Archive for the 'films' Category

“Fly So Far” film portrays women jailed under Salvador abortion laws

September 16, 2019

Teodora Vasquez is photographed during an interview with AFP in San Salvador on September 12, 2019

Teodora Vasquez spent 10 years in jail for murder in El Salvador. Her crime? Giving birth to a dead baby. Now a new film tells her story and highlights the plight of 16 women still serving long sentences, as pressure grows for legislative change. Vasquez, who served more than one-third of her 30-year sentence, will present the 90-minute documentary “Fly So Far” at a festival in Sweden on 23 September. “After being locked up for so long, you can fly, you can go far,” Vasquez told AFP in an interview, explaining the film’s title. Vasquez, who will be in Stockholm to launch the film has become an outspoken human rights defender.

Sixteen women are currently in prison in El Salvador for what human rights groups describe as obstetric emergencies. Under Salvadoran law however, they were convicted of having abortions. “Even if those 16 women regain their freedom, we will continue the fight because we don’t want future generations to end up in jail because of the kind of obstetric problem that happened us,” said Vasquez.

The film by Swiss-Salvadoran director Celina Escher hopes to highlight their plight on the world stage. The film focuses on Maria Teresa Rivera, who was given political asylum in Sweden after being jailed in El Salvador. It portrays her life inside as well as after her release, showing the difficulties experienced by these women integrating back into society, particularly given the stigma of the crime for which they were convicted.

Vasquez currently directs a project that provides ex-prisoners with the chance of a fresh start — offering healthcare, psychological help, employment assistance and legal advice. “We have the problem that when we recover our freedom we leave with a criminal record, and having a criminal record, prevents us from getting any job.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/film-portrays-plight-women-jailed-under-salvador-abortion-013850604–spt.html

Hell and Hope: a documentary film about three women who escaped ISIS and made a new life in Germany

August 13, 2019

‘Hell & Hope’. This documentary is filmed in Germany in 2018, where 1,100 Yazidi survivors of ISIS brutalities found refuge. There, they have managed to rebuild shattered lives even as mothers and sisters are missing – presumed enslaved or killed – fathers and brothers dead. Before it was too late for Salwa in Iraq’s Sinjar, before the militants came, she says it was Yazidi men who prevented them from running.The men refused to run despite their wives asking them to. ‘We men don’t run away, we stay and fight’. But the women didn’t know how to drive, so they couldn’t run either. I doubt if in all of Sinjar, even four women know how to drive – if they knew how to drive, they would have escaped and survived. The men could’ve stayed and fought if that was what they wanted. They should have fought and not let us face what we faced.” said Salwa, Yazidi Survivor Knowing how to drive seems like a small thing, in the grand scale of what was happening in Iraq and Syria. And yet it is that small independence they were denied that might have made all the difference.

The camera follows three women – Lamiya, Salwa and Bazi – as they go about their lives in Germany; to classes, to work. Lamiya was one of two Yazidi women survivors who won the EU’s prestigious human rights award – the Sakharov Prize – for their work in advocating for their besieged community. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/01/sakharov-prize-2016-went-ultimately-to-two-yazidi-women/]

……

Despite the gripping horror of each story, there is not much different in the perspectives offered than what we’ve heard over the years now in countless pieces of reporting – the kidnappings, the slavery, the killings. What’s new is the fine detail that comes out when you have multiple women tell broadly the same story; the banality of evil.

Two of the three women who spoke expressed disgust, contempt and were especially distressed by the encouragement given to Daesh terrorists by their wives. It was felt as a deeper betrayal, even though Salwa explains why they did it: “What we saw was that the women encouraged their husbands. This is why I always say that women should see the world and get an education. They controlled women’s minds. What was Daesh telling their wives? They would say that women don’t go to heaven, that a woman is incomplete. Only men go to heaven, so in this life, women must please their husbands, and when they go to heaven, they can ask for their wives to join them. After a Daesh militant kills Yazidis, because they are infidels, he will go to heaven and if he is satisfied with his wife, he will ask for her to come.”

..how did they make it out of that hell? The German government reached out. “The girls did not apply for asylum. The government of the German state of Baden Württemberg came up with a special quota program to give girls, children and other victims a direct residence permit for 3 years.” Amish Srivastava, Director, Hell & Hope…

Watching the documentary is an exhausting experience, but the viewer is forewarned. One of the first lines that appear on the screen is “Girls risked their lives to escape Islamic State captivity. Few succeeded.”

https://www.thequint.com/entertainment/movie-reviews/hell-and-hope-isis-yazidi-women-escaped

Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela in film Whispering Truth to Power

August 12, 2019

An award-winning documentary following Thuli Madonsela’s time as Public Protector has officially been released. The film focuses mostly on Madonsela’s last year in office and is called Whispering Truth to Power.
Behind-the-scenes footage shows Madonsela’s fight for justice for ordinary South Africans. As Public Protector for South Africa, Thuli Madonsela made an impact. The film has won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, a collection of awards at FESPACO, Luxor African Film Festival and Jozi Film Festival.
Madonsela has become a celebrated name for many in South Africa, after she managed to successfully challenge former SA President, Jacob Zuma, on his illegal use of state funds. “In other countries, people don’t know who the ombudsman is,” Madonsela’s son, Wantu explains, “If the government is doing their job properly, then the ombudsman is not this celebrated figure who is fighting the good fight, because there shouldn’t be that fight.” The documentary is filmmaker, Shameela Seedat’s first ever release. The documentary on Madonsela is available to stream at Showmax.
Read more: https://briefly.co.za/35068-award-winning-documentary-thuli-madonsela-officially-out.html

New documentary series highlights the struggle of women human rights in Vietnam

August 7, 2019

A new series of video interviews highlights the perspectives and struggles of human rights women in Vietnam.

The 88 Project, an organisation supporting freedom of expression in Vietnam, released the first video of an ongoing interview series with female activists in Vietnam. In the first interview with Pham Doan Trang, a dissident journalist and political activist, she discusses the challenges women face as bloggers and human rights activists: “In general, Vietnamese women are not respected. Not only in democracy activism but in all fields. In democracy activism, female activists are disadvantaged because they get attacked no less than male activists. They get beaten and assaulted. The work they do is no less than their male counterparts. But what they often get from other people is pity. I think it is not respect.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

Other women including social activist and blogger Tran Thi Nga, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence, have also been seriously injured following physical attacks, often conducted by hired men. Tran Thi Nga’s attack was documented and posted on Youtube with recordings of her being wheeled into a hospital accompanied by her two young children. According to family reports, Tran Thi Nga has been subjected to both physical and psychological harassment after her arrest, receiving death threats and beatings from a cellmate.

According to the 88 Project database, there are currently more than 200 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam with over 30 identifying as female. Bloggers and journalists are frequently arrested and charged for “activities attempting to overthrow the state” or “conducting propaganda against the state”. According to Amnesty International, the Vietnamese government has been conducting a growing crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful activism over the past few years.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man, a photojournalist and the woman who has served the longest time in prison so far, is expected to be released at the beginning of August.

Angelina Jolie extolls women human rights defenders in new essay

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019, Annie Martin wrote that “Angelina Jolie sends love to ‘wicked women‘ (women breaking rules and pushing boundaries) in new essay”

Angelina Jolie reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in the September issue of Elle. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The 44-year-old actress reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in an essay for the September issue of Elle published Monday. Jolie began by asking the question, “What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history.” She recounted how accusations of witchcraft have ben used “to control and silence women” in many societies throughout the centuries….”Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society — even unintentionally — have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in”Jolie discussed how modern women across the globe are considered “wicked” for such behaviors as dancing or singing in public, running for political office, or fighting for human rights. These women are sometimes met with violence, imprisonment or social ostracism. “Female human rights defenders across the world are incarcerated for their political views or for defending themselves or others, with courage I can hardly imagine. For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture,” Jolie wrote.

“Looked at in this light, ‘wicked women’ are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse,” she said. “Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.” “If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women,” the star declared.

For more on Angelina Jolie and her human rights work, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/angelina-jolie/

https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2019/08/05/Angelina-Jolie-sends-love-to-wicked-women-in-new-essay/1591565015424/

Interview with Guadalupe Marengo (“Guada”) of Amnesty International

August 2, 2019

Guadalupe Marengo: Human Rights Defender at Amnesty International

On 1 August 2019 of Geographical in the UK published an inteview with Guadaloupe Marengo (aka “Guada”), head of the Human Rights Defenders Team at Amnesty International:

..A 2017 Amnesty International report submitted to the UN points to the use of smear campaigns to delegitimise human rights defenders and undermine their work. In particular the report notes the stigmatisation of individuals and communities in Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and Paraguay who are fighting to protect their access to water and land, stating that ‘their work is delegitimised through public statements and false rumours’ and that they ‘face unfair and unfounded criminal proceedings’. In response to this issue, Amnesty International set up its Human Rights Defenders team, which works globally to highlight violence against HRDs and campaign for their rights. Geographical caught up with the head of the team, Guadeloupe Marengo, following a screening of Aruanas, a new drama focusing on environmental defenders in the Amazon. [for Aruanas see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/aruanas-human-rights-defenders-in-fiction-series-playing-in-amazon/]. Aruanas is now available at aruanas.tv on vimeo

Aruanas

Aruanas has helped raise public awareness of the dangers faced by those working in human rights

How did you come to lead the Human Rights Defenders team at Amnesty?

I’m Mexican and I’ve been in Britain now for about 24 years. I previously worked with women ex-prisoners here in this country, and then I moved to Amnesty to work mainly on Latin America. For many years I worked researching race-relations and running campaigns on human rights violations. Then, in 2016, I became head of the global Human Rights Defenders programme.

Why did Amnesty deem it necessary to set up the HRD team?

Human rights defenders work at the forefront, so they are the ones that get attacked. Here we are, 20 years on from the UN Declaration, and statistics on how many human rights defenders have been killed, from many human rights organisations, are at least one every other day. So there’s still a lot to do.

Where are the biggest risk areas?

The HRDs who are the most marginalised are those working on sexual and reproductive rights, those working on the climate crisis and those working on Indigenous people’s rights, land rights, and migration in Europe. These are the topics of the moment and because there is an intersectional type of discrimination, depending on where you are, they are even more at risk. In particular, the world is getting far more aware of climate issues, so those in power are actually attacking human rights defenders more. I think we’re at a tipping point, the world is suddenly realising that actually, we need to do something about this. I’m hoping that series such as Aruanas are going to help win more hearts and minds. The fact is Amnesty can’t make a series like that because it’s too expensive. So it’s good that those with the money are trying to contribute positively to humanity.

Who are the perpetrators of this kind of violence?

A combination of businesses with a vested interests and also governments, which should be the ones sending a very clear signal that intimidation of human rights defenders isn’t going to be tolerated. It’s is the mix of those in power – state and non-state actors.

How does Amnesty work to protect HRDs?

What we do is show the world what’s going on. We then approach government and businesses, either lobbying through letters, or through conversations with them, or at the UN. Through our international offices we interview rights workers, we interview victims, we go to the places, we double check the information and then we publish reports.

Are there any HRD cases that stand out to you in particular?

The issue in the UK of the Stansted 15 stands out to me – how the UK accused 15 people who stopped a plane that was going to deport LGBT+ people. One, for example, was going to be deported to Nigeria – she was a lesbian, her ex-partner was waiting and was going to kill her. The UK accused the 15 of terrorism-related offences for stopping the plane. I couldn’t believe the UK was doing that. Some of the 15 were given community service. Two were given suspended sentences and they are appealing that because even though they didn’t go to prison, the charges stand.

What are your goals for the time you are head of the HRD team?

One thing I would like to do is work more in coalition with other charities, to open up to others and ensure that we’re all working together towards campaigning instead of in silos. We have more in common than we don’t. If we all work together on these issues, I think we will have more impact.

https://geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/3308-guadalupe-marengo-amnesty-international

Amnesty asks Myanmar to drop charges against detained filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi

August 1, 2019

In response to the opening of the trial of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi on 1 August 2019, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and South East Asia said: “Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the latest in a long line of Myanmar activists targeted for criticising the Myanmar military. Peaceful comments on Facebook are not a crime, even if they criticise officials, and his is yet another politically motivated trial. Authorities should drop these vindictive charges, and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi must be immediately and unconditionally released. “We remain deeply concerned about his health in detention, as he recovers from his battle with liver cancer. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be celebrated for his human rights work, not wallowing in prison without appropriate care. “As the 2020 elections draw near, the clock is ticking for the NLD-led government to repeal the abusive legislation repeatedly used against peaceful critics like Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a prominent filmmaker and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute and the Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in 2013 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/06/burmamyanmar-to-have-first-international-human-rights-film-festival-in-june/#more-2975. He was arrested on 12 April 2019 after a Myanmar military official accused him of defamation for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics. He was initially accused of “online defamation” under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunication Act. Several days later, the same officer who had lodged the initial proceedings filed a second complaint under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which prohibits the circulation of statements or reports which could cause a solider or other member of the Myanmar military to “mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty.” If found guilty and convicted of the 505(a) charge, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The complaint under Section 66(d) – which also carries a maximum of two years in prison – remains pending.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is being detained in Yangon’s Insein prison, where he has been held for more than three months since his arrest. He has been denied bail, despite battling liver cancer and undergoing a major operation earlier this year.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/myanmar-drop-charges-detained-filmmaker/

FOR SAMA also wins award at Durban International Film Festival 2019

July 25, 2019

On 25 July 2019 the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) announced that the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award 2019 has gone to: For Sama directed by Edward Watts and Waad al-Kateab. The film earlier won Galway’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/16/31st-galway-film-festival-honors-for-sama-as-best-human-rights-film/

40th Durban International Film Festival award winners 2019

Four Honduran woman human rights defenders say why funders need to prioritize social movmements

July 25, 2019

This video is part of an editorial partnership with the Fund for Global Human Rights.

In this video, Miriam Miranda, executive director of OFRANEH – the Honduran Black Fraternal Organisation – talks about the importance of funding social movements, not just structured NGOs (which inherently seek to sustain themselves). She also discusses the need for more funders to support work happening at the community level. She shares her thoughts on how flexible funding allows activists to respond to the changing needs of their communities and the difficult context in which they work. She stresses the critical importance of donors trusting their partners on the ground and building trust-based relationships.

Denia Castillo, coordinator of Red De Abogadas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (Network of Human Rights Defenders), shares why grassroots activism is often the most effective to way to spur on social change. This is because activists on the ground best understand their communities and the challenges they face, and they don’t have the costs of much larger organisations – allowing for resources to be distributed closer to the ground. She also talks about the need for international funders to provide flexible funding, which allows grassroots groups to adapt their plans and support their communities in the emergencies they often face on Honduras.

Indyra Mendoza, executive director of CATTRACHAS – a feminist lesbian network – provides insight into the importance of funding and working with non-registered entities. In countries where governments are cracking down on the work of activists and NGOs, restrictive legislation is making it harder to register as an NGO or operate freely as a registered NGO. For this reason, many activists and groups doing critical work for their communities choose not to register as NGOs, which creates difficulties for them in receiving foreign funding and support.

Bertita Caceres is the general secretary of COPINH – Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. She is also the daughter of COPINH’s founder Berta Caceras, who was murdered in 2016 because of her campaigning work to stop a hydro-electric dam from destroying indigenous lands and livelihoods. Bertita shares her thoughts on the importance of international allies helping build the capacity and strength of organisations like COPINH, specifically around security and protection. She also shares how important it is for groups like hers to have international partners and funders use their positions of power to speak out on behalf of grassroots groups and apply pressure internationally in a way that supports their strategies and advocacy on the ground.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/frontline-insights/we-need-relationships-based-on-trust-how-supporters-can-help-honduran-activists/

Report of the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture 2019

July 24, 2019

Panelists at the 2019 Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture

The Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture was held at the Graduate Institute 18 July 2019 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/12/nelson-mandela-human-rights-lecture-in-geneva-on-18-july-2019/]. For the lecture, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Albie Sachs, Former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court, were present to share their incredible personal experiences of fighting for human rights.

Establishing the Rule of Law in South Africa as a form of ‘Soft Vengeance’ against Apartheid

A piece of paper, a body, a voice and the dreams of millions of people, including our hope; for those of you in the audience, that’s my text for today’, began Mr Sachs, who had fought against apartheid since age 17, was appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994 and played a critical role in the creation of the first draft of South Africa’s Bill of Rights, adopted in 1996 by the South African parliament as an integral part of the South African Constitution. Mr Sachs explained that his efforts to establish a rule of law in South Africa were a form of ‘soft vengeance’ against apartheid, exemplified through his own, personal tribulation. On 7 April 1988 in Mozambique, as a result of a car bomb, he lost his right arm. …Commenting on the trial of one of the accused car bombers, Mr Sachs said, ‘My vengeance will be if the person receives a fair trial, and if his guilt is not beyond doubt, will be acquitted, because this will prove that we will have established the rule of law’.

Standing Up and Acting for Change

Michelle Bachelet recounted her own experience as a human rights defender. She told of dictatorship in Chile, the torture and killing of her father and her mother’s detention. In defiance of the anger she felt at her family’s situation, she found the perseverance to stand up and act for change, becoming the first woman President of Chile (dually elected), then Executive Director of UN Women, and eventually replacing Zeid Raad Al Hussein in 2018 as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

‘[…] the world today faces complex challenges, challenges too big for one country, challenges that do not respect borders’, she said. ‘[…] And we see a pushback on human rights. And I say, let’s pushback the pushback’.

Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture Michelle Bachelet

Video of the Lecture. You can watch here the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Lecture in its entirety.

https://www.geneva-academy.ch/news/detail/247-human-rights-warriors-tell-their-stories-at-the-nelson-mandela-human-rights-lecture