Archive for the 'Prison' Category

Radikala nätverket: Historiska perspektiv på politisk radikalism

Stellan Vinthagen March 28th, 2012

Ur Radikala nätverkets program på Lunds universitet våren 2012:

“History from the Inside Out: The Amistad Africans and their Struggle against Slavery while in Jail, 1839-1841”

28 maj, 14.15-16.00, Sal 3, Historiska institutionen, Lund

Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh
This presentation will explore the well-documented experience of thirty-six African rebels who were incarcerated in American jails after a successful uprising on the Cuban slave schooner Amistad in 1839. Against a fiery backdrop of slave rebellion around the Atlantic in the 1830s, how did African insurrectionists and American abolitionist reformers work together, inside the jail, to build a legal defense campaign, a network of support, a political alliance, and a social movement?

Radikala nätverket är en plattform för forskare intresserade av politisk radikalism i det förflutna och idag. Med ”radikal” menar vi alla grupper som försökt att revolutionera – snarare än reformera – hegemoniska sociala och politiska institutioner, vare sig de har befunnit sig till höger eller till vänster på den politiska skalan, eller har verkat för förändring med våldsamma eller icke våldsamma medel.

Radikala nätverket arrangerar två till fyra seminarier per termin. För att bli medlem av Radikala nätverkets e-postlista, kontakta magnus.olofsson [at] hist.lu.se.

As the drop excavates the Stone – The work of Amnesty International from a resistance perspective

Stellan Vinthagen May 25th, 2011

Amnesty International is one of the largest and most recognized human rights organisazitions in the world with more than 2.8 million supporters worldwide in about 150 countries. Traditionally, Amnesty has worked with the promotion of the civil and political rights, even though the organization during this time has claimed that all of the rights in the UN´s Universal Declaration on Human Rights are valid. Thus, big changes have occurred within the organization during the last couple of years. Today, Amnesty also work with the promotion of the economic, social and cultural rights. This work was set forth in the launch of the global campaign “Demand dignity” in May of 2009. Within this campaign, Amnesty is recognizing that poverty is in fact a result of human rights violations. Even the methods for activism that Amnesty is using have partly changed during the years.

During this seminary we will present the changes that have occurred within Amnesty as an organization during the last couple of years. Our focus point will be the activist work within the Swedish section, because this is what we have experience from. We will connect the work of Amnesty to relevant resistance theories in order to create a picture of how the organization can be considered to be an actor of resistance, both nationally as well as internationally.

Elin Åman is currently a student at the masters program in Human Rights at School of Global Studies and an active member of Amnesty International. She is the coordinator of the Swedish sections special group for economic, social and cultural rights.

Johanna Tjernström has a Master’s degree in Global Studies at School of Global Studies and is an active member in Amnesty International, among other things as a board member of the district of Gothenburg.

Annedalsseminariet – Seminariegatan 1A
Thursday 15.00 -1700. Seminar will be in English at room 419.

Welcome to the seminar
Free and open for everyone

Music of The Revolution: How Songs of Protest Have Rallied Demonstrators

jj March 9th, 2011

From: Movements.org

Look up the original site and get several of the movies.

Music almost always plays a pivotal role in protest movements, with songs and chants unifying dissidents in their rallying cries. Unlike movements of decades past, however, protest music made popular during the recent revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond spread virally with the help YouTube and Facebook.

TUNISIA

Twenty-one-year-old Hamada Ben Amor, known as El Général—an underground rapper living in the town of Sfax south of Tunis—uploaded a song he had written called “Rais Le Bled” (“President, Your Country”) to Facebook on November 7. The rap called out then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for the problems faced by average Tunisians trying to make a living, including food scarcity, a lack of freedom of speech, and unemployment with lyrics like: “Mr. President, your people are dying/People are eating rubbish/Look at what is happening/Miseries everywhere Mr. President/I talk with no fear/Although I know I will only get troubles/I see injustice everywhere.”

The Voice of Tunisia

The rap was picked up by local TV station Tunivision and Al-Jazeera and resonated with many Tunisians who quickly began sharing the song. Soon enough, the government blocked the musician’s Facebook page and cut off his mobile phone. Despite the attempt to make his music disappear, El Général’s song quickly became the anthem of the Jasmine Revolution.

El Général then recorded another song of protest call “Tounes Bladna” (“Tunisia Our Country”) on December 22. By that point, Ali’s regime had had enough with the musician. El Général was arrested by state security on January 6, taken to the Ministry of Interior, and interrogated for three days.

He tells The Guardian, “They kept asking me which political party I worked for. ‘Don’t you know it’s forbidden to sing songs like that?’ they said. But I just answered, ‘Why? I’m only telling the truth.’ I was in there for three days, but it felt like three years.” The public was outraged and began demanding his release. The pressure mounted on the government worked and he was soon released from detention.

Since Ben Ali left office on January 14, El Général’s tunes have continued to serve as a rallying cry for other demonstrators in the Middle East, and his work has proven to be popular among demonstrators in Bahrain.

EGYPT

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm (“Uncle Ahmed”), a popular voice for the poor who has spent 18 of his 81 years in Egyptian prisons, wrote “The Donkey and the Foal,” a commentary about then-president Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal. Musician Ramy Essam, who had taken to playing in Tahrir Square during the protest, set the poem to music and sang the song as Negm stood beside him.

Essam then penned the song “Leave,” inspired by the slogans and chants being shouted around Tahrir Square:

“We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! (x3)

Down, down Husni Mubarak! (x4)

The people demand: Bring down the regime! (x4)

He is going away. We are not going anywhere! (x4)

We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! Leave! (x4)”

The Truth Behind the Egyptian Revolution

Amir and Adel Eid from the Egyptian rock band Cairo-Kee gathered up other artists to record “Sout Al Horeya” (“The Voice of Freedom”), which quickly became another anthem for the revolution. The video for the song was shot entirely inside Tahrir Square during the revolution using a basic digital SLR camera.

“I went down to the streets vowing not to return, and wrote with my blood on every street.

Our voices reached those who could not hear them

And we broke through all barriers

Our weapon was our dreams

And tomorrow is looking as bright as it seems….”

Sout Al Horeya

LIBYA

Traditional songs have also played an important role in demonstrations. Libyans in the liberated eastern parts of the country forged bonds by singing the old national anthem while waving the tricolor flag from before Gaddafi came to power in 1969 as “a symbol of the reinvention of the Libyans.”

In this video, the massive crowd in Beghanzi sings the old anthem to share their pride in being liberated.

ARAB RAP DIASPORA

The Narcicyst, an Iraqi-born rapper living in Toronto, joined with other musicians from the Arabic rap diaspora in North America, such as Omar Offendum, Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B singer Ayah, to record a track called “#Jan25 Egypt,” based off the popular hashtag used during the demonstrations in Egypt. In an Al Jazeera English interview, Omar said that it’s a “song of solidarity with the Egyptian people and [a way] to open it up [what’s happening in Egypt] to an audience in the United States.” The song starts:

“I heard ’em say

The revolution won’t be televised

Aljazeera proved ’em wrong

Twitter has him paralyzed

80 million strong

And ain’t no longer gonna be terrorized

Organized – Mobilized – Vocalized

On the side of TRUTH

Um il-Dunya’s living proof

That its a matter of time

before the chicken is home to roost”

Omar Offendum

LOOKING FOR MORE MUSIC?

Check out Mideast Tunes, a hub launched by Mideast Youth for the region’s underground and alternative music scenes. You can browse music by country or genre. The site has highlighted a number of other protest songs coming out of the region for its listeners (1, 2).

Abdulla Darrat, co-founder of the enoughgaddafi.com (Khalas) site run by a Libyan exiles (now found at http://feb17.info), put together a “mixtape” featuring hip-hop artists from the region. The mix, called “Mish B3eed,” or “Not Far,” features songs describing the conditions in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. It can be downloaded here.

Durrat says, “[These musicians and emcees] very successfully put into words a lot of the sentiments that young people in the area are carrying with them, and they’re voicing really the struggle of…everyday people.”

Are any popular protest songs missing? Share them in the comments below!

Bloody Sunday came to Belarus

jj December 26th, 2010

From Nash Dom Civic Campaign

Nash Dom Civic Campaign members give their accounts
of what happened and is happening in the country now.
Women are among the most affected.

Russia in 1905.
India in 1930.
Hungary in 1956.
South Africa in 1960 and 1986.
Chechslovakia in 1968.
Poland in 1956 and 1970.
American South in 1960.
Northern Ireland in 1972.
Chile in 1973.
Palestine in 1988.
China in 1989.
Romania in 1989.
Lithuania in 1991.
Kosovo in 1998.

This sad list is incomplete, of course. What is sadder, it does not stop. December 19, 2010, added another line here. Bloody Sunday came to Belarus. The ruling regime threw away a mask they were putting on the last year, and had no qualms about a bloodbath. A peaceful manifestation of about 50,000 people was violently dispersed, more than 600 people are jailed. Hundreds of the people were injured, some of them may be dead. Nearly all alternative presidential candidates were beaten, some of them severely, and one of them is rumored to be dead.

Why was the manifestation? The citizens where determined to show their peaceful protest against stealing of another election campaign. All the demonstrators wanted was an explanation why the election process became so non-transparent and at the same time so tightly controlled by the ruling group. Instead of a legitimate and logical explanation, they were beaten by clubs, brass knuckles, and heavy police boots.

Several members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign were among the 50,000 who headed to the House of Government where the official Central Election Commission must be located. The people had a lot of questions to the chair of the Commission and the Prosecutor General. It was already late evening, but those officials had to be at their places during the final day of the election. Besides, that was probably the only possible way to hold those officials accountable, because any other peaceful ways tried by citizens and their leaders were efficiently blocked by the laws and decrees signed in no time by just one person, or simply by plain ignoring.

The citizens had a lot of grounds to late claims. All the local election commissions are headed by people completely dependent on the ruling group, and nothing can efficiently prevent forging the election results. Since about the year of 1998 the votes are counted almost privately by a limited number of people who know only too well that for the ‘necessary’ result they will get a small award, otherwise they will be severely punished. With the current election legislation in Belarus there is no way to learn the real preferences of the citizens. But even more, during this election campaign there were numerous violations of the current legislation and suspicious actions. Many members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign know it firsthand because they were observers at some election precincts.

Many Belarusian citizens and democratic activists, including Nash Dom members, joined efforts in a nonviolent action which revealed the true situation in Belarus. Until recently, the ruling regime just snarled and hissed at people, they could not hold a dialogue themselves and they were doing their best to silence people. Now the regime enforcers are still breaking into houses and apartments, take people out in plain night, beat them and jail them.
Most of the presidential candidates are jailed, in spite of the fact that they are inviolable until December 29, the day of final vote count. One of the candidates and many demonstrators are plain missing, just like many political opponents of the current regime got missing in 1997-2001. We all hope that the situation is not the same as it was in Chile and Argentine in the 70s and 80s, but the similarities are too appalling.

Unfortunately, this was also experienced only too well by one of the Nash Dom members, Kristina Shatikova, a mother of two. When she and her friends were rounded up, enforcers beat them skillfully, taking into account that the victims were female. The enforcers were trying to hit abdomens and lower part of the body. When the young women were arrested, they had to stand this whole freezing night in police vans, without a possibility to use toilet. Even more, the enforcers took away hats, caps, scarves, and gloves. Many women were threatened to be drowned in toilet bowls. Because of the torturing conditions, many women lost consciousness. It all looked like a planned action to deprive the women of the right of being mothers again.

When after the freezing night Kristina Shatikova was taken to the Oktiabrski Police Department in Minsk, beatings continued. The enforcer Vitali Pozniak behaved as a real bandit. He was kicking Kristina in the corridor, strangled her in his room. He had no insignia on him, but apparently he was not rank-and-file. The tortures varied, and one of them were night interrogations. Even by the current legislation this is a violation. Besides, when Kristina signed the protocol and put a dash in the witnesses section, the protocol was taken away. It is very likely that the police will forge the protocol and write it again the way they like. In such cases the witnesses are usually the enforcers themselves. The signature of the interrogated is not a problem at all, the standard words ‘the interrogated refused to sign the protocol’ is more than welcome in the judicial system of Belarus.

This illegal legal system hurts not only their opponents. Any citizen can become a victim. When Kristina was released, she told us about a young woman who was apprehended just because she happened to be near. She was desperate because her baby was left alone at home, and begged to let her go. This amused the enforcers even more, and the softest name they gave her was ‘a dirty cow’. They spared her beating, but it would be a miracle if the woman is still able to breast-feed the baby after the physical and emotional stress.

The violations of the most basic human rights and international norm are going on right now, in this very moment. Enforcers break into offices of all noticeable social organizations and into private apartments of their activists throughout the country, and loot them calling this ‘a legal search’. They confiscate belongings and are especially greedy to get hold of computers. They cut telephone and Internet communication, hoping to isolate people and devour them one by one. The alternative candidates, their friends, simply people they know: anyone who might have their own opinion about the last show the authorities call ‘elections’ is an enemy to be oppressed, deprived of property and private life, injured, jailed, and even killed.

The regime targets families. Private apartments are raided violently, sometimes late at night, and children witness the searches. A three-year old boy of one of the alternative candidates was threatened to be put into a facility (both his parents are jailed after December 19), and only active position of the grandmother saved him some of childhood.
Now we see that the current authorities in Belarus do not care for the lives of Belarusians. They do not even consider that Belarusians are humans, depriving them of normal representatives and judicial system.

In many countries listed at the beginning the Bloody Sundays led to revolutions, and revolutions always cost lives. The war against Belarusians and Belarusian women in particular is already going on, and it costs lives of many babies who will not be born, many lives of women who are crippled spiritually and physically.
* * *
Recently Argentina jailed their former dictator Jorge Videla for life, though it took over 30 years to get hold of him. It may take Belarusians longer, but we keep our records, and the Nash Dom Civic Campaign makes their contribution.

How safe are activists in India?

jj December 22nd, 2010

From OneWorld South Asia

The murder of environmentalist Amit Jethwa for campaigning against forest encroachment exposes the urgent need for legal redressal to protect the voices of whistle blowers in India, who are risking their lives for the cause of social equity and justice.

On 20 July 2010, forest campaigner Amit Jethva was shot dead at point blank range by two assailants on motorbikes as he was leaving Gujrat High Court following a meeting with his lawyer.

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

In a country facing an acute environmental crisis as it rapidly industrialises, his assassination was no stray incident but one of a rising number of attacks on activists. The headline-grabbing decision to ban the British mining company Vedanta from opening a bauxite mine on tribal land in eastern India was only achieved after an unprecedented amount of national and international media attention.

Elsewhere decisions have not been so favourable. Recently approved plans for a new airport in Mumbai will destroy 170 hectares of critically important mangroves. Conservation groups say alternative sites were not properly considered and that their objections were given little consideration. But being ignored is perhaps better than the fate many environmental activists face in India today.

In January 2010, Satish Shetty, a whistle blower and anti-corruption campaigner, who brought to light land scams in West Indian state Maharashtra, was murdered, while Shanmughan Manjunath suffered the same fate after exposing petrol pumps that sold adulterated fuel. Activists say that in contrast to the image India portrays – of a nation that prioritises environmental issues – the reality is in fact very bleak.

‘Activists in India are constantly at risk. Stories of activists being killed are a moral setback to all of us. Ruffle the wrong person’s feathers and it could be you next,’ says Stalin D, project director at the environmental NGO Vanashakti. Ravi Rebbapragada, executive director of Samata, a tribal rights and environmental NGO, believes that as India continues its rapid industrialisation, things are likely to get worse, ‘as the stakes go higher the risk to the activist goes higher,’ he says.

Anti-mining activist killed

At the time of his death Amit was campaigning to protect against forest encroachment. He was heavily involved in the Gir National park, the only home of the Asiatic lion and a protected forest area in western India that covers more than 1,400 km sq. His efforts to expose illegal mining in the forest were rewarded last week with a special posthumous award. Before his death he had filed a lawsuit (Public Interest Litigation) against illegal limestone mining in the buffer zone around the National Park. His application had named a local MP Dinu Solanki from India’s Hindu Nationalist Party and the case was said to, ‘openly expose his link with illegal mining operations’.

Amit was well-known for standing up for environmental issues and had even taken on Bollywood actor Salmon Khan for shooting an endangered Blackbuck. As such he had many enemies in the government, according to his friend and environmental lawyer Manish Vaidya. His family and friends say he had been under threat ever since he started investigating illegal mining operations in and around Gir National Park.

‘A couple of years back, Dinu Solanki’s men physically assaulted Amit at a family wedding,’ recalls Alpa Amit Jethva, his widow, who says Amit had complained to the police after one incident but nothing happened. Dinu Solanki was unavailable for comment but a police investigation since Amit’s death found that he had ‘no role to play’. The police confirmed to the Ecologist that his nephew Shiva Solanki has been charged with conspiracy to assassinate Jethva and a second man with his murder.

Lack of support from police

Activists in India say support is often lacking from the police when they try and initiate proceedings against their attackers. In March 2010, while exposing illegal sand mining in the state of Maharastra, Sumaira Abdulali, a trustee of the Awaaz Foundation, an environmental NGO, was followed, threatened and physically attacked by mafia linked to sand dredging in the area. Sumaira and her team went out on a boat to photograph illegal sand mining in an ecologically sensitive creek, where they saw over fifty dredgers within a span of one kilometre. After they took the photographs and left, they were followed by thugs.

Anti-flogging protesters arrested in Sudan

jj December 15th, 2010

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Sudanese authorities have charged 46 women and six men with civil disobedience for protesting the flogging of a young woman by police.

The group, organized by the “No to Women’s Oppression Coalition,” said it had permission from authorities to deliver a protest letter to the minister of justice, the Sudan Tribune reported Wednesday.

Instead of allowing them to proceed, police arrested all the demonstrators.

A BBC correspondent covering the protest was kicked to the floor by plain clothes security officers who seized his equipment.

The protest was organized after several Arab channels broadcast excerpts of a YouTube video showing blue-uniformed police officers taking turns whipping a young woman across her head, legs and feet.

Sudanese officials defended the whipping of women saying it is provided for in Islamic law.

However, they added the way this particular flogging was implemented is under investigation.

Indian completes 10 years on hunger strike, vows to continue

jj November 6th, 2010

GUWAHATI, India — A human rights activist in northeast India who is dubbed the “Iron Lady of Manipur” has completed 10 years on hunger strike and vowed to continue her protest, her supporters said Wednesday.

Irom Chanu Sharmila (C) is escorted by female police officers prior to a court appearance

Irom Chanu Sharmila (C) is escorted by female police officers prior to a court appearance

Irom Chanu Sharmila, from the remote state of Manipur, which borders Myanmar, began her fast on November 2, 2000 after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home.

Now 38, she was arrested shortly after beginning her protest — on charges of attempted suicide — and was sent to a prison hospital where she began a daily routine of being force-fed vitamins and nutrients via a nasal drip.

Sharmila is frequently set free by local courts, but once outside she resumes her hunger strike and is rearrested.

She is campaigning for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that enables security forces to shoot on sight and arrest anybody without a warrant in impoverished and heavily militarised Manipur.

“She decided to continue with her fast-unto-death mission until the draconian legislation is repealed by the government,” Babloo Loitongbam from local human rights group Human Rights Alert told AFP.

“She made her intentions pretty clear as she completed 10 years of hunger strike,” Babloo said after visiting Sharmila on the 10th anniversary of the start of the fast on Tuesday.

“Militancy is still thriving. In other words, the Special Powers Act has miserably failed.”

AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant security forces special powers and immunity from prosecution to deal with raging insurgencies in the northeast of India and in Kashmir in the northwest.

The act is a target for local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which says the law has been an excuse for extrajudicial killings.

Amnesty has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a stain on India’s democratic credentials and a violation of international human rights law.

Several rights groups held sit-in demonstrations in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, to express their solidarity with Sharmila on Tuesday.

“She is Manipur?s crusader for peace and rights violations by security forces,” said Anita Devi, a women’s rights activist.

She is currently being held in an isolated cabin at the Jawarharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.

Manipur is home to 2.4 million people and about 19 separatist groups which have demands ranging from autonomy to independence. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed during the past two decades of violence.

AFSPA is also deeply unpopular in Kashmir, where senior politicians have campaigned for it to be withdrawn.

It was seen as one of the factors that fuelled mass street protests in the Muslim-majority region over the summer in which more than 100 people died, most of them in shootings by security forces.

Hunger strikes were used effectively by India’s independence movement during the British rule, particularly by Mahatma Gandhi, whose use of the technique was an integral part of his non-violent resistance.

Palestinians Sentenced for Civil Disobedience

jj October 24th, 2010

By ROBERT MACKEY in NYT

This month, as a new documentary about a successful campaign of nonviolent, civil disobedience by Palestinian villagers in the West Bank screens in New York and Los Angeles, Israeli military courts have handed out jail terms to two men who led similar protests against the path of Israel’s security barrier near their village.

The documentary now being shown, “Budrus,” is named for the village that succeeded in forcing a change to the path of the security barrier, which would have cut Palestinian olive farmers off from their trees. In July, my colleague Nicholas D. Kristof, an Opinion columnist, wrote that the film is, “a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale.”

In the same column, Mr. Kristof described attending a protest at another West Bank village, Bilin, the home of the organizers recently sentenced in Israeli military courts. He wrote:

Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.

But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That’s the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define “nonviolence” to include stone-throwing.

Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged. The protesters fled, some throwing rocks backward as they ran. It’s a far cry from the heroism of Gandhi’s followers, who refused even to raise their arms to ward off blows as they were clubbed.

The arrests and military trials of two of the Bilin organizers drew criticism from human rights groups, Britain, the European Union and Desmond Tutu.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, a teacher in the village, was arrested last December. Last week, he was sentenced to one year in prison by an Israeli military court that found him guilty of “organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration” and “incitement.”

He was cleared of another charge of weapons possession after the prosecution failed to convince the court that collecting Israeli tear-gas shells and bullets fired at the demonstrators to prove that force had been used against them constituted a crime.

On Thursday, a military court extended the sentence of another Bilin organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi driver whose cousin had been killed at a protest by a direct hit from a tear-gas shell, one caught on a graphic video.

As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported last year, the campaign, with its weekly marches against the construction of the Israeli barrier near Bilin, has been going on since 2005, making it “one of the longest-running and best organized protest operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it has turned this once anonymous farming village into a symbol of Palestinian civil disobedience, a model that many supporters of the Palestinian cause would like to see spread and prosper.” Mr. Bronner also noted:

Like every element of the conflict here, there is no agreement over the nature of what goes on here every Friday. Palestinians hail the protest as nonviolent. … But the Israelis complain that, along with protests at the nearby village of Nilin, things are more violent here than the Palestinians and their supporters acknowledge.

While the historian and blogger Joseph Dana is among those who support the Palestinian protests known as the “popular struggle” against the construction of Israel’s barrier on Palestinian land — he has compared the jailed Bilin protest organizers to Gandhi — Arutz Sheva, a news organization that represents the view of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, wrote last week:

The riots at Bilin — and nearby Nilin — are billed by the left as non-violent but are, in fact, extremely violent. Since they began in 2005, the weekly riots have caused the death of a Border Guard policeman who lost his step and fell to his death while trying to catch rock-throwers, as well as causing an IDF soldier to lose his eye and another Border Guard policemen to suffer a serious eye injury.

While the situation seems black and white to some settlers, other Israelis have suggested that Israel’s military has taken to imprisoning the protest organizers not because it sees stone-throwing as a grave crime, but because it perceives them as a serious threat. Last year, Amira Hass, a columnist for Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper wrote:

The purpose of the coordinated oppression: To wear down the activists and deter others from joining the popular struggle, which has proven its efficacy in other countries at other times. What is dangerous about a popular struggle is that it is impossible to label it as terror and then use that as an excuse to strengthen the regime of privileges, as Israel has done for the past 20 years.

The popular struggle, even if it is limited, shows that the Palestinian public is learning from its past mistakes and from the use of arms, and is offering alternatives.

After Adeeb Abu Rahma’s jail term was extended, his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said on Thursday: “Today the court of appeals has shown that it is serving as one more instance of political repression not as an actual court where justice is served. The court admitted what we all knew –- that the entire system is trying to make an example of Adeeb in order to silence the entire Popular Struggle movement against Israel’s occupation.

While the activists remain in jail, their struggle to prevent the barrier from separating Bilin villagers from their farmland — which was supported by a ruling in their favor by Israel’s High Court three years ago that was not implemented — appears to be nearing an end. On Thursday, The Jerusalem Post reported: “The IDF plans to complete the construction of a new security barrier near the West Bank Palestinian town of Bilin in the coming weeks. Bilin has been the scene of weekly anti-fence demonstrations in recent years.”

The new barrier will comprise a tall concrete wall, and security cameras will be placed near the haredi settlement of Kiryat Sefer. About [160 acres] of agricultural land will be given back to Bilin. Nonetheless, according to attorneys representing the village, roughly [320 acres] of private farmland will remain on the Israeli side….

“A concrete wall means better protection, and at the same time, means we do not have to repair the barrier like we’ve had to do almost weekly following the demonstrations at Bilin — because currently, it is just a fence,” said a senior officer on Wednesday.

Protect Democracy from FBI Raids on Activist Homes

jj September 28th, 2010

From Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The FBI raided homes and confiscated papers, computers, phones and CDs of peace and rights activists in Minnesota and Chicago in the early morning of Friday, September 24, in what agents said was part of a counterterrorism investigation. The Fellowship of Reconciliation urges our members and other concerned citizens to contact Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 to call for an end to actions targeting legitimate dissent, and to participate in protests of these actions in your area.

Students for a Democratic Society protest at FBI office

FOR Executive Director Mark Johnson was in Chicago this weekend, and participated in a Monday protest at the FBI headquarters there. “It has also actively alerted us all that our efforts to seek peace and justice through nonviolent means is being scrutinized by the government with what can only been seen as an effort to intimidate and chill speech and criticism,” said Johnson in a report published today on FOR’s web site.

The raids come in the context of the Supreme Court decision in June on the Humanitarian Law Project, which broadly interprets assistance to terrorism to include nonviolent engagement with armed groups, such as conflict resolution training and legal advice. The federal law upheld by the court decision and cited in the search warrants prohibits, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” The Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups. Under the law, individuals can face up to 15 years in prison for providing “material support” to groups designated by the US government as terrorists, even if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives. “Material support” is defined to include any “service,” “training,” “expert advice or assistance” or “personnel.”

“Humanitarian and peace organizations say their direct interaction with violent or terrorist groups is vital to intervention efforts,” the Christian Science Monitor reported. “The Supreme Court decision means they do it at their peril.” Last week’s raids are evidence of that. “Training groups to pursue peaceful resolution of their disputes should be encouraged, not made criminal,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel with the Constitution Center.

The raids come on the heels of a Justice Department probe that found the FBI improperly monitored activist groups and individuals from 2001 to 2006. Among the groups investigated were Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Catholic Worker and the Thomas Merton Center, a pacifist group based in Pittsburgh.

What do we know about these raids?

On Friday, September 24, the FBI raided at least six homes in Chicago and Minneapolis, with the explanation that the activists targetted were under investigation for providing “material support to foreign terrorist organizations,” namely the FARC in Colombia, the Peoples Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hezbollah. The FBI also raided the office of the Anti-war Committee in Minneapolis, which had organized a demonstration during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Some of the peace activists whose houses were raided are members of the Anti-War Committee. The New York Times quotes an FBI spokesperson who said the raids were part of “an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.” While no arrests have been made so far, the activists have been served with grand jury subpoenas.

The raids appear to be ‘fishing expeditions’ — attempts to gather as much personal information as possible from the activists’ homes in the hopes of bringing some charges against them. Groups listed in the warrants are Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The warrants also authorized agents to seize items such as electronics, photographs, videos, address books and letters, and seeks information pertaining to the activists’ work in a left group called Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Click here to download a PDF of the search warrant.

Several of the activists whose homes were raided and/or received grand jury summons have been active in the Colombia Action Network (based in Minnesota) and/or the Free Ricardo Palmera Committee. Ricardo Palmera (alias Simon Trinidad) is a leader of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) who was tried for conspiracy in the kidnapping of the three US military contractors because of his membership in FARC, though he was not alleged to have taken part in the kidnapping itself, according to attorney Paul Wolf. Palmera was sentenced to 60 years in prison and is currently in solitary confinement at a SuperMax prison in Colorado.

FOR does not share the rhetoric of the Free Ricardo Palmera Committee in support of the FARC project in Colombia, as it goes against our core commitment to nonviolence. However, democratic process and First Amendment guarantees require that people in this country be able to express these points of view, and those who disagree to engage in debate with them, without fear of seizure of one’s cell phone, computer, and other personal possessions, of being labelled a “terrorist suspect”, or of being targeted by armed federal agencies.
What you can do:

* Call the Attorney General’s office at 202-353-1555 and demand an end to political intimidation of peace activists.
* Call or write the “newspapers of record” such as the New York Times and Washington Post, asking them to give full and prominent coverage to this story.
* Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, explaining why this kind of intimidation is a danger to democracy.
* Call your local members of Congress to demand that the FBI stop harassing peace activists.
* Participate in any local actions to protest these raids. Click here for a list of protest events around the country.

(Parts of this alert were drawn from an article written by Lynn Koh of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras.)

A protester for the ages

jj September 13th, 2010

Boston Globe

Frances Crowe’s first arrest was as a Vietnam War protester in 1972, in Chicopee. “I have a vision of a better world,” she said. (Yoon S. Byun/ Globe Staff)

By David Abel – dabel@globe.com

NORTHAMPTON — Authorities dragged the short woman with white hair out of her congressman’s Springfield office while she protested the Iraq war. She spent a month in federal prison after painting “Thou shalt not kill’’ on missile tubes of nuclear submarines in Connecticut. She has been arrested nine times for trespassing at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

When asked how often she has been hauled away for acts of civil disobedience, Frances Crowe responds with a smile: “Not enough.’’

At age 91, and less than a month after her latest arrest, the veteran protester — who favors socks with sandals, thick glasses, and oversized pins with bold-lettered messages — has no plans to stop agitating.

“At my age, I think I get to pull some rank,’’ she said at her home, which has a wreath shaped in a peace symbol beside the front door and has become an antiwar headquarters for a handful of fellow grizzled militants for peace. “I sense that arresting officers are a little more careful with us. They don’t want me to have a heart attack, I guess.’’

After years at barricades, protesting everything from nu clear war to global warming, the spry grandmother remains part of the vanguard of antiestablishment movements. She is among an aging group of liberal dissidents in this western Massachusetts city who honed their organizing skills during the ’60s and ’70s and remain as committed as ever to increasingly diverse causes, from seeking solar power for downtown Northampton lighting to pressing city councilors to pass a resolution urging Congress to stop financing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Crowe and her associates — some of whom are her senior — see themselves as the liberal answer to the Tea Party, a cri de coeur against the military-industrial complex, the marrow of Massachusetts’ reputation as a redoubt of leftists.

More than anything, they hope their longevity inspires others to follow their rabble-rousing path, especially their peers.

“People my age have been lulled into the idea that they shouldn’t take risks, that they should stay comfortable and take the easy way,’’ Crowe said. “But we’ve lived our lives, and we have nothing to lose — no kids or jobs to worry about. I say to them, ‘Have some fun. Get out there and join the community of people acting on their beliefs!’ ’’

In addition to protesting war, Crowe and the others organize a weekly film series off Main Street, featuring titles such as “Harvest of Grief’’ and “Enemies of Happiness.’’ They insist on eating local foods, canning and drying their own fruits and vegetables, and taking public transportation when walking or biking doesn’t make sense.

The only time Crowe uses her bumper-sticker-covered car is to take her bottles to a recycling facility.

Among her acolytes is Phyllis Rodin, 95, who cruises around Northampton in a motorized wheelchair, usually wearing a large cap covered with antiwar pins. On a recent afternoon, she carried a weathered sign that read, “War is not the Answer.’’

“I was recruited years ago by Frances, and we do our best to raise awareness about the injustices in our society,’’ she said. “People ask me why I carry this sign, and I say, ‘I do what I can. I can carry a sign to protest the war,’ and so I do.’’

One of Crowe’s enduring efforts is to shutter the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, a 38-year-old facility that generates about a third of Vermont’s electricity. To do so, she helped assemble a team of mainly older women who call themselves the Shut It Down Affinity Group.

Hattie Nestel, 71, describes herself as a coconspirator and said she has been arrested nearly as often as Crowe.

Crowe says she has been taken away in handcuffs dozens of times, though she has lost the exact count, including at the White House, the Pentagon, and a nuclear test site in Nevada.

They consider themselves among the country’s leading voices against nuclear power, and they have repeatedly tried to breach security at the Vermont facility, sometimes padlocking themselves across the entrance.

“Frances inspires us, because she has no fear,’’ Nestel said. “At this point, she’s not worried about getting a felony on her record.’’

Added Paki Wieland, 66, who lives next to Crowe and has been something of a lieutenant in organizing their protests: “We have a solidarity of sisterhood. Frances has a way of challenging us to look at how we live our own lives.’’

The rebellious women insist they’re disappointed that every time police usher them into their squad cars for trespassing at Vermont Yankee, the charges get dropped. They say they would be happy to pad their criminal records, so long as they get a day in court to publicize their case against the plant, which they think could make much of New England uninhabitable in the event of an accident.

Officials at the plant say Crowe’s group is a security threat, but they leave it to authorities to decide whether to prosecute.

Vermont State Police say the women are a nuisance, but unfailingly polite and respectful. Sergeant Mike Sorenson said his troopers no longer cuff the women.

“They go to get arrested,’’ he said. “We understand their rights, but they’re a drain on our resources. We’re understaffed as it is, and when we’re called down, it means we can’t respond to real emergencies.’’

In Northampton, Crowe has become an emblem of the city, a venerable malcontent among a legion of local gadflies and idealists.

“She’s the ultimate liberal — a real icon of our community and a wonderful woman,’’ said Russell Sienkiewicz, chief of the Northampton police. “She’s very dedicated to many causes — peace, environmental issues, prisoners’ rights. The fact that she’s still putting herself out there says something about her and her beliefs.’’

On a recent afternoon at the small home where she has lived for 33 years, Crowe shows the trove of activist memorabilia she has amassed over the years.

Tributes to Mohandas Gandhi and Sojourner Truth are among piles of leftist literature, lawn signs protesting the war, and newspaper clippings and photos of her arrests. On every wall, posters blare slogans such as “People Need Water, Not Weapons.’’

She says her views took root after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II, when she was 26. A lapsed Catholic and one of four girls who grew up in a small town in Missouri, she met her late husband in college. They became Quakers and raised three children in Northampton.

They were increasingly involved in the budding antinuclear movement in the 1950s, and their first action involved blocking the sale of milk from cows they believed were contaminated from nuclear testing.

Crowe’s first arrest came in 1972 at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, where she and friends wore conical hats and read Vietnamese women’s poetry to protest the Vietnam War.

Her proudest moment? Installing a large antenna in her backyard to bring the radio program “Democracy Now!’’ to Northampton. She kept the antenna in use until pressuring a local public radio station to air the broadcast by launching a campaign to sap its money-raising efforts.

Her son Tom, an orthopedic surgeon in Maine, said neither he nor his siblings ever worried about their mother. He doesn’t always agree with her politics, but he respects her tenacity.

“I think the world needs uncompromising idealists,’’ he said. “She’s willing to take risks that the rest of us aren’t willing to take, and that helps make the rest of us more aware.’’

When asked whether she has any regrets about supporting some regimes that have been responsible for bloodshed and where dissidents often spend years behind bars, she said hindsight is unhelpful and thinks, overall, she has taken the right positions.

“I have a vision of a better world,’’ she said, “where people can live cooperatively, without violence, and that we would be able to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and provide shelter for people if we weren’t spending so much money on war. “I’m looking for a simpler society.

“There are still so many problems in society, and as long as I have energy, I’m going to keep at it,’’ she said.

Transparency International strongly concerned about safety of arrested Algerian activist

jj September 8th, 2010

Transparency International (TI) is greatly concerned for the safety of anti-corruption activist, Djilali Hadjadj, following his recent arrest, and calls on the Algerian government to ensure his safety and to adhere to the country’s code of criminal procedure.

Hadjadj, president of the Algerian anti-corruption organisation, L’Association algérienne de lutte contre la corruption (AACC), was arrested on the evening of Sunday 05 September at the airport in the north-eastern city of Constantine. Formal charges have not yet been brought but the arrest appears to be linked to a case involving Hadjadj’s former employer, the Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Santé (CNAS).

Although a local human rights organisation confirmed that Hadjadj has been in contact with his lawyer and wife, TI is worried about his security, particularly in light of concerns over his health. According to family members, Hadjadj will be transferred today to Algiers, where a formal arraignment before a judge is expected. The activist was due to be transferred to the capital on Monday 06 September but the transfer is now scheduled to take place today.

For years, Hadjadj has worked to prevent and stop corruption in Algeria, with a critical but constructive stance. TI calls upon the Algerian government to ensure a fair and transparent process, fully in adherence with the law and not hindered by bureaucratic obstacles or delay tactics.

###

Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption

Media Contact:

Deborah Unger
dunger ( at ) transparency.org
Tel. +49 30 34 38 20 666 or 662

Call for proposals: The Underground Railroad Resistance Against Slavery

Stellan Vinthagen September 2nd, 2010

Abolishing Slavery in the Atlantic World: The ‘Underground Railroad’ in the Americas, Africa, and Europe

The Tenth Anniversary Underground Railroad Public History Conference
Sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc.

April 8 – 10, 2011 at Russell Sage College, Troy, New York

Where there was slavery, there was resistance, escape, and rebellion. The Transatlantic Slave Trade (1400s to 1800s) was a global enterprise that transformed the four continents bordering the Atlantic, and that engendered the formation of a multifaceted and international Underground Railroad resistance movement.

The broad geographic nature of this freedom struggle is the theme of the 2011 UGR Public History Conference. We invite proposals that address capture, enslavement, and resistance within and across borders in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, historically and contemporarily, as well as proposals that address the preservation of the voices of the past and their relationship with us today.

Possible questions to be considered:

  • What were the similarities and differences among the slave systems created by Europeans in the Americas?
  • How did the enslaved and their allies engage in resistance, rebellion and revolution in the four continents and the Atlantic Ocean?
  • What were the forms that global abolitionism took?
  • What roles were played by escaped slaves, inlcuding those who crossed national borders?
  • What is the range of experience captured by slave narratives and testimonies in various countries and on different continents?
  • How did Africans and people of African descent involve themselves with indigenous peoples in the countries and colonies of the Americas and the other continents?
  • What are contemporary manifestations of this international freedom struggle?
  • How can we preserve the voices of the past and relate them to us today?

Proposals on related questions, not directly on this theme, are also welcomed.

Proposals may be for a 60-minute panel session, workshop, cultural/artistic activity, media production, poster, or other exhibit that addresses these questions and this theme. When possible, activities should encourage audience interaction. Proposals should include: title, content description, type of presentation, names and contact information of presenters, target audience, and technology needs.

Proposals should be submitted by July 31, 2010 Via postal mail to:
URHPCR, PO Box 10851, Albany NY 12201 or via email to urhpcr2011@gmail.com

For more information, call 518-432-4432

“The gold standard of Underground Railroad conferences… bringing together an extraordinary spectrum of attendees, ranging from noted scholars and authors to large numbers of interested laymen, in spirited and informative workshops which both bring history alive and open new avenues of research.” — Fergus M. Bordewich, author, Bound for Canaan

Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc. researches, preserves, and retells New York’s regional history of the Underground Railroad, highlighting the role of African-American freedom seekers and local abolitionists

Protesters in Georgia saws their lips shut

jj August 26th, 2010

Two stories from Georgia:
1:
Woman prisoner saws her lips shut as a form of protest
Woman prisoner, Ana Mazanashvili, who’s been serving sentence in the women’s colony for 4 years now, sew her lips shut as a form of protest. As the lawyer Gela Nikolaishvili stated to Interpressnews, the prisoner considers that she fully satisfies the requirements of prison pardon. She sent documents, but the commission didn’t examine her case. “Ana Mazanashvili is requesting a meeting with the representative of Department of Correction or the member of Pardon Commission to explain her situation. She has three children, an old father and a socially needy family. She admits her crime, but thinks that serves sentence unjustly,” – states Nikolaishvili.

According to him, Mazanashvili case was sent to Strasbourgh two years ago and awaits examination. Ana Mazanashvili is sentenced to 10 years in prison. She is convicted of human trafficking. According to the prisoner’s lawyer, Ana Mazanashvili gave shelter to three Kazakhstani girls and this fact was considered to be trafficking.

Public Relations Service of the Ministry of Correction and Legal Assistance doesn’t have information about the protest action of Ana Mazanashvili.

Interpresnews

2:

Approximately 10 people have been on a hunger strike at the Ministry of IDPs for two days now. Four of them have sewn their lips shut. The Ministry officials are taking vacations.

Bricks of cardboard, old cranky chairs, several people, the lips sewn shut with black thread, redness on their lips, red eyes… I stood afar, took the microphone, just standing. About 80 year old lady left the group and slowly came up to me. “Let me tell you something son.” Yes, she started talking. I realized I needed to record her.

“They burned down my house, killed my husband and nephew. I’m 82 years old now, former teacher. Please, help us. Tell me what else I can say.’’

The former German teacher thanks me and goes back to her group. About four people in a ten people group have sewn their lips shut. The yard, where these people stand, is overlooked by the Ministry of IDPs – with Soviet, right-angled, old door and windows, guards – on the second floor, handles blackened from outwearing and stone stairs, with the department of documentation, several used telephones. I read on the board:
“Department of IDP issues”
“Excuse me, is anybody here?” – “Break time…”
“I’m from the radio Freedom, I want to have a conversation, how long… is any leader here? Just in your department or the whole Ministry?’’
The whole Ministry leadership, almost everybody is on leave. The entrance department is on duty. People are submitting complaints under the name of Koba Subeliani…
“We are asking for one-time help to pay the rent…”
“I’ve been submitting complaints since 1993. the response is: we’ll satisfy it…”
“They said to submit complaints. Subeliani visited my home. Yes, he said so, to submit a complaint so they would render it. I wrote it once or twice. Nobody pays any attention. I’ll try one more time, I don’t know…”
Guards won’t let me go upstairs. IDPs won’t even try this. They are simply writing complaints and going there. The board illustrates about fifty different forms of different requests… and of course, the legendary telephone, which doesn’t give results.
“I called there. I was told to call again. I was told to call you. In brief, it’s a complete chaos.’’
I go back to the yard. Ramaz Aronia, the first person to sewn his lips shut, told me to call you. It’s a complete chaos here, he said.
“The ambassador of EU took us out from there and brought here, he came in and spoke there and when he came out, said that everything is going to be good, but the ambassador himself was deceived, because they offer us two hundred lari and we should stop…”

They won’t believe in the Ministry, the Minister, other officials, the system, they won’t collaborate, they are encouraging other IDPs with the writings on the streamer put up at the Ministry door: “IDPs, it’s time to wake up, look what Subeliani is doing to us…” This separate group is displaced from Abkhazia, evicted from Isani Military Hospital. Yet, the officials from Abkhazia government come to them with the white papers to conduct a census.

Look, opposition could not even bring Rustavi 2 and we brought it, Ramazi tells me… The camera is choosing scenes, looking for the interviewer. Other cameras showed up… Are you waiting for people in Sakrebulo? – journalist asks me… I didn’t know… Soon the black cars stop in the yard and the PM dressed in white comes out. The IDPs are greeting him, the cameras are turned on. You have seen these kinds of scenes, many of them…

“We are all IDPs from Abkhazia. Where can we go? The requirements of IDPs of August war were satisfied. Since we are the IDPs of Shevardnadze period, they won’t care for us.”

There, in the yard, 2 year old Aleksandre, called IDP, but in actuality, born in Tbilisi. His mother tells me that he’s been through a heart surgery – with a peaceful face and still inconfident walk, he collects gravel stones in the yard and puts them on the ground.

“Son, what are you doing? building a house… who’s going to live in this house?” – “Me.”
Aleksandre’s family, just like other people on a hunger strike, were offered Potskhoetseri, but IDPs consider this an exile… the reason? it’s wilderness… no school, no hospital, no kindergarten… Majority of people on hunger strike have children in Tbilisi, social networks, they study and work here… On the door of the Ministry, the streamer reads in English: ,,We are asking for shelter in any district of Tbilisi.’’