Report from our June meeting

18 Jun

Our speaker this month was Quaker John Ainsworth, talking on ‘Quakers and Social Justice’. He spoke of the motives and history of the Quakers, with their emphasis on how lives are lived rather than on doctrine – simplicity, equality, peace and truth are the key words. He pointed out how the Quakers have been ahead of the game in many ways: in the forefront of supporting LGBT rights, lobbying the Government on climate change, protesting at the arms trade – their concerns chiming very much with Amnesty International’s own.

We heard reports from group members on North Africa (some hopeful signs on dissent in Algeria, but disquieting reports from Tunisia, and continuing repression in Egypt, now the sixth worst country in the world for executions); Burma (An Sang Suu Chi has been visiting Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary, a repressive leader whose views on immigration now, sadly, seem to chime with hers), and the situation in India where Narendra Modi has been returned to power, with emphasis on muscular nationalism, with an under-representation of women and minorities.

Amnesty members have been urged to share their ideas on Amnesty’s future, framed by 5 Big Questions on the complex issues of diversity and inclusion, attitudes and systemic change and stronger movement and partnerships.

We will have a stall in Taunton town centre on 29 June, the theme being the Death Penalty and LGBT rights. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Our next meeting is Tuesday 9 July at 7.30pm in the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place; we always welcome visitors.

Report from our April meeting

15 Apr

This month we discussed and wrote letters for a variety of Prisoners of Conscience.  Every month we hear of cases in Egypt.  This month it’s an Egyptian musician Rami Sidky who has prominence. In May 2018, Egyptian authorities arrested him at Cairo International Airport. He was detained in connection with a satirical music video, which had gone viral ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections, and appeared to poke fun at President El-Sisi. According to his lawyer, Rami Sidky took no part in writing, producing or performing this, but along with his co-defendants is facing the trumped-up charges of ‘membership of a terrorist group’ and ‘insulting the president’.

We wrote too for the even worse case of Nasrin Sotoudeh (pictured), an Iranian Human Rights lawyer imprisoned for 38 years and sentenced to 148 lashes.  She has dedicated her life to peaceful human rights work.  This extraordinarily harsh sentence (a death sentence in fact if carried out) suggests the authorities in Iran are stepping up their repression.

A report from our Death Penalty coordinator highlighted the fact that in California a moratorium has been called on the DP by the State’s governor.  In Malaysia there was hope the DP would be completely repealed, but at least the mandatory element of it has been removed.

Our Book of the Month is “I Will Never See the World Again”, a wonderful memoir about his arrest, captivity and urge to create by imprisoned Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan; his sentence ‘life without parole’.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month at the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place.  Visitors are always very welcome.

Report from our March meeting

23 Mar

Our focus this month was on International Women’s Day. Amnesty’s ‘Women’s Action Network’ has now become the more direct ‘Amnesty Feminists’, and our actions were all focussed on women. AIUK writes: “This year, like every year, we are living in a world that is unfair and unsafe for women. We remain less free, less valued, less in charge of our own bodies purely by virtue of our gender. Women continue to be demonised and abused when we raise our voices, or demand recognition of our identities, or call ourselves ‘feminist’.”

We wrote a card of support to the women living in the dangerous, overcrowded and insanitary refugee camps in Greece; they have escaped from the dangers of such countries as Afghanistan only to find themselves in the unsafe dead end of these camps. We signed a petition to draw attention to the plight of Polish women on the Independence Day March in Warsaw. They were among those attacked by right wing extremists. Pressure has forced the authorities into resuming the investigation into that day’s violence. Finally, we signed a petition to draw attention to the plight of Human Rights lawyer Azza Soliman and other human rights defenders in Egypt. With much courage, Azza speaks out for victims of torture, arbitrary detention, domestic abuse, and rape. Having been arrested and interrogated, Azza has now been banned from travel and her assets frozen; she could face emprisonment.

We heard reports on Burma, on the welcome release (under onerous bail conditions) of Egyptian photo-journalist Shawkam and on the Death Penalty. There is an online action on the AIUK website on behalf of 5 Saudis on death row for a non-violent protest in 2015. Our death penalty coordinator shared details from a recent report on global use of the Death Penalty in 2017. There have been notable improvements in many countries, but there are still executions of children and those with mental issues. The numbers only cover published figures. Many executions are carried out in secret.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton.  We’re always delighted to welcome visitors. 

Taunton Amnesty meeting Tuesday 12th March

5 Mar
Keep Calm and Support Amnesty

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 12th March at the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton from 7.30-9.30pm (nearby parking behind Boots).

All welcome – you do not need to be a member of Amnesty International to come along to our meetings. Hope to see you there!

Report from our February meeting

24 Feb

Our meeting this month included our AGM. We reviewed what had been achieved in the last year: our I Welcome photographs were set up at Huish’s Sixth Form College; in the summer we had a stall (left) celebrating the Brave Campaign – a tribute to those brave people who have stood up for human rights in difficult situations. We had talks on India and Nepal, and on the difficult subject of the occupied Palestinian Territories and boycotting Israeli goods produced there.

Use of our Twitter page (@amnestytaunton) and among those who follow us on Facebook and our WordPress blog have all gone up. It was suggested that it would be good to try and reach out to other groups in the town who are beyond our usual circle – political parties and the various religious denominations were among those suggested.

We were urged to write to our MPs on the Families Together Action. The UK’s restrictive refugee family reunion rules are at the moment keeping families apart. Adult refugees can sponsor only their very closest relatives to join them – their partners and children under 18 years old – while child refugees in the UK are excluded from rules allowing for family reunion so cannot bring their parents to join them.  We are asking the Home Secretary to widen these categories in the Immigration Bill currently going through Parliament. You can sign a petition here.

The suggestion for  Book of the Month was “To Obama, with love, joy, hate and despair” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, based on the selection Obama read every day from among the thousands of letters he received.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends Meeting House in Bath Place, Taunton.  We’re always delighted to meet newcomers to our meetings.

Taunton Amnesty meeting Tuesday 12th February

5 Feb
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Our next meeting is on Tuesday 12th February at the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton from 7.30-9.30pm (nearby parking behind Boots). This will include our AGM.

All welcome – you do not need to be a member of Amnesty International to come along to our meetings. Hope to see you there!

Report from our January meeting

22 Jan

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Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe went on a three-day hunger strike in protest against being denied specialist medical care.

Our December Write for Rights Campaign stall at St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton, resulted in 71 Write for Rights cards being signed and sent to human rights defenders around the world.

Sue Hazelwood, the Group’s Treasurer and responsible for Middle East and North African campaigns, had prepared a number of letters to the authorities in Egypt: for Assa Mohamed (imprisoned and tortured at the age of 14); a call to investigate the torture and murder in Egypt of academic Julio Regini, and a solidarity card for Ali Aarras in Morocco.

We heard reports from our Death Penalty co-ordinator: the Christmas period seems to have been looked on as ‘a day to bury bad news’ with a number of executions, and also from our Women’s Human Rights co-ordinator. She reported that Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe (Iran) was intending to go on hunger strike on January 14 in protest against her continued detention. A petition has been launched again for her.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 12th February at 7.30pm at the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton, which will include our AGM. All are welcome.

 

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