AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Aotearoa NZ’s Youth Magazine
WRITE A LETTER CHANGE HER LIFE IN THIS ISSUE > A FANTASTIC FREEDOM CHALLENGE > DON’T APPROVE SRI LANKA’S CRIMES > TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE
TERM 4 // 2013
Welcome back everyone! I CAN’T believe it’s Term 4 already and this is the last copy of ACTIVE before 2013 wraps up and summer begins. It’s exciting to know that lots of sun, bbqs and beach time are just around the corner! But after such a busy year you all definitely deserve it. I hope you’ve all had a well earned rest over the holidays. A massive THANK YOU to everyone who made Freedom Challenge 2013: Stand Up for Women’s Rights in Egypt such a massive success. It’s ridiculously impressive how the events you planned really brought the campaign to life with all of your passion and creativity shining through. Since then, my desk has been flooded with a phenomenal array of banners, petitions, letters, photos and newsletter articles. In total around 50 youth network groups participated and to date, 5263 signatures have been gathered for the petition. Violence Against Women in Egypt is also likely to be a global focus for the 16 days of activism which opens with White Ribbon Day on 25 November, so please keep an eye out for that. Recently some of us were able to venture out from the busy beehive that is our Grafton office to squeeze in some school visits - Aorere College, Kelston Boys’, Marist College, Pinehurst School, Westlake Boys’ and Highwire Charitable Trust to
name a few. It was great to put faces to names and see youth leading the way with their outstanding activism. It was also an awesome chance to let newer schools know about all things awesomely Amnesty. Was wonderful to meet you all! Please prioritise taking action for Sri Lanka. See the action card enclosed - we need them back to us in super-fast time by Friday, 1 November. For those of you leaving school this year, I’d love to hear from you. Fill out and return the enclosed School Leavers form and we’ll give you free membership for 2014. It’s one way we can say thank you for your awesome activism so far. Once again, an incredible effort shown during Freedom Challenge and the whole year in general! It has been inspirational as my time as Youth Intern to see how actively engaged you are at getting your voices and important issues of the day heard. I hope you all enjoy Term 4. Cheers and thanks,
Kristin Williams Youth Intern
Kristin chats to students at Marist College
02 TERM 4 // 2013
FREEDOM CHALLENGE 2013
Together we stood up for the women of Egypt This year saw events taking place from Southland to Orewa and everywhere in between. Students came up with really creative ideas which they used to make a stand for women’s rights in Egypt. Check out these impressive snapshots of Freedom Challenge from up and down the country. A HUGE thank you again for all your fabulous actions!
Wellington East Girls’ Aorere College, Auckland
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FREEDOM CHALLENGE “We had an awesome programme this year, with events or activities Tuesday through Friday, as well as speaking in school assemblies every day. Thursday we “chalked like an Egyptian” inviting students to draw or write what human rights or equality meant to them, as well creating our own Egypt puns - “You’re in deNILE if you think women aren’t entitled to human rights!” On Friday we ended with a bake sale, raising $100. We’ve had a fantastic time putting together these events Amnesty at Tawa is definitely on the up and up!” - Annelise Bos, Amnesty Leader, Tawa College
Emily Burnett, Palmerston North Girls’
“From a prefect being sold for $19.30 to writing messages of support- Palmerston North Girls’ High students had a bit of fun participating in the Amnesty International Freedom Challenge. We asked girls to finish the statements “I wish that the world...” and “I love that I can..” on whiteboards and take photos with them. This truly made us think twice about how lucky we are to be women living in NZ! The whole week was so much fun and we were so thrilled to be a part of Freedom Challenge 2013!” - Jess Wong, Amnesty Leader, Palmerston North Girls’ High School “As girls ourselves, we strongly believe in equality of all genders; and that gender-based violence happening in Egypt is atrocious. It is obvious that a lot of people are not aware of how women in Egypt have been deprived of their human rights, and so we think it is very important that we campaign and raise awareness about this. We think that it is really important to tell the story of the women in Egypt so that discrimination and violence against women will cease not only in Egypt, but also in the Pacific, Asia and around the rest of the world.” - Agrani Ratnayake, co-leader at Hastings Girls’ High School
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04 Hastings Girls’ Amnesty Group
Marist College leader Dominique Verschuur (picture right) explained that this year’s theme was also “very close to home” for this Auckland all-girls school. Activities included “chalk drawing on the courts, a flash mob protest/drama” and “a shoe display in the library with names of women/ girls next to the shoes with a little about them along with some information about the issue. Kind of like ‘walking in their shoes’ just to make it more personal.”
Nelson College had their eyes on women’s rights with striking face painted Isis eye imagery. Group leader, Caitlin Shaw told the Nelson Mail that the Stand Up for Women’s Rights theme “was an interesting topic the girls could grab on to quite quickly.”
- Thoughts Thoughts As they collide with One another Into space of The mind; Must they be freed to Create A little peace.
Give all to Nothing; until only Decree remains. And still, Thoughts Rise from limbo
Yet to be conveyed Offers a new Energy; For these infinite paths lead to One haven Freedom. - by Debbie Zhao, third place winner in Westlake Girls’ Freedom of Expression competition
And slip; From the grasp of Reality.
Aberrations As ‘they’ believed; To purify Their World of this Delusion
TERM 4 // 2013
Thoughts As they seem to Find their place Into sacred corners
deemed Forbidden; Yet still Escape In colours and melodies. Only to be once Again torn but still Defying Futile torrents bound by Deceit
Meet Sam n e h t y M THIS year we had the pleasure of welcoming a new group from Cashmere High School, Christchurch. They are a group of very passionate and motivated students and were great local media stars too. With this kind of momentum, the sky’s the limit! Sam Mythen, Cashmere’s Amnesty student leader, cleared time out of her busy schedule for a quick chat with our Youth Intern, Kristin, about Amnesty and the importance of taking action. This is the first year Cashmere High School has had an Amnesty group. What prompted you to start one? When I was in Year 9, there was a large famine in Ethiopia. I heard all about it on the news and I thus
discovered my passion for human rights. From then on I’ve been working with human rights groups and reading up more on Amnesty, overall human rights and the Syrian crisis. When I came to Cashmere, there was no human rights group so I thought, why not start one. What got you into human rights and what areas are you most passionate about? It was pretty much hearing all about it [the famine] in the news and I was so concerned that we were carrying on with our daily lives while nine million were starving. There was so much we could’ve done to help them. The areas I am most interested in are people living in poverty, the suffering in war torn countries, and of course women’s rights! What do you think of this year’s Stand Up for Women’s Rights in Egypt theme? I thought it was really cool because you hear a lot about the lack of women rights in many Middle Eastern countries, like Afghanistan and recently in India where a woman was gang raped on a bus. But you don’t hear a lot about the women in Egypt. They are a good example to look to as they are standing up and fighting for their rights.
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Cashmere has had a great start. What advice would you have for other schools starting up a new Amnesty group? The problem is there is too much talking and not enough action. My advice is to actually plan something and just do it; carry out that plan, even if it’s just a small campaign. It’s all worth it in the end!
WRITE FOR RIGHTS
WRITE A LETTER - CHANGE A LIFE © Jenny Holligan
MEET Yorm Bopha. She is a wife, a mother and a passionate campaigner for housing rights in her Phnom Penh community in Cambodia. She is also a Prisoner of Conscience. Since 2007 the people of the Boeung Kak Lake community have been forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for development. The lake was filled with sand and homes and communities were flooded and destroyed. Yorm has been an active voice calling for an end to forced evictions in her community but she has been in prison since September 2012, accused of planning an assault on two men. Her trial was unfair and there was no evidence provided to link her with the crime. It is Amnesty International’s belief that the real reason she has been imprisoned is her peaceful housing rights activism on behalf of her community. Without your help, Yorm will remain in prison until September 2014. Write a letter and send her a message of Solidarity.
LETTERS can save lives. Which is why we’re asking you to pick up a pen and Write for Rights. We’ve included two cases in ACTIVE but there are plenty more to choose from on our website www.amnesty.org.nz/write4rights A letter, what good is that, you may be thinking? But thousands of letters all calling for human rights change are hard to ignore. Just in September, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was released after years of campaigning and letter writing from Amnesty activists. (See Page 12 for more details) And if you’re planning to host a White Ribbon event at your school on November 25 then Cambodian activist Yorm Bopha - whose community we campaigned on during last year’s Freedom Challenge on forced evictions - would be a perfect human rights defender to feature.
Community members from Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Keila marched through Phnom Penh to mark International Children’s Day 2013. © Licadho
>>TAKE ACTION SHOW solidarity with Yorm. The lotus flower is the symbol of the Cambodian campaign in support of Yorm and the Boeung Kak Lake community. Please take a photo of yourself with any type of flower(s), holding a sign saying “Free Yorm Bopha”. Email your photo to: bee24light@ photos.flickr.com. (Don’t forget to cc Amnesty NZ so we can share your pictures on our Facebook page, cc pictures to youth.intern@amnesty. org.nz) Write to the Minister of Justice. Urge the Minister to ensure Yorm Bopha is released immediately and unconditionally.
Fax: +855 23 364119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Start your letter: Your Excellency
TERM 4 // 2013
Address: Ministry of Justice No 240 Sothearos Blvd Phnom Penh, Cambodia
WRITE FOR RIGHTS
IHAR TSIKHANYUK: BEATEN BY THE POLICE FOR BEING GAY “I don’t want to hide myself. I live openly. It is not easy in Belarus, but I want to show people that I am a person like everybody. With my example I want to show that it is possible to live openly”. - Ihar Tsikhanyuk THIS is Ihar Tsikhanyuk, he is an openly gay man and human rights activist living in Belarus in Eastern Europe. In his country Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people face high levels of discrimination because there is no law to protect their rights. Late last year Ihar attempted to
register the Human Rights Centre Lambda, an organisation that supports the rights of LGBTI people.
repeatedly, verbally abused and threatened with even more violence, just because he is gay.
The application was rejected and just a few months later, whilst Ihar was in hospital receiving treatment for a stomach ulcer, two police officers arrived at the hospital and asked him to go with them. Ihar was taken to a police station where he was punched
No-one has been held accountable for the treatment Ihar received at the hands of the police. TAKE ACTION online here: http:// amn.st/GYL7sw
>>TAKE ACTION SHOW solidarity with Ihar Tsikhanyuk
WRITE to the General Prosecutor:
You can send a letter or a card to Ihar:
Call on him to investigate the ill-treatment and threats against Ihar Tsikhanyuk by police officers at the October District police station in Hrodna. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
Suggested message: “I admire your struggle in such difficult circumstances and wish you success in it! Wishing you well.”
TERM 4 // 2013
Write to: Ihar Tsikhanyuk c/o Belarus Team Amnesty International 1 Easton Street London WC1X 0DW United Kingdom
Email: email@example.com Fax: +375 17 226 42 52 (please say “fax” if someone answers) Start your letter: Dear General Prosecutor
Address: Alyaksandr Koniuk Generalnaya Prokuratura ul. Internatsionalnaya 22 220030 Minsk Belarus
To Russia ,
RUSSIA SOCHI OLYMPICS
© Elisangela Leite
YOU may have seen Russia in the news a bit lately. Sadly most of it’s not good news. From the arrest, detention and charges of piracy on Greenpeace activists, to putting a member of the punk band Pussy Riot in solitary confinement for complaining about prison conditions, the space for freedom of expression in Russia has been rapidly shrinking since Vladimir Putin returned as the Russian President in May 2012. The election in 2012 sparked some of the largest protests for 20 years in Russia. Putin’s response to the protest movement has been almost entirely repressive. Russia has introduced laws that broaden the definitions of treason and espionage so that human rights activism can be criminalised and introduced legislation outlawing “propaganda of non-traditional relations” among minors which has been used to further stigmatise and target LGBTI activists. Putin also brought in provisions that force NGOs who engage in “political activity” and receive foreign funding
to register as “foreign agents” - a highly negative term in Russia contributing to the smear campaign against NGOs and human rights activists. So Amnesty has decided we’d better do something about it! On 7 October the Olympic torch arrived in Moscow and started its journey to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. In the run up to the Games the spotlight will be on Russia and we want to make sure the current crack-down on human rights and freedom of expression does not escape the media’s attention. Join Amnesty supporters worldwide and demand full respect for freedom of expression, assembly and association in Russia. TAKE ACTION: Send a Flame for Freedom to Moscow and call on President Putin to end the attack on civil society. www.amnesty.org.nz/flamesforfreedom
TAKE ACTION “To Russia with Love” We’re asking you to get together with a group of friends and record a video message to Russia.
Email your videos to Kristin at: firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of Term 4.
09 TERM 4 // 2013
Take up to one minute each to express your sadness at the fact that freedom of expression is very limited in Russia and that LGBTI people can’t freely express themselves, love who they want to love, without fear of persecution. Each person should begin their recording with “To Russia”and end with “Love [your name]”. Each recording should be very brief, not more than one minute. Upload to YouTube and send us the link, we’ll share it and send all the videos off to the Russian authorities to let them know that in New Zealand we’re paying attention to their human rights abuse!
TELL THE COMMONWEALTH YOU DON’T APPROVE! THANK YOU to all of you who helped collect signatures calling on the Sri Lankan Government to #TellTheTruth about what happened during the war and ongoing human rights abuses. On 20 September, Dr Manoharan, joined Amnesty International to deliver your signatures during a visit to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. An incredible 47,545 people from 181 countries signed it, including 2630 from New Zealand. Dr Manoharan has spent the last seven years trying to get Sri Lanka’s authorities to tell the truth about what really happened to his son Ragihar, who he alleges was gunned down by Sri Lankan security forces in 2006. The petition called for the release of a report which would have given Dr Manoharan some of the answers he has been searching for. With the petition – a huge stack of paper – under his arm, Dr Manoharan expected to meet the Sri Lankan Ambassador and hand it over. But at the last minute, the Ambassador cancelled. Instead, Dr Manoharan had to hand it to other consular officials. Although disappointed, Dr Manoharan remains undaunted, “this is not the end,” he said. It certainly isn’t.
If Sri Lanka won’t listen to us we’ve decided we need to take our voices further, which is why we’ve turned our attention to the leaders of the Commonwealth. In just over a month leaders of Commonwealth countries will be meeting in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). It’s absolutely shameful that the Commonwealth has insisted on allowing Sri Lanka to host this meeting, while torture, abductions and countless other abuses continue in the country. After CHOGM, President Rajapaksa, as leader of the host country, is expected to be appointed the Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office for the next two years. We’re calling on all Commonwealth leaders to stop Sri Lanka becoming the next Chair of the Commonwealth – and show the world that the Commonwealth does not approve of Sri Lanka’s human rights record. If the Commonwealth approves Sri Lanka as its Chair, it is approving its abuses.
All images © Private
TELL THEM YOU DON’T APPROVE!
TERM 4 // 2013
You’ll find postcards inside ACTIVE, please sign them, share them and get them back to us by 1 November!
You can also sign the petition online here: http://amn.st/17u0nHt And please share it with everyone you know!
PO Box 5300 Wellesley Street Auckland 1141 New Zealand
Facebook it, Tweet it, Blog about it, anything you can think of to get the message out that human rights abusers won’t be tolerated.
CHENNOAH WALFORD - introducing Amnesty’s first Youth Governance Team Member We had a chat to Chennoah about her new role, her involvement with Amnesty and youth in general. What is involved in your new role? So far I’ve been involved with Amnesty from a regional volunteer perspective, so making the shift to governance perspective was a scary and exciting thing. Once I got past the fact that all of the Governance Team (GT) members are incredibly intelligent, passionate, qualified people, I also realised that they’re very nice people... which in retrospect, I should have realised, is part of being a member of the Amnesty family! In terms of logistics, the role so far has mainly comprised of reading emails, getting a good handle on the GT and deepening my knowledge of Amnesty, and using this knowledge for discussion on governance issues at meetings. I’ve only attended one GT meeting so far, but am excited to have more of an influence as my experience grows. Why do you think it is important to have a youth perspective on Amnesty’s governance team? I like to subscribe to two radical ideas. Firstly, that youth are in fact more than youth... they’re also contributing members of society AND people. Under this view, it’s important to get youth on board as a very large sector of the community. Diversity is something that should always be worked on within a decision making body. Youth is only one area of that, but it’s important nonetheless.
are to support people for a better world now, and to develop ourselves, our world views and our communities for later on. Basically, I think if everyone took an interest in human rights worldwide, it would be much harder for people to commit atrocities, and because youth are going to grow up and have to deal with the state of human rights, we need to start help shaping the world we want to live in. Plus, it can be fun (but that’s obvious). Where are you from? I am from Papamoa, which is a beach town about 20 minutes drive from Tauranga. Well, it’s fast becoming more than that, but it was a beach town when I grew up there! What would you say to youth to get them involved with Amnesty? Don’t be scared to voice your opinion, even if you don’t feel you are qualified to do so. The opinions and actions of youth are just as important as anyone elses. You WILL meet amazing people and you WILL have great experiences. Alice Walker said “Activism is my rent for living on this planet”, and while this is very true, and it’s an important way to look at activism... let’s just say that if I could pay my actual rent with activism at this point I would be a very happy lady! Activism doesn’t need to be looked at like work.
The second radical idea is that youth will eventually stop being youth. At which point, it will be imperative that they are informed on Amnesty policy, decision making and general functioning as an organisation. If youth can start to engage with governance while they’re still labelled as “youth”, then they’ll be better equipped to deal with responsibility within Amnesty later on... as well as now of course! How long have you been involved with Amnesty? I first learnt about Amnesty at school when I was 11, through engagement with the Tauranga Moana Amnesty Group and Te Puke Intermediate. When I made it to Tauranga Girls’ College I joined the group there almost immediately. I would have been 13. So that makes my active involvement around seven years, but really a little longer than that if you’re taking into account my earliest experiences.
A white ribbon added to a black dress for every signature gathered on our Stop Violence Against Women petition Chennoah in action in Tauranga, 2011.
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Why do you think it’s important that youth get involved in the work of Amnesty? There are so many reasons. Two important ones though,
CHINA: JOURNALIST SHI TAO RELEASED EARLY FROM PRISON SHI TAO, a Chinese journalist who won the Golden Pen of Freedom Award was released from prison, 15 months ahead of schedule on 23 August. Tao told Amnesty International that his life was getting back to normal. He was recovering and resting. A lot of friends have visited him and he has not faced any restrictions on his movements since his release.
“I am sincerely grateful to your [Amnesty International’s] sustained support and attention to my mother and me over these years. The support and encouragement of friends from around the world have helped my mother and me through the difficult and lonely times. I received your letters and postcards but haven’t read them all. I will read them one by one. Thank you all.” Tao was one of two writers who our Youth Network campaigned on behalf of during 2007’s Freedom Challenge campaign “Shut down repression - reboot human rights”
IRAN: NASRIN SOTOUDEH IS HOME WITH HER FAMILY NASRIN Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer sentenced to six years in prison on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’, has been released. Now reunited with her husband and two children, Nasrin has thanked Amnesty for our work on her behalf. “I have been aware of all your efforts on my behalf and I want thank you and all your colleagues for your work” - Nasrin Nasrin Sotoudeh is well-known for defending juveniles facing the death penalty. She was arrested in 2010 and jailed for six years on charges of “acting against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system”. Amnesty International adopted her as a prisoner of conscience and has campaigned for her immediate and unconditional release since her arrest.
SIERRA LEONE: CHARLES TAYLORS 50 YEARS SENTENCING UPHELD THE first man to be convicted for conscripting child soldiers has has had his 50-year sentence upheld.
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The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Appeal Chamber upheld the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, on 26 September, sending a clear message to leaders across the world that no-one is immune from justice. During the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia our Youth Network consistently campaigned against the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to bring Taylor and other war criminals to justice.
© Amnesty International Robbie Reynolds
IRELAND: MALALA RECEIVES AMBASSADOR OF CONSCIENCE AWARD PAKISTANI school girl and education rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai and American singer, human rights and social justice activist Harry Belafonte were jointly announced as the recipients of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2013. The 16-year-old activist received the award in Dublin, Ireland on 17 September from Bono, singer with Irish rockband U2. The Ambassador of Conscience award is given annually to individuals who show exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights. After receiving the award, Malala said: “I am truly honoured to receive this award and would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that there are many millions of children like me across the world who fight every single day for their right to go to school. I hope that by working together we will one day realise our dream of education for every child, in every corner of the world.” Her acceptance speech can be found here www.youtube. com/watch?v=sKucf3kFu0I