Speech Frans Weisglas|
Speech by Frans Weisglass, Chairman Geuzenpenning Foundation on the
occasion of the presentation of the Geuzen Medal 2017 to Alice Nkom and Michel
Togué in the Grote Kerk in Vlaardingen on 13 March 2017
Family members of former Geuzen, Deputy Commissioner of the King, Madam
Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,
on behalf of the Geuzenpenning Foundation I bid you a very warm welcome.
Since 1987, human rights activists and organisations from around the
world have received the Geuzen Medal in this church. This afternoon we are privileged once again
to be honouring two extraordinarily brave people. The board is proud that they
are here with us today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2012, the Geuzen Medal was awarded to Gregory Shvedov, the man behind
an independent news site about the Caucasus. He is an extremely courageous man,
although he does not think so himself. Questions from the press concerning
threats – as you know, not everyone can appreciate independent journalism in
the Caucasus and Russia - he replied to airily in 2012 with ‘Well, what can you
do about it? That’s why I try not to get too worried about it’.
However, it is an indisputable fact that Shvedov is being systematically
threatened. On the fourth of January this year, the Chairman of the Chechen
parliament made serious threats against him in public. Shvedov’s reaction to
that was again typical of him. The threats, Shvedov reacted, were not only made
against him personally, but in fact against all journalists who are trying to do
their work in the Caucasus. Shortly thereafter a reaction followed from the
Chechen representative of Human Rights, which was not exactly encouraging...
Gregory Shvedov was only using the situation to promote his ‘scandalous
internet publications’, he said.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are trying to assist
Shvedov. On your chair you will find a card from Amnesty which you can use to
protest against the threats that Shvedov has to undergo. And so, I beg of you,
please fill in the card. We must not desert this courageous man.
On the subject of courageous people… On behalf of the board of the
Geuzenpenning Foundation, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our winners.
Could we please all give a warm round of applause for: Alice Nkom and Michel
It is difficult to imagine how hard their work as lawyers must be in
Cameroon, to be opposed, bullied and threatened on a daily basis for defending
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It is outrageous that universal
fundamental rights continue to be violated, that the government is actively
tracking down LGBT’s and persecuting them. That Alice Nkom and Michel Togué
continue to fight against the current to help people who are being persecuted
just because they are not heterosexual is therefore invaluable. How lonely it
must be when no one will defend you, when every door that you knock on is
immediately slammed shut.
But what is the situation here in the Netherlands? Do transgender people
never suffer from discrimination? Last month an article appeared in a Dutch
newspaper, the NRC Handelsblad, about transgender people in the workplace. A substantial number of transgender people in
the Netherlands say that they are discriminated against at work because of
their background, according to a study carried out by the University of
Humanistic Studies in Utrecht in cooperation with Maastricht University,
Transgender Network Netherlands and GenderTalent, a foundation for career
counsellors of transgender people. ‘As a man I received a more honest wage and
I clearly had more respect,’ said one of the participants of the study. Another
participant said: ‘My plan to work in future as a female employee was a reason
to fire me.” Many transgender people in the Netherlands find themselves sitting
at home, unemployed. That is also
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I will now read the text of the
In accordance with the objective laid down in the Articles of
Association the board of the Geuzenpenning Foundation has unanimously awarded
the Geuzen Medal 2017 to:
ALICE NKOM and MICHEL TOGUÉ
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity
and rights.This fundamental right was recorded by
the United Nations in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shortly
after the horrors of the Second World War. Despite this enshrinement in
international law, this article is under severe pressure in Cameroon.Homosexuals,
lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are systematically discriminated
against, arrested and persecuted.
It is therefore extremely admirable that Alice Nkom
and Michel Togué are passionately defending these fundamental rights, as two of
the few lawyers in their country to do so. While carrying out their work, they
are seriously obstructed, insulted and threatened. Yet, they continue
tirelessly with their invaluable work. And they are also achieving success. For
instance, the number of convictions in Cameroon has dropped
sharply over the last few years; a change appears to be afoot.
Alice Nkom and Michel Togué are unquestionably making a difference. They
are demonstrating that two people with a belief can move mountains. By awarding
them the Geuzen Medal, the board expresses its great appreciation for the
courageous dedication of Alice Nkom and Michel Togué. They are more than worthy
recipients of the Geuzen Medal.
Vlaardingen, 13 March 2017
On behalf of the Geuzenpenning Foundation,
the Chairman, the
A.M.M. Jetten MSc J.H.M.