A brief look back at 2011
The Hammersmith & Fulham Group
Amnesty’s 50th Anniversary
May 28th marked the 50th anniversary of the letter Peter Benenson sent to the Observer in 1961 that was to result in the founding of Amnesty International, and celebratory events on local, national and international levels officially began on that date, and will continue until May 27th 2012. The group marked the occasion with two events close to each other: a pub quiz in The Hop Poles in King Street on May 26th, and on May 28th with a celebration stall in Lyric Square, attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, and local MP Andy Slaughter, who told us that he was born on the same date as Amnesty and in the same year. The quiz raised £138 and donations from the stall totalled £114, while all expenses for the stall were met from the donations fund in the bookshop.
Middle East North Africa (MENA) Region Uprisings and Rally
Following the toppling of the president in Tunisia, demonstrations against government repression spread to other countries in the Region, including Egypt, Libya and Syria. AIUK organised a 10,000-strong rally in Trafalgar Square in February, to express solidarity with the people demonstrating for human rights, and in protest against the brutal measures taken by the governments concerned to suppress dissent. Egypt now has a chance to form a new sort of government, and even the huge scale of violence in Libya and the exodus of refugees came to an end with the fall of Gaddafi. But state violence against people claiming basic human rights persists in Syria, and this is one reason for Amnesty calling another February rally in Trafalgar Square this year. The group has been taking part in the campaign actions issued by Amnesty’s Crisis Response Team, and will continue to do so.
New Women’s Programme
A new Programme to address gender-specific abuses for girls and women began last February. One of its first actions was on behalf of women in Afghanistan, also part of the MENA Region, but where increasing unrest and violence relates to the planned peace negotiations involving the Taliban and other guerrilla groups. The gains in women’s rights over the past few years are at risk, and we have sent letters to the president, Hamid Karzai, to William Hague and the Afghanistan Embassy, urging that these rights must be protected, with full involvement of women in the negotiations. In September ‘kite’ campaign cards were issued for colouring and sending on their behalf. Earlier, in July, we held a stall with‘butterfly’ cards for the women of Nicaragua trying to claim proper health care and an end to legislation criminalising abortion under any circumstances, including child rape. The new opportunities and hazards for the women of Egypt were also addressed last year, and more campaign work for them will be developed in 2012.
While in 2010 we campaigned with some success against irresponsible behaviour by multinationals such as Shell and Vedanta, in 2011 the focus was on forced mass evictions of disadvantaged people such as the Roma, which has been happening in many countries, and Amnesty has managed to stop or halt several evictions, even in Zimbabwe, We have also continued to write in support of communities at long-term risk,in Kenya, Nigeria and Colombia. This work will continue during 2012.
In spite of intensive campaigning in which the group took part, Amnesty failed to save the life of Troy Davis in the US, who was executed in September by lethal injection, after several years on death row and four halted execution dates, for shooting a policeman. No physical evidence linked him to the crime, the gun was never found, and witness evidence had collapsed. A sad and unjust outcome. We also joined the campaign against stoning to death in Iran, which under current legislation is mandatory for ‘adultery while married’. There is a new draft legal code that omits this penalty, and a final decision on this is expected in March 2012.
On Human Rights Day in December we held a special stall with letters on 3 of the 10 cases in Amnesty’s booklet, Write for Rights, which were almost all featured in the annual Greetings Cards Campaign booklet on which our January 2012 stall was based. This ended a year of monthly stalls (except in August) on topical themes. Public response was not significantly different from previous years, but donations were often lower. The current economic situation does not help, but the goodwill and determination of our stalls volunteers continues to amaze. Thanks to all of you who kept the stalls going throughout 2011. And warm best wishes to all reading this for a happy and fulfilling year ahead.