Posts Tagged ‘campaign’

Messages of positive behavior instead of accounts of abuse could have better long term impact

September 16, 2019

Brain research suggests emphasizing human rights abuses may perpetuate them

Laura Ligouri in Open Global Rights of 18 June 2019 writes about an aspect of campaiging that few human rights defenders and NGOs will be familiar with: “Capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to simulate events, messages of positive behavior – instead of repeated exposure to accounts of abuse – could better lead to the changes we wish to see in the world“. Laura Ligouri is the founder and director of Mindbridge, a not-for-profit organization connecting psychological and neurobiological insight to non-profit and government-sponsored humanitarian efforts. Here the piece in full:

Throughout the last few decades, much human rights work has necessarily sought to bring human rights abuses to light. But focusing only on abusive behaviour—without paying attention to its opposite—comes with a cost.

According to psychological and neurobiological research, repeated exposure to accounts of human rights abuses may inadvertently prime individuals to engage in the very acts we hope to eliminate; for example, repeated negative actions by some in a particular group come to be seen as normal behaviour for the group as a whole. As a result, activists must strike a balance between exposing abuses and demonstrating positive human rights-oriented behavior. By capitalizing on the brain’s capacity to mentalize and simulate events, messages of positive behavior could lead to the changes we wish to see in the world.

Some of the darkest moments in human history have their roots in the dehumanization of groups and people. If human rights activists can see what lies behind these trends, they can work to tackle the root causes and not just the symptoms of dehumanization. Research shows that many processes involved in dehumanization aren’t necessarily grounded in a lack of empathy for the victimized group. Instead, they are based in neurobiological mechanisms oriented around maintaining one’s own group at all costs. In fact, failures to promote positive, pro-social behavior might not rest in our ability to empathize with the “Other” but in the degree to which we identify and align with our own group.

Extreme human rights abuses often have their roots in powerful neurobiological mechanisms that lead humans to mirror or simulate what they see others in their group doing. Very recent research  shows how repeated exposure to hate speech, such as repeatedly reading it on local media, could prime your brain to engage in hateful speech or even hateful actions.

For human rights defenders, this can become dangerous: every time an organization, news source or media outlet emphasizes and repeatedly highlights a form of human rights abuse, even to condemn it, we are simultaneously engaging a very specific component of the social brain that emphasises compliance with the norms of our own group. Over time, the social brain will justify these acts and will find ways to divest our group of responsibility.

Moreover, a landmark study in 2012 showed that feeling connected to a group not only creates disconnection from more distant “others”, but could directly lead to dehumanization of those communities. The experiments indicated that the more people feel socially connected to closely-knit groups, the less likely they are to attribute human mental states to distant others. They are also more likely to recommend harsh treatment for those distant others.

But is empathy the whole story? A great multitude of non-profit organizations worldwide have worked tirelessly to increase empathy between groups, albeit largely by raising awareness about the suffering of marginalized groups or asking people to walk in other people’s shoes. Yet failures to empathize with others happens all the time.

Research has shown that when presented with images of people in pain, activation of the parts of the brain where empathy resides was significantly less for strangers than for loved ones or people of the same race. Other tests show that it is easier to promote aggressive behavior in interactions between groups than between individuals. When social relations shift from “me versus you” to “us versus them”, human interactions tend to become substantially more aggressive.

For example, in one experiment researchers examined whether acting as a member of a competitive group, versus acting alone, would ultimately lead to increases in one’s willingness to harm competitors. Using functional magnetic resonant imaging, or fMRI, participants were asked to perform a competitive task, once alone and once within a group. These same participants were later asked to engage in an activity where they had an option to harm competitors from another group. Results showed reduced brain activation related to empathy and moral decision-making among participants acting within the group, compared to participants acting alone. This reduced activation was later linked to their willingness to harm a person in another group.

The warning for human rights activists is that suspending our sense of individualized morality in favor of group-based norms is among a series of influential factors leading to dehumanization. But how do we reverse concepts of dehumanization once they have already occurred? And if these processes are deeply embedded within unconscious, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, is it even possible to defuse and/or rewire them?

The answer is: we don’t have to. What would happen if we used our brain’s ability to mentally simulate an event where, instead of picturing or simulating hurting an individual, we imagined helping them? Researchers examined whether the same mechanisms that underlie processes related to empathy might also work to support the way in which our brain envisions the world, called episodic simulation. Their results showed that not only did the act of imagining helping increase participants’ actual intentions to help others, but also that the more vividly people could imagine a scenario, the more likely they were to help another.

These results have been replicated within the Mindbridge Implicit Bias Project, a series of trainings that capitalizes on the brain’s neuroplasticity in order change an individual’s relationship to bias and discrimination towards social groups over time.

Other research showed concretely the way in which positive episodic simulation coupled with capitalizing on the social brain can result in re-humanization of another group. Held in Israel, the researchers through a series of experiments asked Israeli-Jews to read about members of their group helping Palestinians. They found that Israeli-Jews who became aware about their group helping Palestinians showed greater humanization towards Palestinians.

The challenge for the human rights movement is to counter dehumanization that is seeded by group influence and images of human rights abuses with something different. By modelling the sort of behavior we want to see—kindness, caring and empathy—we can begin to re-humanize vulnerable groups.

If inhumanity can be learned, so can greater humanity. Understanding the brain may help us do just that.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/brain-research-suggests-emphasizing-human-rights-abuses-may-perpetuate-them/

 

 

 

Amnesty International’s Global Assembly 2019 deserves more attention: big shifts coming up

August 5, 2019

This weekend Amnesty International’s 2019 Global Assembly (GA) took place on the edge of Johannesburg. In a world where all news should be equal, or a world less fixated on Busi Mkhwebane or Donald Trump, global gatherings of human rights activists ought to be headline news. Their debates and decisions should be reported; their accountability structures scrutinised. But the media was visible by its absence. This is what the Daily Maverick of 4 August 2019 wrote and its is worth reading in its totality!:

Amnesty International (AI) is probably the largest international human rights organisation in the world. It has more than eight million members and each of its 69 country sections sent three elected delegates to the GA, one of whom had to be a young person under 25. AI is worth watching because its membership is largely unpaid volunteers, people prepared to get on the streets to realise their hopes for a fairer world. Unlike many other civil society organisations it doesn’t take funding from governments or private corporations. And it’s still hungry for change. But in addition to the GA taking place in South Africa, our country lent some of its most famous sons to the deliberations. The keynote opening address was delivered by Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who movingly recalled how letters from Amnesty International sent to his mother began arriving within a month of the start of his 10-year sojourn on Robben Island. “It was an abiding lesson in global solidarity,” he told delegates, who gave him three standing ovations. He was complemented by seasoned South African activist Kumi Naidoo, who is entering his second year as AI’s secretary-general. Amid the buzz of arriving delegates, last-minute preparations and a pre-conference of its youth members, I persuaded Naidoo to surrender 45 minutes of his time for a short conversation about the challenges AI faces on making itself relevant and ready for some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Naidoo started our conversation by saying that AI understands that this is a watershed time for human rights activism. He pointed out that the movement is midway through developing a new strategy that aims to help it become “a bigger, bolder and more inclusive human rights movement”. “Bigger” because AI knows it needs numbers to have political clout – it aims to increase its membership to 25 million people in the next few years. “Bolder” because many of the methods activists have used successfully in the past have been tamed. In his address to the assembly, he warned that “Our ability to raise the political cost of human rights violations simply by exposing them and naming them is receding.” He talked of the need for widespread “civil disobedience”. This might come as a shock to many of AI’s traditional members who are more used to writing protest letters. “More inclusive”, because AI’s centre of gravity has to shift south and its demographic has to quickly encompass millions more young people and black people. These are big asks, but Naidoo argues that this is a critical moment for introspection by human rights activists. In the face of galloping climate change, rising populism and “Big Men” leaders with their fingers on weapons of mass destruction, it has to be an introspection on the run. In 2019 and the years ahead we cannot afford a demobilisation of civil society as it takes time out to think. This is because, warns Naidoo, “Humanity is at a critical point. The world in which AI was created in 1961 is now very, very different.” He talks a lot, in this regard, about the climate crisis, about how real the threat of human extinction is becoming. “The Special Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 said we have 12 years to drastically reduce carbon emissions.” (The report said that to limit climate change to 1.5°C it will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions by 45% globally by 2030). As a result, Naidoo believes, Amnesty now needs “to climatise all our existing work”. Hear, hear, I thought, there’s a lesson for South African civil society there. For example, one pillar of AI’s core business has always been campaigning against the death penalty. And it has done very well. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that only 23 out of its 193 member states still carry out the death penalty. But now, Naidoo says, “Humanity is facing a mass death penalty as a result of climate change.” Bearing out the importance AI attaches to this “existential threat to civilization” AI’s 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award has been given to Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for the Future movement. AI hopes it will be handed over by the US politician and activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Washington during the week of the great climate strike planned for 20 September.

Yet, Naidoo says, “The core DNA of Amnesty – defending human rights defenders – will continue.” The fact that the very notion of human rights is under attack makes them all the more important to defend. Thus, “Whilst last year the United Nations marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the necessary aplomb, if the UN were to try and pass such a declaration today it would not get out of the starting blocks.”

Sadly, with the current crop of leaders like Trump, Modi, Putin, Bolsanero, Johnson we know he’s right. Once again it falls to civil society to stand up and make the case for human rights. But that can’t mean just more of the same. Civil society’s methods, tactics and strategies have to adapt. For example, although AI was formed to protect what are known as first generation rights (exposing torture and the death penalty, supporting prisoners of conscience etc), Naidoo told the conference that it is socio-economic or second generation rights that matter most to billions of people – access to food, health services, basic education or water. And these days it is most often community protests to demand the fulfilment of these rights that leads corrupt and fragile states to unleash new waves of violations on the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression or association. A recent report by Global Witness records the killing of three environmental or land activists a week in 2018. In this context the climate crisis again serves to hammer home the need for change. “If people think human beings currently treat each other badly, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Naidoo muses, echoing conclusions made in a recently published UN report on Climate Change and Human Rights. So in addition to gazing at its DNA, AI also discussed its campaign methods, and it’s here perhaps that it required the deepest introspection: “At best we are winning the battles, but losing the war.” “We have access to power, without influence.” “We have to get out of our silos.”… “The catastrophic error we made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was to frame climate change as an environmental issue.” In fact, it’s an everything issue. Much the same can be said about many of the other fronts on which civil society wages its war for dignity. Health is an education issue. Education is a gender equality issue. Water is a dignity issue. Preventable hunger is a torture issue. Nutrition is a children’s rights issue, and so on. It’s time to rethink how we articulate rights and freedoms. At the end of 45 minutes, a polite young AI staffer ushered us out of the room. Naidoo looked tired even though the day was just beginning. We are living in what philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls “the end-times” and Kumi Naidoo is the captain of one of the few human rights movements that has to find it within itself to pull us back from the brink. And that’s why the Amnesty Global Assembly should have been in the news.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-08-04-bolder-and-more-inclusive-amnesty-international-holds-global-assembly-in-sa/

New website: Keep the Volume up for Rights Defenders in Turkey

July 11, 2019

Three human rights organizations, Association Monitoring Equal Rights, Netherlands Helsinki Committee and Truth Justice Memory Center, have created the website “Keep the Volume up for Rights Defenders in Turkey.” Sharing up-to-date information on the trials of rights defenders in Turkey, the website will also share the recent development under the title of “News”.

In the “About Us” part of the sessizkalma.org website, the objective and content of the website are explained in following words:

Human rights defenders from different corners of society – lawyers, teachers, journalists, scientists, union activists – face serious pressures in doing their work in Turkey. Their aim is to protect fellow citizens from unjust and inhumane policies; they speak up and act when people’s human rights are being infringed upon. Yet in Turkey rights defenders are increasingly being intimidated, detained and imprisoned.

“Their struggle deserves more visibility and national and international solidarity. …

“We created this online resource to bring together updates and information on the situation in Turkey. It is meant for all those interested to support or understand human rights defence in Turkey better: civil society, journalists, international organisations and citizens who care about the Rule of Law and democracy in Turkey.

“We are monitoring court cases where Defenders are prosecuted. You will find a calendar for important trial dates, overview and news on individual cases, our statements well as information on possibilities for actions. We also provide other Defenders with important resources as well as a list emergency support options for when you, as a human rights advocate, need assistance.”

http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/210315-keep-the-volume-up-for-rights-defenders-in-turkey-website-opens

International Civil Society Week 2019: Keita speaks for the youth

May 3, 2019

This article bwas written in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW). It portrays Liberian youth activist Keita.

Youth activist Abraham M. Keita is the founder of the Liberia-based Giving Hope to Children Foundation. Credit: A D McKenzie/IPS

Abraham M. Keita says he was nine years old when a girl of thirteen was sexually assaulted and strangled in his home community in Liberia. The anger, outrage and sadness he felt would lead him to start advocating for children’s rights – participating in marches, organising protests and going up against the powerful, in a country where sexual abuse of children is among the worst in the world, according to United Nations figures. Keita will turn 20 years old later this month, and he says he has already spent half of his life as an activist for change. “I’ve been marching since I was 10,” he told IPS with a quiet smile. Keita, the 2015 winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize, is also the founder of the Liberia-based Giving Hope to Children Foundation.

Keita is among a growing movement of youth activists who are fighting for the defence of civil liberties and demanding that government act on important issues such as protecting children from violence, ensuring sustainable development, and reducing global warming, according to ICSW organisers.

The youth engagement in ICSW in general is always extremely important to achieve the creation of partnerships among diverse groups and to continue raising awareness of the contributions young people offer to civil society spaces,” said Elisa Novoa, CIVICUS’ youth engagement coordinator. During the event, youth activists sent out a message calling for civil society to “open up the space” to diverse groups. “Civil society should understand the importance of sharing power and enabling inclusion in a meaningful and uplifting manner,” their statement said. “We as young people of diversity acknowledge and recognise the importance of having voices of vulnerability at the forefront of change. We need to redefine how we provide solutions and build togetherness.”

Activists also requested trust from donors, encouraging sponsors to be bold in funding organisations that are truly youth led. For many such groups, a central theme is protecting the vulnerable, a position that Keita has taken. He told IPS that he grew up among vulnerable children, living in poverty in a slum in the Liberian capital Monrovia with his mother and siblings – his father was killed before he was five years old, during Liberia’s brutal and long-lasting civil war. Different sides in the conflict used children as child soldiers and sexually abused many of them, as reports by the UN and other organisations have shown. That legacy continues, with a high number of girls and women being assaulted, while most of the rapists go unpunished. According to Liberian government figures, from January to September 2018, nearly 900 sexual and gender-based cases of violence were reported, including 500 rape cases of which 475 involved children. The statistics provide “alarming evidence that we are still not dealing with this problem in an effective manner”, said Liberia’s President George Weah last October, as quoted in local media.

Keita points out that since many incidents of sexual violence go unreported, the number of children affected is much higher than in official data. Furthermore, cases of sexual violence are not prosecuted quickly enough.

“Hundreds of cases are still in the courts, and the perpetrators are roaming freely,” he said. The problem is rooted in all levels of society and includes civil society as well as government representatives, with individuals responsible for protecting children being charged with sexual abuses.

In 2017, a Liberian lawmaker allegedly raped a 13-year-old girl, making her pregnant. Keita organised protests against the powerful individual and was himself arrested and charged with “criminal coercion”, he said. These charges were eventually dropped. The lawmaker meanwhile appeared in court, spent two days in jail, and since 2017, activists have not been able to locate the girl or her family, Keita told IPS. He and other advocates are still pushing for prosecution of the case, even if that may lead to their own detention, he added.

Arrests and smears are among the official tactics used to suppress youth advocates, similar to those used against human rights defenders in general, said ICSW delegates. Members of the public, too, sometimes think that youth activists are misguided and can tend to dismiss their work.

But as youth around the world join forces, their campaigns for rights and environmental action are becoming a growing force….

Along with their idealism, youth activists are aware of the risks they run. Keita told IPS that he sometimes felt a “little afraid”, and that his mother and family members worry too. “But whatever happens to me, I want to act so things will change, [and] not continue being the same,” he said.

Brunei back to the middle ages – will hotel boycott work?

April 4, 2019

Cruel and inhuman punishments such as death by stoning for same-sex sexual acts and amputation for robbery came into effect in Brunei Darussalam as Amnesty International feared. The proposed changes to Brunei’s penal code to incorporate punishments under a strict interpretation of Islamic law – including death by stoning – should be halted, the UN’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said on Monday 1 April 2019. Now some interesting new celebrity action is on the way:

A boycott of Brunei-owned luxury hotels  was sparked last week in an opinion piece by actor George Clooney, who said a boycott of the high-end hotels — where rooms can start at $600 a night or more — is necessary to keep money from flowing “directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.” It is gaining support from celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John as the country on Wednesday implemented what it called Islamic criminal laws including death by stoning for gay sex.

The nine hotels owned by Brunei are:

  • The Dorchester, London
  • 45 Park Lane, London
  • Coworth Park, UK
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
  • Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
  • Le Meurice, Paris
  • Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
  • Hotel Eden, Rome
  • Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan

..In his opinion piece last week, Clooney noted that he’s stayed at many of the hotels owned by Brunei, a small nation located on the island of Borneo, but said he was unaware of their ownership “because I hadn’t done my homework.” He acknowledged that a boycott is unlikely to change Brunei’s laws, but said consumers must decide whether they want their money to support laws that violate human rights. “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” he wrote. “I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/03/brunei-darussalam-heinous-punishments-to-become-law-next-week/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-47813751/will-george-clooney-s-brunei-boycott-really-work
https://www.20min.ch/ro/news/monde/story/Clooney-appelle-au-boycott-des-h-tels-de-Brunei-25250215
https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/04/04/bruneis-ultra-rich-monarch-adopts-harsh-sharia-punishments?
https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/04/1035831

Emirates (Mansoor) and UK (Hedges): finally someone made the point

December 6, 2018

On 4 December 2018 Jonathan Emmett wrote in a post about something that I had been wondering for weeks: “Are UK authors only prepared to defend the rights of people like themselves?”. Totally correct:

Read the rest of this entry »

Environmental defenders face growing danger – what funders are doing

March 21, 2018

Will the world’s environmental defenders survive another year of violence? In 2017, a staggering 197 people—around four a week—were killed worldwide while defending the environment from “mines, plantations, poachers, and infrastructure projects,” according to the watchdog group, Global Witness. Even international recognition is no guarantee of safety. Two past winners of the Goldman Prize, often called the Nobel of environmentalism, were murdered in a span of months not long ago. [for more on the Goldman prize see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/goldman-environmental-prize]

Some funders are taking steps to stop the carnage. But can their giving keep up with the death toll, which has risen fourfold since 2012? To begin with, funders supporting the front line of environmental leaders are facing a hostile climate. Beatings and bullets aimed at their grantees are only one aspect of this.

The political environment has gotten a lot more toxic for a number of reasons,” said Alejandro Queral, who’s been following these issues for years and has firsthand knowledge of many environmental defenders’ cases…….”influence of the media, which is used to be a powerful tool for shining a light on the issue and shaming governments for their impunity, has been weakened on a global level.” More broadly, Queral said, “it has become increasingly difficult to hold abusive governments and individuals accountable for their actions.”

Similar concerns are reported by those in the funding world. “Not only have recent years seen a dramatic increase in the number of incidents involving environmental human rights defenders, but efforts to silence defenders are increasing,” said Alex Grossman, deputy director of communications at the Global Greengrants Fund.

Greengrants provides funding to strengthen grassroots environmental advocates around the world. Helping grantees deal with security threats is a fast growing part of its work, with grants going “toward bolstering physical security, securing legal assistance, developing safety protocols, purchasing equipment and supplies, relocation, and any other pressing need that may arise,” says Grossman. In the past year, Global Greengrants has given 21 grants totaling over $110,000 toward safety and security issues.

In recent years, though, it’s become harder to channel financial support to groups that need it around the world. 

“Governments are using the fear of terrorism and influence from abroad to put forward legislation that limits funding available and creates burdensome administrative procedures. Over 100 such laws have been enacted in the last five years,” Grossman told Inside Philanthropy. “These restrictions increase the difficulty for human rights defenders to continue their work. As the space for civil society continues to close, more funding is needed to help defenders on the front lines.”

The Global Greengrants Fund gets its funding mainly from individual donors. But it’s also pulled in support from some corporations like Aveda, which makes natural beauty products, and from several foundations, including the Arcus Foundation, which works to protect great apes. Arcus has funded a number of front-line efforts in Africa and Asia to combat poaching, which can be dangerous work. 

……..Protecting environmental defenders is often entwined with support for human rights activists writ large. The Open Society Foundations is a key player in this space, with offices in 37 countries, including areas with ongoing environmental conflicts. Another major outfit that has been entrenched in this space for a while now is the U.K.-based Sigrid Rausing Trust (SRT). Its Human Rights Defenders program supports organizations around the world that are providing security and increased media training to rights activists who are at risk of harassment, detention, torture and death.

Alex Grossman said that the Global Greengrants Fund often works to put environmental defenders in touch with human rights outfits like Urgent Action Fund and Frontline Defenders, which offer rapid response grantmaking and protection services.

But more work is needed to connect environmental and human rights efforts, and funders can play a role, here. 

“I believe the most important thing that grantmakers can do is be a catalyst for deep collaboration,” Queral said. “The Goldman Environmental Foundation funded the Sierra Club and Amnesty International to speak with one voice on behalf of activists. The knowledge, credibility and ability to move volunteers to action of these organizations raised the profile of many cases around the world.”

Queral said that such campaigns had, in some cases, led to successes, like the release from prison of environmental leader Aleksandr Nikitin, and the similar liberation of Rodolfo Montiel, who fought against widespread illegal deforestation in Mexico.

Against the backdrop of 2017’s death toll, it’s hard to imagine 2018 will be a year of safety for environmental defenders. But it could be a year in which their security becomes better supported. 

https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/3/20/environmental-defenders-grants-security

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

Amnesty UK’s Suffragette Spirit campaign deserve replicating in other countries

February 7, 2018

In then clip above Juliet Stevenson (one of many) makes her nomination for A’ UK’s Suffragette Spirit campaign. People who know women human rights defenders today in the UK. can nominate. Visit https://www.amnesty.org.uk/suffragett…

 

Black Lives Matter awarded 2017 Sydney Peace Prize and spotlights Australia’s racial issues

October 31, 2017

This seems to be the year that human rights awards go broad groups of people. After the Ebert Prize to the  South Korean people [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/korean-people-win-friedrich-ebert-human-rights-award-for-candlelight-rallies/] and the EP’s Sakharov award to the Venezuelan opposition [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/27/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-awarded-to-venezuela-opposition/], the Sydney Peace Prize 2017 has gone to the Black Lives Matter Global Network. This is the first time that a movement and not a person has been awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. Three of the founders will receive the award on 2 November. For more on the award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sydney-peace-prize

On 30 October, Trevor Marshallsea of AP reported from Sydney that this award has put also the spotlights Australia’s racial issues:

The Associated Press – in this 26 January, 2017 file photo Aboriginal activists carry a banner during an Australia Day protest in Adelaide, Australia. The awarding of the Sydney Peace Prize to Black Lives Matter for its work on American race issues is being hailed but Australian activists say such issues need to be addressed at home as well. (Tim Dornin/AAP Image via AP)

Patrisse Cullors, one of the group’s co-founders, welcomed the award “in solidarity with the organizations and organizers of Australia who had and still have faced oppression.” The social media hashtag with which it shares its name began after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2013. It gained traction when a police officer fatally shot another unarmed black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri the following year, sparking protests.

http://sydneypeacefoundation.org.au/peace-prize-recipients/black-lives-matter/

Black Lives Matter award spotlights Australia racial issues – ABC News

Many birthday parties for jailed human rights defender in Turkey

October 12, 2017

human rights defenders in Turkey, still in jail after 100 days

Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, were arrested on 5 July. İdil’s 54th birthday is on 14 October, which she will spend imprisoned on baseless and trumped-up charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/12/turkey-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-further-extended/] (Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges.)

After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. .. The activists are accused of assisting a variety of “armed terrorist organisations” with diametrically opposing ideologies. They face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities – such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers – were carried out on behalf of terrorist organizations. Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organisation.

To mark İdil’s 54th birthday, Amnesty International will hold more than 200 parties and actions globally, starting with a public, pop-up, Turkish-themed birthday party on 13 October in Auckland. Elsewhere around the world there will be a birthday party in the European Parliament and a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. The parties will feature full-size paper cutouts of Idil to highlight her absence, along with Turkish food, music, decorations and more.

I am ready to pay the price for my choice to work on human rights and I am not scared. My time in jail has made me even more committed to standing up for my values. I will not compromise them.” Idil Eser (8/19/17).