Scholars Jailed in Turkey’s On-Going War Against Freedom of Expression: How You Can Take Action

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Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016, reiterating their support for a statement they had signed in January. The appeal for peace criticizing ongoing curfews and security operations in south eastern Turkey and calling for a resumption of peace talks between Turkey and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) initially attracted 1,128 academics across Turkey. A further 1,084 academics since signed to appeal, bringing the total to 2,212 signatories.

Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016.

Turkey has suffered from a series of horrendous attacks in recent months.  The security challenges it faces are very real. Unfortunately, the rhetoric coming out of Ankara suggests that, under the umbrella of fighting terrorism, the most basic civil liberties are to be targeted.

Citizens from all walks of life, including journalists, scholars, lawyers, and thirteen year olds sharing stuff on facebook, have all been targeted by the Turkish authorities simply for expressing ideas that the government doesn’t like.  Turkey’s current campaign against academics who signed a “peace petition” is emblematic of a much larger problem.  It is time to take action.  It is time to add your voice to those calling on Turkey to respect the most basic rights of freedom of expression.

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Nowruz Action to Bring Comfort to Prisoners of Conscience in Iran

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An Iranian boy holds a fire cracker in southern Tehran on March 19, 2013 during the Wednesday Fire feast, or Chaharshanbeh Soori, held annually on the last Wednesday eve before the Spring holiday of Noruz. The Iranian new year that begins on March 20 coincides with the first day of spring during which locals revive the Zoroastrian celebration of lighting a fire and dancing around the flame. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI        (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

An Iranian boy holds a fire cracker in southern Tehran on March 19, 2013 during the Wednesday Fire feast, or Chaharshanbeh Soori, held annually on the last Wednesday eve before the Spring holiday of Noruz. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

For the past eight years, activists have been sending messages of solidarity and support to prisoners of conscience in Iran and their families around Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which marks the beginning of Spring. Sadly, scores of people in Iran—labor activists, journalists, social media users, artists, women’s rights activists and human rights defenders—will not be able to celebrate this important holiday with their family and friends because the Iranian government has slammed them into prison, just for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Civil Society and Human Rights Continue to Disintegrate Under Russia’s Heavy Handed ‘Rule of Law’

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Yekaterina VologzheninovaBy Courtney Dobson, Country Specialist for Russia at Amnesty International USA.

There is a clear juxtaposition between Putin’s ambition for Russia to be a superpower in the global arena and the disintegration of human rights and civil society at home. In recent months, Putin may have gained diplomatic points in the global arena for commanding the world’s attention to its aggressive activities both in eastern Ukraine and its military action in Syria. However this grandstanding on the world stage should not be cause for distraction; the attack on Russian civil society continues, as a single mom and shop assistant from the Sverdlovsk region of Russia has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred for sharing links on social media.

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“Simple, honest, kind”: My Wife, the Jailed Student Activist

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By Lin Htet Naing, husband of activist & prisoner of conscience Phyoe Phyoe Aung

In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.
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A Father’s Urgent Plea to See His Son Freed From Death Row in Saudi Arabia

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By Mohammed al-Nimr

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in 2012 when he was only 17 years old. He was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial based on forced “confessions” allegedly after being tortured, and has recently been moved into solitary confinement. His uncle, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and vocal critic of the authorities was also sentenced to death last year. In a piece written for Amnesty International, Ali’s father recalls his young son and brother, who are both at imminent risk of execution. Please take action now to help stop Ali Mohammed al-Nimr’s execution.


Every time I enter and leave my house through our garage, a bicycle in the corner catches my eye, shining brightly.

Looking at that bicycle brings back painful memories of my young son Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death and is facing imminent execution in my homeland, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

USA: It’s Time for Real Criminal Justice Reform

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US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world.  (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Last week, President Obama put a much-needed spotlight on the vicious cycle of mass incarceration. In the past three decades, the prison population in the U.S. has ballooned due to a number of factors that have created a system rife with discrimination and other abuses. And the burden falls disproportionately on low-income people and people of color.

The President made a historic visit on July 16 to a federal prison — the first sitting president to do so. His visit spotlighted the massive overcrowding problem — he was shown one 9-by-10-foot cell that sometimes holds three prisoners — that is the result of a broken criminal justice system.

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From Animal Cartoons to Opposition to the Death Penalty: Just About Anything Can Land You in Prison in Iran

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Artist Atena Farghadani

Artist Atena Farghadani

It seems that not one single thing escapes the attention of hardliners in Iran, bent on using the extraordinary powers they hold to suppress every effort by Iranians to exercise their right to freedom of expression. They have even decreed that men should refrain from sporting various hairdos and—yes I am not kidding—from plucking their eyebrows, because those are considered to be indications of “devil worshipping” and homosexuality.

Although such preoccupations may seem risible to some, the people who are caught up in this dragnet are suffering very real and harsh consequences. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

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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

The First Day of Spring Should Not Be Spent Behind Bars in Iran

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Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Former Iranian prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari said “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.”   The first day of spring is a particularly painful time for those incarcerated in Iran because it is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, an ancient holiday that is the occasion for joyous celebration with family and friends. That is why it is so important to remind prisoners of conscience that they are NOT forgotten at Nowruz time. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Meet Jasmine at the AGM: Campaigner for Individuals at Risk

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Photo by Yue Wu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Leading up to our 2015 human rights conference in Brooklyn, NY, March 20-22, we are highlighting six Amnesty International USA staff members and moments in their life that have helped build their career in the human rights movement! Read all six in our “Meet me at the AGM” blog series.

NAME: ­­­­­­Jasmine Heiss

I WORK FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA AS: Senior Campaigner, Individuals at Risk Program

IN THAT ROLE I:

  • Strategize, power-map, and creatively deconstruct injustice
  • Build project-plans, relationships and coalitions
  • Influence private and public actors to defend and uphold human rights
  • Work directly with my human rights heroes

HOW DID YOU GET THERE?
I grew up in Northern Michigan in a house run off of solar and wind with gravity-fed (COLD!) water, and intensely idealistic parents. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST