The Power of an Artist

KANDEL_AMNESTY2-6Throughout history, courageous and visionary people have sought to reflect what is universal about humanity. We call these people artists, whether they grasp a paintbrush or a microphone, publish photographs or books, because they create something that electrifies us. They are “gatekeepers of truth”, in the words of Paul Robeson, and truth is a burden to bear.

Take Saudi Arabian blogger, Raif Badawi, who received a sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for daring to spark social and political debate. Or artist Ai Weiwei, whose work exposing the limitations of expression imposed by the Chinese government has earned him beatings, stints in prison without charge, constant surveillance and restriction from leaving the country.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

1,000 Days in Prison: How Mohammed Al-Roken Is Sacrificing His Freedom for Human Rights in the UAE

Dr Mohammed al-Roken

By Mansoureh Mills, Amnesty International campaigns on UAE, Iran and Kuwait

Sunday 12 April 2015 marks 1,000 days since Dr Mohammed al-Roken was locked up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following a massive crackdown on political and human rights activists. Across the world, Amnesty campaigners are doing all they can to fight for his release.

“You taught me the importance of trying to change things that look unjust,” Christian, Canada.

For the past two weeks, I’ve read and counted around 4,000 beautiful cards and letters for human rights lawyer and law professor Dr Mohammed al-Roken. He was sentenced to 10 years’ prison in the UAE after a deeply unfair mass trial of 94 government critics and activists, and has spent much of the last 1,000 days in a high security prison in the Abu Dhabi desert. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Did Death Sentences in US Increase or Decrease Last Year?

2014 death penalty top 5Amnesty International released its annual death penalty report last week, Death Sentences and Executions 2014, which tracks all known use of the death penalty on the planet from the past year. The report shows a large increase in global death sentences of 28%.

But the news isn’t all bad. Here in the United States, the death penalty’s steady decline continues unabated.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Four Years into the Syrian Conflict

Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)

The lights are going out in Syria.

As the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens, the darkness is literally spreading.  More than 80 percent of lights have gone out across Syria since March 2011; in Aleppo, site of fighting for more than two years, 97 percent of lights are not working.

If you want to understand what that means, listen to this description from a Syrian surgeon in Aleppo:

Marwan was on the operating table when the lights blinked and fizzed out,” the doctor said. “The nurse pulled her mobile phone from her pocket – generating the only light in the pitch-black basement. Others followed suit, producing just enough light to allow me to finish repairing his broken little body.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Roar of A Thousand Activists

By Ann Burroughs, Amnesty International USA board chair, and Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA executive director

Last week, over 1,100 human rights activists gathered in Brooklyn, New York. What for? Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting, appropriately themed this year “From Moment to Movement.” Braving rain and snow, people who have been members for decades –perhaps having joined as a result of the Human Rights Concerts of the 1980s—joined with those new to Amnesty– together reflecting on the spark of change that can begin in an instant and reverberate for years.

So that’s the ‘what’ – but why? What happens when you gather this powerhouse of activism in one place for one weekend? The answers say a lot about what it means to turn a moment into a movement.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#FreeRaif: US should press for release of Saudi blogger

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

There were at least 607 executions in 2014. So what?

4513_DP_Stats_social-02

By Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Researcher at Amnesty International

The numbers behind our latest overview of the global use of the death penalty, released today, tell a chilling story: 607 people were executed in 22 countries and at least 2,466 men and women were sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2014 alone.

But, alarming as they are, the figures paint a partial picture of the true extent to which people are hanged, shot or given the lethal injection across the world.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Arrested and Beaten for Wearing Trousers: Stop the Public Flogging of Women in Sudan!

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

By Amal Habani, Winner of Amnesty International USA’s 2015 Ginetta Sagan Award

In July 2009 when my colleague was arrested and tried for wearing trousers in Khartoum, I could no longer stay silent.

Women and girls in Sudan are constantly confronted with obstacles imposed by the public order regime that hinder their freedom of movement, their freedom of association, and their ability to make personal choices on a daily basis.  As a Sudanese woman, I had always encountered these problems and as such, aspired to become a journalist to speak out for social change.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Cesar Chavez: A Birthday Gift

A man holds a portrait of Cesar Chavez at a mass in Los Angeles. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927. (c) David McNew/Getty Images)

A man holds a portrait of Cesar Chavez at a mass in Los Angeles. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

By Jesús Canchola Sánchez

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona. My grandmother is a year younger than him. She was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. Cesar Chavez and my abuela (grandmother), Beatriz Soto, are a part of me. Their experiences, successes, and faults have constructed my identity in the United States. Without their stories, I wouldn’t have my voice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women Get the Short End of the Stick in Iran and Can’t Even Protest

Untitled

As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST