It’s International Human Rights Day. A day not only to celebrate one of the most important documents of humanity. It’s also a day to remind us what we all can do to protect each other’s human rights and to remember those that have done so even when risking their lives.

This photograph is perhaps one of the most iconic images documenting resistance against the Holocaust.

Zenjeba Hardaga, a Bosnjak Sarajevan, uses her veil to cover the yellow star on Rivka Kardilo’s coat.

The observant Muslim woman enables her Jewish friend to keep her dignity in public during the Ustaša occupation of the city.

This act of both human decency and open defiance could have cost both women their lives.

The Hardaga family helped the Kardilo family survive the war, hiding them whenever necessary.

Yad Vashem has recognized them as Righteous Among the Nations and has documented their story in detail.

Zenjeba Hardaga’s father, Ahmed Sadik, was not so lucky. He, too, hid Jewish Sarajevans – members of the Papo family who had lived in Sarajevo for centuries. Through his help they escaped to the relatively safe Italian zone in Bosnia.

Ahmed Sadik was betrayed by collaborators and executed.

When Sarajevo was under siege by Serb troops from 1991 to 1995, the government of Israel managed to get Hardaga family out of the country into safety in Israel.

As isolated as they may be, this photograph and this story tell us that there are people willing to protect the rights of others even in grave danger.

We Should Follow Their Example

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

We shouldn’t only honor their memory but most of all follow their example. Especially now, with racism, xenophobia and neofascism on the rise again in Europe and beyond.

The rise of the Right can’t be stopped by other political parties alone. It can and must be stopped by all of us.

Human rights are never taken away at once. They are sliced away, layer by layer.

The first right people are always deprived of is their dignity. This is what we are currently witnessing in Europe.

We are seeing how refugees have been and still are publicly demonized as a threat to our culture, our economy and sometimes even to our lives. This takes away their very dignity and this was the prelude to them being forcefully detained and beaten on Europe’s borders and worse.

There is something all each and every one of us can do to change that.

This Is What We Owe To Zenjeba Hardaga And Rivka Kardilo

Some can help out in refugee camps. Some can shelter refugees. Some can protest. Some can document the mistreatment. Some can donate money. Each according to his or her ability.

The rest of us can at least try to stand up against the smear campaign. And not forget to vote at the next elections.

This is what we should remember this Human Rights Day. Perhaps especially since this year it coincides with Hanukkah.

This is what we owe to Zenjeba Hardaga and Rivka Kardilo, the brave women in this photograph.

Photo credits: Yad Vashem