Where the buffalo roam

Never work with children or animals, my mother always used to tell me, and in the main I’ve tended to follow her advice.

However, here at Amnesty, we like to stage the odd demonstration and it’s a proven fact that if you want to do something that gets the cameras along, children and animals (along with facemasks, gigantic and garish props and a famous face) are always a good idea.

A few years ago Amnesty staged an excellent demo against Guantánamo outside the US embassy in London with several big wolf-like dogs. These were “actor dogs” and played their parts (GITMO guard dogs) to perfection. Woof, woof!

So, what on earth to make of the news out of Indonesia that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered a ban on buffalos at street protests after his image was stuck onto a water buffalo during a protest in Jakarta? Apparently he’s unhappy at being mocked as "big, stupid and slow like a buffalo” (which, by the way, is quite nice verse!)

Oh dear. I thought politicians were supposed to have thick skins. Like a rhinoceros, in fact …

Actually, as we know from cases like the donkey bloggers in Azerbaijan, the opposite seem to be the case. Many thin-skinned leaders don’t like mockery and they don’t like protests. Which is fine as long as they don’t take it out on the protestors or seek to curb basic human rights like the right to free expression and freedom of assembly

Could it all be the fault of demo-happy students? Back in my student days there used to be a protest about something or other on our campus every other day. Looking back I think it was a nice way of avoiding that difficult essay on Wuthering Heights and – as it turned out – pretty useful schooling in civil society activism and all things Amnesty-related.

But some don’t hold such permissive views. In Morocco, for example, 11 students are currently behind bars for having taken part in a demo on their campus in Marrakesh. The "Marrakesh 11" have an appeal coming up later this month – please support Amnesty’s call for a fair appeal hearing for the 11, plus for there to be proper investigations into allegations that they were tortured when originally taken into police detention.

Speaking of demos … we haven’t got any animals or children, but this coming Monday and Tuesday Amnesty is staging demos outside the London office of Vedanta Resources (a FTSE 100 company) highlighting human rights abuses linked to the company’s aluminium plant in India. No children, no dogs or buffalos, but plenty of people wrapped in tin foil …

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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