34. Hungary: Learning useful lessons from your enemies
The election in 2010, of Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban and his Fidesz party triggered a lurch to the right and authoritarian rule. It brought legal restriction, bureaucratic harassment and public vilification to the country’s civil society and human rights community. Official hostility made it difficult for NGOs to survive and made individual rights workers’ lives hell. The most marginalized and vulnerable groups – migrants, queer community members, Roma and others – have come under particularly sustained attack. It would not have been surprising if the net outcome of such targeting were a weakened human rights movement and a profound loss of confidence. And yet, says Stefánia Kapronczay, co-director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, that is not what has happened. Instead, finding themselves blocked from their former work of advocacy and litigation, human rights workers pivoted to a model of grass roots activism that puts citizens’ needs and their values about rights and justice at the heart of movement-building. It is work they had not been doing enough of, she argues, and it is making the constituency for human rights stronger.
And in the Coda, a poem by beloved Iranian poet Simin Behbahani and the story of her meeting with a young Tehran activist.