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Stories of how Bitcoin is being used to secure freedom and human rights across the world.
“The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.” — Satoshi Nakamoto
On 7 June 2022, 21 human rights advocates from 20 countries sent a letter to the US Congress asking them to reconsider Bitcoin’s humanitarian impact.
This came after a different letter from a group of critics claimed that cryptocurrency is an “unproven digital financial instrument” that does not solve the “financial problems facing ordinary Americans.”
The critics are right about one thing: Bitcoin doesn’t solve all the financial problems facing many ordinary Americans. It does, however, solve many of the financial problems faced by ordinary Ukrainians, Senegalese, Afghans, South Africans, North Koreans, Venezuelans, Nigerians, Cubans, and others making up the vast majority of the world population.
Where fiat fails
Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation, is one of the human rights advocates who signed the June 7 letter. In his article titled ‘Check your Financial Privilege’ he shared, “only 13% of our planet’s population is born into the dollar, euro, Japanese yen, British pound, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar or Swiss Franc. The other 87% are born into autocracy or considerably less trustworthy currencies.” Considering this, to evaluate whether cryptocurrencies are useful or not based on how they serve Americans alone, would be misleading.
Fortunately, where fiat fails, Bitcoin frees.
In keeping with the principles of openness and inclusivity that Bitcoin is based on, we will be sharing stories of activists, NGOs and ordinary people who have used Bitcoin to secure their human rights and freedoms. To start, let’s see how Bitcoin has protected and ensured various human rights and freedoms across the globe.
The right to earn
According to the recent World Inequality Report 2022, “the richest 10% of the global population own 76% of all wealth.” Some of the effects of this economic inequality include higher rates of health and social problems, lower levels of economic growth and lower life expectancies.
The JCC Camp township in Mossel Bay is one of the poorest areas in South Africa. Like many South African townships, it is characterized by a lack of infrastructure, lack of support, high crime rates, and poverty. With a National Minimum Wage of R23.19 per hour ($1.5 USD) in a country with a 34.5% unemployment-rate, financial security is a luxury only a few can afford. Fortunately, the inclusivity and accessibility of Bitcoin have proven to be empowering for many living there.
Initiatives like Bitcoin Ekasi have helped individuals from the community learn, earn and use bitcoin. As a result, members of the community have instant access to a global payments system, they have a means to save securely and to make the most of their earnings just like those born into more fortunate circumstances.
Bitcoin gives everyone the freedom to save and transact, irrespective of their race, gender, and place of birth.
Freedom from financial slavery
In 1994, Fodé Diop left his home in Senegal to go to college in the USA. His family had been saving for this for years but due to reasons beyond their control, the value of their savings halved overnight.
Senegal is one of 14 countries (totaling over 193.1 million people) that still use the CFA franc, a currency created for colonies after WWII that is still controlled by the French government and the IMF. Diop’s experience was just one of the many times when Africans using the CFA franc got robbed of the fruits of their labor.
Considering this history, Bitcoin is attractive to an increasing number of people from places with unreliable savings. Since Bitcoin is decentralized, it is impossible for one institution or country to control it.
As a Bitcoin developer, founder of the Bitcoin Developers Academy and the organizer of Africa Bitcoin conference, Diop is teaching people how Bitcoin’s open-source technology is not only the best savings tool available but also a way for individuals to reclaim their financial independence and fight against oppression.
Catch up with Fiat-free on Twitter to hear stories about the real impact bitcoin has on communities and entrepreneurs around the world.
Trezor on Twitter: "Tune in today for the next Fiat-free!@SatsJoseph and @ihate1999 will be discussing the progress of #Bitcoin and Lightning adoption in Nigeria, state regulations, traction of eNaira, Abubakar's projects and more.Set the reminder 👇https://t.co/TXfYJM0jHY / Twitter"
Tune in today for the next Fiat-free!@SatsJoseph and @ihate1999 will be discussing the progress of #Bitcoin and Lightning adoption in Nigeria, state regulations, traction of eNaira, Abubakar's projects and more.Set the reminder 👇https://t.co/TXfYJM0jHY
The right to education and desirable work
A few months ago young girls in Afghanistan were turned away from their classrooms and told that their schools would remain shut indefinitely. Their Right to Education and future desirable work was taken from them overnight. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.
Roya Mahboob was just seven years old when the Taliban first took over her country. With this new leadership came a flurry of restrictions: she could not choose what to wear, she could not choose what to read and she could no longer go to school.
Mahboob and her family suffered severe trauma including the tragic death of her younger sibling because her mother was not allowed to travel to the hospital without her husband. Her family fled to Iran but later returned to a new Afghanistan in the early 2000s. She was then able to study at university and went on to eventually start her own company.
While Mahboob created an opportunity for women to earn money, a woman’s earnings were rarely her own. Women still had to have permission from a male representative to open a bank account. Fortunately, Mahboob discovered that Bitcoin can be earned and used without a bank account or anyone’s permission.
Bitcoin allows Afghan women and victims of oppression to finally have full control over their finances and in doing so equips them to protect their other freedoms.
Supporting social and international order
Numerous accounts of torture have been reported since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. When Russia attacked, Ukraine’s ‘father of the crypto scene’ Michael Chobanian, was quick to ask the world for crypto donations to help Ukrainians defend themselves.
Chobanian explained that if he asked for U.S. dollars it would take three days for the money to reach him but with crypto it took just 10 minutes. “Time is money for my country right now,” Chobanian explains, “if we can save a minute, it means that we can save at least someone’s life.”
In this case, Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) provided aid faster than fiat could have. By May, over $135 million in crypto donations had bought bulletproof vests, helmets, medicine, daily rations, and various other necessities.
The right to asylum
Starvation, torture, witnessing public executions, and imprisonment are just some of the traumatic experiences that up to 81% of North Korean refugees have reported when fleeing their home country. Many escape in search of a better life but, instead of asylum, they continue to face upsetting realities.
60% of female North Korean refugees are sold into the Chinese sex trade. If they fall pregnant they are sent back to North Korea to spend their remaining days in prison while their children are left orphaned and stateless as the Chinese government refuses to recognize them as citizens.
Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, was sold for less than $300 as a sex slave when she escaped to China at just 13 years old. Fortunately, she found her freedom and is now an activist who speaks passionately about how “Bitcoin is freedom.”
At Bitcoin2022, Park shared that there are currently over 300,000 North Korean women that are enslaved in the sex industry and over one million stateless children stuck in China. Park shared that she believes Bitcoin can be used to help North Koreans both in and out of their country because, while governments can confiscate physical money, bitcoin can be used and stored without anyone knowing about it.
Freedom of opinion and information
In February 2022, civilians gathered in the streets of Canada to protest. As a response, the Canadian federal government froze over 200 bank accounts belonging to the participants. And so we see that just as fiat money comes into existence through government order, it can just as easily be taken away, devalued or blocked through government order.
The human rights activist Natan Sharansky proposed the Town square test as a threshold test for a free society. Sharasky explained, “If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.” Even established democracies can turn into fear societies in a matter of days.
Bitcoin in context
The time for Bitcoin to prove itself is long gone. The truth is that it already has helped millions fight authoritarianism, slavery, discrimination and more. Bitcoin is freedom money and, unlike fiat currencies, it’s permissionless, borderless and unstoppable.
To criticize Bitcoin at it’s current stage of development is to disregard a decade of evidence that Bitcoin is a tool that could liberate billions. We focus on making Bitcoin easier to use to strengthen the individual against oppression and give them the tools to secure their rights. We are not just here to make hardware wallets, we are building a movement to secure individual freedoms and make privacy ubiquitous.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the views of Bitcoin Insider. Every investment and trading move involves risk - this is especially true for cryptocurrencies given their volatility. We strongly advise our readers to conduct their own research when making a decision.