Thor Halvorssen’s humanitarian career goes all the way back to his childhood where it all started with opposing the South African Apartheid. After his father became a political prisoner in Venezuela he found himself involved full time with promoting due process and individual human rights. Halvorssen later founded the Human Rights Foundation, which devotes its time to freeing political prisoners and fighting for democracy and overall tolerance throughout Latin America, after he lost his mother when she was shot while participating in a political protest in New York in 2004. Thor also founded the Oslo Freedom Forum, a yearly gathering centered around human rights.
Thor has received recognition for his work, being honored by Judith Rodin, president of University of Pennsylvania, and being presented with the Presidential Silver Medal by the Romanian leader Emil Constantinescu in 2010.
In addition to his humanitarian work, Thor is also a film producer. Thor has worked with names like Quentin Tarantino in his filmmaking career, and has produced films about various humanitarian themes like the film The Sugar Babies which focuses on human trafficking and the lives of migrant farm workers in the Dominican Republic. Thor also produced the film The Singing Revolution which is about Estonia and its struggle to gain independence from Soviet Occupation.
Although many in the developed world take it for granted the right to live life as you see fit and the ability to choose your station in life is something that many people will never have the ability to experience. Halvorssen sees this injustice for what it is and he strives to create a world where people are free to live their lives as they want.
A Personal Vendetta Against Dictators
His birth country of Venezuela is well known its long history of corruption and the dictatorships that have ruled the country with an iron fist. The impact of this has actually found a way into his personal life. A number of his family members, such as his father Thor Halvorssen Hellum, have been arrested for their opposition to the reigning leaders. He has even seen a family member killed because she decided to protest against Hugo Chavez. Such examples are not rare nor are they unusual in countries like Venezuela. For this reason Halvorssen is intent on trying to do everything he can in order to make sure nobody else experiences this pain.
Telling The Stories We Need To Hear
A key aspect of the work that Halvorssen does is finding a way to tell the stories of people who have been personally affected by the dictatorships that rule their governments. One of the best examples of this was when he decided to tell the story of a Buddhist priest who’s temple was taken down by the government of Venezuela. When this happened he made sure that he was there to interview the man. The stunt resulted in the arrest of Halvorssen although he later convinced the authorities he was simply a convert to Buddhism.
Thor Halvorssen’s Life Today
Halvorssen continues to fight oppression as the president of the Human Rights Foundation. Currently, he makes many of his efforts to promote open societies by uniting activists around the world. The fight to stop dictatorships isn’t an easy one but Thor Halvorssen refuses to give up.
Thor Halvorssen has been a tireless fighter who is committed to protecting liberty and human rights around the world. Although the general public is largely unaware of it, human rights violations are committed by ruthless dictators every day. Thor Halvorssen has been standing up for the rights of others since he was a young boy. Even as a young adolescent, Halvorssen recognized the need to fight against oppressive governments. In 1989, Halvorssen joined organized opposition against the apartheid that was taking place in South Africa.
Unlike many activists, Thor Halvorssen has been personally impacted by the actions of authoritarian regimes. Thor’s father was arrested, imprisoned and tortured after launching a series of investigations into the actions of corrupt government officials in Venezuela. Thor worked with groups such as Amnesty International to get his father released from prison. After his release from prison, Halvorssen’s father was declared to be innocent of all charges. Later, in 2004, Halvorssen’s mother was wounded by a gunshot fired by government security agents while she was involved in a peaceful protest advocating the recall of President Hugo Chavez.
Thor Halvorssen has also fought against slave labor. In 1999, Halvorssen appeared before an annual stockholders’ meeting of Lucent Technologies and demanded that the company institute a slave labor policy that would require China to certify that there was no slave labor involved during the manufacturing of products for Lucent Technologies. At the time, China was accused of running a slave labor camp that forced millions of men, women and children to produce consumer goods.
In 2004, Thor Halvorssen created the Human Rights Foundation in New York City. One of the major goals of the HRF is to fight for liberty and human rights for oppressed people around the world. The HRF has challenged dictators in many countries including Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela and China.
Thor Halvorssen continues to expose human rights violators by producing films like The Sugar Babies which documents migrant farmer abuse and slave labor in the Dominican Republic.