displaced people fled their homes and sought shelter at Sister Maria Elena’s mission, where they were welcomed and given refuge.
6.Aliyah Khalaf Saleh (Iraq)
Aliyah Khalaf Saleh, known as Umm Qusay in Iraq, is 62 years old and was born in the Iraqi province of Salah al-Din, not far from Tikrit. Umm Qusay has become a national hero in Iraq despite early challenges such as not having had the opportunity to attend school and being married at the young age of 13.
She is a volunteer humanitarian recognized for her bravery in rescuing young Iraqi military cadets ambushed by ISIS on June 12, 2014, the day of the Camp Speicher Massacre. Umm Qusay and her family saw the cadets jumping into the river to save themselves and although they were suffering from the recent loss of their own family members at the hands of ISIS, they had the presence of mind to take action. Umm Qusay rescued 58 recruits over a period of five months. She hid them in small groups, provided them with I.D. cards from the local university to hide their identities and prepared their escape routes.
She took care to teach the Shi’a how to pray as Sunnis to avoid coming to the attention of ISIS. Umm Qusay, a Sunni, believed strongly that each young boy deserved her care whether Christian, Kurd, Turkmen, Yezidi, Sunni or Shi’a. Her selfless actions in the wake of ISIS’s terror have already been recognized in Iraq, including by the highest Shi’a religious authorities who bestowed on this Sunni woman the title of “Toa’a Al-‘Asr.” Toa’a today is used to describe women who place the wellbeing of others before themselves.
In July 2015, Prime Minister Abadi presented her with Iraq’s Medal of the State. Four years on, Umm Qusay continues to receive tribal leaders, military officials and citizens who want to meet and embrace the Iraqi woman who serves as a beacon of hope for their country in the wake of its liberation from ISIS. She regularly cooks for soldiers and visits the wounded in hospitals. Umm Qusay is a vivid embodiment of the message of a common humanity. In her own words, “We are all created by God. We are all the same.”
7.Roya Sadat (Afghanistan)
Roya Sadat is a creative thinker who refuses to be silenced in the face of threats from conservative elements within Afghan society. Using cinema and television as platforms for advocacy, she is promoting positive change by telling the untold stories of Afghan women and girls.
Throughout her career, Sadat has faced enormous risks and has overcome tremendous cultural, bureaucratic and monetary barriers. Born in Herat in 1981, Sadat always dreamed of being a filmmaker. But when the Taliban came to power, her dreams were nearly crushed as music, movies, television and theater were banned. Yet, Sadat organized secret theater classes in hospitals, refusing to give up her passion. At age 20, Sadat directed her first feature, Three Dots, which she secretly wrote during the Taliban era. The film centers on a young widow who is pressured to marry an in-law. Sadat took major risks to shoot the film in a rural village; at one point, she was chased away at gunpoint by villagers angry at her use of uncovered women actresses.
Despite these and other challenges, she completed the film, which received international acclaim. In 2003, Sadat founded Roya Film House to tell compelling stories about Afghanistan. In more than 30 documentaries, films and television shows, Sadat has not shied away from depicting the brutal injustices of life for Afghan women. In 2013, she founded the Afghanistan International Women’s Film Festival to promote women filmmakers and the empowerment of Afghan women through art. Sadat’s most recent work, A Letter to the President, tells the story of a strong-willed woman who is sentenced to death after accidentally killing her abusive husband.
8.Aiman Umarova (Kazakhstan)
Aiman Umarova was born in a small town of the Zhambyl province in south Kazakhstan. Currently, Umarova specializes in particularly serious and grave crimes, related to the sexual abuse of women and children, as well as working with convicted individuals imprisoned for various political and human rights motives.
One of her hobbies is journalism and she writes a column in the public-political newspaper DAT, covering the themes of imprisoned individuals, torture and violence in prisons, and human rights. She is also in the process of writing a book about sexual harassment tentatively called The Bottle of Harassment.
Umarova is a member and defense attorney of the Almaty Regional Bar Association, an expert on the Council on Human Rights under the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the co-founder of the Human Rights Lawyers Public Foundation.
Initially, Umarova’s desire to protect people and to stand up against societal inequalities led her to a professional career in law enforcement services, where she worked as an investigator. At the same time, she was also continuing her studies to obtain an additional Bachelor in Law degree at the International Academy of Law and Market. Umarova started her full legal career after her work with the law enforcement services, where she worked as a case investigator.
Umarova’s slogan is: “Don’t do it like everyone else and it will not turn out like everyone else’s.”
9.Aura Elena Farfan (Guatemala)
Aura Elena Farfan is a fearless advocate for the families of the forcibly disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war (1960-1996), a bloody conflict that led to the killing and forced disappearance of approximately 200,000 civilians. Farfan has been a human rights activist since her brother disappeared in 1984. She received death threats throughout the years for her work and was kidnapped by armed assailants in 2001.
In 2015, Time magazine named Farfan as one of its 100 Most Influential People. In 2017, she was prominently featured in Finding Oscar, an award-winning documentary produced by Steven Spielberg. Despite the recognition she has received, Farfan has worked quietly over the years and seldom appears in the spotlight. Farfan’s 33 years of dedicated work in the quest for justice for families of the forcibly disappeared has inspired a generation of young activists and shines a light on transitional justice efforts in Guatemala.
10.Dr. Julissa Villanueva (Honduras)
Dr. Julissa Villanueva serves as the director of the Honduran Attorney General’s Forensic Medicine Department, overseeing 650 forensic experts. She began her career as a forensic pathologist in 2002 and was named director of the department in 2013.
Dr. Villanueva has fundamentally changed the nature of criminal accountability in Honduras, especially regarding violent crimes perpetrated against women and children. She has led multidisciplinary, data-driven initiatives to counteract gender-based violence and was a key player in national femicide legislation that imposed additional criminal penalties for gender-based homicides. Her focus on forensic evidence in high-profile cases helped convict murderers when eyewitness testimony was insufficient.
Dr. Villanueva developed the first post-graduate medical degree in forensic medicine in Honduras and established the Forensic Science Journal of Honduras, which has garnered a regional audience. She developed the basis for the National Human Identification Registry, in part to address the many unsolved murders in Honduras, and created the first humanitarian cemetery so unclaimed or unidentified corpses could be exhumed later as evidence in criminal trials.
In partnership with the U.S. government, Dr. Villanueva is developing DNA capabilities to help identify decomposed bodies recovered along migrant routes and to track unaccompanied minors that attempt to reach the United States through illegal migration. She pioneered the use of Gesell chambers in forensic medicine facilities, which allow victims of sexual crimes or witnesses of murder to provide legal testimony before the court without publicly revealing their identity, eliminating shame and fear of retribution.
Dr. Villanueva’s courageous and inspirational efforts have improved the capacity of forensic medicine in Honduras, bolstered evidence used in violent crime cases (many of which are against women), and are essential to the fight against impunity in Honduras.