Honorary Doctorate of Laws from De Montfort University
Recognition for 47 years of human rights campaigning
London, UK – 23 January 2014
British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has dedicated his receipt of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from De Montfort University to the people of Balochistan and their struggle for freedom and self-determination.
Mr Tatchell received his award on 23 January 2014, in recognition of his 47 year of human rights campaigning, at a ceremony at The Curve in Leicester, UK.
In his acceptance speech, he said:
“I dedicate my acceptance of this honorary doctorate to the people of Balochistan who have suffered more than 60 years of annexation, occupation and human rights abuses by Pakistan. They will win their freedom in the end.”
He added: “In accepting this honour, I pay tribute to the many heroic, inspirational activists I have worked with to defend human rights in Uganda, Somaliland, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Balochistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and West Papua.
“I am so lucky to have had the privilege to know and support so many amazing, courageous human rights defenders around the world. I walk in their shadow, humbled by their bravery and sacrifice.”
A copy of the university’s citation follows below, together with a copy of Tatchell’s acceptance speech.
Other honorary doctorate awardees included House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, and the inventor of genetic fingerprinting, Sir Alec Jeffreys.
PHOTOS: Media wanting photographs from the ceremony should contact Sian Brewis at De Montfort University on 0116 207 8353 or [email protected]
Text of Peter Tatchell’s acceptance speech, on receipt of his Honorary Doctorate of Laws, conferred by De Montfort University, in a ceremony in Leicester on 23 January 2014.
Peter Tatchell said:
Honoured guests and graduands,
To the student: Congratulations on your hard work – and success.
My gratitude to De Montfort University for conferring on me this esteemed award.
In accepting this honour, I pay tribute to the many heroic, inspirational activists I have worked with to defend human rights in Uganda, Somaliland, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Balochistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and West Papua.
I am so lucky to have had the privilege to know and support so many amazing, courageous human rights defenders around the world. I walk in their shadow, humbled by their bravery and sacrifice.
I dedicate my acceptance of this honorary doctorate to the people of Balochistan who have suffered more than 60 years of annexation, occupation and human rights abuses by Pakistan. They will win their freedom in the end.
Looking back on my 47 years of human rights campaigning, my advice, for what it’s worth, is this:
Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. Don’t conform and never be ordinary. Shun the mob, think for yourself. Be your own special creation.
Remember, all human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy and tradition.
Defend free speech, the right to protest and the right to strike.
Fight austerity, derisory pay increases and cuts in public services.
Remember, it is only thanks to innovators and reformers – people who have taken on rich, powerful, established interests – that most of us today have better lives and more opportunities than our forebears.
For the sake of yourself and future generations:
Be daring, show imagination, take risks. Be a radical for peace, social justice, freedom and equality.
Fight against the greatest human rights violation of all: free market capitalism, which has created a world divided into rich and poor, where the super-rich have multi-million pound apartments and yachts, while hundreds of millions of impoverished people are malnourished, homeless and without clean drinking water – where tens of millions of people die from hunger and preventable diseases.
Whoever you are and whatever your field of endeavour, be a change-maker for the upliftment of humanity.
To quote my fellow sodomite and socialist Oscar Wilde:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
CITATION ADDRESS FOR PETER TATCHELL
On the occasion of the conferment of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws
Delivered by Andrew Rees, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, on 23 January 2014
Ladies, gentlemen, and distinguished guests,
I am honoured to be able to introduce you to Peter Tatchell, a truly great man, who can genuinely claim to have changed the world through his work.
In every sense Peter has lived his life with great courage and moral conviction, and his example should provide an inspiration to us all.
We should seek to emulate this man who has dedicated his life to campaigning for justice in all its forms, for; human rights, LGBT freedom, economic fairness and the environment – to name just a few.
We should take inspiration from a man who follows in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King, in formulating highly effective methods for peaceful protest, often putting himself at great personal risk.
Peter was born in Australia and started campaigning early, at the age of 15, in support of Aboriginal rights. Since then his bravery, courageousness and unflinching determination to fight injustice has resulted in him becoming a driving force for change across the globe.
After moving to London in 1971 Peter became prominent in the Gay Liberation Front organising pub sit-ins, and protests against police harassment and the medical definition of homosexuality as an illness.
The following year, in East Berlin, he was arrested after staging the first ever gay rights protest in a communist country.
In the 90’s he co-founded the influential LGBT rights group OutRage! and successfully lead a number of high profile campaigns fighting against homophobic discrimination.
Through tireless campaigning Peter and his fellow human rights campaigners have made tremendous progress, and due to their dedication, ingenuity and commitment, many of the homophobic injustices of previous decades will no longer be felt by generations to come.
However the progress must still continue on. Peter had long campaigned for the recent introduction of same-sex marriage, and he continues to tackle homophobia including hate crimes and bullying in schools – a campaign which we all fully support.
Together with his work to tackle homophobia, Peter has lead notable campaigns against all forms of injustice, advocating on behalf of those suffering and invariably helping to create change in their lives.
In more than four decades of campaigning Peter has contributed to movements:
- Against the death penalty in Australia
- Against imperialism in East Timor and West Papua.
- Against American and Australian involvement in the Vietnam War
- Defending the human rights of people with HIV through the UK AIDS Vigil
- Organisation and ACT UP London
- Against dictatorships in Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile and Khomeini’s Iran
- Against environmental degradation
The shear breadth of his involvement demonstrates his ability to see the bigger picture. Never shying away from global issues of injustice, he is truly commitment to being an international citizen.
These are values we hold dear on our campus where we have become a truly global university with equality and diversity fundamental to our ethos.
In the modern world it is import for you all to show the same level of global awareness as Peter and we commend his willingness to engage at an international level.
In the tradition of many great people before him, Peter has built his campaigning on innovative methods of peaceful protest pioneered by Gandhi, Pankhurst and King.
At De Montfort University we too uphold these champions for their values and hope to instil them in our graduates. Indeed, Gandhi’s own great grandson, Vinayak Bhattacharjee, visited us last month to celebrate our work in the local community through our DMU Square Mile initiative, which sees people’s lives changed for the better through the sharing of our expertise and student volunteering.
The peaceful protests of Gandhi and others inspired Peter and in the pursuit of change, he has used everything at his disposal to create global awareness, and often put his personal safety at risk.
He has faced arrest and beatings after twice attempting a citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe, and been the subject of homophobic physical attacks for his participation in the Moscow Gay Pride marches, attacks which in 2007 left him suffering some brain and eye damage.
A characteristic of Peter’s activism has been his bravery, and at this time in your lives it is important for you all to face the challenges ahead with the same bravery and courageousness. We will all face challenges and our progress is dependent on how we meet them and overcome them.
To finish, I would like quote Peter in his own words: “Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen.”
These words brilliantly encapsulate how Peter has lived his life, identifying injustice and making change happen. At this pivotal time in your lives you should listen to his advice carefully, and do not be afraid to take risks to achieve your aims.
Peter Tatchell, for your truly world changing work, your tireless fight for human rights and economic and social justice, and the outstanding role model you are to the staff and students of De Montfort University, we ask you to step forward as we confer upon you the title of Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Read more about Peter Tatchell’s more than four decades of human rights campaigning here: Biography
And about his current campaigns here:
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790