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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 November meeting

18 Nov

468_atena_farghadaniAtena Farghadani is a 29 year old Iranian artist; she was jailed this summer for over 12 years for her art and her peaceful activism. Since then she’s faced further charges: she shook her lawyer’s hand when he visited her in prison and is now facing charges of ‘illicit sexual relations falling short of adultery’.

We sent cards to Atena and wrote to the Iranian President urging her release. There is also a petition to sign on the AIUK website here.

Members had written letters and cards, which we all signed, on behalf of people imprisoned or facing the death penalty in Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

We’re taking part in the annual Christmas Tree Festival in the Taunton United Reform Church, held from 11–13 December. Trees are displayed and decorated by groups in the town, which makes a thought-provoking and seasonal display. We hope you can go along and see our tree!

Another annual event for the Christmas period is Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign, when we send cards worldwide to those persecuted and write on their behalf to their Governments. Done on a national scale this campaign has a considerable impact. We’ll be writing cards at our meeting on Tuesday 8 December at 8pm in the Silver Street Baptist Church. Do join us to write cards and enjoy some Christmas nibbles.

Report from our May meeting

21 May

Amnesty Taunton -  writing cards to Mahdi Abu DheebAbducted by the security forces, held incommunicado and tortured: this was the fate of Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahrain Teachers Union, during the Arab Spring of 2011. He’s now serving a 5 year jail sentence; he’s denied medical care, and his health is deteriorating. In neighbouring United Arab Emirates, Dr Mohammed Al Roken, a well known and respected human rights lawyer, is in the second year of a 10 year sentence which effectively silences a voice speaking out in defence of human rights.

For our monthly action on their behalf we sent messages of solidarity and signed a petition to keep up pressure on the authorities.

Andy Moody, Amnesty’s UK China co-ordinator, talked to us on China’s poor record on human rights under the current regime, and its heavy use of the death penalty.

He spoke of three major dissidents, including Liu Xiabo, a prominent writer and academic, currently jailed. In 2010 Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, despite threats by China to Norway if the award went ahead. No one was able to receive it on his behalf; his empty chair stood on the stage during the award as mute testimony to his achievements.

We hope to ‘adopt’ another Chinese prisoner of conscience, Liu Ping. A member of the New Citizens’ Movement, a peaceful network of activists, she is serving a 6 year jail sentence.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 9th June at 8pm in the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. Do join us to find out more about our work.

 

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