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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Hit and Run: Congress Must Not Let CIA Get Away with Murder

By Naureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty International USA

A year ago almost to the day, on October 24, 2012, a U.S. drone strike killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi. She was gathering vegetables in her family’s large, mostly vacant fields in north Waziristan, Pakistan. We don’t know whom the U.S. intended to target, but it is hard to imagine that a policy that allows the killing of this grandmother, who was blown to pieces before the eyes of her young grandchildren, is anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of the U.S. government.

The latest revelation from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reported in the Washington Post, suggests the NSA cast a “surveillance blanket” over parts of northern Pakistan, feeding enormous amounts of data to the CIA’s secret lethal drone program. Even if the NSA didn’t pick up chatter after the killing of this grandmother, the U.S. government claims that it conducts post-strike assessments of who is killed. It knew, or should have known, that something went wrong.

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Time for the U.S. to End Its Drone Secrecy

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By Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Research at Amnesty International

It was a sunny October afternoon last year when Mamana Bibi was blown to pieces before her grandchildren’s very eyes. The family matriarch, Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family fields in northwestern Pakistan when a remotely piloted aircraft – or “drone” – used by the United States fired a missile directly toward her, killing Mamana instantly. A second volley of missiles was fired a few minutes later, injuring some of the children who ventured out to where their grandmother had been struck.

Almost a year to the day, the Bibi family’s lives have been torn apart. In a number of in-depth interviews over the last eight months, the family recounted to me how they sold ancestral lands to pay for their injured relatives’ steep medical bills. Mamana’s grief-stricken elderly husband, a respected retired local headmaster, rarely leaves the house. Their grandchildren, including 8-year-old Nabeela, now live in constant fear of the drones, which seem ever present in the skies.

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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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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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The Plight of Guantanamo’s Cleared Detainees in A Powerful New Video

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The folks over at The Guardian released this creative animated video today based on the testimony of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the detention facility but are still held.

Shaker Aamer is one of the people featured in the video. He has been detained for over 11 years without charge, despite being cleared to leave and despite UK Prime Minister David Cameron personally asking President Obama to return him to the UK. You can read Cameron’s letter to Amnesty International here.

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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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Dirty Wars: It’s Time to Pick Sides

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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.

By the time the stragglers reached the auditorium at the Ithaca College showing of Dirty Wars, everyone was packed shoulder to shoulder in their seats, a solid mass of people talking excitedly and straining to get closer to the screen. I saw one young woman squirm through the crowd to find one of the last empty seats, wedging herself between two others.

A quiet slowly settled across the room and the film began, Jeremy Scahill’s voice carrying through the auditorium. The faces of children who have lost mothers and uncles and grandparents to U.S. strikes with drones and other weapons flashed across the screen. The film details the raids and strikes that characterize President Obama’s deadliest and most secret game: the Game of Drones.

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Why I Fight to End 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. 

As a young activist, I stood up for the first time when I was in middle school at a school board meeting on racial profiling. I was so nervous as I walked up to the microphone; sweat was beaded on my forehead and my heart was pounding in my chest. Though my voice was shaking, I found the courage to speak, but within a few sentences, I knew the board wasn’t listening.

My eyes passed over these people who were supposed to be our leaders, and I saw one of them nodding off. In a flash of anger, I decided that I would not be silenced. I turned to the crowd of people who had come with me that day and shouted, “What do we want?”

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