Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message From Amnesty USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins

I grew up in the shadow of Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. As a boy, I would walk by Sing Sing and hear the inmates talking, a stark and sobering reminder of the dashed dreams of the many men I knew growing up who ended up impoverished, incarcerated or killed. Young men like my childhood best friend, who is currently serving a life sentence.

For many activists who join the struggle for human rights, there is a transformative moment, which inspires a lifelong commitment to social advocacy. For me, that moment came inside the walls of Sing Sing prison.

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Protesting the Regression to Repression in Russia

Policemen detain an opposition supporter taking part in a picketing calling for the release of the two jailed members the Pussy Riot (Photo Credit: Evgeny Feldman/AFP/Getty Images).

Policemen detain an opposition supporter taking part in a picketing calling for the release of the two jailed members the Pussy Riot (Photo Credit: Evgeny Feldman/AFP/Getty Images).

This blog originally appeared on Fem 2.0

A lot has changed in Russia since I visited Moscow in 1985.

It was an exciting time for citizens of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev had just taken over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party and introduced “Glasnost” or openness to a people who had for years lived under the dictates of a repressive government. Glasnost started a transformation in Soviet society and awoke long dormant aspirations of cultural, civil, and political freedoms.

The ensuing three decades were turbulent to say the least, but resulted in Russians enjoying and exercising greater freedoms, including the key ability to have a say in their own governance.

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When Will Russia and the Former Soviet Union Stop Instituting Homophobic Policies?

Gay rights activists march in St. Petersburg (Photo Credit: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images).

Gay rights activists march in St. Petersburg (Photo Credit: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images).

The upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has been controversial for a while, compliments of host country’s president Vladimir Putin.

His homophobic policies have lead to widespread boycott calls, but have not sparked official outrage in the former Soviet Union.

On the contrary. This week, Armenia’s state police posted online a legislative proposal to fine up to $4,000 for promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. It swiftly took down the proposal from the website after some protest, citing lack of priority and shortcomings. The police credited “several dozen intellectuals” for prompting the legislation in the first place.

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