On this International Human Rights Day, I want to tell you about George, a refugee from Zimbabwe. His tale is a constant reminder that human rights are a shared responsibility, for everyone.
George had a normal life back in Zimbabwe, with a job, a wife, and four children, but he couldn't stand idle as Robert Mugabe drove his once great country into ruin, and so he campaigned for the opposition party during the 2000 election. The results are best described in George’s own words:
"The election was rigged so that Mugabe won. During the campaign, I had witnessed countless atrocities being committed by the authorities - they came after my friends and other members of the opposition. When I realised that Mugabe's thugs were after me, too, I had to flee Zimbabwe, so my family and I came to the UK."
George and his family are now safe from Mugabe, but their lives have been turned upside down and they can never go home - all because he tried to stand up to his country's government. His story is a constant reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a real democracy.
But like George, we can’t stand idle.
In Britain we have the privilege of dissent. We can raise our voice comfortable in the knowledge that our families are safe from government reprisal. But we have also lost many of the rights and freedoms we once took for granted.
"My children are bright and talented, but I fear their future is doomed. For now, a decent life where my family can build a future remains a distant dream, as elusive as when we first fled the violence in Zimbabwe.
“You, in Britain, don’t understand what you have. You don’t understand what you are losing.”
It's because of stories like George's that POWER2010 and I are working to protect our rights and renew our democracy here in the UK. On International Human Rights Day we need to remember that every right we allow our government to take from us invites another - and to truly protect our freedoms we need to change our politics. Sign the declaration and join me in celebrating our democracy: