Fighting silence

November 10, 2022

“There is this legitimate fear against the reaction of the government because they are convinced the regime will crush you and they have succeeded at doing that in the past. Maybe it comes from a position of love but I also feel like it comes a lot from a position of lack of courage and a position of cowardice”, says Farida Nabourema in this week’s #Forum2000online Chat. Ms. Nabourema, Executive Director of the Togolese Civil League, Togo, joined Hasler Iglesias, a Venezuelan activist and a member of the Forum 2000 ICDR, to talk about oppression and the dangerous consequences of silence.

According to Farida Nabourema and her personal experience, you will learn that:

  • In Togo, anybody who opposes the regime is automatically seen as a “dog”, as a “terrorist”. The regime’s narrative portrays dissidents as enemies of the state, enemies of the nation, enemies of the government.
  • The regime has been good at using family members against each other. Some family members of opposition leaders may be recruited or harassed to instill fear.
  • Moral support from the family is very important, but there is sometimes a legitimate fear of the reaction of the government.
  • Togo has been ruled by one of the most barbaric regimes in Africa.
  • Describing the brutality of dictators give them a sense of power over citizens. It is better to describe the resistance of civilians, how despite repression, torture, and spying, “people are still confronting the regime, demanding accountability, risking their lives to speak against abuse —human right abuses— and to speak against corruption”.
  • There is more power in sharing a story of resistance than in sharing a story of repression.
  • The culture of silence feeds authoritarianism and is so pervasive that it has entered all circles of society.
  • “Being able to carry the struggle of many generations and being able to speak up against the authoritarian regime of Togo is gratifying enough and it is worth whatever could be the consequences that comes with it”.
  • Many people are afraid of associating with dissidents because they feel it is dangerous. Friendship and alliances with those who are “on the same boat” are important and give hope.

The interview was recorded in Prague on September 1, 2022, at the 26th Forum 2000 Conference.