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we don’t know whether you share this feeling, but for us, the year 2022 has been particularly disheartening. Around the world, we are witnessing the expansion of authoritarianism, the building of geopolitical tensions and even war. The most extreme example is Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. It has not only inflicted unspeakable horrors upon Ukraine’s civilian population; it has also become a major threat to global food and energy security.
Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For years, regimes all over the world have increasingly taken measures to restrict, defame, threaten or kill people who dare to speak up and raise their voices. The right to freedom of opinion and expression, enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has come under attack and the state of press freedom has also deteriorated around the world.
Luckily, brave people from across the globe are fighting these developments. One of them is human rights activist Hatice Cengiz, who will give the 2022 Helmut Schmidt Lecture. She has tirelessly spoken up against repression and has persistently called for justice and accountability ever since her fiancé, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
We could learn a lot from Hatice’s commitment at any time. But 2022 has given us particularly striking reasons to listen to her. Throughout this year, many decision-makers have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for persecuting dissidents, attacking journalists and launching a war in which civilians are deliberately targeted. At the same time, leaders such as Olaf Scholz, Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron have started to re-engage with Saudi Crown Prince and now Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman to seek alternative energy supplies. They have done so despite previously calling him a “pariah” due to his own human rights record at home and for ordering the assassination of Khashoggi.
It seems like once again, “Realpolitik” has won out over a values-based policy and justice for a murdered journalist. But we should not simply accept this as a binary choice with a clear winner. Because attacks on human rights are among the main drivers of conflict, instability and insecurity worldwide, today’s global developments rather lend a new urgency to rebuild and strengthen the fundamentals of democratic societies. It is not the time to bury our heads in the sand. It is the time for speaking up.
To show how this is done, this second issue of our BKHS Magazine is arriving just in time for the Helmut Schmidt Lecture. It celebrates people who dare to speak up all over the globe: journalists in the face of declining press freedom, peacebuilders in the midst of war, artists at risk of persecution, human rights defenders up against repression, workers demanding fair wages, LGBTQI* activists in their fight against discrimination and women* claiming the power to make choices about their own bodies.
The contributions to our magazine are as diverse as the opportunities for speaking up. They include essays, photo series, statements, tweets, poems, playlists, cartoons and questionnaires. Taken together, they highlight that in whatever way people choose to speak up – whether in a song, a novel, on the streets or in a conference room – speaking up is not only about the right to express an opinion. It is about who is going to listen, what consequences you might fear – and developing the courage to do it anyway.
→ Julia Strasheim is Deputy Managing Director and Programme Director European and International Politics at the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung
→ Elisabeth Winter is Programme Director Global Markets and Social Justice at the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung