Thor Halvorssen is not your average activist. The thirty nine year old is the president of New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) which he launched about ten years ago. Born and raised in Caracas he speaks fluent American English without any accent and has a rich ancestry consisting of royalty. He has a lot of experience in this line of work and has been through turmoil in the fight against criminal activities. For instance, his father exposed government corruption while working as Venzuela’s drug czar and in turn he was tortured in Caracas prison. His mother similarly got shot in an anti-Hugo Chavez demonstration.
Thor Halvorssen however, does not let the past affect his doings neither does he let bitterness cloud his judgement. In fact, he says he is a lover of people. Those whose his affection he gives the most are dissidents and defectors and those who don’t just sit there while authoritarians break laws. He had Vaclav Havel serve as HRF’s chair until his demise in 2011. According to Forbes.com, Halvorssen then replaced him with Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster and one of Vladimir Putin biggest and well-known critics. Kasparov had been through a lot as well to the extent that he was literally punched by a Russian police officer during a protest against the guilty verdict and two-year sentence of Pussy Riot for the crime of singing anti-Putin song.
Thor has also seen the back of whip for a cause. Six years ago, he and his camera man traveled to Ho Chi Min City to interview Thich Quang Do, a man who was the patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and who had spent 28 years under house arrest. However, Vietnamese authorities would not let them have it easy and before he could leave he was arrested and detained.
HRF determination to cover various corners of the world and expose dictatorial regimes is relentless and is willing to provide support and listening ear to dissidents and political prisoners in any country. They might be smaller than other blue-chip human rights organizations but their concern for the oppressed in various countries and their lack of fear to bring to light injustices done to victims make them equals.