2020/21 Theme: Borders and Human Rights
With the theme of Borders and Human Rights, Oak Institute seeks to explore many aspects of the intersection of borders and human rights, including immigration, refugees, militarization, colonialism, imperialism, indigenous rights, and free movement. We will also consider the different ways to address borders and human rights issues through an exploration of policy, advocacy, and resistance.
2020 Oak Humans Rights Fellow: Nasim Lomani
Nasim Lomani is a human rights defender and migrants’ rights activist working both in the field and at the political level in Greece and the greater EU for over a decade.
Lomani arrived in Greece nearly two decades ago as a 16-year-old from Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he was arrested and charged with illegal crossing of the Greek border, ultimately serving a two-year prison sentence. During the process of appealing to the court for having his rights as a refugee abused and violated, he learned about the bureaucratic difficulties that all migrants face while on the move to Europe. He joined a number of solidarity groups, such as the Network for Social Support to Immigrants and Refugees and the Migrants’ Social Center in Athens, where he coordinated free language classes and the Athens Anti-racist Festival. He also engaged in solidarity work that included lawyers, human rights defenders, as well as refugees and migrants.
Lomani, together with other solidarians, founded and served as one of the key organizers of City Plaza – Refugees Accommodation Solidarity Space in Athens, where he organized daily life for migrants, managed media communication, coordinated international volunteers, and served as the public representative to researchers, students, and academics.
City Plaza, once one of the largest solidarity migrant accommodations in Athens, was a repurposed abandoned hotel in central Athens that offered people on the move (400 at a time, 3,000 in total and for almost three and half years) the right to live in dignity in the urban space with access to social, economic, and political rights. Lomani lived inside the now-suspended City Plaza as long as it was open, organizing to create international solidarity.
Lomani faces increasing risk, as migration solidarity work and defending human rights in Greece, and Europe at large has been criminalized in recent years. Helping refugees and criticizing human rights violations by authorities is now a major offense by both national and European law. In Greece, this has led to large-scale evictions of refugees and asylum seekers from housing sites and increased arrests and prosecutions of activists.
Lomani has been active in the human rights field since he was a child. The Oak Fellowship will offer some much-needed respite. As the 2020 Oak Fellow, he will teach students at Colby about the Balkan Route, solidarity organizing, and anti-racist politics.