Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day events

It was another successful Human Rights Day event...!
Thank you to the teamwork of dedicated members of Group-128 especially the core group that worked hard over the past few months in planning...

Our Coordinator Martha Spiegelman said:
"It was inspiring and productive. We had good participation for the writing to prisoners. The film, Dirty Wars, was moving as well as grim, and everyone agreed that we have to make increased efforts to stop the US military-CIA-JSOC-US Administration actions that are against the best interests of our country and the world.

The program was well-received by a good attendance. We found the film very illuminating, and something to inspire us all to continue to work for human rights and justice, and to oppose war and violence. We wrote a large number of letters to several prisoners of conscience, some in China, Iran, Guantanamo, and the U.S. 

The principals who spoke or performed at the December 7th Human Rights Day were Mohamed Elgadi, Nigel Coxe, Fanny Rothschild, Ben Grosscup, Martha Spiegelman. Representatives of several co-sponsoring groups presented their missions / actions.

In spite of the bad weather, the Main large events room of Jones Library was almost filled. Elnagger and Babiker families of Albany, NY (members at Large) could not make it because of the bad weather. 

The events of the Human Rights Day concluded today at the annual Candle vigil at the downtown Amherst where a dozen of activists joined the Amherst Human Rights Commission and Amnesty Chapter and read the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the temp was below freezing!).

Happy Human Rights Day...!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Human Rights Day Event: Screening 'Dirty Wars' Documentary

Screening of film "Dirty Wars" In Woodbury Room, Jones Library to mark the 65th

 Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human


Each year the 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 screening the award-winning film "Dirty Wars" that depicts a journalistic investigation of the enigmatic and potent Joint Special Operations Command. The documentary, directed by Richard Rowley, is based on the book by New York Times international bestselling author Jeremy Scahill. The film dramatically unfolds as “part political thriller and part detective story.” And along this journey, we learn shocking aspects of our country’s secret operations that transpire in the name of our War on Terrorism.

The screening will be followed by a discussion as well as announcements from co-sponsoring organizations and light refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.

We also will ask attendees to sign petitions and write personal letters of support and encouragement to several prisoners of conscience. This year, Amnesty International chapters from the entire Northeast region are focusing on the release of a Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen who has been imprisoned in China for almost six years “for subversion of state power.” He had produced a film about how his fellow Tibetans felt about the Olympics and human rights issues; he has endured a secret trial, torture and ill-treatment of a serious medical illness, Hepatitis B. We are also calling for his access to legal, medical, and familial assistance.
More about the film "Dirty Wars," quoted from the websitewww.dirtywars.org:

“Part political thriller and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time. What begins as a report into a U.S. night raid gone terribly wrong in a remote corner of Afghanistan quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
[It is] a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the “kill list,” including U.S. citizens.
We encounter two parallel casts of characters.
The CIA agents, Special Forces operators, military generals, and U.S.-backed warlords who populate the dark side of American wars go on camera and on the record, some for the first time.
We also see and hear directly from survivors of night raids and drone strikes, including the family of the first American citizen marked for death and being hunted by his own government.

40 Lashes for not covering your hair?

 Amnesty International-UK started an international campaign on behalf of this brave women's activist

Amira is a civil engineer and women’s rights activist. She has been charged with being in public with her head uncovered, and will soon go on trial in Sudan.
Following her hearing on November 4, 2013, Ms. Osman Hamed awaits the results of her prosecution. If found guilty, she could be sentenced with up to 40 lashes as punishment. Amira Osman Hamed recently said, “This case is not my own, it is a cause of all the Sudanese people who are being humiliated in their country, and their sisters, mothers, daughters, and colleagues are being flogged.” Flogging is a real threat in Sudan. A harrowing video from October shows a woman being lashed in the street by police for entering a car with a man who was not a family member.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A message from Ayatollah Boroujerdi (POC)

These excerpts from different messages translated by this Blogger dedicated to Ayatollah Boroujerdi (our adopted Prisoner of Conscious) on the occasion of his eight years in prison. 

"Greetings of the meek to the Almighty who at no time neglected to caress his creatures; the Almighty who neither commanded violence, nor ever sent forth a prophet to abuse believers, and whose commandments were not ordained for inhumanity..............."

"“Never will the articulate calendar of history forget my annihilation for having exposed the nature of political Islam and for standing up to the monarchic Mullahs..................”

"As I begin my eighth year as a prisoner of dictators, I would like to briefly look back at the theory behind these inexcusable and irrefutable crimes and I will search my mind for the account of all that has happened......................."

Mr. Kazemeini-Boroujerdi’s message on the occasion of the eighth year of the storming of his home and arrest of his supporters

Translated and edited by: Banafsheh zand 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Western Mass Regional Meeting At Mt. HolyokeCollege

Reporting from inside the meeting....

Amnesty Western Mass Regional Meeting
At Mt. HolyokeCollege
No required registration fee,
but the organizing committee will appreciate
free-will donations, according to your ability to donate
Pre-meeting coffee and bagel, and lunch are included
Date and TimeSaturday, October 26, 10 AM to 2 PM. (Try to arrive before 10 AM to register.)
LocationKendade Building, the Atrium, Room is Cleveland L1 / L2.
Preliminary AgendaAmnesty Northeast Regional Coordinator, Cynthia Gabriel, will give summaries of the fall-winter Amnesty program in the northeast. There will be workshop sessions on networking, outreach, coordinating with other Amnesty groups and other human rights groups, and more. There will be announcements and discussions of programs and activities of various college and community chapters. Members of Amnesty-Amherst-Group 128 will attend.
***There is good free bus service between the campuses. But if anyone needs other transportation, please let us know, we'll try to help. (spiegelman22@netzero.net / mohamedelgadi@yahoo.com )

If taking a campus bus:  At town center Common, bus turns onto Church St. (Church St. starts at route 116 at town center Common, so only one direction it can go). Get off at the first stop, at Gateway Road. Walk a short way on Gateway Rd., Kendade is on your right, just after the Carr building.
If driving:  From whatever direction you are coming, when you get to town center Common, turn onto Church St. (it starts at town center Common, and a church is at the corner of the street), then turn right onto Gateway Rd. There is some parking on the left side of Gateway Rd., across from Carr, Kendade, and Clapp buildings. There is also some parking on Church St., just before Gateway Rd.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October events in Western Massachusetts

Amnesty International Chapters in Western Mass are getting very active this month. No wonder, since students are back to this Students Hub and many college chapters are waking up from Summer Hibernation!

Our Chapter is in the mid of this events. Our weekly tabling continues to be a success bringing many activists together to get updates from the active members of AI-128 who facilitate the table.
We are looking forward to the monthly meeting to finalize the Human Rights Day activities.

We also are part of the Student and Local Chapters training event scheduled for 10/26 (next Sat) at Mount Holyoke College.

Our active member (at Large), Attorney Abdelrahman Gasim is a major contributor to our Chapter Facebook page. He almost daily updates the page with human rights news from Kampala, Uganda where he' stationed. Thankd Mr. Gasim!
He posts in Arabic:

هيئة محامي دارفور
اعتقل الأمن و المخابرات السوداني بمدينة نيالا الاستاذ ادم محمد شريف المحامي امس ٢٦ سبتمبر ٢٠١٣ ، الاستاذ ادم شريف من المحامين النشطاء في مدينة نيالا و هو منسق هيئة محامي دارفور بولاية جنوب دارفور 
and also in English:
Lawyers for Lawyers letter to the President Omar al Bashir
Sudan Lawyer detained without charge
11 Oct 13
On 26 September 2013 the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested Adam Sharief, a lawyer and the coordinator of the Darfur Bar Association in South Darfur. Sharief was arrested without "
charge and has not been granted access to a lawyer....

Thank you ustaz/Abdelrahman and keep the good work!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Northeast Leadership Retreat

Amnesty International Northeast Leadership Retreat August 10-11, 2013
Essex, Massachusetts

Early Risers Stretch & Swim in the Ocean 7:00am (optional of course!)

Welcome Session 9:00am-9:30am
Learning Objectives:
I. Review weekend agenda & logistics II. Initiate relationship building
Public Narrative: Story of I [The Role of Personal Stories in Organizing]: 9:30am-10:30am
Learning Objectives:

I. To understand the importance of public narrative
II. Develop understanding how public narrative works: values, emotion, and story structure III. To develop an effective story of self
Public Narrative: Story of Us
Learning Objectives:
I. To provide participants with clarity on how AI evolved from its origins of a "one year writing campaign on behalf of the 'forgotten prisoner'" to where we are today working on multiple human rights issues
II. Educate participants on important policy decisions that guide our work
III. Educate participants on AI's process of research & documentation to advocacy
IV. Understand AI Mission, History, Evolution of, Policy, Governance
V. Overview of AIUSA’s Structural Web (where do I fit into the picture and who is who)
Meet-ups by Roles
11:30am -12:30pm
Learning Objectives:
I.To engage local group activists in conversation to share their experiences II. To share success stories and work through obstacles
III. To share resources & ideas
Lunch 12:30PM-1:30PM
Public Narrative: Story of Now
Learning Objectives:
I.Provide participants with overview of AI’s Global Strategy
II.Provide participants with overview of AIUSA’s priority campaigns [targets, time
lines, resources] III.Inform and engage participants on campaign
IV. Develop activist calendar
V. Build skills for creative campaigning and designing actions [adapting strategy to fit our group/community]
VI. Provide in-
depth information on AI’s Individual and Communities at Risk program
VII. Introduce participants to Northeast Region’s Special Focus Case
VIII. To develop organizing skills for effective advocacy on IC@R work
Part II: Advocacy Overview & Campaign Engagement
Part III: Legislative Tactics
Part IV: Creative Campaigning & Designing Actions [adapting strategy to fit your group/community]
Break 3:15pm-3:30pm
Part V: In-depth Discussion on AI’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Program with Samir
Casework Session I: Facilitated by Todd
I.To educate participants on how to work on long term IC@R case
II. To develop a strategic and coordinated plan for specific IC@R casework

Casework Session II: Facilitated by Rick & Kelly
I.To educate participants on how to develop creative strategy for ongoing casework
II. Demonstrate how to forage for resources and materials
III. Build relationships and coalitions with allies to gain broader support for IC@R cases

Dinner 5:45pm-7:00pm
Action Calendar & Engagement Opportunities
Learning Objectives:
I.To plan and coordinate an activists’ calendar that reflects national, regional, and local activities
II. To educate participants on the ladder of leadership within AI and opportunities for personal/professional growth
Saturday Night: Campfire & S’mores
Early Risers: Stretch & Swim 6:30am (optional of course!)
Local & Student Group Organizing
Learning Objectives:
I. Understanding of how student and local groups can work together II. Gain knowledge of resources available
III. Learn to navigate member center IV. Build relationships within states
Skill Based Session Objectives:
I. Formulate ideas for dynamic events
II. Discuss and share fundraising techniques for local/student groups III. Generate outreach & growth plan for groups

Break: 10:30am-10:45am
Activism 2.0 Training : Turning Information into Action Online and IRL
(In Real Life)
10:45am- 12:15pm
Learning Objectives:
I. Explore different types of web tools that can be used by activists II. Learn how to practically organize and mobilize using web tools III. Develop a project plan for taking action on and offline
Lunch 12:15pm-1:00pm
Wrap up/Evaluations: 1:00-1:30pm 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aug Update: Tabling, Noho Event, Northeast Retreat, etc

Our Aug activities began with another successful Information Table, thanks to our active members Martha and Irwin who always manage to bing a lot of traffic to Amnesty table...

We also decided to join a long list of co-sponosors of Starving for Justice event in Northampton, a talk by attorney Buz Eisenberg. The event is organized by Pioneer Valley No More Guantanamo (see below).

On Sat 8/4 in the afternoon, few members of our group participated in first public event of the NAACP chapter in Amherst (Martha, Magda, Irwin, and Mohamed went to the event).

On 8/9-11, Mohamed will be representing our chapter in the Northeast Retreat of Amnesty. The 20 Different Chapters in the region will be focusing 3-day retreat on the following:

"How can we work together in a way that supports our community-based organizing?

What is the biggest challenge you face with the existing case dossier/assignment system?

What is the improvement you would like to make (not open ended, options: a. better access to timely information b. real time updates, c. ability to share information with other groups and see what they are doing on that case, d. ability to choose your own cases, e. have direct, collective access to country specialists and guidelines?"

Our Chapter is taking this opportunity to focus on many questions and concerns that raised over the few past years by our members and plan to share with the groups 

Starving for Justice: The Guantánamo Hunger Strike
A talk by Attorney Buz Eisenberg
Tuesday, August 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Northampton Friends Meeting
43 Center Street, 2nd floor
Buz Eisenberg will report on his recent visit to Guantánamo during the prisoners’ hunger strike to protest their continued detention and inhumane treatment.  Eisenberg has represented seven men, including two still in Guantánamo, over nearly nine years.  Most of the remaining 166 prisoners have spent more than 11 years in Guantánamo, even though 86 have been cleared for transfer and only a handful have been charged with crimes.

Eisenberg is President of the International Justice Network, fighting for due process and fair treatment for Bagram detainees in Afghanistan. He is professor of constitutional law and criminal justice at Greenfield Community College.

Organized by Pioneer Valley No More Guantánamos

ACLU of Massachusetts
Alliance for Peace and Justice
American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts
Arise for Social Justice
Grace Church Peace Fellowship
Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture
Mt. Toby Friends Meeting Peace & Social Concerns Committee
Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars
Northampton Friends Meeting
Rosenberg Fund for Children
Western Mass. Code Pink

Made possible in part by a grant from the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice

Free and accessible. 665-4561

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tabling in July...

We continue to be present at the farmers Market for the 3rd week in a row during this month of July... thanks to our dedicated members Martha, Irwin, Omeima, Mohamed, Fanny, and Zeinab for bringing our voice loud and clear in Downtown Amherst...
Zeinab Omer, signs a petition on behalf of the Iranian Filmmaker Jaafar Panahi

We also had our monthly meeting yesterday and because the attendance was poor (the record Heat Wave?) we  decided to defer most of the agenda that was discussed to August meeting for more participation. the agenda should include: Financial Report; Update on Mohamed's trip to Sudan and Egypt; AGM; Northeast Retreat; New venues for our voice; Fall/Winter events.

Pls send agenda items to Martha (spiegelman22@netzero.net) and come ready to participate...
See you again at the next Tabling (we need volunteers for July 27) and in our next meeting Aug 17.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Torture Survivors' day June 26

Secretary-General's Message for 2013

As we mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I call on Member States to step up efforts to assist all those who have suffered from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 
This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Committee against Torture. This body -- along with other UN human rights mechanisms such as the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture -- is vital to strengthening a victim-oriented approach that also includes a gender perspective. This effort was further strengthened by the adoption this year of a UN Human Rights Council resolution focussing on the rehabilitation of torture victims.
I urge all Member States to accede to and fully implement the Convention against Torture and support the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  Let us work together to end torture throughout the world and ensure that countries provide reparation for victims.

Ban Ki-moon

Thanks to Martha and Irwin for organizing another successful information table at the Amherst Farmers Market last Sat...many people stopped by to sign petitions and donated money for our local chapters' campaigns...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amherst Chapter Receives Hironaka Award

The 3-day Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Amnesty International ended last Sun in Virginia. Lot of great things, great people, great Resolutions to strengthen our human rights work.
Our Amherst Chapter (group-128) was recognized when received the prestigious Hironaka Award for community organizing in human rights. I was honored to receive the award on behalf of the members in a special celebration in the main auditorium. I was given the chance twice to share our experience in 2 separate meetings in order to have many other Chapters benefit of the organzing model we excelled over the past 35 years (yes we should celebrate the 35th anniversary this year)
One of the highlights of the Conference this year was the powerful speech given by the Ugandan Bishop CHRISTOPHER SENYONJO in support of the LGBT community and their rights to live in peace like all of other people without fear of hate crimes especially in countries like Uganda, Kenya, Sudan.
There were many great people at the Conference I met with and managed to strengthen our work relationship with them. This includes Shahram Hashemi, the Chair of the Boards of Directors of Amnesty. I shared with him our concern over few things especially the website and suggested few changes. I had another chance to discuss this in more depth during the Local Groups Training on Fri. 
  All what I can say, there was very clear signs of health recovery within the executive board that we hope to help us to better do our community organizing. I came back with more hope this time!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Torture advocates are back with no shame!

With the release of the controversial Hollywood movie, Zero Dark 30, we started to hear a support to torture from people who were not before.
We are asking you to do your own homework and learn more about this fake claims and baseless argument.
Pls take a moment and examine these courageous statements from our legislators (Republicans and Democrats)...

"[The] CIA did not first learn about the existence of the [Osama bin Laden] courier from detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. Nor did the agency discover the courier's identity from detainees subjected to coercive techniques."

- Joint statement from: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
"It was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden."

- Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

And Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director, had this to say:

"In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means."

Source: the national Religious Campaign Against Torture