The Oslo Freedom Forum is a whirlwind of panel discussions and speeches from human rights activists, however, the real action takes place at the Oslo hotels where dissidents, journalists and human rights activists network. Arranged by the energetic Thor Halvorssen, the forum gives activists a voice, journalists a chance for exciting interviews and potential donors get schmoozed.
Venezuelan-born Thor Halvorssen is definitely not your usual human rights advocate. He didn’t grow up poor; his father was the anti-drug minister under President Pérez of Venezuela and his mother, a child psychologist and a descendant of Simón Bolivar. Thor did see his father arrested in 1993, however, it didn’t stop him from coming to America and settling in as a normal, albeit worldly, college kid at the University of Pennsylvania. Thor’s first act of human rights activism was when he convinced Amnesty International to help pressure Venezuelan authorities into releasing his father, who ended up serving 74 days in prison. In 2004, Thor’s mother was shot while attending a peaceful protest.
Currently, Thor Halvorssen is president of the Human Rights Foundation, which he founded in 2005. The press appreciates Halvorssen’s articulate and well-informed views and his preppy good look; he’s been interviewed with The New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and other prestigious publications. While Halvorssen is a Venezuelan citizen, he does not live there. Citing death threats, he remains intensely private and he does not disclose where he lives. Halvorssen prefers that his interviews focus on the cause, usually righting an injustice somewhere in the world, rather than on him.
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