Martín Ayala is a person who emanates a contagious tranquillity and a powerful collective spirit. The defender is part of the Board of Directors of the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (Corporación Social para la Asesoría y Capacitación Comunitaria – COS-PACC). He has first-hand experience of police persecution due to his work. The last time he was arrested in Bogotá in 2016 he was tied to a tree by members of the state security forces.
When we ask him what being a human rights defender means to him, he answers without hesitation: “it is someone who dedicates their life to the collective resolution of community problems. It is the same as being a community leader. However, everyone should hope for the day when defenders no longer need to exist, but for that to happen, injustice needs to disappear. It is injustice that puts us on this life path.”
His insatiable commitment to ensuring that communities themselves find solutions to their problems “should be based on cooperation, more than on solidarity. Solidarity does not allow for expression, it means that there are two sides on opposite ends of the scale: one side that can help and the other side that needs help, or receives help passively”. However, for Martín, human rights problems require everyone’s cooperation to find solutions. In particular, the work that Martín defends is the “struggle for land, community decisions, and respect for labour rights”.
Speaking with Martín, you realise that being a social leader or human rights defender is more than a job, it is a way of life: “a human rights defender is exposed to attacks, being arrested and being thrown out of their home. Combining this work with family life is also a challenge, because family affairs are not your top priority; in general, private and individual affairs are not your top priority”. “A human rights defender risks everything, without knowing what the result will be. And, what is more, the victories are tiny. And our life, after each victory, centres on, what will happen next?”.
Trochando sin fronteras: Detenido arbitrariamente defensor de Derechos Humanos Martín Ayala, 27 June 2016