Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza is half-Norwegian, half-Venezuelan, but all activist. His blood echoes the swashbucklers of his father’s Norway and former rulers of his mother’s Venezuela. Thor’s interest in human rights is not academic. Learn more about Thor Halvorssen: http://www.bizjournals.com/newyork/potmsearch/detail/submission/6146882
Thor’s father once exposed government corruption and was arrested. Accused of terrorism, he was thrown into a Caracas prison and tortured for 74 days. Be the time of his release, he still had not been charged with anything. His mother was shot during a peaceful anti-Hugo Chavez demonstration that turned not-so-peaceful. This conflict left twelve wounded and one dead.
Thor Halvorssen main focus is on dictatorships, human trafficking, slavery and threats to democracy. In 1999, he spearheaded a campaign for anti-slave labor policy in China. He also became the first executive director and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or, FIRE. FIRE is a U.S. civil liberties organization. During this time, he formed coalitions that united conservative and libertarian advocacy organizations. He defends individuals both on the right and the left of the political spectrum.
In March 2004, Halvorssen left his position as head of FIRE to join its Board of Advisors. He announced the creation of the Human Rights Foundation, an international group that would “champion the definition of human rights…” HRF advocates for the release of political prisoners.
In 2009, Halvorssen founded the Oslo Freedom Forum. This is an annual gathering of human rights advocates from across the globe. Participants include Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Aliokhina of Pussy Riot fame, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Julian Assange and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just to name a few. Read more: Thor Halvorssen | LinkedIn
In his own words, Thor Halvorssen describes himself as “a champion of the underdog and the powerless.” He believes that liberties of opinion, speech and expression denied to one is effectively denied to all. Why does he engage this way? His emphatic answer: “I love people!” Once, Halvorssen snuck into a monastery to tape an interview.
On the way out, Vietnamese authorities arrested and detained him until he convinced police that he was a Buddhist seeker. His cameraman had to sneak the video card out by hiding it in his rectum. That’s dedication to their beliefs. As Thor Halvorssen has said, “sometimes you…roll up your sleeves and get dirty!”