By Conor Gaffey
Zimbabwe’s Evan Mawarire has had a tough year.
Enraged by the dire economic situation in his country, the 40-year-old pastor from the Zimbabwean capital Harare released a homemade video in April 2016. Draped in the country’s flag, Mawarire lamented the state Zimbabwe found itself in and the leadership vacuum created during President Robert Mugabe’s 37 years in power.
That video fueled a social media campaign—#ThisFlag—that in turn inspired widespread protests and a national shutdown in July, the biggest protest for a decade in Zimbabwe. Police arrested Mawarire and charged him with treason; he was released following a public outcry, and fled to neighboring South Africa and then to the United States for safety. But in February, the protesting pastor returned to his homeland, where he was arrested upon arrival.
But Mawarire remains uncowed. “The fear is there—that you could get arrested, that you could get abused and you could get abducted like people have been abducted in Zimbabwe before and we’ve never known what’s happened to them. But the hope of a Zimbabwe that is better is a stronger force than the fear of retreating and leaving it as it is,” the pastor tells Newsweek at the Oslo Freedom Forum, a conference for human rights activists in May.