Last Friday, members of the MHC chapter of Amnesty International (myself included) piled into a zipcar and drove to NYC to make our voices heard. We participated in the 21st annual nationwide Amnesty led protest known as “Get on the Bus” that consists of members walking to selected international embassies around New York City and protesting recent human rights violations such as enforced disappearances and unlawful imprisonment of social justice activists.
Prior to these protests, we attended an Amnesty International Get on the Bus conference in Cooper Union building located in NYC. We heard from a number of different speakers that ranged from Amnesty International Executive Board members to former prisoners of conscience that were imprisoned in and by the very countries we were going to protest against. The conference was inspirational in that it recognized the hard work and dedication of those who participate in grassroots campaigns and the impact that they have, despite popular opinion. In addition, it was uplifting to hear the success stories from those that were former prisoners and were freed with the help of Amnesty’s efforts. Many of these former prisoners of conscience walked with us and made their voices heard to those countries that imprisoned them.
There were four main cases that were the focus of the day’s protests. The first was regarding the release of blogger and social activists Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu Al Khair who were wrongfully held by the Saudi Arabian government. The second was concerned with justice for Ragihar Manoharan and the Trinco Five, who were murdered by the Sri Lankan police for no lawful reason and their murderers were not held accountable in any way. The third called for the release of Bahareh Hedayat who fought ardently for equal education in Iran and was imprisoned for it the day before her wedding. The fourth and final protest took place in front of the Chinese embassy and called for the freedom of Khenpo Kartse who is known for his environmental activism and disaster relief work in Tibet. He was imprisoned for charges unknown.
Hundreds of Amnesty members swarmed the streets of New York, our cries for justice and freedom echoing and reverberating through the city. The day was simultaneously one of triumph and of sadness, as we fought for the fundamental rights that we as human beings inherently possess and recognized the reality that for so many across the globe, those rights go unrecognized. Bob Marley said it best: “Get up, stand up, stand up for your right”.
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