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Soni Sori Wins The 2018 Award for Human Rights Defenders At Risk (Picture: By Chinchu.c from Wikimedia Commons)

Soni Sori, the renowned activist fighting for the justice for Adivasi people in Chhattisgarh, India, won the 2018 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. The award is by the Ireland-based human rights organisation called Front Line Defenders. Nurcan Baysal (Turkey), the LUCHA movement (Democratic Republic of Congo), La Resistencia Pacífica de la Microregión de Ixquisis (Guatemala), and Hassan Bouras (Algeria) were also announced as 2018 award winners.

“The human rights defenders we’re honouring today work in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, sacrificing their own security to peacefully demand justice and human rights for their communities,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, as he announced the winners.
Since 2005, the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk has been presented annually to human rights defenders who – at great personal risk – have made an exceptional contribution to protecting and promoting the rights of their communities, their press release said. Historically awarded to one defender or movement each year, 2018 marks the first time Front Line Defenders has recognised defenders from five different countries as Regional Winners. The 2018 finalists and their families have faced attacks, defamation campaigns, legal harassment, death threats, prison sentences, and intimidation.
Soni Sori and her colleagues document and oppose violence perpetrated by paramilitary and police forces in Chharrisgarh. She has documented and raised her voice against state-sponsored abuse including burning houses, raping local women, and torturing and sexually assaulting tribals detained without cause. She has also
defended a number of educational centres from destruction by Maoist groups. Security forces, as a ‘deterrent’ detained and tortured Soni, pushing stones inside of her rectum and sexually assaulting her for hours.
‘I was often made to sit naked in my cell. And then one day stones were inserted in my private parts. I thought this was the end,’ Soni Sori had said about the torture she was subjected to. Even her husband was arrested accusing him of being a Maoist supporter. Soni Sori wrote about what had been done to her to a human rights activist in Delhi. When the letter came to light, there was a national uproar against the huge human rights violation that had happened. A Supreme Court inquiry confirmed that sexual torture had taken place.
In 2016, unidentified men attacked her with acid and threatened to do the same to her daughter if she did not cease her advocacy on behalf of tribeswomen raped by security forces. She has refused to stop her work and continues to travel into the dangerous conflict zones to speak with survivors despite ongoing threats, intimidation, and
smear campaigns. She joined Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2014. She now closely works with tribespeople, especially women, encouraging them to report sexual assault and rape.

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