Sunday, December 23, 2012

Amnesty Group-15

For years, Amnesty Group 15 in Providence, RI used to hold annual human rights Write-A-Thon, and draws a good crowd. In 2007, they invited 2 of our members to lead the event and lit the Candle. 
This year was no difference. 
"Writing letters to government authorities, if it's done in a volume, has an effect," said Marcia Lieberman, one of the local organizers. "We have met in person people who were prisoners of conscience in China and Liberia, all sorts of places, who credit their lives with the letters we've poured out."

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Great Human Rights Day forum

The Human Rights Day forum was a very successful event, with a packed room from diverse colors of human rights defenders from different ethnic and age categories.

The "Raging Grannies" performed a very powerful and colorful message of human rights with a focus on the US when they performed 5 songs to highlight human rights crises (immigrants, Guantanamo Bay, torture, etc). They gave a special flavor to this year's Forum.

The keynote speaker. Ms. Gissou Nia, an Iranian-American activist, captured the audience attention with her strong understanding of many different issues. Her passionate dedication to human rights in the Middle east and Iran in particular has engaged the audience in a scholarly discussion after her talk.

The Baha'i community of Amherst and Hadley showed good presence and participation in the Forum. Jacqueline Odess-Gillett, a spiritual Baha'i activist, inspired the audience with a beautiful and soothing peace song....

The Human Rights day activities continued the next day with the annual Candle Vigil in downtown Amherst organized and led by the town of Amherst Human Rights Commission. here in this picture, our dynamo Martha and Irwin Spiegelman (hats) read the Universal declaration of Human Rights. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Human Rights Day Forum

 Human  Rights  Day  Forum

The  64th  Anniversary  of  the  Universal  Declaration

of  Human  Rights  by  the  United  Nations ~ December  10,  1948 

Human Rights Challenges
in the Muslim World:
The Case of Iran

Speaker, Gissou Nia
Human Rights Activist and Director
of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Sunday,  December  9th  at  1:30  pm

Jones Library, Woodbury Room, Amherst MA

Songs by The Raging Grannies

This forum will focus on the work of the brave women and men
in the Islamic World who have stood up for their rights – particularly the rights
of women and ethnic minorities – and for religious freedom and free speech.

Free  and  the  Public  is  Invited

Organized  by  Amnesty  Amherst--Group  128 / 215-870-7809

Co-sponsors:  Amnesty International Amherst Chapter-Group 128 //
Amnesty Intl. Chapter, Amherst Regional High School // Amnesty Intl. Chapter, Hampshire College //
Amherst Human Rights Commission // Amherst Progressive Muslims //
Baha'i Community of Hadley // Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Grace Church, Amherst //
Group Against Torture in Sudan // Mount Toby Meeting of Friends at Leverett //  
Unitarian-Universalist Society of Amherst, Social Justice Committee // Western Mass Darfur Coalition //

Each year Amnesty International Chapter in Amherst celebrates Human Rights Day, the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by sending a message of hope to human rights defenders. This year, along with other local human rights and religious organizations, we are highlighting the work of the brave women and men in the Islamic World who have stood up for their rights – particularly the rights of women and ethnic minorities – and for religious freedom and free expression.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Update on Sudan

For the past seven years, the Amherst Town Human Rights Commission (HRC) continued to receive monthly  update on the human rights situation in Sudan, and recently on South Sudan (the newest independent country in the UN). This was mainly due to active members of Amnesty who attended the monthly meeting of the Commission (Magda, Fanny, Samia, Mohamed).
This month, HRC will get the following update:

1) Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, of Lowell, MA signed on and co-sponsored last month The Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012 (HR 4169), which was introduced by Jim McGovern last March. By signing on this Bill, Rep. Tsongas joined John Olver, William keating, and Michael Capuano in supporting peace in Sudan.

HR 4169 summary is "To require the development of a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for governments and persons to end support of and assistance to the Government of Sudan, to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan, and for other purposes"

2) Amnesty International called last week upon South Sudanese authorities to investigate and end horrific acts of violence and rape of civilians by its security forces. Read more on this here

Thank you HRC for bringing the voice of the oppressed and standing for human rights worldwide...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Welcome back George

Professor George Greenstein, a founding member of our chapter back in 1978 has stopped by our table today and expressed interest to reconnect with his group... what a great news... Thanks are due to our Treasurer, Bob Stern, who actually re-connected him to the Chapter 

I want take this opportunity and make a quick announcement. The next meeting of the group will be@ 1pm  on Sun 10/21 at Magda & Mohamed house (and not on Sat at Jones Library as was originally planned)
The address is: 135 East Hadley Rd (S.Amherst)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tabling Today

Thanks to our active members and their friends who organized the bi-weekly Information Table @ the Amherst Farmers Market.

Cylvanna, Abrahim, and Anthony reported the table witnessed lot of activists who stopped to sign petitions or to reflect on the deteriorated human rights in the Middle East and some Islamic countries. The issue of freedom of expression and freedom of religion was a main topic and concern to activists.

Kudos to our member Cylvanna (photo, left) for being featured on the Amherst Bulletin last month for legislative advocacy work she was doing as part of one-week long environmental civics program at Amherst College

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Prisons in Iran

The infamous torture center Evin Prison
"Extensive evidence indicates that the Ministry of Intelligence, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and official prison authorities in the Islamic Republic make widespread use of torture, rape, and solitary confinement, and that the deprivation of basic rights and human dignity ..."
read more from this strong document by our sister human rights org IHRDC in New Haven, CT

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lesotho Human Rights Activists in Amherst

The Amnetsy International information table was run today by 3 young women activists from the Kingdom of Lesotho (in southern Africa).
our members Mahali and Keke invited their visiting friend Tume from
Philadelphia and they ran a very interactive table.
They did not wait for people to come to the table, they went to them in the Farmers market, raising high posters of Amnesty and handing out flyers.
By the end of the day, Tume was convinced to become a member and asked to be connected to the Amnesty Chapter in Philadelphia.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let Women Drive in Saudi Arabia

Responding to extreme pressure, Saudi Arabia has finally agreed to send women athletes to compete in the Olympics. That means the 2012 Olympic Games in London marks the first time that every country will be sending at least one female athlete to compete. However, Saudi women continue their struggle for basic rights, including the 'right to drive'. Amnesty International members stand in solidarity with their campaign to end discrimination in law and practice and to give Saudi women their full rights.Permitting two women to aim for their Olympic dreams is a start. Support the right of all Saudi women to drive! Read More »

Thursday, July 12, 2012

State Violence against activists in Sudan

A Press Release from Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch
Sudanese Authorities Must End Violent Crackdown on Protesters, End Impunity for Abuses
Contact: Suzanne Trimel,, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Sudanese authorities today to immediately release people arrested for participating in recent peaceful protests and demanded that torture and ill-treatment of detained protesters stop.
Sudanese groups monitoring the arrests estimate that since June the Sudanese security forces have detained 2,000 people in connection with the youth-led protests in Khartoum and other major towns across Sudan.
"Torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited under international law," said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa. "We call on the Sudanese authorities to ensure that every credible allegation of such abuse is subject to prompt and impartial investigations, and to ensure that the victims receive reparations."
While 2,000 detained is difficult to confirm, reports indicate that at least 100 people remain in detention in Khartoum alone. The majority are being held in National Security Services (NSS) detention centers, which are well-known for the use of ill-treatment and torture.
In one of the latest crackdowns on protesters, on July 6 security forces used excessive force against a demonstration in the Sayyid Abdelrahman mosque, in the Wad Nubawi neighborhood of Omdurman, a suburb of Khartoum.
A 26-yr-old student present at the protest said he was hit with rubber bullets in both legs. "When we got out, we saw the police outside the mosque," he told Amnesty International. "So we started chanting 'Peaceful! Peaceful' and sat on the ground to show them we didn't want confrontation, but they walked toward us and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at us, and chased us inside the mosque."
In recent days, demonstrators have also reported being attacked by pro-government students wielding sticks, knives and axes. Injured protesters are afraid to seek medical care. A security guard at the Omdurman Hospital told Amnesty International that he witnessed NSS agents arresting wounded protesters immediately after they were discharged.
Since the protests began on June 16, Sudanese security forces have repeatedly used excessive force to disperse the demonstrations and arrested scores of peaceful protesters including students, youth activists, and journalists.
Security officials have also separately arrested and detained activists, journalists, lawyers, doctors, and members of youth groups and opposition parties not directly connected to the protests.
Many detainees have been released after hours or days, often after signing a statement renouncing any political activities or participation in the protests. Other individuals are detained for longer periods and face lengthy interrogations in which they are accused of being traitors, Communists, or spies; several have reported harsh treatment, including beatings and sleep-deprivation.
Among those still detained are Nahid Jabralla, the head of SEEMA, a women's and children's rights group, arrested on July 3; US resident Rudwan Daoud, a member of youth movement Girifna ("We're fed up") who was arrested on July 3 with his father and brother; Ussamah Mohammed, arrested on June 22, who has openly criticized the government on Al Jazeera; Khaled Bahar, an activist with the Haq movement, who has been detained since 20 June; Yassir Fathi, a member of the opposition Umma party, who was arrested on 21 June; and Amira Osman, a member of the Communist party, in detention since 28 June . They are all at risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment; Daoud appears to have been beaten, according to witnesses who saw him appear in court earlier this week.
Those released from security detention are often afraid to report their ordeal to organizations or journalists. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 13 former detainees who reported beatings, verbal insults, food, water and sleep deprivation and other ill-treatment while in detention in Khartoum and its suburbs since mid-June.
A 38-yr-old doctor who was arrested on June 28 and detained for a day told Amnesty International that an officer from the NSS bashed his forehead against the wall on two occasions. Later, he was surrounded by eight NSS officials who slapped him and punched him in the face repeatedly.
Security officials also beat and verbally insulted his three sisters, who were arrested the previous week for participating in a demonstration in the al-Riyadh area of Khartoum, he said. The security officials kicked and beat the women with their feet and with sticks until two of them bled. One security official dragged one of the women on the floor, causing injury to her face. NSS agents called them "prostitutes."
Another former detainee, Darfuri student Issam al-Din Mohammed Ibrahim, said 10 plain-clothed security agents and uniformed police officers beat him repeatedly using their fists, wooden sticks, water hoses and iron bars.
On June 18, police and plainclothes security agents arrested him while he was participating in a protest and transferred him to a building near the Jackson bus station in Khartoum where the arrest took place. He told Amnesty International: "They began to beat me, beat me, beat me severely on all parts of my body." The security forces shouted racist abuse at him, he said.
The following day, he was sentenced to a fine of 100 Sudanese pounds by the North Khartoum criminal court, on charges of public nuisance and breaching the public peace, and released. Authorities have sentenced scores of protesters to fines and lashings for the same charges.
A 24-yr-old student from Sudan University told Human Rights Watch he was also beaten while in NSS detention. He said: "they took me into a room and then the two men started to beat me with black plastic water pipes, slapping me in the face and kicking me in different parts of my body."
Magdi Akasha, a 30-yr-old leader of the Youth for Change movement, was detained by the NSS from June 27 until July 2. He said he was beaten with sticks, made to sit all day under the scorching sun, and denied sleep while in detention.
Najlaa Sid Ahmad, an activist with Girifna and a video blogger, was summoned to NSS offices for 12 hours every day for three days, during which she was denied food and water. On the last day, she suffered from dehydration and hypoglycemia and had to be hospitalized.
The current protest movement broke out when a demonstration in the female dorms of Khartoum University triggered a wider movement protesting economic austerity measures and demanding regime change.
Protests have been taking place on a near-daily basis since mid-June, notably in Khartoum and the neighboring cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North, but also in the cities of al-Obeid, Port Sudan, Atbarah, Dongola, Kassala and Gedaref. In these provincial towns, as in the capital, security forces have been using excessive force against demonstrations and arrested large numbers of protesters and known activists.
Sudanese authorities have also routinely censored newspapers, removing articles about sensitive topics and seizing entire print runs of specific issues; and have harassed and arrested journalists who report on anti-government protests.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26: International Day of Torture Survivorsd
June 26, 2012
CONTACTS: Mohamed Elgadi & Martha Speigelman, Coordinators 215-870-7809

“They took me to a secret prison where I was subjected to electric shocks to my vagina.” Nora, from Honduras (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Survivor Testimonies)
“The torture inflicted on me was intolerable, especially the use of electric shocks and anal
penetration using solid objects.” Unidentified male victim (Group Against Torture in Sudan, Survivor Testimonies)
“My father does not want to talk about his experience after all these years. I can see and feel the mental damage of torture on him.” Mamoun, a child of a torture survivor, Albany, NY
“I will never forget what I experienced. But I’m trying to rebuild my destroyed life.” TK, Kosovo (International Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Survivor Testimony)

Amherst, MA-In its effort to combat torture, the United Nations proclaimed June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and, as the former Secretary-General Kofi
Annan declared, "an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable." This day is an opportunity to stand up together against this cruel crime against human rights.

The United Nation’s theme for this year’s torture survivor’s campaign is rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation can be effective in empowering torture victims to resume as full a life as possible, as noted by many human rights advocacy groups. Nonetheless, community support is a key in this journey, according to many victims. “If it was not for my family, close friends and neighbors, I do not think I could have survived” reported one of the half-million survivors who live in the United States. It takes time and resources to re-build the intentionally destroyed lives of those who were targeted by the government-supported torture establishment.

Amnesty International’s Amherst Group 128 observes the United Nations’ International
Day for Torture Survivors this June 26th with cautious optimism. President Obama reiterated his strong stance against torture and considers the CIA Enhanced Interrogation Techniques as torture. However, many voices within the Administration continue to give mixed messages about their stance toward torture.
We believe that torture against one person is a crime against all of us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Over a month since the arrest of Jalila Khamis Koko from her home in Khartoum – Sudan
Urgent Action: Jalila Khamis Koko, April 15, 2012 – Age: 43 – married and a mother
Occupation: Teacher at a Primary Stage School.
Date of Arrest: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Where was she arrested: Shajara City, Khartoum – Sudan.
Affiliation: SPLM-N (Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North), and a human rights activist. Over month passed since raid of Ms. Jalila Khamis Koko’ home in the city of “Alshajara” south Khartoum at about 2:30 a.m. of Wednesday, March 14, 2012 by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents, they were escorted her with pajamas on to the offices of intelligence and national security and still in custody so far. Sudanese Network for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the continued detention of Ms. Jalila Khamis Koko, and call on Sudanese authorities to immediately release Ms. Jalila, since no valid legal charges have been made.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Western Mass. Area Meeting 3/10

A very successful joint meeting hosted by Amnesty Chapter @ Hampshire Collge and included representatives of Mt. Holyoke Collge and Amherst Chapter (Group-128). Cynthia Gabriel gave a powerful presentation reflecting on the 50-year history of Amnesty International in the US. She also shared a lot of useful materials on using media and "Tools and Tips for Effective E-Activism"
including the use of Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Western Mass. Annual Groups Meeting

Amnesty International invites you to our annual Western Massachusetts’ Meeting Saturday, March 10, 2012 11:00AM-2:00PM Hosted by Hampshire College AI Student Group
(Location: Hampshire College, 83 West St., Amherst, MAFranklin Paterson Hall, East Lecture Hall)

This meeting is a great opportunity to learn more about Amnesty International’s campaigns, actions, resources, local events, and mission. We will provide skill based trainings that are essential for effective individual, local and student group activism. Most importantly participate and network with other human rights activists!

For more information and to RSVP contact Cynthia Gabriel Walsh at AI’s Northeast Regional Office 617-623-0202 or refreshments & lunch will be served

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Iran: Over 600 persons executed in 2011

Amnesty International Urges Iran to Halt Execution of American Amir Hekmati After Unfair Trial; Group Fears Execution Could be Carried Out Within Weeks

Amnesty International said today Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American, sentenced to death in Iran for alleged spying for the C.I.A. did not receive a fair trial and had no access to a lawyer, diplomatic assistance or his family -- in violation of international law.
The human rights organization called on Iran to set aside the death sentence against the Arizona-born Helmati but said it fears he could be executed within weeks. Hekmati, 28, who had served as an Arabic translator in the U.S. Marine Corps, was accused of spying for the C.I.A. and sentenced to death for "collaboration with a hostile government." His appeal against this conviction and sentence must be lodged within 20 days.
Hekmati was held without access to his family, a lawyer or consular assistance after his arrest in August last year, in violation of international law. Before he was tried in December, he was made to participate in a televised "confession" -- a further violation of his right to a fair trial. Hekmati is the first American to be sentenced to death in Iran since the Islamic revolution in that country more than 30 years ago. "Like many other detainees in Iran, Amir Hekmati did not receive a fair trial and we question the timing and political circumstances of this decision," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. "We know from past experience that the Iranian authorities sometimes rush forward with executions of political prisoners -- including dual nationals -- at politically sensitive times and we fear that this execution could happen within days or weeks."
Elise Auerbach, Iran specialist for Amnesty International USA, said: "The Iranian authorities often air highly suspect confessions which are obtained through coercion or torture. Mr. Hekmati was shown on Iranian television 'confessing' to carrying out espionage against Iran. Amnesty International urges the Iranian authorities to set aside this death sentence. The death sentence for Hekmati comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States, amid announcements that Iran has begun uranium enrichment and the United States has strengthened sanctions against Iran. The Iranian authorities have executed political prisoners in January over the past two years, in relation to the unrest following the disputed presidential election of 2009.
"The lives of political detainees on death row in Iran are hanging in the balance this month," said Harrison. These executions have widely been seen as warnings to potential opposition protesters ahead of yearly celebrations marking the February 11 anniversary of the Iranian Revolution when people are encouraged to demonstrate in large numbers in support of the state. Zahra Bahrami, who held dual Dutch-Iranian nationality, was executed for alleged drugs offenses in January 2011 while awaiting trial on political charges related to the post-election unrest. Iranian activists on death row include Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani, an alleged supporter of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) who reportedly spent more than 40 months in solitary confinement in various detention centres in Iran, is also facing execution.
Three alleged PMOI supporters -- Ali Saremi, Ja'far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei -- were executed in Iranin 2010 and 2011. All men had been convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) in relation to contacts with the PMOI.
Blogger Vahid Asghari, who had hosted websites critical of the government, was sentenced to death on Friday after conviction in an unfair trial of "corruption on earth" for allegedly organising a "pornographic" network against Islam and the state. Asghari had been held since May 2008. In October 2009 he said in a letter to a judge that he had been subjected to torture, forced to make a televised "confession" and forced to make spying allegations against high profile blogger Hossein Derakhshan.
Saeed Malekpour, a 36-year-old web designer and permanent resident of Canada, is also under sentence of death following a retrial on similar charges, which may be linked to Vahid Asghari's case. A previous death sentence was reportedly overturned in June 2011. The government has officially acknowledged executing 17 people already this year, although Amnesty International has received information suggesting at least 39 people may have been put to death in the first week of 2012 alone.
In December, Amnesty International highlighted a massive wave of executions in Iran throughout 2011, with over 600 people being put to death between the beginning of 2011 and November. Most of these were for drug related offenses. The scope of the death penalty is very broad in Iran and thousands are believed to remain on death row. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate violation of the right to life.
Read more on Iran Human Rights org