The Axel Springer Freedom Foundation has today installed a street sign in-front of the Belarusian Embassy in Berlin, bearing the name of imprisoned Belarusian oppositionist, Maria Kolesnikova. The installation, carried out in the presence of District Mayor of the Treptow-Köpenick region of Berlin, Oliver Igel (SPD), is part of a wider campaign to anchor the contemporary battle for political and media freedom to tangible physical locations.
The campaign, known as ‘Address Freedom’ is designed to support the release of political prisoners in authoritarian states, and is being run in collaboration with other organisations including Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre.
Core elements include petitions titled ‘Give Freedom an Address’, which advocate for renaming the streets in front of the embassies of China (in “Jimmy-Lai-Street”), Belarus (“Maria-Kolesnikowa-Street”), Russia (“Vladimir-Kara-Murza-Street”), Cambodia (“Theary-Seng-Street”) and Iran (“Narges-Mohammadi-Street“).
Activities kicked off on Monday evening in Berlin with massive light projections on the facades of the embassies of authoritarian countries. For several minutes, the slogan ‘Free Theary Seng – 1 Million Political Prisoners Worldwide’ was displayed on the Cambodian Embassy, along with a photo of the imprisoned dissident behind bars.
“People worldwide are advocating for freedom, democracy, and human rights – risking their own freedom, and often their lives,” said Joachim Gauck, former Federal President of Germany. “Political prisoners in the dictatorships and autocracies of our world are both a warning and an encouragement to us.”
“For instance, when we think about the Russian opposition politician, historian, and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was imprisoned for political reasons, we are reminded of all the brave defenders of freedom and democracy – whether in Iran, Belarus, or China. They are all entitled to the same universal rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their fight deserves our continuous support!“
Antje Schippmann, Managing Director of the Axel Springer Freedom Foundation, added: “Democratic dissidents like Narges Mohammadi and Vladimir Kara-Murza have fought for freedom and human rights under the most difficult conditions and are now incarcerated in the world’s worst prisons. They shall not be forgotten. Therefore, we hope many people will join our initiative. Every signature for the petition is both a gesture of solidarity with those unjustly imprisoned and a signal to the dictators that we will not let them get away with their crimes.”
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[Main image: Left to right: Michael Roth, Anton Hofreiter, Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Tatsiana Khomich, Evgenia Kara-Murza, Bill Browder, Renata Alt, Roderich Kiesewetter, Antje Schippmann © Niels Starnick]