Celebrations were definitely in order when HC Aberdeen heard the wonderful news that one of our very own girls was to be President for the Amnesty International society for the coming academic year. Eira, who is in her third year studying English and French will also be taking the role of Her Campus Editor next year, making us very privileged to be spending so much time with Aberdeen Uni’s newest celeb. For those of you who have yet to come across Amnesty International we thought it only right to give you a little insight into the amazing work the organisation does. Amnesty International simply describes themselves as ‘ordinary people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights.’ This is such a fundamental concept that every person in the world deserves, yet in 2015 we still need hardworking groups of people who make up Amnesty to encourage donations and protest on the behalf of those people who are being treated unfairly, or are quite simply living a life without basic human rights. We know that Eira will make a fabulous President, who will work hard to make a change.
HC: What factors motivated you to join the Amnesty International society and run to be President for the coming year?
E: I’ve grown up around Amnesty International, my mum has been a member for over twenty years so I’ve heard about the work they do all my life. I decided to get involved at uni because I think human rights are so important. You can campaign for equal wages, education, everything like that, but none of that will work in a country or a society where basic human rights are lacking. Human rights is a wide term too. Amnesty works with everything for the right to decide over your own body, stopping torture, uncovering war crimes, and ending the death penalty. I decided to run for president of the society because I wanted to be more involved and I want to help the society become more visible on campus, as we are quite small at the moment!
HC: Why do we need to represent an organization like Amnesty International at University?
E: I think we need an organisation like Amnesty International at University because it makes people realise that they can actually help. It might feel hopeless sitting in Scotland with the privilege of going to university when you know that so much bad stuff is happening around the world. Having a society like Amnesty makes it easier for people to get involved and it does not take much. One of Amnesty’s big things is letter writing; you write letters to heads of state and make them aware that you are aware of the breaches of human rights happening in their country. Then you send the letters on to Amnesty HQ and one day they will send them all to the head of state in question. It is such a powerful statement to make, the head of state will receive thousands of letters in a short space of time from people all over the world highlighting a specific issue. This has been a successful method of getting prisoners pardoned from death row, released from jail, and has even introduced new legislation. And it’s something we can do from Aberdeen, it doesn’t take much to make a big difference!
HC: What are Amnesty International’s current projects?
E: Over the past couple of years Amnesty has focused on torture. They have had a Stop Torture campaign, where they’ve uncovered police brutality all over the world and are campaigning for this to stop, as well as giving restitution to the victims. The Raif Badawi case has been big. He is a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been imprisoned and sentenced to 1000 lashes for posting critical things about Islam, the state religion in Saudi Arabia. So far he has received a hundred lashes, and the pressure from Amnesty and the international community has been strong ever since his sentence. So hopefully he will be released soon, and journalists and bloggers will be able to enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Another big campaign is My Body, My Rights. This focuses on women being in charge of their own bodies and changes in legislation. Amnesty campaigns in Ireland, where abortion is still illegal, and in El Salvador, where you can get sentenced to prison for having a miscarriage as it is considered murder. Amnesty wants to change all this so women can be in charge of their own bodies and decide for themselves what happens to them. This campaign also includes education about rape and consent, and things such as female genital mutilation, which unfortunately still happens to so many young girls all over the world.
HC: What is one thing that you love about Amnesty International?
E: I think what is great about Amnesty is that they’re relentless. They are always campaigning, sending letters, collecting signatures in order to make the world a better place. In a 24 hour news cycle it is easy to forget that things have happened, like when the school girls went missing in Nigeria. It is forgotten so quickly as it is replaced by other news so fast, so I think it is good to know that Amnesty International is ever-present and ever-watching. And getting involved is so easy, it does not take up much time and it’s exciting when you know that you have contributed to make a positive change in the world.
She seriously is one motivated girl ready to make a huge difference. If I was a Head of State withdrawing basic human rights in my country, I’d sure be incredibly scared to go against Amnesty International.