Student Human Rights Reporter Award hopefuls, begin the holidays with a message for Human Rights Day
With the holidays nearly here, there’s no time like the present to start thinking about a submission for Amnesty’s Student Human Rights Reporter Award. The competition recognises students across Scotland and the UK who have what it takes to raise public awareness of human rights abuses with the written word.
University-age students have long been a force for positive change, working hard to build a better and more just world than they inherited. Those of you reading this will probably also know that for many of your peers across the world, the price of standing up for human rights is much higher.
This year, Amnesty’s Write 4 Rights campaign highlights a number of young people who, like you, will not be silent. Whether you are an aspiring Human Rights reporter or not, Monday 10 December is Human Rights Day. Support the work of these brave young people with friends and family and convictions just like yours. A letter or a card to say that you’re thinking of them is a powerful thing and a fitting start to the season.
Here are some of Amnesty’s featured cases:
Young Women for Change (YWC)
Afghan women standing up for their rights
Young Women for Change (YWC) is a grassroots feminist movement with the aim of empowering and improving the lives of women across Afghanistan.
Among other activities they run an awareness programme to help women take a greater part in social and political life, have led protests demanding justice for women experiencing violence, conducted the first large-scale study of sexual harassment and, in collaboration with another youth group called Hadia, organised the first ever anti-street harassment march.
They do all of this at great personal risk - women's rights defenders in Afghanistan face violence and threats from government forces and Taliban alike.
Murdered for being a lesbian
In April 2011 24-year old Noxolo Nogwaza was raped and beaten before being violently stabbed to death. It is thought that the motive for such a brutal act boils down to one thing: Noxolo was a lesbian.
Nearly two years on and justice is yet to be done. Noxolo’s murder remains unsolved.
Noxolo was a human rights defender who campaigned for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in South Africa. Now EPOC, an organisation she was involved with that works to combat hate crimes, are campaigning for justice.
Protester missing in Syria
In the early days of Syria’s anti-government uprising last spring, 23-year-old Anas al-Shogre was one of the first to publicly call on people in the city of Banias to take to the streets and demand their freedom.
When the authorities responded with a brutal crackdown, Anas exposed their human rights abuses to international media including BBC Arabic. He was offered bribes to stop speaking out, but Anas refused to be silenced. Then, in May last year, he was arrested. His family haven’t seen him since. They don’t know where he is, or why he is being held - but we all believe he is being punished for speaking out.
Facing jail on bogus charges
23 year-old activist and journalist Mehman Huseynov is facing up to five years in prison on fabricated 'hooliganism' charges.
As Azerbaijan prepared to host the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year, Mehman was part of a group that met with the eventual winner (Sweden's Loreen), prompting her to speak out about human rights issues in the country.
The police claim that the reason for the charges against Mehman relate to him being violent at a protest he was covering as a journalist. This testimony is contradicted by eyewitness reports. We strongly believe the charges against him are instead an attempt to punish him for capitalising on the international media spotlight brought by Eurovision to highlight human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.
Mehman was arrested on 12 June, but released on bail the following evening. His trial is ongoing.
Jailed for Singing
In August 2012, Moscow’s City Court jailed three members of the punk band Pussy Riot for two years.
Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were convicted of ‘hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred’ after they sang a song that was critical of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral.
We believe their trial was politically motivated and consider them prisoners of conscience.
At an appeal hearing on 10 October 2012, Ekaterina was given a suspended sentence and released from prison. However Maria and Nadezhda have been sent to labour colonies to serve their time.
‘Tis a season of friends and family- why not get yours together and make a human rights night of it?
For more information on Write for Rights and to see other featured cases, visit the Write for Rights campaign page
This post is by Sarah Stewart
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.