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The death of an (extra)ordinary man

When I heard the announcement of Brian Haw’s death on Radio 2 I was saddened and impressed – impressed that the death of this ordinary man should be announced by the BBC. And there’s lot of coverage in the papers today too.

It’s a rare thing for a ‘non-celebrity’ to achieve this kind of attention. But Brian Haw’s claim to fame was his shear dogged determination to maintain his protest outside Parliament, for an incredible ten years. That’s pretty amazing; shame that of our senior politicians only Alex Salmond could bring himself to say so, at least in the bulletin I heard.

When I checked out BBC News Online’s story this morning it was followed by nearly 300 comments, many of them paying tribute to Brian Haw for the inspiration he provided. For me, the ordinary person’s protest will always be the most inspirational. Often it requires great courage and enormous personal sacrifice.

Whatever the role of politicians, whatever the role of celebrities, ultimately it will be ordinary people standing up for justice who effect change. That’s the story of Amnesty International, it’s the story of the Arab Spring and it’s the story in so many dark corners of the world.

One of the most inspirational people I’ve met is Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, whose piece about her struggle for freedom in Burma is in the Guardian today. See also Top Hat’s blog from Friday.

Back in 2007, Brian Haw took part in a series we were running with the New Statesman magazine in which people in the UK wrote about those in a similar position who faced human rights abuse. Brian wrote about WOZA ( Women of Zimbabwe Arise),  formed in 2003 to provide women with a united voice against the social, economic and human rights conditions in Zimbabwe.Amnesty International has documented numerous incidents in which members of WOZA have been arrested, harassed and severely beaten by police after exercising their right to peaceful protest. They still need our support.

Take action for WOZA here. It’s a small thing but you’ll be one of those ordinary people making a protest.  

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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