In the first episode of Amnesty’s new online magazine show (created by Amnesty UK) we have Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales talking about Internet freedom, a birthday message from Aung San Suu Kyi the latest human rights news you may not have seen on your regular news station as well as an instructional video on how to perform the perfect Carpet Karaoke. Don’t know what that is? Watch now.
Twenty five years ago today, on June 15th, 1986, the Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope tour broadcast live on MTV from Giants Stadium.
The Conspiracy of Hope tour was a celebration of our 25th anniversary and it introduced countless Americans to human rights and made life-long Amnesty members.
U2 was part of our movement then (watch their amazing performance in 1986 above!) and they are still with us fighting for justice today.
Bono recently saluted Amnesty on our 50th birthday from the stage during U2′s 360 tour last month:
The 2nd North American leg of the U2 360 Tour kicked off this past weekend in Denver with Amnesty International volunteers in full force! Amnesty has been on the road with U2′s 360 tour since the first date in Barcelona back in June 2009.
Globally, Amnesty has gathered over 100,000 signatures supporting our Demand Dignity campaign. Not to mention on average, the thousands of people in each stadium who have seen our bright yellow shirts and have heard Bono mention Amnesty International from the stage!
Amnesty International turns 50 this year, and closely linked to Amnesty’s legacy of championing human rights is that of folk legend Joan Baez.
Baez was an active supporter of Amnesty from the start, stuffing envelopes at our first home office in San Francisco– not coincidentally, where this year’s Annual General Meeting is being held. This Friday, as part of our anniversary AGM, Joan Baez will be honored for a lifetime of human rights solidarity and advocacy.
Her receiving the award also marks an exciting beginning, as it will establish the Amnesty International Joan Baez Award for Outstanding, Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights. The award will be given to artists – working in music, film, fine arts or other media – who similarly contribute to the advancement of human rights.
Baez will be presented with the first award in recognition of her historic, ground-breaking and courageous human rights work with Amnesty International and beyond, and the inspiration she has given activists around the world. In the early 1970′s, she devoted a full year to help establish Amnesty International chapters in the San Francisco bay area. Among her innumerable, diverse contributions to Amnesty, she has headlined anti-death penalty rallies and traveled to New York and Paris for the organization’s first Campaign to Abolish Torture.
The arts can be a powerful venue for championing human rights, by educating and inspiring the audience to take action.
Amnesty International is proud to announce our partnership with the American Repertory Theater’s production of Prometheus Bound, written by Tony and Grammy Award-winning playwright Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) and Grammy Award-winning composer Serj Tankian (of the band System of a Down).
This new musical is inspired by Aeschylus’s Ancient Greek tragedy about the heroic struggle of Western civilization’s first prisoner of conscience. Prometheus Bound tells the story of Prometheus, the Titan who defied Zeus by giving the human race both fire and art. The ancient story is made relevant to modern-day struggles against tyranny, giving a voice to those being silenced or endangered by oppressors today.
The A.R.T. will dedicate the run of Prometheus Bound to eight modern day prisoners of conscience and the fight against human rights abuses all over the world. After each performance, the audience will be given the tools to take immediate action and the opportunity to engage with Amnesty International and other human rights advocates.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth, and we at Amnesty are excited to share with you a brand-new cover of the iconic Lennon song “How?” premiering today on iTunes!
The recording of “How?” is a cover by the infamous rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who cites Lennon and the Beatles as his inspiration for becoming a musician.
“If we want to survive as a race of people we’ve got to address problems head on. John and Yoko took the bull by the horns and for that you’ve got to take your hat off to both of them,” said Ozzy.
The song’s accompanying music video was shot on the streets of New York and at the Lennon Memorial in Central Park.
Three years ago, Yoko Ono graciously donated to us all of Lennon’s publishing royalties for “Instant Karma” - an album of Lennon compositions performed by many of the world’s leading artists including U2, R.E.M., Green Day, Black Eyed Peas, Aerosmith and Christina Aguilera. The album was critically acclaimed and has raised millions of dollars to benefit our work on Darfur.
“This year the whole world is celebrating the 70th anniversary of John’s birth,” said Ono. “His spirit and influence is stronger than ever. John shared a common purpose with Amnesty International – shining a light on wrongs and campaigning to protect people’s rights. We all shine on!”
All proceeds from downloads of “How?” will fund our work.
Five Amnesty International activists were detained by police yesterday before U2′s first ever Russian show in Moscow.
The detained activists had been holding placards inside the concert venue and collecting signatures for the ‘Demand Dignity’ campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. They were trying to raise awareness about human rights and collecting signatures to a petition. The Amnesty International official concert stall was also shut down.
And while Amnesty International’s activists were invited by U2 to join their European leg of their 360° tour, police officers ignored the activists’ protestations that they were there invited and forced them to close their stalls.
Although no-one resisted the police’s demands to close down the Amnesty International stall, Amnesty’s Moscow office staff member and four volunteers were taken to a local police station. They were ordered to provide a written explanation for their actions, issued with an official warning for organizing a public action for which no prior official permission had been obtained, and released over an hour later.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident; rather, it reflects the continuing difficult climate in Russia today for people seeking to express views that the authorities regard as difficult, dissenting or sensitive. Amnesty International is concerned that the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are restricted in Russia for members of the political opposition and human rights activists; we are also concerned that Russian authorities such disallow such activities unless they take place with their explicit sanction, and crack down hard on those whom they regard as violators.
There is something remarkably similar about the passion that drives a human rights activist and the passion that inspires a musician. A person who is willing to stand beneath the summer sun at a rally to hold signs and wave petitions again and again, and one who performs at their very best beneath the summer sun day after day must surely be made of similar stuff. Amnesty International, of course, has known about this overlap for fifty years, and has used music to inspire human rights activists, and human rights work to inspire musicians for nearly that entire time.
This summer, for the second year in a row, we’re doing both of these things as a non-profit sponsor on the infamous Vans Warped Tour. The longest-running music tour in the world, Warped sees nearly one million fans every summer, and reaches countless more with its annual compilation album. This year, with practically 200 bands playing throughout the United States and Canada at 43 dates, Warped and its musicians are more socially aware than ever.
Enter Amnesty International. Warped is the latest place we’ve found this overlap of passions and we’re putting it to good use. Rights like freedom of conscience, opinion and expression are the very fundamentals of a musician’s career, and the punk, emo and rock musicians of the Warped Tour are acutely aware of this fact. So it’s only natural for bands to feel compelled to take action, whether it’s shouting out about human rights from stage, starring in a video blog or signing petitions at our tent – it’s their passion that fuels concert-goers to follow suit. So, come to Warped to see musicians and bands like Sum 41, All American Rejects, The Summer Set and Anti-Flag play, visit our tent, and be part of the overlap.
By Mikel Jollett and Nazanin Boniadi for The Neda Project
The tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20th, 2009, sent a shiver down the cumulative spine of all freedom-loving people across the world. She quickly became the face of the human rights movement in Iran and has given a voice to the voiceless around the world.
In honor of her and in solidarity with the people of Iran, The Airborne Toxic Event and Amnesty have teamed up for the Neda Project. The song “Neda” is released on iTunes today (Tuesday, June 8th) with ALL proceeds from sales to benefit Amnesty International.
In addition to the iTunes release, we have made a web-based video retelling the historic events around Neda’s death. The purpose of the video is to tell the story to people of the world who may not be aware of the Iranian struggle for freedom and to send a message to people living inside Iran that we stand with them and support their brave efforts.
What you can do:
2. Send out a message via your various social media, alerting others to the video. If you use twitter include this text:
I am Neda. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXN_yCSbUYk #neda r/t
3. Change your Facebook/Myspace/Imeem status to “I am Neda”
4. Upload a picture of yourself holding a sign saying “I am Neda”
5. Visit nedaspeaks.org to learn more about the struggle for human rights in Iran and to participate in specific political actions that Amnesty has crafted urging the release of political prisoners.
We believe that the viral video of Neda’s death was a sea-change in political power in the world. It was the first viral video to change the course of history, a symbol that the power of broadcasting is no longer simply in the hands of governments and corporations, but in the hands of people. It is in the hands of anyone with a cell phone camera and an internet connection. It is in your hands right now.
I had a busy Valentine’s Day writing valentines to 75,000 Zimbabweans and a squadron of anti-riot police. It was quite exhausting. Fortunately, Amnesty’s good friends pitched in to help out-the members of the band State Radio, their uber cool non-profit Calling All Crows and some awesome fans made valentines at concerts and a pre-show action in Atlanta and Birmingham over the weekend.
Valentine’s Day is an important day for the grass roots organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). Founded on that day in 2003 with the mandate “the power of love is greater than the love of power,” it has grown to 75,000 women and men across the country that take to the streets every year in anniversary demonstrations to sing and dance as they march for greater human rights and civil liberties in Zimbabwe. These courageous women and men often face the violence of batons as anti-riot police disperse their marches. This year, Amnesty activists stand in solidarity with WOZA by sending valentines to the members showing our support; as well as valentines to the anti-riot police asking them to treat these non-violent activists with respect.
On Saturday, 700 WOZA members marched on the streets of Harare, handing out roses, valentine cards and copies of their new report about the status of democracy in Zimbabwe. Today, 1,000 WOZA members and other Zimbabwe citizens marched in Bulawayo, singing
“We want to expose this delay in writing our constitution, which will delay our getting our social justice”; “we don’t want the Kariba Draft” and “we need a Bill of Rights that respects us; send me around the country to consult on the constitution as WOZA respects people.”
There was no violence during either demonstration and we thank the Zimbabwe police for showing restraint and allowing free space for civil protest. Even though WOZA’s main Valentine’s marches are over, keep making and sending in those valentines! WOZA will march again many times this year. Sending valentines of support to WOZA does so much to encourage them and keep up morale, knowing the world cares and supports their cause. And it’s equally important to continue sending those valentines to the anti-riot police to remind them to always treat the members of WOZA without violence. Keep up the good work Amnesty activists and special thanks to Chad, Jeb and Matt for all the support from State Radio and Calling All Crows.