Report from our May meeting

22 May

Taunton AI virtual meeting - MayIn tune with the times we held our second online virtual meeting this month, and followed up several Monthly Actions, influenced by the current crisis.

Covid-19 is exacerbating a domestic abuse crisis in the UK. Lockdown has seen a huge surge in calls (up 120%) to domestic abuse services and a reported increase in domestic abuse killings. We wrote letters and signed a petition on the Government’s duty to protect all its citizens as the Domestic Abuse Bill passes through Parliament.

We discussed and resolved to write letters on the case of Russian journalist Elena Milashina, who has received death threats from Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov after publishing an article about the spread of Covid-19 in Chechnya.

In India the crackdown on dissidents continues. Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman and Safoora Zargar, who is three months pregnant, have been arrested for peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a law that legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of the Constitution of India and international human rights law. Detained under the repressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the three can be held without charge for up to 180 days or even more, a duration far exceeding international standards. We were urged to write on their behalf to the Minister of Home Affairs.

We listened to detailed reports on the Middle East and North Africa (Ali Aarrass of Morocco has finally been released after 12 years) and on the Death Penalty.

The Death Penalty file makes wretched, depressing reading.  We were asked to email on behalf of Hew Yoo Wah of Malaysia, arrested at the age of 20 for drugs offences, and awaiting execution 14 years later. Likewise for Billy Joe Wardlow of Texas, arrested for murder at the age of 18, and still on death row 27 years later.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 9 June and will also be online.  If you would like to join us, please email amnestytaunton@gmail.com for details.

Report from our April meeting

24 Apr

Distant_but_together_-_web_copyDespite the current lockdown measures we were able to hold a virtual meeting from our own homes, and, thanks to the system set up, managed to communicate successfully.

Amnesty UK have suggested a number of supportive remote actions we could take. Solidarity is at the heart of much of what Amnesty does, and they are calling for our support in getting the Government to protect those at particSUMW_-_placardsular risk from Covid-19: women who are victims of domestic abuse, refugees and migrants, and, crucially, essential workers who need proper support and protective equipment.

Ben Grant gave a presentation on “Families Together”, based on the exhibition in Taunton Library (illustrated with drawings by children from Parkfield School), based on the premise that Refugee Children should be allowed to sponsor their families to join them in the UK. In 2018 a Bill to achieve this was passed by a resounding majority of 131; Taunton’s MP, Rebecca Pow, took part but, sadly, filibustered against it.  The Bill was lost in the Brexit manoeuverings, but there is now a simple Bill to rectify the position in the House of Lords. The UK’s current position is in contravention of international law.

We heard reports on the Middle East and North Africa, the Death Penalty and Amnesty Feminists.

Alun gave a report on India; the BK9 (9 activists fighting for the rights of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country) have become the BK11; letters and emails have been written to the authorities on their behalf.

Driven by events, “La Peste” by Albert Camus was chosen as Book of the Month. Many have interpreted it as an allegorical representation of French Resistance to Nazi occupation in WW2; today we may have another take on it – surely the hallmark of a great work of art.

Our next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 12 May via video link. If you would like to join us, please email amnestytaunton@gmail.com

 

To our supporters

31 Mar
Keep Calm and Support AmnestySelf isolation. Funny, isn’t it, how the expression has quickly become part of our everyday language?
But the isolation we, as Amnesty members, read about is of a different order. This is not isolation for the good of the community, with free access to our friends and family by phone, text, email, Facebook and Whatsapp. It is isolation in unsanitary conditions, with poor or little food, often with a ration of torture and no access to lawyers, doctors, friends or family.
So, while you – our supporters and followers out there – are coping with isolation, might you be able to go to the Amnesty UK website to read about Human Rights Defenders?
There are 3 cases you could help with: the Bhima Koregaon 9 (BK9) in India, jailed for fighting for the rights of the poorest in the country; three women in Iran facing 42 years in prison for unveiling; and the women in Saudi Arabia who, having campaigned for the right to drive – a right that has now been granted by the Saudi Government –  find themselves in prison.
You won’t need to write a letter. It is difficult to obtain the correct postage now, so please email or sign the petitions!
Thank you and stay safe.

Amnesty Taunton meeting: Tuesday 10 March

9 Mar

Keep Calm and Support AmnestyOur next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 10 March at the Quaker Meeting Rooms, Bath Place, Taunton. It will include a workshop on Amnesty and Climate Change led by our Amnesty Trainer Susan Mew.

We hope to see you there.

Families Together display at Taunton Library

16 Feb

IMG_5079Yesterday, Taunton Amnesty Group donated several children’s books about refugees to the Taunton Library (pictured). This donation accompanies a small display at the library to highlight the Families Together campaign.

More than half of the world’s refugees are children, many of them separated from their families as they flee war and persecution. But needlessly strict laws in the UK IMG_20200215_150336229mean many are prevented from being joined by their parents, brothers and sisters. These restrictive rules leave people isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries.

Amnesty International and many other organisations that form the Families Together Coalition are calling on the UK Government to expand the current refugees family reunion rules.

If you get a chance, please pop by Taunton Library to see our display and learn more. The display will be at the library during normal opening hours until the end of Saturday 22nd February.

Report from our January meeting

28 Jan

Write for Rights: our stall in St Mary’s at the end of November generated interest among the plethora of other events going on that day.  We collected nearly £80 for AI, and received a generous donation from Taunton School as a result of our visit to them – we hope to maintain that contact.

At our January meeting our coordinator for India filled us in on the Kashmir issue, and the protests about the new citizenship changes and restrictions on Muslims.

Our North Africa coordinator had written a letter for us to sign on behalf of Assa Mohammed in Egypt, asking that his sentence be quashed.

Amnesty International had also asked her to keep up the pressure on behalf of Ali Arras of Morocco, who should be released on 2 April. She reminded us that Ali, a Belgian-Moroccan national, was forcibly returned to Morocco in 2010 from Spain, where he was caring for his ageing father. He was tortured for 12 days in a secret detention centre and afterwards confessed to using weapons illegally and supporting a terrorist group. He has been in prison since then.

We discussed future actions, particularly an event on ‘Families Together’ to highlight the plight of refugee children in this country who are again (contrary to the Government’s previous undertaking) being denied the right to re-build a family life.

Our selected Book of the Month is First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung on her experiences in the Cambodian killing fields.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton (next meeting 11 Feb). We’re always delighted to welcome visitors.

Amnesty Taunton meeting Tuesday 14 January

9 Jan

Keep Calm and Support Amnesty

Please join us at our first meeting of 2020, at 7.30pm on Tuesday 14 January in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton.

The meeting will include a short talk by Alex Melbourne providing an introduction to the humanitarian and human rights situation in South Sudan.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

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