Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘freedom’

Terror In Honduras

Dear Gabriel,

My name is Dina Meza, and I am a human rights journalist in Honduras.

I have dedicated my life to revealing the corruption and injustice oppressing Hondurans. Today I ask for your help defending the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.

Powerful people in my country wish journalists dead — because we have exposed human rights abuses, and covered issues related to corruption, state abuses and the actions of powerful groups.

Our families are also targeted. My children and I have been followed and photographed by two men not known to me.

Two weeks ago, I received three silent calls to my mobile phone. Earlier, I received a series of frightening text messages:

“We’ll burn your pussy with lime until you scream and the whole squad will enjoy it” — CAM*

“You’ll end up dead like people in the Aguan there’s nothing better than fucking some bitches”

Amnesty International is calling on Honduran officials to investigate these vicious threats against me and to protect my rights and the rights of all journalists in my country. Please take this action immediately.

These are not isolated threats. In 2006, my colleague, lawyer Dionisio Diaz Garcia, was shot and killed while on his way to the Honduran Supreme Court. Those responsible have still not been brought to justice for his murder.

Sometimes you have to kick the hornet’s nest to expose the truth. Our right to do so must be defended. The Honduran State must respect that.

Oppressors may threaten my life, but they will never deter this movement. We are stronger than fear, and we have human rights on our side.

If you believe in freedom of the press, please take this important action with Amnesty today.

In solidarity,

— Dina Meza
Director, Defenders Online
Activist with Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared, and for women’s rights

* CAM is an acronym for Comando Alvarez Martinez, a pseudonym which has been used in threats to human rights activists and journalists in Honduras.

Bombing Neighborhoods

Dear Friends,

With each passing day, Syria’s crackdown on democracy protesters reaches new levels of horror — bombing crowded neighborhoods filled with innocent civilians, cutting off electricity and phones so families can’t call for help, and blocking medical aid to the wounded. But finally a flicker of hope is emerging that could stop the terror.

After the UN Security Council failed, Syria’s neighbours in the the Arab League are taking the lead. They have called other key powers to an emergency meeting in 4 days in Tunisia, and Avaaz will be sitting at the table with the Syrian democracy movement to deliver a clear mandate for strong action.

Right now, the level of public outrage could make the difference between forceful action and feckless diplomacy. Let’s deliver a 1 million-strong call to action, and press negotiators to move now to stop the bloodbath. Click below to sign the petition — it will be delivered directly to the delegates in the meeting:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arab_league_save_syria_3/?vl

The student organizers and mothers who month after month have led peaceful marches for freedom are now facing down the full military might of Assad’s army. They are calling for the world’s help to ensure that the Syrian Spring does not die a gruesome death on the streets of Homs, Hama and Idlib.

So far, the Arab League and United Nations have failed to stop the slaughter. But the international community knows that they cannot postpone action any longer. There is no panacea to end this, but a combination of more targeted sanctions, humanitarian action, support to the opposition to form an alternative government that unites people across the sectarian divide, and a plan to help those fearful of regime change to defect, could tip the balance of power.

In situations like this one, a clear public proposal can force the hand of politicians and governments to take meaningful action fast. Let’s show those meeting this week the extent of global determination to save the Syrian Spring and end the bloodshed. Sign the urgent petition for action now:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arab_league_save_syria_3/?vl

With so many challenges facing our globe, our community rarely campaigns on the same issue numerous weeks in a row. But the situation in Syria is dire and the Syrian people are counting on us not to let this opportunity to make a difference pass us by. Let’s come together one more time and show them that the world stands with them.

With hope and determination,

Ian, Jamie, Maria Paz, Allison, Andrew, Emma, Wissam, Stephanie, Bissan and the whole Avaaz team

Religious Freedom?

From Nation of Change
by Bill Moyers
18 February 2012

Freedom of and From Religion

The president did something agile and wise the other day. And something quite important to the health of our politics. He reached up and snuffed out what some folks wanted to make into a cosmic battle between good and evil. No, said the president, we’re not going to turn the argument over contraception into Armageddon, this is an honest difference between Americans, and I’ll not see it escalated into a holy war. So instead of the government requiring Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions to provide employees with health coverage involving contraceptives, the insurance companies will offer that coverage, and offer it free.

The Catholic bishops had cast the president’s intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom; they hold birth control to be a mortal sin, and were incensed that the government might coerce them to treat it otherwise. The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one’s going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it – just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

When the president announced his new plan, the bishops were caught flat-footed. It was so … so reasonable. In fact, leaders of several large, Catholic organizations have now said yes to the idea. But the bishops have since regrouped, and are now opposing any mandate to provide contraceptives even if their institutions are not required to pay for them. And for their own reasons, Republican leaders in Congress have weighed in on the bishops’ side. They’re demanding, and will get, a vote in the Senate.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says:

The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion. It’s right there in the First Amendment. You can’t miss it, right there in the very First Amendment to our Constitution. And the government doesn’t get to decide for religious people what their religious beliefs are. They get to decide that.

But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side – not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore – and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has – the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.

Ah, politics.

So the battle over contraception no longer seems apocalyptic. No heavenly hosts pitted against the forces of Satan. It’s a political brawl, not a crusade of believers or infidels. The president skillfully negotiated the line between respect for the religious sphere and protection of the spiritual dignity and freedom of individuals. If you had listened carefully to the speech Barack Obama made in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, you could have seen it coming:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem-cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships might be relieved. The question then is, “How do we work through these conflicts?

Read entire essay at Nation of Change.

Help the Syrian People Now

Dear Friends,

This urgent video appeal just came in from one of Avaaz’s brave citizen journalists in Syria — our community may be the only one that can help Danny and his friends before the next massacre.

Right now, the regime is murdering men, women and children and tearing cities apart. China and Russia just handcuffed international action at the UN and gave Assad license to unleash his murder machine to crush the Syrian Spring once and for all. But Danny and the democracy movement are more determined than ever and are urgently asking for our continued international solidarity and support.

Let’s be clear — as embassies close, medical agencies withdraw and journalists pull out, Avaaz has the only network that is both smuggling medical equipment and journalists in and images and information out. The UN has failed, but we can help peaceful democracy heroes like Danny loosen the dictator’s grip on their country. Click here to see Danny’s appeal and chip in now so we can continue our Arab spring campaigning and support for citizen journalists — if 20,000 of us donate now, we can get aid to the most besieged cities and towns before the next attack:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/smuggle_hope_into_syria_q/?vl

Activists like Danny are risking their lives for freedom and counting on our global support. On Saturday, Syria’s brutal forces killed another one of Avaaz’s citizen journalists, a 23-year-old named Omar who was a leader of our 400-strong network of activists as he pulled people from the rubble after a deadly massacre in Homs. Omar died as he lived, photographing the regime’s crimes, helping others and sacrificing for freedom. After the regime kicked the international media out, brave civilians like Danny and Omar have risked their lives to break the news blackout and help 18 of the world’s leading journalists from foreign news outlets into the locked-down country. It’s likely that the images you have seen on your TV or photographs in your newspaper came from this courageous team.

But that is just a part of what the Avaaz project has done. Thanks to the generous support of members across the world, Avaaz is providing a rare lifeline of critical support to the democracy movement in Syria. When activists told us medicines were running out, we set up a smuggling network to deliver over $1.8 million worth of medical equipment into the country, saving thousands of lives. When the Syrian National Council was struggling to present a credible leadership alternative to the world, we organized meetings in the UN, Russia and across Europe to support their work.

Day after day, Danny and Omar and hundreds of other heroes have turned out to film and protest, facing down tanks with no support from international governments. But what happens in the next two weeks will be decisive. This is the pinnacle of the Arab Spring and the global struggle against brutal despots. Together we can secure a lifeblood to the resistance and walk with the brave Syrian people on their journey to freedom. Click to watch Danny’s desperate appeal and make a life-saving donation now:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/smuggle_hope_into_syria_q/?vl

This year people power in the Middle East has taught the world an important lesson — together we are stronger than the fiercest dictator, and fiercer than the most ruthless army. On the streets of Syria, Avaaz is a beloved partner in the struggle for freedom. As one opposition leader put it, “the Syrian people have gained strength from knowing that the world, through the Avaaz community, stands with them.” Together, we have made the impossible possible and with our help Assad’s regime will come to end.

With hope and determination,

Alice, Ian, Antonia, Emma, Ricken, Mouhamad, Morgan, Wissam, Sam, Bissan, Will and the entire Avaaz team

Sparking the Arab Spring

From Read My Lips in The Globalist
28 December, 2011

Throughout 2011, protests in rich and poor countries alike have dominated the headlines — and shaped the political landscape. In this Read My Lips, we present economist Hernando de Soto’s recounting of the fate of Mohamed Bouazizi, the humble Tunisian fruit vendor who unleashed a tide of protest throughout the Arab world.

1. How did the revolution begin?

“It began when the 26-year-old Tarek Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in front of the governor’s offices in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid last December, after his merchandise was confiscated.”

2. What exactly happened?

“Bouazizi flicked his lighter on at 11:30am on December 17, 2010, one hour after a policewoman, backed by two municipal officers, had expropriated his two crates of pears ($15), a crate of bananas ($9), three crates of apples ($22) and an electronic weight scale ($179, second hand).”

3. Why did Bouazizi respond by immolating himself?

“While a total of $225 might not appear to justify suicide, the fact is that, as a businessman, Bouazizi had been summarily wiped out.”

4. How so?

“Without those goods, Bouazizi would not be able to feed his family for more than the next month. Since his merchandise had been bought on credit and he couldn’t sell it to pay his creditors back, he was now bankrupt. Because his working tools were confiscated, he had lost his capital.”

5. What happened next?

“Before a few weeks passed, many of the 180 million Arabs who work in and around the informal markets in the Middle East and North Africa were identifying with his disempowerment and sending their shouts to heaven.”

6. Why did his story resonate?

“Like 50% of all working Arabs, he was an entrepreneur, albeit on the margins of the law. He died trying to gain the right to hold property and do business without being hassled by corrupt authorities.”

7. In other words, what really triggered the Arab Spring?

“Not enough credit has been given to the mighty consensus that triggered the uprising — the desire of a vast underclass of people to work in a legal market economy.”

8. What lesson does Bouazizi’s story hold?

“The powerless can crystallize into a revolutionary class when they become conscious that they share a common suffering — and especially when a martyr embodies that suffering.”

9. What lesson should the region’s political leaders take to heart?

“Political leaders must realize that, since Bouazizi went up in flames and his peers rose in protest, poor Arabs are no longer outside but inside, in the market, right next to them.”

10. And finally, what happens if reforms fail?

“If the agenda does not include tackling the nitty-gritty institutional deficiencies that make most Arabs poor, they will eventually open the doors to the anti-democrats and enemies of modernity who fight democracy and modernity in their name.”

Editor’s Note: The quotes in this Read My Lips are drawn from Mr. de Soto’s November 8, 2011 op-ed in the Financial Times.

Read more at The Globalist.

Post on Facebook, Go to Jail!

From Amnesty International USA

Dear Gabriel,

Arrested for posting a note to Facebook?! If there was ever a need for a “Dislike” button on Facebook, this is it.

When you log in to Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook and learn about ways you can make a difference for human rights.

But when you log off, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door.

That’s what happened to Jabbar Savalan, a 20-year-old Azerbaijani student activist framed and punished by his government for calling for a protest on Facebook.

The Azerbaijan government’s assault upon the right to freedom of expression is a travesty.

Tell the authorities that you “Dislike” injustice. Sign Amnesty’s online petition calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Jabbar Savalan.

Jabbar is one case in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, Amnesty’s annual human rights letter-writing marathon. Hundreds of thousands of people will be participating this year, writing letters of hope and solidarity to free prisoners of conscience and combat injustice worldwide.

Maybe this is your first time writing for rights, or maybe you’ve taken this action before. Now’s the time to pledge your participation in this event – starting with signing this online petition for Jabbar.

During Write for Rights, December 3-11, Amnesty will deliver the petition signatures along with a giant Facebook-inspired “Dislike” thumbs-down sign to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic offices in the U.S.

Jabbar’s case is deeply troubling. Azerbaijani authorities didn’t like his Facebook post, so they began following him. One day later, they arrested him without explanation.

Jabbar knew something was very wrong that night. Police never read him his rights. He wasn’t searched right away. He was manhandled in the police vehicle.

It was only when Jabbar arrived at the police station that authorities did an official search, and that’s when they “discovered” marijuana in his outer jacket pocket. It was all too convenient. Officials in Azerbaijan have a history of using trumped-up drug charges to smother dissent. Jabbar maintains he’s never used drugs in his life.

Jabbar was jailed for a Facebook post. If we don’t call out authorities on abusive behavior, wherever and whenever it happens, it will only get worse. They will crush and crush and crush, ever more recklessly, inhumanely and unlawfully.

If freedom is something we cherish, then we must defend it. Jabbar Savalan was jailed because of his beliefs, and as human rights defenders, we can’t let this stand.

Join thousands of others around the world fighting for Jabbar and other cases during this year’s Write for Rights campaign. Freedom for Jabbar and others like him is only possible if we take a stand — together.

Add your name to Amnesty’s petition calling for Jabbar’s release.

In solidarity,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Write for Rights is a powerful, inspiring event – the largest grassroots letter-writing campaign in the entire world. Put pen to paper and deepen your commitment to human rights. Find Write for Rights events near you and learn more by visiting amnestyusa.org/writeathon.

Write for Rights

Dear Gabriel,

If you think writing letters is passé, that touching pen to paper is meaningless in the age of Facebook and Twitter, remember my story.

My name is Birtukan Mideksa, and your letters set me free.

I once had no hope of freedom. A single mother and former opposition party leader in Ethiopia, I was arrested in 2005 after my political party participated in protests disputing the results of the elections.

Security forces responded to the public outcry with deadly force, shooting dead 187 people and wounding 765 others.

I committed no crime. I was targeted solely for peacefully expressing my political views.

Help free other prisoners of conscience like me. Join Amnesty’s 2011 Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon. There are 15 urgent cases of abuse and injustice in need of your action.

The government in Ethiopia thought it could quell dissent by locking opponents away forever.

I was serving a life sentence in Kaliti Prison when Amnesty International members came to my defense. When my case was featured in the 2009 Write for Rights campaign, thousands of people called for my freedom.

Your letters were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none. Your letters kept hope alive at the darkest hours of need.

Thanks to Amnesty International, I regained my freedom in October 2010.

I am so grateful that your letters and action worked for me. Now I urge you to keep up your good work by taking action for others. I offer my voice for Amnesty International, and I hope that you will do the same.

Write with me. Join the 2011 Write for Rights campaign today.

In peace,
Birtukan Mideksa

Nobel Prize Winner In Jail

From Amnesty International

If the Chinese government had it their way, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo would never receive his rightful recognition.

Earlier this month, three women were named recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting women’s rights and women’s participation in peace-building. Yet, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese human rights defender Liu Xiaobo, still languishes behind prison bars for seeking to promote peaceful political and social reforms in China.

In the days surrounding International Human Rights Day (December 10), you can shine a light for Liu Xiaobo and for others whose rights have been denied.

We’re asking you to take one simple action: Write a letter.

This can be a letter of passion and outrage to a government guilty of repressing free expression and denying other human rights.

Or it can be a letter of solidarity and hope sent directly to someone who needs reassurance that they are not alone.

Liu Xiaobo is just one case featured in this year’s annual Write for Rights – Global Write-a-thon – Amnesty’s largest global human rights event. Sign up now and let your letters be counted!

Since Amnesty’s founding 50 years ago, people throughout the world have joined together in classrooms, coffee houses and community centers to take action. They were united by a simple, yet powerful, tool for change – the letter.

Need proof that written words are powerful? Look no further than Liu Xiaobo – whose words of hope and freedom are seen as such a threat by authorities in China that they have imprisoned him because of them.

Now he and others need you to carry their torch by picking up a pen. You don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winner to Write for Rights! Stand with human rights supporters around the world by joining the Global Write-a-thon.

With hope,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Campaign Director
Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA

Iran’s Azadi Square

Dear Gabriel,

It’s called Azadi Square – literally “Freedom Square” in Persian.

For decades, it has been the central point of human rights activism in Iran. Two years ago, when the disputed results of a presidential election compelled many to take to the streets, Azadi Square was the backdrop of countless student protests. Although the protests began as peaceful, protesters were met with violence once riot police were dispersed.

Two students who were swept up in the resulting wave of government crackdowns that followed were Behareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakkoli.

Behareh – an economics student turned women’s rights advocate is now serving 10 years in prison sentence for her activism.

Majid – a shipbuilding student turned prominent student leader is now serving nine years in prison for his activism.

We can’t think of a better place to take a stand for their rights and the rights of all Iran’s peaceful student protesters than in Azadi Square.

Demand the release of all Iran’s peaceful student protesters!

Starting today, we’re opening up a virtual Azadi Square to supporters worldwide. In the virtual Azadi Square, all human rights are protected – including freedom of expression, assembly and association.

That is why we’re inviting you to join us in sending a powerful message to the Iranian government. Even if students are imprisoned for their activism, their calls for human rights can never be silenced!

For every 10,000 signatures gathered on our petition for protecting student’s rights in Iran, Amnesty representatives will publicly present your signatures in a new and powerful way. But you’ll have to keep checking back to find out what we’ll do next!

Visit Amnesty’s Azadi Square and stand up for the rights of student protesters in Iran!

Behareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakkoli, like many others, were simply students who spoke publicly about their political opinions. They do not deserve this injustice.

Take action now and give them hope. Demonstrate the power of standing together for human rights!

Thank You,

Elise Auerbach
Country Specialist, Iran
Amnesty International USA

Never Forget

I will never forget you, to the end of my life

Dear Gabriel,

First they beat my head with steel rods, and I nearly died.

They arrested me. Fined me. Harassed me. Charged me with absurd and inconceivable accusations.

My editor-in-chief, Elmar Huseynov, was assassinated.

I am a journalist who challenged my government, and paid a terrible price for it. Four years of my life were stolen.

In prison, I was between life and death. Life in a torture chamber became pointless, ceased its normal rhythms. Violence obliterated all signs of vitality.

On May 26 of this year, I regained my cherished liberty. I am absolutely confident that it was the tireless campaigning of Amnesty supporters like you that enabled me to return to my life.

For me, notions of Amnesty and good are identical. I am saved, but there are still people who must be rescued. They are expecting your help.

Please bring good to this world. Make a donation to Amnesty.

Just when it seemed everybody had forgotten me, unexpectedly I received hundreds of postcards from Amnesty USA. I was full of joy because I understood that such an influential organization was supporting me. I had not been forgotten.

I was greatly surprised at postcards from children. Three-, four- and five-year-old children sent me pictures made by them personally. It was so touching and tender.

These children are sure to fight for human rights and justice. No one can take that consciousness away from them.

I am grateful to you. You have saved my family from death, and I’ll never forget you to the end of my life. It is my mission to serve the ideals advocated by Amnesty International every hour, every day, every year.

Please join me.

Yours respectfully,
Eynulla Fatullayev
JOURNALIST, FORMER PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE, AZERBAIJAN

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