This is How You Fight Drones

Amnesty USA's Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

Amnesty USA’s Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour.Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

When I shut the classroom door, the only sound left was the buzzing of the dim fluorescent lights overhead. We could no longer hear the theater students practicing their monologues in the hallway, or the voices of the Amnesty members in the classroom next door frantically flipping through the report on drones in Pakistan as they made signs for our action the next day. “You’re sure you have time for this?” I asked Sahare, as I slid into the desk and took out my phone to record her message.

“Yes, of course,” Sahare said. Her sad eyes held mine, unwavering. “I need to do this as a tribute to my grandmother. Without her inspiration, I wouldn’t be here.”

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This Girl Traveled Over 7,000 Miles to Tell Her Story, 5 Members of Congress Showed Up

181713_display[1]This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour. Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

It was just after midnight on the East Coast when the first news story came out. I’d been sitting on another edge of another bed in another bland hotel room for a few hours by then, typing up notes from our tour stop in Madison and planning the next day’s action in Minneapolis. At least that’s what I’d meant to do. Really, I was waiting for this very moment. The new Amnesty International report on drone strikes in Pakistan had finally been released.

My Twitter feed was soon full of chatter about drones, and about the civilian deaths outlined in the report. I clicked over to the Amnesty website to open the report, and saw the face of Nabeela Bibi, the eight-year-old girl who had watched her 68-year-old grandmother, Mamana, blown to pieces while she was picking vegetables in the family fields. My cell phone buzzed and I looked down at a text message from my friend, a fellow activist who has been working on this issue for years.

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The Power of Us

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As I write this, Amnesty International activists across the U.S. are preparing to come together for Regional Conferences. They are crafting booths for Ideas Fairs, writing curricula for workshops on effective advocacy, researching complex human rights issues around the globe. They are organizing their communities to come together and build a movement.

At Amnesty, I am continually struck by the Power of Us – the theme of this year’s Regional Conferences. Everywhere I look, Amnesty activists are building a larger and stronger “us” with even more grassroots power.

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Drone Strikes: When Will the U.S. Wake Up?

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This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour. Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

As the credits began to roll, the lights in the theater at the University of Cincinnati turned on. I took a deep breath. Seeing the images in Dirty Wars for the fourth time, I could feel the dull ache of my sadness, but there were no tears. I just don’t have them any more. I stood, turned to the crowd, and broke the silence.

“How do you all feel right now after watching the film?”

I looked out at a mix of blank faces, confused stares, and furrowed brows. We’ve all been there – you see something awful happening in the world, and you’re stunned for a moment, processing what you just saw. Wondering what to do next.

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Will This Man Be Executed Twice?

Addicted to deathAn Iranian man, identified by state media only as “Alireza M.,” was hanged and presumed dead, but discovered to be alive in a morgue by his family. Now, the authorities intend to reattempt the execution once his health “improves.”

Iran has been basking in the dubious distinction of being number two in the number of citizens it executes. It can’t quite compare to the perennial executions “champion” China, but Iran does likely have the highest per capita rate of executions of any country in the world.

This is not exactly an achievement to brag about.

We can’t be sure how many people Iran executes each year, but the latest reliable estimates are that as of this week, at least 508 people were executed in Iran so far this year. If the trend continues, Iran is well on the path to exceed in 2013 the minimum of 544 people it is believed to have executed last year.

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Whatever It Takes: Ending the #GameOfDrones

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This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour. Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

The rain falls hard in the north. In fact, it’s rained in every city we’ve visited. It poured all afternoon as we rode the long stretch of highway away from Ithaca and crossed the New York-Pennsylvania border. The rain finally stopped when we reached our motel for the night, and the supplies we have strapped to the roof of our car were soaked.

We checked in, and walked into our dark room, another room in another city. Across the darkness, I saw the red block numbers of the clock glaring at me. It was past midnight. We set to work unpacking, drying, and refolding hundreds of t-shirts. When I finally sat down hours later to work out the details of the next direct action training and finalize the next day’s agenda, I could feel the exhaustion of the road in my bones. Wearily, I looked at the clock. It was almost 3 a.m.

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On World Death Penalty Day, An Activist Reflects

Andrea Hall was among the activists looking on when Gov. Martin O’ Malley signed Maryland’s death penalty abolition bill this May (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

Andrea Hall was among the activists looking on when Gov. Martin O’ Malley signed Maryland’s death penalty abolition bill this March (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

By Andrea Hall, Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic Region

I was late to the party, but I won’t be leaving early. I joined Amnesty’s death penalty abolition team in May 2011, just as the Maryland repeal campaign was kicking into high gear. I stood on the shoulders of giants, helping finish the decades-long work of those who came before me.

I joined the movement because I felt strongly that the death penalty is dead wrong. I grew up in Texas, where for many, executions are as revered as football, a cause for celebration. That lack of respect for the dignity of the human person has stayed with me.

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Former Child Soldier Thanks Amnesty Members After Being Released From Guantánamo

A watch tower is seen in the currently closed Camp X-Ray, which was the first detention facility to hold 'enemy combatants' at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba  (Photo  Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

A watch tower at Camp X-Ray, which was the first detention facility to hold ‘enemy combatants’ at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images).

By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

From Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay and now the outskirts of Edmonton. Who would have thought that human rights campaigning that began with a short news report that a 15-year-old Canadian had been arrested by U.S. forces on the battlefield in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 and continued through a decade of activism, media interviews and legal work while that same young Canadian endured the lawlessness and injustices of Guantánamo Bay; would now bring me to a maximum security prison outside Edmonton?

But that is where, after eleven years of working on his case, I recently traveled to meet and spend some time with Omar Khadr.

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