Thor Halvorssen is, by many lights, crazy. He might be the kind of crazy the world needs. In a world where the bonds that tie nations together are torn by plebiscites, and a Trump candidacy for the Presidency of the United States, a man willing to stand tall against tyrants and dictators, who brings the light of journalism and public opinion on the affairs of dictators just might be the example the world needs.
Halvorssen comes by his advocacy of human rights honestly, with a grandfather who punched Nazis, and a father who, as Venezuela’s drug czar, was tortured for trying to root out corruption, and whose mother was shot in the streets of Caracas, protesting the dictatorship of Hugo Chavez. He has relatives in three prisons for acts of conscience, and yet Halvorssen is, if anything, more emphatic than world-weary.
Halvorssen’s organization, the Human Rights Foundation, doesn’t pull their punches. Rather, their members absorb them when confronted by the police, whether in Bogata or Moscow. It’s an equal opportunity organization; the leadership – whether Garry Kasparov or Thor Halvorssen himself, stand for rendition and bruises on their own merits. His ecumenical belief in the universality of taking a beating is met by his utter pragmatism in choosing allies – called a leftist by some, and a right winger by others, Halvorssen, and the HRF, will take assistance and resources from anyone who offers, and he brooks no favorites among those he opposes: He’ll face down against dictators of any creed. The HRF does limit its scope to actual dictatorships, and thus doesn’t push too hard on the United States. Yet.
When he’s not organizing protests, Halvorssen is organizing events. His Oslo Freedom Forum is a platform where dissidents who’ve escaped truncheons and prison cells
Halvorssen, who’s a dual citizen of Norway and Venezuela, is 39, and a solidly built man. His dual citizenship offers him legal advantages and some havens, though his life’s work, the HRF, is based out of New York. He’s taken a lifelong interest in cinema and stage productions and turned them into the skills he needs to direct attention at causes that would otherwise fester in the dark.
The truth can set people free, and shatter governments, and Thor Halvorssen is willing to get beaten up to share it.