From 6 to 9 September 2023, the President of the Open Dialogue Foundation Lyudmyla Kozlovska took part in the ‘TABConf2023 — A Technical Bitcoin Conference‘ in the US city of Atlanta. As part of the event, she gave an interview to the largest educational platform dedicated to Bitcoin — Area Bitcoin Education.
“I am here for two reasons. First, I want to have a better knowledge and understanding of the technology I use and the people behind it. It’s important for me to know if I’m standing up for something with people with whom I share the same values. Second, I want to find allies who are willing to hear the issues we face and offer us a solution,” the ODF President stressed.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska told the story of how political persecution and subsequent financial exclusion of her and the Open Dialogue Foundation led her to start using Bitcoin as a last resort.
While operating in Poland, Kozlovska helped human rights defenders, judges, lawyers, entrepreneurs and NGOs. In response to these activities, the Polish government — specifically, the Law and Justice government — expelled her from the country and placed her on the SIS list. Individual EU countries, as well as the UK and Switzerland, began to issue her with special visas so that the ODF President could continue her work, and Belgium granted her permanent residence. However, the smear campaign, which was being conducted in 26 languages at the time, reached there too. “It affected my reputation, that of my family and loved ones, and that of the Foundation. Naturally, we complained about all these bogus slanders, but it takes time until the result comes, and in the meantime, you have to survive somehow. I found myself in the situation in which four Belgian banks closed my accounts. This was because the regimes of Kazakhstan, Moldova and Poland, which had persecuted me, abused the AML/CFT regulations to obtain my bank details and use them as a weapon against me, which led to the closure of my bank accounts. I was completely excluded financially for two years and during this time the Foundation and I were only able to survive thanks to Bitcoin,” Kozlovska said.
Based on this example, Lyudmyla described the much more difficult situation of activists living in authoritarian countries. She cited the story of Kazakhstani opposition activist Marat Zhylanbayev, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for his activities. “He initiated fundraising for his election campaign. Everything was transparent, he had public support, he raised the necessary funds, and then he was accused of financing extremism. Then anyone who supported his campaign with traditional financial instruments became a victim of political persecution. Marat himself has already been in prison for more than three months,” Kozlovska said, adding that such persecution is proof that people living in authoritarian countries have no choice but to use cryptocurrencies, which creates another problem:
“The regulators of AML/CFT regulations in the European Union and in authoritarian countries perceive Bitcoin as a threat, and this narrative is unfortunately sustained by the media. That is why we are trying to convince them not to deprive excluded people of their only financial instrument. And Bitcoin is precisely a tool for freedom.”
We encourage you to watch the entire interview:
- Why should human rights defenders be protected from AML/CFT abuses by authoritarian authorities? (December 11, 2023)
- “AML/CFT regulations are an open door for abuse” – Lyudmyla Kozlovska at the FATF Global Conference (September 29, 2023)
- Can the EU’s anti-money laundering reform help dictators? (March 7, 2023)