During the last week of Intersession, about two dozen Hopkins undergraduates had front row seats as four prominent dissidents shared their experiences with oppression and their observations on threats to democracy around the world.
The course, Frontlines of Freedom, was led by none other than former world chess champion, pro-democracy advocate, and chair of the Renew Democracy Initiative Garry Kasparov. Offered by the SNF Agora Institute, it was designed to shed light on the anti-democratic trends that most Americans are just beginning to understand by tapping into the perspectives of dissidents who have fought those trends globally for decades.
“We were very excited that the SNF Agora Institute was able to offer Johns Hopkins students the opportunity to take a course with Garry Kasparov, who is himself such a significant voice in the global fight for democracy,” said Hahrie Han, director of the SNF Agora Institute. “Bringing our students into direct conversation with dissidents from oppressive regimes around the world was invaluable for their understanding of just how high the stakes are for democracy and activism—in the dissidents’ home countries and here in the United States.”
In one session, Mihrigul Tursun of China, a former Uyghur detainee, described the experience of being sent to a “reeducation camp” in Xinjiang. Originally from Xinjiang, Tursun was living in Egypt and had returned to the northwestern China city to visit her parents in 2015, when officials detained her and separated her from her eight-week-old triplets. When she was released three months later, she was told that one of her sons had died.
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