Tony Blair was bought for $40 Million to call Kazakhstan Great: Thor Halvorssen
The Oslo Freedom Forum, a two-day gathering of Human Rights Activists and journalists alike from across the globe concluded on October 22, During the event The Oslo Times International News Network spoke to the event organizers as well as the speakers at the event. This interview with the founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum Thor Halvorssen is the first of many to follow.
Please tell us something about the Freedom Forum?
The Oslo Freedom Forum is a gathering of heroic people, who are addressing some of the world’s most difficult problems and they are doing so using non-violence and dialogue to address some pressing issues of the day. These include slavery, human trafficking, freedom of expression and violations of it by the government, circumstances of war and refugee, security and safety, protection of our communications and a whole lot of variety of subjects including how best to tell a story or the influence of comic books in education.
What do you have to say about Islamophobia in Europe?
Firstly lets define what that really means. Phobia means fear. So homophobia would mean fear of people who are different in terms of sexuality. In the case of Islamophobia one can see that some people are negative or critical of Islam. Criticism as long as it is peaceful and does not seek violence it should be permitted. However, it is not acceptable if Islamophobia takes shape of criminal activities like discrimination, attacks on people or passing laws that restrict the rights of Muslims.
We need to understand that people have the right to express an opinion, but there is a huge difference on having a view and an opinion on something and acting on those opinions or acting in a way that it restricts the rights of others. It is perfectly acceptable to be critical of a religion, of a group, of a political policy but what is not acceptable is to then act on that in a way that it restricts the rights of someone else. So, you have to be both tolerant towards other peoples opinions that you may disagree with and that does not mean that you have to accept them. That is the difference between the intolerant Islamophobia and criticism of Islam. Criticism of Islam does not mean Islamophobia, no more than criticism of Israel means being Anti-Semitic nor does criticism of different sexual groups mean homophobia.
You just mentioned Israel and while we are on that topic, what would be your analysis of the issue between Israel and Palestine? I think it is a very politicized issue. It is a weapon of mass distraction. You know many people want to bring up the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a way of eliminating situations in their own country so you will have Iran talking about Israel and blaming things on Jews, when in fact the problems have been started by the government of Iran. It’s a great distraction in some parts of the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia they talk about this but they do not talk about what is going on inside Saudi Arabia. So it is important not to lose the sense of proportions. Of course violations of Human Rights happen in the Israeli, Palestinian situation, but that does not mean that we ignore human right abuses in other countries, there is a lot of disproportion when it comes to this. This is a situation one sees over and over again in terms of media coverage and in terms of pacts by the state and the United Nations Human Rights Council. How can there be six or seven resolutions on Israeli-Palestinian situation and not one resolution on the situation of homo-sexual in Saudi Arabia or child marriage in Afghanistan or the lack of freedom of expression in Iran or the Situation in Lebanon and the violation of rights there, or Yemen and so on and so forth.
The Oslo Freedom Forum is being accused of mainly focusing on Latin America, is there any particular reason for this?
Well,that’s simply not true, we have more speakers from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa than we have from Latin America.
We have also heard a little bit of criticism from the audience who feel that the freedom forum has completely ignored the problems of Muslim minority in Myanmar, what do you have to say about this?
We have had three speakers from Burma here. We have had Zoya Fanhh, Burmese human rights activist and author, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burmese opposition and chairperson of the National League for Democracy party in Burma and we have had delegates from Burma for 6 years.So that really can’t be true, but yes we would like to have speakers from Muslim minority group, a lot of our speakers need to be able to present their views well and we just have not found someone to represent that community yet.We also need to be very clear about one thing, that is, the number one oppressors of Muslims are Muslims. The people oppressing the largest number of Muslims are not Western democracies; there are millions and millions of Muslims living in Europe, and in France and the United States and Canada.Though in some areas situation of the Muslim communities in these countries may be somewhat problematic, it cannot be compared to the oppression, torture and imprisonment of Muslims inside the middle east. There are more Muslims in the prisons of Middle East and are being tortured by Muslims, than in any other part of the world. We need to first look at where the problems lie.
What would say about media freedom in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan?
Freedom of expression in these four places is the most contradicting statement in the world; there is no freedom of expression there. Dictatorial rulers rule these four countries and all of those rulers should be in prison right now. There are cases of multiple violations of human rights of Muslims. If we had a contest for to pick the worst dictators in these four countries, it would be a tough competition. Lets see, is it Nazar Baif or is it the Azerbaijan regime, which thinks of its self as a monarchy now or is it the lunatic running Turkmenistan, who rides horses and thinks that the country is his farm or is it the monster who
is in charge of Uzbekistan who threatens to boil his enemies to death or is it the monster Nazar Baijan of Kazakhstan. Who is worse for freedom of expression, it’s a tough competition they are all awful at allowing freedom of expression. All of these people are only interested in staying in power, so that they can continue to take the money from the people, to build palaces and buy houses for themselves in New York, Paris, London or in other parts of Europe. These live a life of luxury while their people live on less than 20 Kroner a day and that is an outrage. So if you ask me about where these countries stand in terms of freedom of expression, it’s terrible. How many people know about what is actually going on in Uzbekistan, very few. In Turkmenistan, very few, why? Because they pay money. Uzbekistan pays and lobbies. Kazakhstan buys people, they bought Tony Blair and paid him 40 million dollars to say Kazakhstan is great. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan bring in movie stars. All these people are monsters running countries. These are Muslims opposing Muslims; they all need to be in prison.
What do you have to say about President Putin?
Not very much another monster and psychopath, who wants to control the wealth of his country and take the money of his people and silence them. He wants to create himself as the czar and be in power all his life and keep the people uneducated and
appeal to the worst elements through demagoguery like in the Middle East, where the gays are attacked, the foreigners are attacked, the aid workers are attacked. He is playing politics in the name of nationalism and distracting the attention of people from how he is taking their money. At the end of the day what these people want is gold, that’s what they want. The other side of human rights violation is the search and desire for money and Putin is no exception. He will go down in history as another monster.
Note from The-Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar: The Oslo Times International News Network and our Human Rights Team across the world stands firmly behind the initiatives of Thor Halvorssen taken to improve the human rights situation, freedom of expression , and to empower the civil societies. I believe Thor is a budding leader for human right activists across the world, the guiding star that the world can rely on and a big slap on the face dictatorships.
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