Turkish politician Leyla Zana fought feverishly for Kurdish rights in her country of Turkey, which eventually landed her in prison in 1994. She was the first Kurdish woman to hold a seat in Turkey’s parliament, and caused a scandal right off the bat by speaking her native language of Kurdish on the parliament floor. The Kurdish language was legalized in 1991, the year she was sworn in, but it was not permitted in “public spaces.” However, bigger issues arose when she joined the Democracy Party in 1994, a party with Kurdish sympathies. Immediately, she and many of top members of the party were arrested and charged with treason. Additionally, Zana was accused of being a member of the Kurdish Workers Party (PPK), a party that was seen as a threat by the Turkish government. During her time in prison she was awarded a number of awards by various European governments, including the Rafto Prize (1994), the Sakharov Prize (1995), and the Bruno Kreisky Award (1995). She was a topic of contention between the European Union (EU) and Turkey when the latter was trying to gain membership in the EU in 1995. In prison Zana wrote Writings From Prison (Human Rights & Democracy), which paints the violations that her country was making. In 2004 she was released and she continued her fight in parliament. Since then she has been in and out of prison for her views on the rights of the Kurdish people. These include dates as recent as 2016, and just last year (2018) she was removed from parliament all together for missing a number of meetings, though she was in prison for the most of it. This has not prevented Zana from continuing her fight for the rights of her people.
Maziar Bahari May 25, 1967 to Present
An Iranian-Canadian journalist, film maker, and human rights activist, Maziar Bahari came into prominence with his first film The Voyage of the Saint Louis (1995) that looked at the issues of how the West rejected and ignored the plight of the 900 plus Jewish passengers trying to escape the coming tragedy of the Third Rich in 1939. Bahari was inspired to make this film because of what he had learned in school that the Jewish people were dispersed in North America up to the 1950’s. Before he took religious studies he had believed that the Americans and Canadians had always been on the side of humanitarian efforts during the Holocaust. By making this film Bahari was the first Muslim to make a film on the Holocaust, something that would eventually “haunt” him during his imprisonment in Iran. He was arrested in 2009 for being a western journalist, the state claiming that all western journalist were spies, something he confessed to on live TV. The confession was dismissed by his family and his colleagues because the confession was made under duress. He was released by the state, in order for him to spy on forces working against it in the autumn of 2009. However, Bahari never did so and returned to London afterwards, where the majority of his work began to focus on imprisoned journalists.
Anna Jameson May 19, 1794 to March 17, 1860
Anna Jameson was an author and woman’s rights activist from England. She is most famous for her travel memoirs that told of her experiences in a romantic fashion. She was an eloquent writer and was able to immerse herself with the culture that she had traveled too. Much of the world that she had seen was due to the fact of her early career as a governess, her position as a caretaker for children allowed her to see the world more freely. With that in mind she used her knowledge and experiences to give lectures on the need to give women an equal opportunity in both education and the workplace.