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Human rights defenders arrive in Dublin for Frontline event against all odds


Jim Loughran from Front Line Defenders and a relieved Farai Maguwu

Jim Loughran from Front Line Defenders and a relieved Farai Maguwu

Jim Loughran from Front Line Defenders and a relieved Farai Maguwu

AN EVENT at Dublin Castle today is considered so dangerous by some countries that they have denied visas and detained participants at airports rather than let them come here.

Human Rights Defenders from around the world have gathered in Ireland for a three day event organised by the Blackrock based Front Line Defenders.

So far three different governments have tried to prevent their citizens attending.

The Dublin Platform, held in Dublin Castle every two years, invites a different set of Human Rights Defenders each time. This year 130 are attending.

For many it is the first time they have travelled to such an event and is certainly a rare opportunity for them to converse without fear of harassment, arrest or torture.

Farai Maguwu was detained on Saturday at Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe by state security agents until his plane had left. Mr. Maguwu, who is the Director of a Zimbabwean NGO that investigates the diamond industry, was then forced to re-enter Zimbabwe.

It was only after a judge ordered the harassment to stop that he was able to leave Zimbabwe and has finally arrived this morning. His joy at arriving in Ireland conquered even the fatigue of the journey that started three days ago.

The trip to Ireland is also a rare time to meet family and friends. Ahmadjan Madmarov from Uzbekistan, was looking forward to visiting Ireland because it was one of the few places he could meet his son. In 199, his sons were arrested to put pressure on him to stop his human rights work. His sons, despite being tortured, told him to continue. One of them, Zuhriddin, now lives as a refugee in Switzerland. They were going to be reunited for the first time in 6 years tomorrow, until the Uzbek authorities denied Ahmadjan his exit visa.

Catherine Al Tali from Syria went to extraordinary lengths to reach Ireland and has finally made it today. She is a member of the Syrian Transition Council and her work as a human rights campaigner has made ordinary travel impossible.

Happened Before

This is not the first time that the Irish event has been targeted by state authorities. The biannual event, organised by Front Line Defenders, a Blackrock based NGO, has always had participants cancelling due to state action.

In one case a participant was forcibly medicated in order to prevent her arrival in Ireland. Despite this most have safely arrived in Ireland in time for the Sixth Dublin Platform.

Speaking about his own experience Farai said “The authorities didn't want me to reach Ireland because here I can speak the truth about blood diamonds”

The Dublin Platform takes place from the 14th - 16th of September 2011.