Protection from Landmines
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a heroine to Maya Indians in Guatemala and indigenous peoples throughout the world. Born into an impoverished family in 1959, the daughter of an active member of the CUC (Committee of Campesinos [Agricultural Workers]), she joined the union in 1979, despite the fact that several members of her family had been persecuted for their membership. In the early 1980s, the Guatemalan military launched a “scorched earth campaign,” burning more than four hundred Mayan villages to the ground, massacring hundreds of children, women, and the infirm; and brutally torturing and murdering anyone suspected of dissenting from the policy of repression. The military killed up to two hundred thousand people, mostly Mayan Indians, and forced one million people into exile. Menchú’s mother and brother were kidnapped and killed, and her father burned alive. While the Guatemalan army marched against its people, the rest of the world remained almost completely silent.
Human Rights for All
A prominent lawyer and former judge, Shirin Ebadi founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran to increase the rights of women and children and protect prisoners of conscience and those accused of political crimes. Ebadi has seen how women are frequently mistreated in Iran and has personally faced discrimination, threats of imprisonment and exile for her human rights work.