Posts Tagged ‘exile’

About the Chilean American Poet and human rights defender, Marjorie Agosin

November 9, 2020

Jackie Abramian, contributor of ForbesWomen of 5 November 2020, gives a voice to Chilean-American poet, novelist, and human rights activist Marjorie Agosin. The piece is too rich to summarize, so here it is in full:

Chilean American Poet, Marjorie Agosin
Chilean American Poet, Marjorie Agosin. John Wiggins

Like a beam of light piercing through the darkest tunnels of human destitute, Chilean-American poet, novelist, and human rights activist, Marjorie Agosin unveils the misery of the marginalized, weaving Latin America’s brutal history with her own Jewish traditions of survival and endurance. Memory and remembrance surface and resurface as a constant in Agosin’s writing. She ­flirts with her ancestral ghosts to unveil universal pain, desperation of loss and exile, and a yearning to belong.

Braided Memories - Marjorie agosin
In Braided Memories (Solis Press, 2020), Marjorie Agosin awakens her great-grandmother, Helena … [+] Marjorie Agosin

Her most recent poetry collection, Braided Memories (Solis Press, 2020), with photographer Samuel Shats, awakens her great-grandmother, Helena Broder’s memory, and escape from Vienna for Chile after the 1938 “Night of Broken Glass.” Agosin journeys to Prague and Vienna to shed light on her ancestors–finding their Stolperstein–stumbling stones of brass plate inscriptions of Holocaust victims’ name and life dates, set before their homes. Her great grand cousins’ spirits fly over Vienna “like a Chagall dream.” In Helena’s imprisoned “silent gaze” she imagines her train ride from Vienna with strangers “familiar in the knowledge of certain escape.” We learn how Helena taught Agosin to “leave glasses of wine before the vacant places” of the dead, how she “acquired the blessing of forgetfulness” and left to “roam on the other side of imaginary spaces.” Agosin, grateful for the remembering gift, becomes Helena’s “tranquil memory.

“The hand that writes knows before the actual writing foreshadows. I hear a voice, a spirit that comes to me—call it intuition or God. You either suppress it or follow it for the magic of discovery,” speaking in her gentle Chilean accent, Agosin is alone with her creative thoughts in spaces that make poetry happen. “Poetry is the soul of life, the language of sentiments. Poetry is not in a hurry—the world is in a hurry and that’s why we fail to see the most important problems of our civilization.”

As a human rights activist, Agosin’s 84 works of poetry, fiction, and literary criticisms have earned her the Pura Belpré Award, Letras de Oro Prize, Latino Literature Prize, Jeannette Rankin Award in Human Rights, U.N. Leadership Award for Human Rights, the Gabriela Mistral Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Chilean government, and the Fritz Redlich Human Rights Award by the Harvard Program on Refuge and Trauma. She holds a BA from the University of Georgia, an MA and a Ph.D. from Indiana University–and has been a Professor in Latin American studies and Spanish at Wellesley College for over 30 years.

Born in the U.S., Agosin spent her childhood in Chile before the rumbles of a U.S.-backed coup sent her family fleeing the país de poetas (land of poets) to settle in the U.S. The coup overthrew the democratically elected socialist leader, Salvador Allende and on September 11, 1973 brought Augusto Pinochet to power. During the 17-year rule, Pinochet imprisoned, tortured and killed some 130,000 Chileans–and thousands “disappeared.”

Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love - Marjorie Agosin
Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love (U. of New Mexico Press, 1996) is Agosin’s landmark work with a … [+] Marjorie Agosin

Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love (U. of New Mexico Press, 1996) is Agosin’s landmark work with a foreword by Isabel Allende. It spans 30-years of interviews with members of Latin America’s most influential women’s resistance the Arpilleras (burlapin Spanish) movement. The tapestries of embroidered cloth scraps made by impoverished women memorialize the “disappeared” loved ones under Pinochet’s rule. Agosin worked with the initial group of 12 women and brought their stories to the world. They were part of the anti-Pinochet art workshops, funded by Vicarâia de Solidaridad human rights organization of the Chilean Catholic Church. The embroideries, smuggled and sold abroad, provided income for the destitute women. {see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/22/arpilleras-making-a-come-back-as-blankets-that-protect/]

“As a woman and a mother, this is the most important work I’ve done–it changed my life,” Agosin was 24 when she first saw an Arpillera shown by the Chilean National Literature Prize-winning writer, Antonio Skármeta–whose book Ardiente paciencia inspired Academy Award-winning movie on Neruda, “IL Postino”.

Arpillera
Arpillera, means burlap in Spanish, a patchwork picture made by the women, became popular in Chile … [+] Marjorie Agosin

Like poetry, women’s distinct resistance movement reaches the core of what it means to be human, Agosin believes. The tapestries reveal an innate grief, immortalize memory, unfulfilled yearning to reunite with loved ones, and the trauma of lifelong scars.

In her most favorite poem The Most Unbelievable Part, Agosin explores how power corrupts and turns ordinary people into torturers. How in 1973 Pinochet designated La Esmeralda, the 1400 feet-long Chilean navy training vessel, into a detention and torture center for the “disappeared.”..

“Poetry is the intimacy of memory–it transcends history. The poem wrote the story of the tortures on La Esmeralda, not the other way around,” explains Agosin. “Torture is a metaphor for how power works—how a woman of privilege treats her maid.”

Considering Chile her home that gave her “a beautiful language” (she still writes in Spanish), and refuge to her family when they came on ships from war-torn Europe, Agosin’s exilic yearning of the familiar stranger expresses the constant pangs of un-belonging. In her Pura Belpré Award–winning young adult novel, I Lived on Butterfly Hill (Atheneum Books 2014)

Kids Post Summer Book Club Selections
WASHINGTON DC – JUNE 01: I Lived on Butterfly Hill by author Marjorie Agosin is one of the Kids … [+] The Washington Post via Getty Images

and its sequel, The Maps of Memory: Return to Butterfly Hill (Atheneum Books2020), Agosin recreates her happy childhood in Chile through the 11-year-old Celeste Marconi’s life. Her peaceful life, extended family, deep ties with the sea and the pelicans of the hill-town of Valparaiso unravel with the political shift to dictatorship. Celeste goes into exile to Maine and returns years later to find her country scarred by the brutality of dictatorship, and is determined to find her displaced classmates, re-build and heal her town and country. Like Celeste, Agosin is not totally at home in Chile.

“I’m home in books, poems, writings, friendships, history, travels–in places where Jews lived, and among trees and nature–human beings are not exiled from the beauty of the world,” Agosin immerses herself in her seacoast Maine home–which reminds her of Chile– surrounded by her garden dotted with quaint alcoves that invite the visitor to stop, rest, and embrace nature. “I’m at home in sacred places, from mosques to churches to synagogues.”

In A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile (Feminist Press, 1997)and Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of My Chilean Jewish Father (Feminist Press, 2000)Agosin meets her parents at history’s crossroads. Her father, as an infant with chickenpox, was hidden, crossed the ocean and was named Moisés. He became a medical doctor in Chile and later emigrated to the U.S., becoming a foreigner once again. Her blond, blue-eyed mother could only attend an impoverished rural school–not a Catholic school because she wasn’t baptized, nor the German school run by the Nazis.

“My mother’s story explains what’s it like to be a minority in south of Chile when the Nazi’s arrived–how Chile denied and marginalized its minorities and its indigenous people,” Agosin wonders why vast majority of Chile’s Jewish community stood in silence against Pinochet’s atrocities as she explores human rights abuses from Latin America to the unfair partition of Israel which offered a refuge for the Jewish people displaced by the Holocaust–and in process displaced the Palestinians. 

“Unfortunately Israel continues to suppress the Palestinian people that deserve the right of self-determination. To continue with the occupation of their lands violates the spirit of Israel as a vibrant democracy. Only a two state solution will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and with the dignity each one deserves,” Agosin states.

Agosin is inspired by her “amazing group of politically engaged” students at Wellesley College whose worldview, commitment to academic learning, open expression, and internships across the world to engage with the vulnerable reflects in their “gratitude for the possibility of learning as they face economic and emotional challenges amidst a pandemic.” Her immense empathy and loyalty to amplify all injustices reveals an undeniable allegiance to the spiritual and universal values of preserving memory.

“Memory is the active cause. Memory will not remember itself, like the Stolperstein tiles. Memory is a process, a constant commitment; without it we won’t remember the future. Memory is the future of the past,” Agosin confirms.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackieabramian/2020/11/05/chilean-american-poet-marjorie-agosin-unpacks-remembrance-giving-the-future-a-past/?sh=5b80f5fb12f4

Podcast series “Exile Shall Not Silence Us” now complete

August 10, 2020

AfricanDefenders‘ podcast series, “Exile Shall Not Silence Us”, is now complete and fully available for you to listen to. “Exile Shall Not Silence Us” (which I announced on 22 June 2020: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/22/exile-shall-not-silence-us/) is a podcast series on the situation of African human rights defenders (HRDs) in exile. The podcast is based on a research that collected the testimonies of more than 120 HRDs and in-depth case studies, and it features interviews with four exiled HRDs. It  highlights the professional, security, socio-economic, and psychosocial challenges of HRDs in exile in Africa, but most of all their achievements and resilience strategies.

Episode#1 gives an overview of the main findings of the research on the situation of African HRDs in exile, with key issues and current trends.

Episode #2 features an anonymous interview with a young woman HRD from Zimbabwe in exile in South Africa. She not only sheds light on the challenges faced by HRDs in and outside Zimbabwe, but also on the complex and painful relationship between exile and motherhood.

Episode#3 explores the challenges HRDs face after returning from exile through an interview with  a formerly exiled Gambian journalist.

Episode #4 explores the challenges and contradictions of internal displacement, as well as the multiple layers of vulnerability faced by HRDs in conflict-ridden areas through an anonymous interview with a Cameroonian woman HRD.

Episode#5 zooms in on Egypt where we speak to an Egyptian HRD in exile in Tunis who tells us about his experience, his hopes, and what he has been learning from Tunisian civil society.

Listen to all the episodes here› <https://app.getresponse.com/click.html?x=a62b&lc=B5QJao&mc=IN&s=9JQZDZ&u=Bl16k&z=Eh2xCOx&>

EXILE SHALL NOT SILENCE US!

 

EXILE SHALL NOT SILENCE US!

June 22, 2020

On 19 June, 2020 AfricanDefenders launched a podcast series on African human rights defenders in exile  

“If you have to leave, leave. But refuse to keep quiet. Silencing you is what all oppressive regimes want. Don’t stop defending others because you are outside your country. Defending others is defending ourselves.”  Interview with an African HRD in exile  

Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Africa face grave risks in conducting their invaluable work of promoting the rights of others, protecting the environment, and holding the powerful to account. All too often, they are forced to leave their homes to seek protection, after threats, surveillance, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, torture, and targeting of colleagues and family members.

Exile impacts every aspect of a person’s life, and no experience of exile is the same. Exiled HRDs face serious challenges in their human rights work, such as losing legitimacy in the eyes of their government and their communities, collecting information remotely in a safe manner, and accessing funding. Many exiled HRDs also continue to face security concerns, worry about the safety of colleagues and family members in their country of origin, and struggle with socio-economic integration in their host country. Exile can also take a toll on their wellbeing and family dynamics.

Yet, the majority of exiled HRDs continue their human rights work, disseminating the information received by monitors on the ground through regional and international advocacy and campaigning, mobilising diaspora communities, and at times (re-)establishing organisations in exile. If authoritarian governments, corrupt leaders, and violent militia groups aimed to silence HRDs by forcing them into exile, their strategy has largely failed.

Based on research that collected the testimonies of more than 120 HRDs, in-depth case studies, and live interviews with four exiled HRDs, Exile Shall Not Silence Us is a podcast series that highlights the professional, security, socio-economic, and psychosocial challenges of HRDs in exile in Africa, but most of all their achievements and resilience strategies.

In episode 1, Cristina Orsini, Senior Programme Officer at AfricanDefenders, gives an overview of the main findings of the research on the situation of African HRDs in exile. Listen to Episode 1

IDREAM Project: Training support to displaced or exiled Human Rights Defenders

February 8, 2020

Call for Applications: IDREAM Project.

The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) has launched a Call for Applications for a new human rights training and mentoring project, the “Incubator for Defenders Remaining in Exile to Advance Movements.”

This application package includes detailed 3 documents – applicants should complete their application online. :

(1) Call for Applications: IDREAM Project

(2) Guidelines

(3) Instructions for Applicants

The IDREAM Project provides support to displaced or exiled Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and their organizations in three technical areas, which are described in the documentation.  IDREAM seeks to enable displaced or exiled HRDs and civil society organizations to continue their work advocating for fundamental freedoms despite forced relocation due to threats or attacks they have experienced as a result of conducting their human rights work. HRDs who are selected to join the IDREAM project (“partner HRDs”) will benefit from participation in a range of capacity building and mentoring activities and exercises.

https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5421839/IDREAM-APPLICATION

Vietnamese blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released

October 18, 2018
Quynh, one of Vietnam's most prominent dissidents, was serving a 10-year-sentence for anti-state propaganda [AP]
Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents, was serving a 10-year-sentence for anti-state propaganda [AP]

Vietnam has released dissident blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom“. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/06/the-kind-of-blogging-that-got-mother-mushroom-10-years-imprisonment-in-vietnam/]. Quynh, 39, was freed from jail and put on a plane to the United States where her mother and children live. She boarded a flight to Houston around noon Wednesday 17 October 2018, said Martin Gemzell, Asia program director for Civil Rights Defenders, a group based in Sweden.

Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists, whose recognisable pen name “Me Nam” comes from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom”, was jailed in June 2017.  She is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s one-party state and gained notoriety with her writing about the environment, politics and deaths in police custody. Quynh came to prominence when she received the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award in 2015 and also the (USA) International Woman of Courage Award in 2017.

The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize government policies,” former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in 2016.

While the Vietnamese authorities have not given a reason for the release of Quynh, it coincided with a visit to Vietnam by US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.  Quynh is the second Vietnamese dissident released this year. A prominent human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, was released from prison in June and went to Germany.

[See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/]

https://www.wral.com/mother-mushroom-vietnamese-activist-is-said-to-be-released/17922631/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/dissident-vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-released-181017100207668.html

Maldives’ Mohamed Nasheed: from human rights defender to president to exile

June 26, 2017

On 23 Jun 2017 the Human Rights Foundation published the above video from its May Oslo Freedom Forum. Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed was first arrested for founding an underground newspaper when he was just 17 years old. This, however, wasn’t the last time the former president would be punished for his activism. Describing his journey from democracy dissident to president of the Maldives to ousted leader championing human rights in exile, President Nasheed shares how he perseveres despite the many challenges he has faced. Although the fight for freedom is difficult, he tells us not to give up – because that’s exactly what the dictators want you to do: “Giving up is exactly what the dictators want you to do. It’s why they jail, beat, and torture. It’s why they fine newspapers and murder people who speak out. We can only beat them by not giving in.”
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/amal-clooney-speaks-about-the-maldives-at-ai-side-event/
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maldives/

Interpol headed by Chinese police official, human rights defenders fearsome

April 20, 2017
meng-hongwei.jpg
Meng Hongwei takes charge of Interpol

‘Old’ but underreported news is that Meng Hongwei – a top Chinese police official – has been elected president of Interpol, which worries some human rights NGOs. The Independent had an article on 10 November 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a four-year campaign against corruption, which includes a push to return former officials and other suspects who fled abroad. China filed a list of 100 of its most-wanted suspects with Interpol in April 2014, about one third of which have since been repatriated. The country’s police and judicial systems have been routinely criticised for abuses, including eliciting confessions under torture and the disappearance and detention without charges of political dissidents and their family members.  Many Western nations have been reluctant to sign extradition treaties with China or return suspects wanted for non-violent crimes.

Given those circumstances, Mr Meng’s election is an “alarming prospect“, said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While we think it’s important to fight corruption, the campaign has been politicised and undermines judicial independence,” Ms Wang added. Mr Meng’s election “will probably embolden and encourage abuses in the system,” she said, citing recent reports of close Chinese ally Russia’s use of Interpol to attack President Vladimir Putin’s political opponents.

This is extraordinarily worrying given China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad,” Nicholas Bequelin, east Asia director at Amnesty International wrote on Twitter.

Recently, 5 April 2017, Wei Jingsheng, a well-known human rights defender in exile, said while visiting Lyon (the HQ of Interpol) that the election of Meng Hongwei as chief of the global police organisation could give Beijing new leverage over its critics. “The Chinese government’s message to all political opponents like me or party officials who have fled the country is: ‘Wherever you are, the international police work with us and we will find you’,” “That’s frightening,” he said, adding that Meng “is still vice-minister of public security in China. He has led the secret police.”

While Interpol’s charter officially bars it from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” critics say some governments, primarily Russia and Iran, have abused the system to harass and detain opponents of their regime.

Sources:

Chinese state official named head of Interpol, raising fears for political opponents | The Independent

http://www.france24.com/en/20170405-china-dissident-sees-threat-new-interpol-chief

Lessons from the Pinochet regime by Andrés Velasco

June 2, 2015

At the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum on 26 May Chilean economist, Andrés Velasco, in highly personal account describes how political, economic, and social unrest led to the collapse of Chilean democracy in the 1970s. Growing up under Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, Velasco is familiar with stories of political prisoners, torture, intimidation, and exile. Velasco argues that the extreme brutality of the military dictatorship became too difficult for most Chileans to face, allowing the violence to continue unhindered. As Velasco reminds us, however, Chilean civil society eventually united behind an incredibly creative political campaign, and succeeded in voting Pinochet out of power. Velasco ends his speech on an optimistic note, arguing that the common sense of Chileans will prevent another democratic collapse.

Mutabar far from her Uzbekistan continues her struggle

March 27, 2015

Today , 27 March 2015, the FIDH published a moving portrait of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, the well-known Uzbek human rights defender, under the title “If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights.” A statement that in her case is not an exaggeration!

mutabar in berlin zoo Duco oct 2008

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights,” says Mutabar Tadjibaeva, President of the organization Fiery Hearts Club. The 52-year-old Uzbek journalist and activist arrived in France in 2009 as a political refugee. She is no longer welcome In her native country, which has been governed for a quarter of a century by the dictator Islam Karimov. In Uzbekistan, Mutabar investigated drug trafficking, corruption and human rights violations. She endured threats, prison, torture and rape; her fight came at a high price.

In 2002, while this activist was fighting to make publicly known the case of Alimuhammad Mamadaliev, who had been tortured and killed by the police, she herself ended up behind bars for several days. In April 2005, was kidnapped by secret service agents and subjected to horrific treatment. These men would never worried about having to answer for their deeds. But even in the face of such injustice, Mutabar Tadjibaeva continued her activism and journalism until she was imprisoned three years later, on 7 October 2005, just before boarding a plane headed for Dublin where she was to participate in an international conference on human rights. She was arrested by police and, a year later, sentenced to eight years in prison, where she was subjected to torture. She was accused of engaging in illegal activities against the State during demonstrations where several hundred people had lost their lives in May 2005 in Andijan, an industrial city. It is clear to Mutabar that her arrest was for purely political reasons. She was one of many victims of State repression that followed the events of 2005.

“I know very well what prison in Uzbekistan is like and the torture. That is why I have decided to devote me life to fighting for human rights. When I was in jail, I dreamt that one day I would be free. I would tell the prison guards that I would get out of there and write a book on what I had lived through,” she recalls. On 18 May 2008, while still in prison, she was granted the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders. She was released a few months later and, on 10 December of that same year, Mutabar Tadjibaeva came to Paris where she accepted the Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité Award on behalf of the Fiery Hearts Club. Banned from Uzbekistan for almost ten years, the organisation took shelter in France in 2011. It will celebrate the 15th year of its existence this year. Every day, dozens of people come to her in search of assistance. She seeks out lawyers and funding, prepares reports and files individual complaints to the UN. Despite the modest means at her disposal and a state of health weakened by the torture she suffered, Mutabar wants to help those who are in same situation as she was in ten years earlier. Her wish is that human rights defenders take more of an interest in the situation in Uzbekistan. Mutabar Tadjibaeva has enjoyed the support of FIDH, and her organisation is now officially a member. “It is thanks to the support of the FIDH that I was able to keep my promise, that is, write my book entitled “Prisoner of the Island of Torture.” I worked with an Uzbek journalist and it is thanks to those recordings that I was able to tell my story. Otherwise, it would have been too hard psychologically,” Mutabar recalls. In the book, which has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, and English, she shares her memories of prison and decries the cruelty of the regime.

For Mutabar, the challenge lies not in Karimov’s departure, but in regime change. “His departure could set off a war among the clans. The country is corrupt, there is no respect for the law. Karimov the dictator is not the only one to blame for the fact that people are being killed in prisons and tortured; the politicians who support the regime are also to blame. I want Uzbekistan to become a democratic country and dissidents like me to be able to return there and live,” she said. However, as Mutabar sees it, a return to her country is not within the realm of the possible.

On 29 March, Islam Karimov will be running for President for the fourth time, thereby violating Article 90 of the Constitution, which does not allow more than two terms. Mutabar Tadjibaeva and her friends have set up a virtual electoral commission to organise a vote on the Internet. This alternative platform has rejected the candidacy of the president.
 
“When I decided to come to France as a political refugee,” she concluded, “I was afraid that I would not be able to do anything for my country remotely. But, now I see that if you are motivated and supported, anything is possible.”

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would (…).

 

for more on Mutabar, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mutabar-tadjibayeva/

Rehana Hashmi, woman human rights defender from Pakistan

January 14, 2015

Still taken from "Notes to our Sons and Daughters" Project © 2015 Alexis Dixon

Still taken from “Notes to our Sons and Daughters” Project © 2015 Alexis Dixon

Last December, Brussels-based Protection International launched a new campaign, ‘The Women Who Defend Human Rights.’ In this series of monthly interviews, figure talks with Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) about their work, challenges and every-day-life.

This month, the interview is with Rehana Hashmi from Pakistan. Rehana has been a defender of human rights since a young age. She is also the founder of two national networks that support women and helps them to take charge of their rights. Due to her work, she has received threats to the point that she has had to flee her native Pakistan. You can now read her full story on PI’s website: http://protectioninternational.org/2015/01/14/the-women-who-defend-human-rights-rehana-hashmi/

Friends wouldn’t pick up their phone when I would call..