Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

Celebrities come out to support Taner Kılıç, Amnesty Turkey’s chair, on trial today

November 22, 2017

Taner Kılıç, Amnesty Turkey’s Chair, has been behind bars for nearly six months
As the trial of ‘Istanbul 10’ and the Chair of Amnesty Turkey resumes today 22 November 2017, more than 70 persons signed an open letter calling for the case against the 11 human rights activists to be dropped. As quite a few celebrities make missteps in the human rights area [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/ ], it is heartening to see names such as Ai Weiwei, Edward Snowden, Anish Kapoor, Catherine Deneuve, Angélique Kidjo, Indira Varma, Tim Farron, Bianca Jagger, Canon Mark Oakley, Hilary Benn, Juliet Stevenson, and Sting among the signatories.In the AI UK letter (see full text and list of signatories below), the group say they’re “proud” to add their voices to “the global demand to end this gross injustice”.

[Amnesty’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested on 6 June, jail three days later and remains in detention. Meanwhile, ten other activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were detained a month later. Seven of them were remanded in Turkey’s high-security Silivri Prison for almost four months, with one remanded in Ankara’s Sincan Prison. The eight were held for almost four months and released last month at their first hearing. They are all accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”.] See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/12/many-birthday-parties-for-jailed-human-rights-defender-in-turkey/ 

OPEN LETTER AHEAD OF TRIAL OF TANER KILIC AND ISTANBUL 10

On Wednesday the trial of 11 human rights defenders including including Taner Kılıç, and İdil Eser the chair and director of Amnesty International Turkey, will resume in Istanbul. 

The 11 face outlandish “terrorism” charges in what can only be described as a politically-motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within the country. If convicted they could face jail terms of up to 15 years. This sends a chilling message not just to people in Turkey but around the world. 

With many people unfairly imprisoned as part of the crackdown following the bloody coup attempt in Turkey – including journalists, lawyers and civil society leaders – some may ask: why focus on these 11 people? The answer is simple: when human rights defenders are silenced, all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones that stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them.

We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail.

The Turkish authorities must know that the eyes of the world will be on Istanbul’s central court for this trial. We will not stay silent. Defending human rights is not a crime. 

Signed:

Edward Snowden, human rights activist
Catherine Deneuve, actor 
Ai Weiwei, artist
Angélique Kidjo, musician
Anish Kapoor, artist
Peter Gabriel, musician
Francois Morel, actor 
Elif Shafak, author
Bianca Jagger, human rights activist
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Indira Varma, actor 
Mogens Lykketoft MP, ex-President of the UN General Assembly
Nacho Sanchez Amor, OSCE Human Rights Committee Chair
Mirosław Wyrzykowski, Constitutional judge, Poland
Dr. Shashi Tharoor MP (former UN Under-Secretary General)
Ryan Gage, actor
Pasha Bocarie, actor 
Nazanin Boniadi, actor 
HK, musician
Sting, musician
Anti-Flag, musicians
C 215, artist 
Lucas Belvaux, film maker 
Laurent Gaudé, writer 
El Moustach/Hicham Gaoua, artist  
Said Salhi, Vice president of LADDH (Algeria)
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General
Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Claude Rolin MP (Belgium)
Tanita Tikaram, musician
Mohamed Fahmy, journalist
Peter Greste, journalist
Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral
Peter Tatchell, human rights defender
Natacha Régnier, actor  
Franck Pavloff, writer 
Emily Loizeau, musician 
Romain Goupil, film director 
Nicolas Lambert, comedian 
Clotilde Courau, comedian 
David Lammy MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Stephen McCabe MP
Tom Brake MP
Catherine West MP
Carol Monaghan MP
Joan Ryan MP
Christopher Stephens MP
Clive Lewis MP
Jo Stevens MP
Kerry McCarthy MP
Richard Burden MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Jim Cunningham MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Eleanor Smith MP
Wes Streeting MP
Stephen Doughty MP
Daniel Zeichner MP
Stephen Kinnock MP
Geraint Davies MP
Marie Rimmer MP
Grahame Morris MP
Antoinette Sandbach MP
Madeleine Moon MP
Tonia Antoniazzi MP
Preet Gill MP
Phillipa Whitford MP
Sarah Wollaston MP
Gareth Thomas MP
Emma Dent Coad MP
Hilary Benn MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
Olivier Py, France 
Paul Rondin, France
Monika Płatek, President of the Polish Association for Legal Education
Adam Bodnar, former board of United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture
Mikołaj Pietrzak, former Chair of the Human Rights Council of the Polish Bar Council
Krzysztof Śmiszek, co-founder of Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/ai-weiwei-catherine-deneuve-bianca-jagger-and-peter-greste-among-those-calling-end

Helen Hunt joins list of celebrities that show insensitivity on human rights

November 10, 2017

Celebrity support for human rights can do much good but there are still too many who simply do not study the issue before accepting. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/]. Two days ago Brian Rohan of Associated Press, reported that actress Helen Hunt just added her name to the list of ignoramuses (“Egyptian activists pan US actress Helen Hunt in open letter”  – 7 November, 2017).

5  November 2017: image taken from video, showing actress Helen Hunt speaking during a government-organized youth conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP Photo /CAPITAL BROADCAST CENTER)
Egyptian activists condemned American actress Helen Hunt on Tuesday for her participation in a government-organized youth conference they say is whitewashing authorities’ appalling human rights record and suppression of free speech. The open letter by Mona Seif and other well-known human rights advocates gained nearly 300 signatures by Tuesday afternoon. They included Mohamed Zaree, who last month won the Martin Ennals Award, and Aida Seif el-Dawla, whose Nadeem Center treats victims of torture and trauma and was shuttered by the government earlier this year.

The letter follows a flurry of online criticism against this week’s “World Youth Forum,” hosted under the patronage of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, 62, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Hunt, 54, was a keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. The event’s official Twitter hashtag #WeNeedToTalk has become a battleground for opposing viewpoints, with critics overwhelming the thread with images of Egyptian police beating and chasing down youths during el-Sissi’s rule alongside portraits of young jailed activists.

This isn’t just any forum that you chose to endorse,” the letter to Hunt read. “This is a youth forum with the slogan ‘We Need To Talk’ called for by a dictator who cannot stand any form of opposition or real criticism. He jails journalists for doing their jobs, youth for expressing their opinions, writers for writing fiction that violates ‘public morality,’ gays for coming out, supporters of LGBTQ for daring to support diversity, and he has blocked more than 400 different websites and media platforms.

Human rights defenders and their organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented enforced disappearances, widespread torture and a recent arrest campaign targeting people authorities believe are gay. The authorities have blocked hundreds of independent news and critical websites.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/]

The forum, which lasts until Nov. 10, has been broadcast nearly all day long on state and private television since its opening ceremony Sunday night. It has been widely promoted with slick television ads in Egypt, where several major Western PR firms advise and work for the government. A giant billboard hovers over Cairo’s Tahrir Square, epicenter of the youth-led 2011 uprising.

Hunt, an Academy Award-winning actress who now directs films, delivered a speech Sunday in which she criticized the U.S. justice system for its high incarceration rates and voiced support for the online anti-sexual harassment movement #MeToo. That, however, did not deflect criticism from Seif and other Egyptian feminists. “Unbelievable Hypocrisy! @Helenhunt speaks of “Women Rights” in a PR circus for a general who justified forced virginity tests,” Seif tweeted, referring to the military’s “virginity tests” conducted on a group of women protesters detained in 2011. El-Sissi, who was the chief of military intelligence at the time, was quoted then as saying the tests were necessary to head off possible allegations that the women were sexually assaulted by soldiers.

Others accused Hunt, the most famous Western celebrity at the event, of selling out to el-Sissi, pointing out a string of websites that advertise her as a for-hire speaker with fees between $50,000 to $1 million. Hunt did not respond to a social media request to discuss her efforts in Egypt.

http://ktul.com/news/entertainment/egyptian-activists-pan-us-actress-helen-hunt-in-open-letter

https://egyptianstreets.com/2017/11/08/egyptian-rights-activists-slam-us-actress-helen-hunt-in-open-letter/

Merry Christmas in Angola: Nicki Minaj performs but not for human rights defenders

December 18, 2015

  Nicki minaj algora.

Nicki Minaj and Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Images by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images and Alexander Joe/Getty Images.

The Human Rights Foundation (through  and ) is asking whether Nicki Minaj will “take the high road or a blood diamond paycheck“?  On Saturday afternoon the American rapper Nicki Minaj will bring her award-winning talent to the Angolan capital of Luanda. It isn’t a world tour stop, but a special engagement at a “Christmas Festival” sponsored by Unitel, a telecommunications company controlled by Angola’s dictatorship.

[Two years ago, Mariah Carey was paid $1 million to perform in Angola at another one of the regime’s holiday parties. Since she had promised to never perform for dictators again after singing for Libya’s Qaddafi family, the public wasn’t forgiving the second time around. The result was a global PR scandal that led Carey to sever ties with Jermaine Dupri, the manager who arranged the visit. – https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].

The situation of human rights defenders in Angola is most precarious:

15 pro-democracy activists were detained in June 2015 and their trial started only after almost five months of arbitrary detention. The persons on trial include rapper (!) Henrique Luaty Beirão (a.k.a. Brigadeiro Mata-Frakuxz), Manuel Nito Alves, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Nelson Dibango Mendes Dos Santos, Alfonso Jojo Matias (a.k.a. Mbanza Hamza), Sedrick de Carvalho, Fernando António Tómas (a.k.a. Nicola Radical), Hitler Chiconda (a.k.a. Samussuku), Italiano Arante Kivuvu, Benedito Dali (a.k.a. Dito Dali), Albano Bingobingo (a.k.a. Albano Liberdade), José Gomes Hata (a.k.a. Cheik Hata), Inocénio De Brito (a.k.a. Drux), Domingos da Cruz as well as of Osvaldo Caholo. (Ms. Rosa Kusso Conde and Ms. Laurinda Manuel Gouveia are also facing the same charges, but are not detained. [The Angola 15 are youth activists arrested in June 2015 for discussing democratic reforms and peaceful protest. Most of them are known pro-democracy activists, who have been organizing peaceful protests often repressed by the authorities against the 35-year-regime of Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos since 2011. On September 16, 2015, they were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “plotting against the President and other institutions”, both of which constitute crimes against the security of the Angolan State. Several experts and international institutions have called for their release, including the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.]

On 15 December 2015 the Luanda Provincial Tribunal approved the request of the Public Prosecutor to place the pro-democracy activists detained since June 2015 under house arrest as of December 18. According to a public statement made by the General Attorney, this decision precedes the entry into force on December 18, 2015, of a new legislation on preventive measures adopted in September 2015, aimed at reducing prison overcrowding and excessive pre-trial detentions – and thus not the result of international pressure!. “The decision to place the Angola 15 under house arrest is a positive step towards the recognition of their rights. The Angolan authorities must now end all forms of judicial harassment against the activists and put an end to their ordeal by immediately and unconditionally releasing them”, FIDH President Karim Lahidji said

On 18 June 2015 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemned the sentencing of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais to a six month suspended jail term, despite an out of court settlement previously announced. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/rafael-marques-de-morais/]

Interesting is also to note here how two quasi-NGOs (in the NGO world, called GONGOs – Governmental Non-Governmental Organizations –  masquerading as protectors of the rights of the people while working as the mouthpiece for the government) tried to block a resolution by the NGO forum surrounding the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2015.

Front Line Defenders also has followed the case of the Angola 15 and other human rights defenders in detail: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/search/node/angola 

Sources:

Nicki Minaj shouldn’t perform for Angolan dictator Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/angola/2015/12/d23533/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/angola-the-angola-15-must-be-released-and-their-right-to-a-fair-trial

http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/16/angola-human-rights-trial/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201511051396.html

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/angola/angola-rafael-marques-de-morais-sentenced-to-a-six-month-suspended

UNHCR launches 2015 World Refugee Day with celebrity support

June 17, 2015

For World Refugee Day 2015 (20 June) the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] has released several films featuring celebrity supporters that tell the human side of the refugee plight. This years’ campaign aims to bring the public closer to the story, showing refugees as ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances. World Refugee Day 2015 is marked against a backdrop of multiple conflicts, growing numbers of forcibly displaced people and a rising tide of intolerance and xenophobia in many parts of the world.

The films feature UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and best-selling author, Khaled Hosseini, photographer and supermodel Helena Christensen, singer/songwriter Maher Zain and actor Jung Woo-Sung . The films were recorded during recent field visits. Each supporter introduces an individual refugee and their story. These films and other refugee stories can be found on UNHCR’s Campaign website: www.refugeeday.org.

UNHCR offices in some 120 countries are planning various events including the film première of Salam Neighbor in Washington D.C.

 

The site www.refugeeday.org features stories from refugees who describe in their own words their own passions and interests; cooking, music, poetry, or sports. Through their testimonials UNHCR aims to show that these are ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

via UNHCR – UNHCR launches its 2015 World Refugee Day Campaign.

George Clooney speaks out on sexual violence in Darfur

February 26, 2015

Getty Images

Whatever your opinion of George Clooney as an actor, there is no doubt that he is one of the most willing to use his celebrity for human rights causes. The latest example is his Op-Ed piece in the The New York Times, entitled, “George Clooney on Sudan’s Rape of Darfur” (together with John Prendergast and Akshaya Kumar, published on 25 February 2015)  .

Because Sudan’s government routinely blocks journalists from going into the Darfur region and severely restricts access for humanitarian workers, any window into life there is limited,” Clooney says. “The government has hammered the joint peacekeeping mission of the United Nations and African Union into silence about human rights concerns by shutting down the United Nations human rights office in the capital, Khartoum, hampering investigators of alleged human rights abuses and pressuring the peacekeeping force to withdraw.

The 53-year-old actor then explains the evidence that has been received from citizen journalists and local human rights defenders with that videos have been smuggled out.

Read the complete piece here.

Tony Blair’s Children’s Award in contrast with his PR work for a dictator

November 27, 2014

This blog has always had keen interest in awards and in celebrities abusing their reputation. The current row over Tony Blair receiving an award from Save the Children USA as described by Katie Nguyen of Reuters on 26 November 2014 is exactly at the crossroads of these two interest.

Quartet Representative to the Middle East and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attends the International donors conference on financing the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in Cairo October 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files
(former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at International donors conference on October 12, 2014. 
CREDIT: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/FILES)
Save the Children’s U.S.A chapter gave its annual Global Legacy Award to former British prime minister Tony Blair last week. It stated that it was to recognise Blair’s role in persuading the G8 to agree to debt relief of $40 billion for the poorest nations. Staff working for the charity were furious about the award, the Guardian newspaper reported and more than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Save the Children revoke the award.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sean Penn uses star power for good in Dublin

March 7, 2014

Sean Penn is in Dublin today, 7 March, to hand out a human rights award. The winner of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award was chosen from 110 nominations from 51 countries. Members of the Irish and European Parliaments, representatives of Front Line Defenders and Al Jazeera Media Network made up the judging panel. Jim Loughran, of Front Line Defenders said: “Sean Penn’s support is hugely important in terms of driving publicity…As one human rights defender said to us recently, if you are visible, you have rights. If you are invisible, you are a victim.” He presented the award to a Pakistani woman rights defender, Noorzia Afridi, who founded the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA) along with her sister Fareeda “Kokikhel”, who was shot dead on her way to work in 2012.

Penn in Dublin to give human rights award | Irish Examiner.

It shows that star power can be used for good and I should have listed Penn in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/

And the Nominees Are……Oscars for Human-Rights !!

February 28, 2014

Regular readers of this blog know that I like the idea of holding  celebrities accountable (most recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/).   The reason is that there is a mutually reinforcing (and for many profitable) interaction between the stars and the media (which in turn feed on the interest of the public). Celebrities’ views on all kind of issues – including human rights –  can hardly be called private. Their social media are virtual industries and influence millions globally. So it seems a good idea to have an annual look at which celebrities have advanced and which have harmed the cause of human rights around the world. Halvorssen and Leigh Hancock ( of the Human Rights Foundation) have done exactly that in the Atlantic on 27 February 2004 and linked it to the upcoming Oscars night on Sunday. 

(Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

The list of celebrities deserving recognition for their accomplishments in the field of human rights or those who should be ashamed for supporting human-rights violators, is long and contains many video links. Like the real Oscars, the list is slanted in terms of geopolitical interest and I think that if all major international human rights organisations would get together to agree on a list if would be more balanced, but that is probably wishful thinking. Still, the Human Rights Foundation deserves credit for this creative initiative. and here is the summary:

The Nominees for Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights Read the rest of this entry »

Star power and human rights: a difficult but doable mix

February 10, 2014

RED-FACED. Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader of 'one of the world's most repressive regimes,' according to Human Rights Watch. Photo by Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin

 (Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader Turkmenistan. (c) Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin)

In quite a few earlier posts in this blog I have drawn attention to stars and celebrities who either support dictators or simply do not care that their actions do. So, I was quite happy to see a thoughtful piece by Jo Biddle of Agence France-Presse on 9 February 2014 analyzing this issue a bit more in-depth, with actress Scarlett Johansson as the “poster girl of Israeli apartheid”, Dennis Rodman in North Korea, and Kim Kardashian expressing her love of Bahrain. I would add, Mariah Carey who thinks nothing of singing for Gaddafi or the Angolan President, while Jennifer Lopez (picture above) did the same in Turkmenistan.

The author rightly states that when celebrities wander into complex foreign policy issues, it can be a minefield, leaving diplomats and human rights campaigners scrambling for damage control. The article mentions exceptions such as Bob Geldof, Bono, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie Read the rest of this entry »

Grammy-winning Esperanza Spalding performs on-line against Guantanamo tomorrow

January 28, 2014

Grammy award-winning Esperanza Spalding and Human Rights First bring a LIVE online broadcast of Spotlight on Guantanamo, a night of performance and discussion from Washington, DC’s historic Lincoln Theatre. In November 2013, Esperanza Spalding launched her new music video titled ”We Are America” to urge Congress to close Guantanamo responsibly. You can watch the live stream via the link below starting at 19h00 (Washington DC time) on Wednesday 29 January.

via Spotlight on Guantanamo: An Evening with Esperanza Spalding [Live Stream] | Human Rights First.