Posts Tagged ‘non-violence’

Nigeria: “Human rights activists of today are cowards, they are afraid to die for the course they are pursuing”

February 20, 2017

This rather shocking statement comes from Nigeria. Two newspapers sources (Vanguard.com and The Anchor on Line) report on events held to mark ’50 years activism’ by the Agbaakin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oloye Rasheed Olalekan Alabi, where such hyperbolic language was employed. One was held on 21 January 2017 at the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ Press Centre, Ibadan. The other on 20 February in the Excellence Hotel, Lagos State. Other strong language was used there to make Nigerian youth more aware and committed…read of yourself…:

Agbaakin Olubadan, Oloye ‘Lekan Alabi Marks 50 Years of Human Rights Activism

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Hot News: Ilham Tohti – China’s Mandela – wins 2016 Martin Ennals Awad

October 11, 2016

A moderate Uighur intellectual, who was jailed for life after opposing China’s draconian policies in its violence-stricken west, has been named the winner of a prestigious award known as the “human rights Nobel” in a move likely to infuriate Beijing. Ilham Tohti, who has been called ‘China’s Mandela’, was announced as the winner of the annual Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders on Tuesday.”  writes the Guardian after the AP news agency broke accindentally the embargo on the press release. Ilham Tohti‘s daughter will indeed receive tonight the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders from the hands of the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights during a ceremony organized by the City of Geneva. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/martin-ennals-award-mea-ceremony-streaming-11-october-2016/]

Ilham TohtiIlham Tohti is renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, who has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism and violence, and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture, which has been subject to religious, cultural and political repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In 1994 he began to write about problems and abuses in Xinjiang, which led to official surveillance. From 1999 to 2003 he was barred from teaching. Since then the authorities have also made it impossible for him to publish in normal venues. As a response, he turned to the Internet and in 2006 he established Uyghurbiz.net. Over the course of its existence, it has been shut down periodically, and people writing for it have been harassed.

In 2009, he was arrested for several weeks after posting information on Uyghurs who had been arrested, killed and “disappeared” during and after protests. In the following years he was periodically subjected to house arrest, and in 2013, while bound to take up a post as a visiting scholar at Indiana University, USA, he was detained at the airport and prevented from leaving China.

On January 15, 2014, Ilham Tohti was arrested on charges of separatism and sentenced to life imprisonment, after a two-day trial. Numerous statements were issued by Western governments and the European Union condemning his trial and sentence, and in early 2016 several hundred academics petitioned the Chinese leadership for his release.

Upon his nomination as a Finalist for the Martin Ennals Award earlier this year, his daughter stated: “My father Ilham Tohti has used only one weapon in his struggle for the basic rights of the Uyghurs of Xinjiang: Words; spoken, written, distributed, and posted. This is all he has ever had at his disposal, and all that he has ever needed. And this is what China found so threatening. A person like him doesn’t deserve to be in prison for even a day.” 

But according to the Washington Post of today China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said his case had nothing to do with human rights. “In the classroom, Ilham Tohti openly made heroes of terrorist extremists that conducted violent terror attacks”

Martin Ennals Foundation Chair Dick Oosting stated “The real shame of this situation is that by eliminating the moderate voice of Ilham Tohti the Chinese Government is in fact laying the groundwork for the very extremism it says it wants to prevent”.

Two other finalists receive Martin Ennals Prizes”:

Razan ZaitounehRazan Zaitouneh (Syria)
Razan has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting violations, and helping others free themselves from oppression. She founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents the death toll and ill-treatment in Syria’s prisons. She had started to cover all sides in the conflict when she was kidnapped, alongside with her husband and two colleagues, on 9 December 2013. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

ZONE9_BLOGGERS_14Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia) Kality prison in Ethiopia, has 8 zones and holds many journalists and political prisoners. 9 young activists called themselves ‘Zone 9’ as a symbol for Ethiopia as a whole. They document human rights abuses and shed light on the situation of political prisoners in Ethiopia. Six of its members were arrested and charged with terrorism. Although they have now been released, three are in exile while four of the six remaining in in Ethiopia are still facing charges and are banned from travel.

Sources:

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/?p=1078

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/ilham-tohti-uighur-china-wins-nobel-martin-ennals-human-rights-award

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/china-wants-us-to-forget-ilham-tohti-but-we-will-not/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/to-beijings-dismay-jailed-uighur-scholar-wins-human-rights-award/2016/10/11/d07dff8c-8f85-11e6-81c3-fb2fde4e7164_story.html

 

Russian protest artist Pavlensky stripped of Havel Prize over support for violent ‘Partisans’

July 10, 2016

On 5 May 2016 I reported on the Havel Prize winners [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/2016-havel-prize-of-the-human-rights-foundation-goes-to-atena-farghadani-petr-pavlensky-and-umida-akhmedova/], including the ‘protest artist’ Pyotr Pavlensky. Now that he has been stripped of this award two months later, this should also be reported. The choice may have seemed a bit shaky from the beginning, but the more important is to recognize the decisive action by the award giver, the Human Rights Foundation.

Pyotr Pavlensky
Pyotr Pavlensky
Pavlensky told RFE/RL on July 8 that HRF President Thor Halvorssen had informed him of the formal decision to revoke his prize in an e-mailed letter. The letter, which has been seen by RFE/RL, states that HRF regrets the decision as “unfortunate and unprecedented” but says the prize’s selection criteria disqualify those who have “advocated the use of violence as a valid method to fight government oppression.” Speaking to RFE/RL on July 8, Halvorssen confirmed that the organization had revoked Pavlensky’s prize but said HRF had nothing to add beyond the text of the letter sent to the artist.
Dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky talked to RFE/RL [Tom Balmforth] about what prompted him to take up political art, and how he sees his political stunts as a rejection of a pervasive “clerical” ideology. He does not take the cancellation lightly and accused the organizers of the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent of essentially “acknowledging their support for police terror” by withdrawing the award after he pledged to devote the $42,000 in prize money to the legal defense of convicted police killers in Russia’s Far East.

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Uyghur human rights defender Dolksun Isa takes visa rejection by India in stride

May 13, 2016

Uyghur human rights defender and democracy activist Dolksun Isa is disappointed with India’s cancellation of his visa after issuing it. In an interview to Tehelka Correspondent Riyaz Wani on 12 May 2016, Isa says he is a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uyghur rights and China‘s attempt to label him a terrorist is to delegitimize the human rights work that he does to support the Uyghur community. Very much in one with the work of MEA 2016 nominee Ilham Tohti [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/] Read the rest of this entry »

Why do Gandhi and Martin Luther King scare the Angolan government?

March 29, 2016

On 28 March 2016 the New York based Human Rights Foundation strongly condemned the convictions and sentences handed down by a court in Angola against a group of 17 youth activists for reading a book that advocates nonviolent resistance to dictatorship. The court declared the activists — including prominent Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão — guilty of “rebellion against the president” and “planning a coup,” sentencing them to prison terms that range from two to eight years. Beirao, also known by his stage name Ikonoklasta, has been an outspoken critic of the government, calling for a fairer distribution of the southern African state’s oil wealth. His term is five-and-a-half years.

Angola: HRF Condemns Convictions and Demands Release of Youth ActivistsSource: Vice News

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More on the Sakharov Prize and the Arab nominees

October 16, 2014

A few days ago I published a piece about the little ceremonial dropping of Arab nominees for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/europes-sakharov-prize-in-trouble-with-regard-to-arab-nominees/]. The main actor in this story – Alaa Abdel Fattah – has given his own views in a piece  in Jadaliyya on 7 October, entitled “On the Sakharov Prize”. To do justice I copy it in its entirety below:

[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Dr. Andrei Dmitievich Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]
[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]

It was with joy that I received the news of my nomination for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the same joy any act of solidarity inspires.

Since my release from prison in Egypt on bail, with my fate still bound to the Special Terrorism Courts and the draconian Protest Law, I have been facing constant harassment from official and unofficial representatives of the regime. New trumped-up criminal charges pop up every few days. A horde of political talk show hosts on supposedly independent TV stations discusses old and out-of-context tweets, twisting my words and assigning sinister implications to them. There is an insistent tarnish campaign meant to prepare the general public for my eventual return to prison. Needless to say, I am banned from appearing on local TV stations, and I am forbidden to travel outside Egypt.

So it is solidarity such as that of European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) that creates the pressure to keep me out of jail and out of harm. It was also a comfort to find comrades in unexpected places; GUE/NGL’s stance against neoliberal policies and against the distortion of European democracy seemed in line with the aspirations of persecuted revolutionaries in Egypt and the broader Arab context.

I was proud to be nominated along with Tunisian rapper, Ala Yaacoubi, and Moroccan rapper, Mouad Belghouate, both imprisoned for insulting the police in their popular songs. I was relieved that the European Parliament members (MEP) who nominated us understood the point of doing symbolic/verbal violence to the image of the powerful who consistently commit systemic actual violence to the bodies, souls and livelihood of the powerless; relieved that the MEPs understood the meaning of questioning the humanity of those who derive their power from dehumanizing their opponents.

I was not surprised when a new tarnish campaign was launched in reaction against my nomination. My family has faced such campaigns before by supporters of the Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid. The latest when my sister, Mona Seif, was shortlisted for the Martin Ennals Award. But I was surprised when the president of the GUE/NGL decided to withdraw my nomination based on a two-year-old tweet taken out of context. And I was surprised that this was done without an attempt to contact me for clarification, and without any regard for how such public condemnation affects my safety and liberty. The president of the GUE/NGL has now sent a clear message to the Egyptian authorities that whatever international solidarity and support I have is fragile—easily destroyed with a tweet.

The GUE/NGL are of course free to form their opinion based on whatever sources of information they choose—including well-known neocons writing for the Wall Street Journal about an out-of-context tweet. However, since they made the nomination and made it publicly, it was their responsibility to ascertain how the manner of retreating from it would affect my safety. Other options were available to them; they could have asked me to withdraw, or they could have quietly dropped my name from the short-list.

The GUE/NGL’s president’s statement claims that I “called for the murder of a critical number of Israelis.” For what it is worth, here is what I would have said if anyone from GUE/NGL or any other MEPs had asked me to clarify.

The tweet in question is certainly shocking if taken out of context, but even then it cannot be framed as “a call” for anything. It was a “mention” to two friends, part of a private conversation—a thread spanning multiple tweets—that took place over a public medium (limited to 140 characters) on the first night of Israel’s 2012 attack on Gaza. A conversation between friends who already knew enough about each others’ views to make it unnecessary to clarify and elaborate, for instance, the distinction between civilians and combatants—as one would if one were making a public statement. As this was not a public statement, only those who follow all three of us on Twitter would have had this tweet appear on their timeline at two a.m. on 15 November 2012. And even after the tarnish campaign, it has only been retweeted four times.

To pretend that you can interpret this tweet two years later without consulting the people involved in the conversation, and to claim that it constitutes a call to action, is simply ridiculous. That I should now feel the need to explain and clarify what was not intended for a general public in the first place, and to be condemned for my thoughts, not my actions, in such a manner is clearly an attack on my personal liberty. The chilling effect of having to adapt to such harassment and condemnation should be perfectly clear for those honoring Andrei Sakharov’s legacy.

The conversation relating to the war on Gaza started with a friend expressing her doubt that the conflict would ever be resolved by local actors. The other friend in the conversation and I replied, insisting that like most such conflicts, it would be resolved locally. The tweet stated what seems to be the basic strategy of most national liberation movements, especially those that opt for armed resistance: To make the price of occupation/colonization/apartheid too expensive for the society that supports it. The strategy of the Palestinians is exactly that—via both violent and nonviolent means (boycott, divestments and sanctions, and armed resistance, for example). Since this was during a time of war, I had armed resistance in mind. Think of Vietnam or Algeria; many would say this is exactly what happened: After a critical number of casualties in asymmetric wars, the civilian population supporting the occupier refused to continue its support—despite the fact that the casualties suffered by the society resisting colonization were massively higher.

My tweet was not a call for anything; it was not even a statement of opinion. It was a statement of one of the facts of the conflict. If GUE/NGL had asked me about my views I would have directed them to my March 2012 debate on Deutsche Welle.

It should perhaps be remembered that the first laureate of the Sakharov Prize was Nelson Mandela back in 1988, when he and the African National Congress (ANC) were considered terrorists by many democratic governments. At the time, his views on the necessity of violence for resisting apartheid must have required and inspired complex debates on appropriate tactics and strategies, the rules of engagement, the moral, political and social limitations that should be put on revolutionary violence, etc. There would have been plenty of statements attributable to him or his comrades—including the famous Rivonia Trial speech in which he admits to planning sabotage—that would have looked pretty scary out of context.

Finally, I hardly ever call for any solution or action on my own. As an individual, I have always expressed my opinions and positions in the clearest and strongest language. But as an activist, I have always worked for any given cause with and through the largest united front possible. When it comes to calls for solutions or actions, and for the sake of consensus, I would make the very compromises I refuse to make when speaking only for myself.

More importantly, I do not call for anything when it is not a cause that I am directly engaged with. I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, but I never presume to tell them what to do.

If my views on violence—specifically against civilians—are what is in question, the answers can be found in my actions and my published views in my local context and my own struggle in Egypt.

 [This piece is co-published with Mada Masr]

On the Sakharov Prize.

Europe’s Sakharov Prize in trouble with regard to Arab nominees

October 11, 2014

Under provocative title “Can Arabs be Human Rights Defenders?”  the on-line newspapers Mada Masr and Jadaliyya published a piece setting out how 3 Arab nominees were suddenly dropped by their nominators in the European Parliament  over a few Israeli-bashing tweets that were indeed on the verge of acceptability (even in the context of rough twitter talk) especially when calling for or condoning killing of Zionist civilians.

I referred to the nominations in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/nominees-for-sakharov-prize-2014-announced/.

I consider the post’s title  provocative (or perhaps ironic) as even a cursory glance of human rights documentation – including this blog – shows that there are hundreds of human rights defenders in the Arab world whose credentials are not disputed or totally defensible.

Please read the whole piece for yourself as this is both a complicated and sensitive matter.

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Saharawis Human Rights Defender Aminatou Haidar awarded Bremen Solidarity Award

October 30, 2013

Today it was announced that the Bremen Solidarity Award for the year 2013 has been awarded by the German Province of Bremen to the Saharawis activist and President of the Collective of Saharawis Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), Ms. Aminatou Haidar.

The committee overseeing the selection of the winner explained that Aminatou Haidar has been chosen for her record of defending the Saharawis’ human rights desert, praising the great efforts being made by CODESA’s President in order that the Sahrawis benefit from their natural resources, as human rights cannot be separated from political and civil rights. “Aminatou Haidar has frequently and boldly defended the rights of the Saharawis by peaceful mean. She still struggling to find a just solution to the question of Western Sahara by the same means,” added the committee. The Bremen Solidarity Award has, since 1988, been presented to people who campaign for freedom, democracy and human rights and who fight against colonialism and racism.

via Activist Aminatou Haidar awarded Bremen Solidarity Award | Sahara Press Service.

Human Rights Advocacy Group launched for Ethiopia, Benshangul, Gambela, Ogaden Somali, Oromo, Shakacho and Sidama

September 29, 2013

The Ogaden OnLine reports the following on 29 September:

We, the peoples of Benshangul, Gambella, Ogaden Somali, Oromo, Shakacho and Sidama nations unanimously agree to form Human Rights Advocacy Group [HRAG] in order to advocate for the Human Rights of the member communities and other oppressed peoples by the Ethiopian government. HRAG will tirelessly campaign harnessing the combined resources of the aforementioned communities and other support groups. It will expose the crimes the Ethiopian government is committing against the defenceless communities of these peoples, including land grabbing and displacement, mass executions, extra-judicial killings, rampant rape, mass detentions and use of aid as a weapon to gain compliance to the regime marginalization policies. HRAG will conduct targeted advocacy campaign that includes data gathering, advocacy works directed at countries of the world, Human Rights defenders, the AU and the United Nations, and will encourage more vigorous and joint campaigns by all the communities concerned. HRAG informs that the current situation in Ethiopia is very dire and unless urgent measures are taken, a crisis far worse than any seen so far in Africa will unfold. Therefore, HRAG calls the international community, in particular Donor countries, the AU and the UN and EU to make the Ethiopian government accountable for its flagrant Human Rights violations.Finally, HRAG calls upon all peoples in Ethiopia to stand up together and confront the perpetrators.Justice for all nations and nationalities.

While any new group with a focus on the defense of human rights is welcome – and in view of the means employed by the Ethiopian government also needed – the statement would have gained from a clear position that violent means will not be employed or advocated.

via Ogaden Online: The official homepage of Ogaden on the Internet – Human Rights Advocacy Group HRAG.