POLAND – Defend the Defenders is taking action in support of women’s rights defenders in Poland who face violence from law enforcement and far-right groups

Defend the Defenders is taking action in support of women’s rights defenders in Poland who face violence from law enforcement and far-right groups, as well as smear campaigns in state-controlled media and excessive criminal charges, which were orchestrated and encouraged by the government.

They are sharing their stories (one per day) with the aim of raising awareness of the struggle and resilience of women’s rights defenders and promote crowdfunding to support them on the ground.

Nadia is one of the women they are supporting whose story they have shared:

Nadia became involved in the Women’s Strike movement in November 2020. As well as participating in Warsaw protests, she is also a member of the Consultative Council at the Women’s Strike, where she moderates the substantive work of the workers’ rights team. The activist is not afraid of public appearances and performs them well. She is confident and attractive so has inevitably become the target of visceral personal attacks online. She has been dubbed a “Julka”; a new buzzword coined by the opposition to express contempt and to silence young women who hold progressive views. Especially those with the courage to take a stand. “Young women should speak out in public because it is valuable and brings a lot of freshness to the discourse,” she says.

Nadia was immediately pounced upon by the right-wing internet. She began speaking publicly on behalf of the Women’s Strike at the end of 2020, which was one of the most emotionally difficult moments of her life. “I started getting daily threats, challenges and insults. On private communication channels like Facebook, Instagram and later also by email. People were publicly wishing me dead or calling me stupid, inhuman or a killer of unborn babies. I have also been told that I deserve to be raped and my family has been threatened,” the activist says.

Nadia has also faced unrelenting violent behaviour, sexism and sexual discrimination. There were  racist references to her looks, background and name, as according to some commentators it doesn’t sound “Polish enough”. A torrent of abuse descended upon her after two of her biggest interviews: “I am trained in artistic gymnastics. Someone found pictures of me from the past and annotated them with sexist comments.”

Under the defamatory articles referencing my statements on reproductive rights, there were a huge number of criminal threats.

Since February this year, Nadia has regularly received emails containing death threats towards her and her family as a consequence of her activities in the Women’s Strike such as: “You whore, you will soon die if you don’t stop supporting the Women’s Strike” and “Only God decides the fate of a child”. One message was accompanied by an altered photo of Nadia – a portrait at gunpoint with the caption “Die. Rape and death to you from us, the community of defenders of faith and Catholicism, with God on their lips. Abortion is murder. We do not support it, so we will murder you.”… The threat is very real, especially since activists in Poland cannot count on the help and protection of the police.

The report continues… What this young woman has experienced gets worse.

However, it ends on a very positive note. She stresses that she is carried away by the feeling that she is part of a unique social movement. A movement that has inspired women from all over Poland and even the world. Hundreds of cities across the country held protests in defence of the right to abortion and against the current government. Demonstrations were organised even in the smallest towns.

The level of social mobilisation came as a great surprise to her: “The protests spanned all social classes. I want to be part of a movement to create a better reality.” When asked what has the most supportive effect on her, Nadia answers without hesitation: “Words of appreciation. Because they make me feel that I am doing something worthwhile. That despite repression, threats, blackmail and insults, there are people out there who need the Women’s Strike. There is hope for a better future for women.”

SOLIDARITY REQUEST: If you are able to provide a donation for legal aid for women like Nadia, please go to this website (in English) to donate.

SOURCE: Defend the defenders. Stories by Dominika Kasprowicz. English version edited by Dearbhla Crosse.