Press Release — Announcing the Official Speaker Lineup for the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum


  • Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway
  • John Prendergast, founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide organization
  • Anne Applebaum, journalist and Pulitzer-Prize winning author
  • Mohamed Nasheed, former Maldivian president and pro-democracy leader
  • Elif Shafak, award-winning Turkish novelist
  • Vian Dakhil, Iraqi-Yazidi parliamentarian
  • Wai Wai Nu, Burmese Rohingya lawyer
  • Joe Lonsdale, Palantir co-founder and philanthropist
  • Deirdre McCloskey, economic historian and rhetorician
  • Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, Cuban dissident and mental health activist
  • Maria Toorpakai Wazir, Pakistani women's rights activist and squash player
  • Shohret Hoshur, Uyghur human rights activist and journalist
  • Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla, Ecuadorean political cartoonist
  • Grace Jo, North Korean refugee
  • Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Iranian pro-democracy organizer and technologist
  • Leyla Hussein, Somali psychotherapist and anti-FGM activist
  • Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Bangladeshi secular publisher and blogger
  • Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwean pastor and #ThisFlag movement leader

Many of these speakers have taken enormous personal risks to stand up for human rights and challenge authoritarianism. These individuals will come together in Oslo with a community of business leaders, technologists, journalists, human rights advocates, philanthropists, artists, and policymakers to launch new initiatives aimed at making the world a more peaceful, prosperous, and free place. If you are interested in participating, you can apply to attend online.The 2017 program includes a Tech Lab, where companies will share their latest tools with conference participants to help them communicate more securely and push back against censorship and surveillance. The program will also feature an Interactive Expo, where human rights groups, artists, brands, designers, and companies can feature their work and build new partnerships. Other events include a workshop series, interactive art, live music and comedy, and a weekend of free public events in downtown Oslo on May 20-21.The Oslo Freedom Forum is made possible in part thanks to the generous support of the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City of Oslo, the Free Expression Foundation, Kavlifondet, Kistefos, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.If you or your company would like to participate in the Tech Lab or Interactive Expo, please email Jamie Hancock at For media or sponsorship inquiries, please contact Alex Gladstein at details about the 2017 program can be found on our website, and you can also find regular updates on our Twitter and Facebook. Below please find profiles of five speakers. Stay tuned in over the coming weeks for more announcements.

Erna Solberg is the Prime Minister of Norway and the country’s head of government. She is a vocal advocate for human rights, and especially for democratic principles, women’s rights, and the right to education. She will be giving the 2017 OFF keynote address at 9:30am CET on Tuesday, May 23.

Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a professional Pakistani squash player and a gender equality activist. Toorpakai Wazir initially hid the fact that she is a woman so that she could play squash professionally – but when her gender identity leaked, the Taliban targeted her and she was forced to go into hiding. Now, she runs the Maria Toorpakai Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building peaceful communities and gender equity in remote regions of the world.

Anne Applebaum is a Polish-American journalist and Pulitzer-Prize winning author who reports on democratic transitions, communism, and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. She is a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, and has published five books, including Pulitzer-winner Gulag: A History and her latest, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956.

Evan Mawarire is a civil rights activist, pastor, and leader of the #ThisFlag movement in Zimbabwe. Mawarire is an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean government and defender of political rights. In July 2016, his #ThisFlag campaign resulted in a mass movement of Zimbabweans shutting down the capital in a series of protests against corruption, poverty, and abuse of office by the Mugabe regime. Mawarire was briefly arrested for inciting public violence and "attempting to overthrow the government."

Wai Wai Nu is a Burmese lawyer and political activist who advocates for religious freedom for Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted religious and ethnic minority. She is the director of Women’s Peace Network – Arakan, an NGO that seeks to ease ethno-religious tension in Burma through civic education. Wai Wai Nu first became an activist when she and her family were arrested and imprisoned in 2005 for being related to a prominent Rohingya politician and pro-democracy activist. Her experience in prison led Wai Wai Nu to dedicate her life to mobilizing Burmese women to fight for justice.


Oslo Freedom Forum