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.