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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!


Amnesty Feminists update

18 Sep

EGYPT: The Giza prosecution office has ordered the release on bail of a 15 year old girl who was arrested after stabbing a microbus driver who attempted to rape her. In July, Amira was lured to Al-Ayat by a microbus driver, her boyfriend and another man and then offered a lift home by the driver after the other commuters got out. The driver attacked Amira with a knife and attempted to rape her so she stabbed him 14 times in self-defence. Reuters has stated that Egypt is the worst place in the world to be a woman – women who do speak out about sexual harassment are often punished by authorities – in 2018, Amal Fathy was sentenced to prison after posting a video on FB calling out sexual harassment.

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: 25th November – marks the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. AI advocates for the full decriminalisation of sex work because if offers a better framework to protect the human rights of sex workers.

dometic-abuse-bill-webUK – DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL – not fit for purpose. Supposed to ‘transform’ our approach to domestic abuse’, it leaves some of the most marginalised women behind. Migrant women are often already isolated in society. They can face language barriers, racial discrimination and many are on low-income jobs. Help support migrant women and join call on the government to make sure the new Domestic Abuse Bill doesn’t discriminate against migrant women. (ON-LINE PETITION)

ON-LINE ABUSE: widespread in the UK with one if five women having suffered online abuse or harassment, latest research has discovered.

ECUADOR: Amazonian Women Patricia Gualinga, Nema Grefa, Salome Aranda and Margoth Escobar are putting their lives on the line every day protecting the world’s largest rainforest. In doing so, they are taking a stand against climate change, while defying huge political and economic interest linked to extractive industries in Indigenous territories. In 2018, unidentified attackers targeted them in a series of attacks and death threats. For more than a year Ecuador’s authorities have failed to protect them or identify their attackers. In Ecuador, dozens of Amazonian Women work together to defend the Amazon, home to hundreds of Indigenous communities, thousands of species and half of the world’s rainforests. Large-scale economic activities such as oil, mining and logging often pose a threat to the environment and to people’s rights.

Report from our July meeting

17 Jul

June19 stall.jpgTaunton Amnesty had a stall in the Town Centre on 29 June to raise awareness of LGBT rights and the Death Penalty. We discussed these issues with passers by, handed out leaflets and collected signatures for an LGBT petition defending Pride marches in Turkey. We were very glad to welcome the Mayor, Francesca Smith, and Federica Smith-Roberts, the Leader of the District Council to our stall (pictured); our MP, Rebecca Pow, had planned to visit but sadly had to decline due to her recent bereavement.

We heard reports from our group co-ordinators for the Middle East and North Africa, and for India. We signed a letter to the Egyptian authorities urging the release of Aser Mohamed, a prisoner of conscience, who had signed a confession under torture in 2016 when only 14 years old in defiance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For India, Amnesty has an Urgent Action Campaign to support Dalit Human Rights Defenders the ‘Bhima Koregaon 9’. These are nine people committed to the causes of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country, like Dalits and Adivasis. Far from being anti-national as they have been branded, the Bhima Koregaon 9 are for many, national heroes.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the 5 Big Questions that Amnesty believes we must look at to consider how we should develop in the future. Check this out at

We don’t meet in August, but at the 10 September meeting Cherry Bird of the Minehead Group will talk on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. We are always delighted to welcome visitors to our meetings; we meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place.

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.

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