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Here we will tell you everything that's going on within AISU.
You can read all about past activities, news from AISU and Amnesty International.
50 Years of Amnesty Netherlands
By Claartje America, President of the AISU Board, in collaboration with Emma Haverdings on the 26th of April, 2018
Last Saturday, on the 21st of April, it was 50 years ago that the Dutch department of Amnesty International came into existence. To celebrate this remarkable milestone, Amnesty Netherlands organized a meaningful day at the Theater Amsterdam to shine a light on her members, but more importantly on human rights defenders all over the world. The AISU board, together with AISU’s photographer joined this event.
To begin with, all guests were welcomed in the opening ceremony. Inspirational speeches were followed by beautiful music, interviews and short films about Amnesty’s members. Director Eduard Nazarski gave a motivational speech about how he got into human rights and praised all the work that’s been done, big and small. To conclude, he pleaded that we have to keep fighting for a better world for Amnesty’s work will, unfortunately, never be needless.
Food for thought was given to us by Egyptian comedian and satirist Bassem Youssef. In a keen but earnest speech, he shared the story of why he fled his home country. He was in danger in his own country for speaking his mind and challenging the regime. Youssef explained how humor can be used as a way to address controversial, sensitive subjects. On this note, he rightfully critized that volunteering work should be motivated by the need to help others and not to feel better about yourself. That’s why, no matter how many success we seem to have, we should always stay critical of our own work. Be conscious of your goals and keep in mind what you are doing it for.
In the afternoon, many inspirational human rights defenders gave workshops and interviews about the experiences they’ve had, fighting for human rights in their home countries. To give you an impression and to share the amazing stories, members of the board have typed up a short description of the workshops they followed. To start, Eva went to meet some of these human rights defenders:
I followed a workshop, which was actually more a talk show, with different human rights activists like Jenni Williams from Zimbabwe and Ali Feruz Oezbekistan. Jenni Williams is one of the founders of Woman of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and organized many successful protests against former president Mugabe. For her peaceful demonstrations, she got arrested over 40 times! Ali Feruz was a journalist at the Novaja Gazeta, a critical Russian newspaper. August last year he was imprisoned and they threaten to send him back to Uzbekistan. He had to flee from this country because he was falsely accused of terrorism, he didn’t want to work as an informant, and for this, he was tortured and persecuted. Ali was freed in January this year! They shared their moving stories and the audience could ask them anything. It was very special to finally see the people we wrote for on the Amnesty’s Writing Marathon in December. The fact that they were now free and tell their own story was unforgettable and made me even more motivated!
I myself attended the workshop ‘Human rights and businesses’. This was a short lecture about how Amnesty International addresses private undertakings. Amnesty Netherlands is one of the partners of the ‘Eerlijke geldwijzer’. This is a portal that registrates and compares all investments, strategies and practices of banks and insurance companies in Holland. This short workshop showed us a more corporate side of Amnesty. This way, consumers can make more informed decisions and are stimulated to think about human rights more consciously. I think this is a beautiful initiative and a good example of how to make people more aware of human rights violations close to home.
Besides the workshops, you could visit a very interesting exposition with interactive graphic design and art called ‘Models of Humanity – The Future of Human Rights According to 49 Young Designers’. Art projects were made by students of the Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague. Photo's of the exposition can be viewed in the photoreportage below. It was amazing to see how thoughts on human rights were transformed into interactive art, that made people think and discuss.
The day was closed by the award ceremony of the Ambassador of Conscience Award 2018, which was awarded to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is an American National Football League player, who took the knee instead of standing up while the national anthem was played before a game. In the art exposition, the piece 'Models of Opinion' was partly inspired by his gesture. In 'Models of Opinion', 3D printed characters represent human rights defenders that take a stance against injustice. With his gesture, Kaepernick wanted to show everybody that he does not stand proudly for the flag of country in which unjustified police violence against Afro-Americans is still common. He raised a lot of awareness with his action, and continues to raise awareness for this issue today. If you would like to read his speech, click here.
In the end, it was an inspiring and motivational day. The key focus was that being critical of one’s own work and success is most important when you want to make the world a better place. This is what we at AISU will strive to and we hope you will too.
Below is a photoreportage of the entire day, made by Emma Haverdings. You'll find photo's of the art exposition, workshops and some very happy folks at the afterparty.
Celebrate the progress we made on woman’s rights and simultaneously the equalization of human rights
By Gerlien Spijkerboer on the 7th of March, 2018
Tomorrow, on the 8th of March, the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. Indeed, we choose to say celebrating instead of for example remembering or paying attention to. Besides this, I would like to share my thoughts on equality, instead of only praising womanhood. Such a perspective fails to cover the complete issue by separating woman based on their sex, instead of focusing on the backlog in human rights between the sexes.
First, I want to shed light on that backlog. Of course, there are still a lot of cases that prove women are still seen as subordinate to men. With regards to the facts, men and women are, of course, not biologically the same, and in my opinion each has their strengths. Then there is the first misunderstanding, namely the idea that sex and gender are one and the same.
One’s sex could be defined as man or woman due to their physical aspects, but that does not mean one’s gender must be defined as male in the former and female in the latter. Within gender studies, the package of gender characteristics is therefore titled as a gender role. The definition of gender as a role defines it as a quality which is performative and, therefore, not fixed on sex. The second misunderstanding I still frequently notice in daily life is the stereotyping of gender roles. Even in the 21st century, there is a normative structure on how the person identifying as male or female should be or behave. And, if you take this point even further, on what defines a certain sex.
So, there is often a big misunderstanding regarding the difference between sex, gender and identity. To put it bluntly, we have mostly moved past the era of boys playing with cars and girls with dolls. But apparently we are not past the idea of women as better masters of the household – because “they are just better in organizing, have a marvellous eye for details and are better multitaskers” – than men. These are stereotyping characteristics of gender roles which are randomly fixed to sex.
Unfortunately, the stereotyping of the male gender role leaves the man with more opportunities in life than the woman.
As a woman, there is just less to choose from. Take, for example, the job market, where women with the prospect of starting a family have a smaller chance of getting a high end job in comparison to men. The choice then becomes between getting pregnant in the future and losing your job, or having a bright career and putting your family plans on a sidetrack. In the end women are not only pregnant, but also recognised as more suitable to care for the child afterwards instead of earning a living. This leaves the man more able to develop a prosperous career with more freedom to choose.
Now let us get back to the point of celebrating, because we do need to view International Women’s Day as something positive and including. As it is an annual item, we have the opportunity to evaluate the past year and its accomplishments with regards to renewed appreciation for women’s power. One movement that refused to be ignored started with the hashtag #MeToo. Thousands of, mostly, women shared their experiences of sexual abuse by men in powerful positions. They emphasized the shame this caused, and the damage it wrought on their self-esteem. But, interestingly, also the origin of this sense of shame then became a discussion point: why exactly should these women be ashamed, instead of the men who abused their power? To be clear, the stories also revealed abuse from women in positions of power over men and between the same sex.
More than anything this proves that it is essentially an issue of power, and the feeling that you can violate someone else’s body, without repercussions. We should celebrate these #MeToo stories as they come to the light, thus tossing out our impenitent norms on bodily autonomy and equality.
Of course there are a lot more examples to list here, such as the abolishment of gender related child clothing by HEMA on request of a 10-year old girl who did not like the hearts on the outfits. In doing this, HEMA made a clear move to reduce the stereotyping gender roles that have been societally fixed to biological sex. To make sure girls are not the only ones sweet enough to wear hearts, just as boys are the only ones cool enough to wear… say what, cubes?!
Another example of this German constitutional court’s aim to give civilians the opportunity of registering as ‘intersexual’ besides ‘male’ or ‘female’ by the end of 2018. They concluded someone should not be placed in a box one does (bodily) not belong to.
With this last example I would like to conclude this piece: People are more than their sex or gender. Men are more than cool mechanics, smart business man, solid rulers and unemotional partners. Women are more than caring mothers, strong multitaskers, expressive talkers and good cooks. Let us celebrate the improvements that we have made this past year, in striving for equality between men’s and women’s rights, and the elimination of the backlog in women’s rights by doing so.
Have a good International Women’s Day 2018.
Arneil, Barbara. Politics and Feminism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999.
Reportage of the protest in Utrecht 'Don't send Afghans Back!'
Written by Emma Haverdings and Julie Burauen, on the 22nd of February, 2018
Photo reportage by Emma Haverdings
Last Sunday, on the 18th of February 2018, 250 people came out to the meet at the Domplein in Utrecht. Why? To protest. In all of Europe many Afghan refugees are being send back to Afghanistan, their home country. The situation in Afghanistan is, however, still critically dangerous. According to the Global Peace Index 2017 Afghanistan is the second most dangerous country in the world. To bring this problem to the attention of more people in Europe, a Facebook community called ‘Don’t send Afghans back’ spread the idea of starting protests across Europe.
In Utrecht, where everything started, the AISU board was asked to help organize a protest walk in the centre of the city. In the end, the word spread through social media and 49 cities all over Europe participated and organized a protest walk too. It’s been amazing to see so many people come together with the same goal; claiming human rights for those who’ve been treated with only injustice.
The symbol of Sunday’s protest was the red kite. It stands for the solidarity that this movement has created to all stand up together and stop the deportation of Afghan refugees. Eduard Nazarski, head of Amnesty International Netherlands, gave a speech in Utrecht for all the protestors about this pressing issue. Ahmad Mostafa Sadat and Palwasha Muhammad Hassan, two Afghan refugees who have been living in Holland for quite some time now, also speeched about their experiences with the IND (Immigratie- en naturalisatiedienst). They’re being send back to Afghanistan after having build a life for themselves in Holland, because the IND thinks their paperwork is inadequate.
We hope that with this action, the issue will be given a lot more attention by citizens, politicians and governments. After the protests this weekend, the media have picked up the story of the Afghan refugees and their situation. There have been quite a lot of reports on the protests, so the word is still spreading. We hope the result will be a change of current policies; don’t send Afghans back to their homeland, it’s not safe!
Below are some of the reports on the protests by some Dutch news sites. Want to help? Sign the petition of Amnesty International here and join the Facebook group ‘Don't send Afghans back - a platform for positive action’.
On Sunday the 10th of December we held the annual writing marathon at De Lik in Utrecht. It was a great day thanks to everyone who endured the weather and joined us anyway! In Utrecht, we wrote 426 letters to Sakris, Yulan, Mahadine and many others to support them in their battle against injustice. We also wrote many letters to the authorities, to put pressure on them and create peace for all. Special thanks to our own Activities Committee and the AISU board for organizing this great event, and to KEEK for providing us with some delicious treats.
Missed this event? Don’t worry! You can still write letters via the Dutch Amnesty International website till the 20th of December, just clickon the button bellow. In the slide show bellow, you can also check out all the gezelligheid of past Sunday, pictures made by Editorial Committee’s own Emma Haverdings. At the end, you will find a video in which Dutch writer Ronald Giphart beautifully describes why you should use your rights to help those who are denied theirs. He also visited us at De Lik this sunday.
IAMnesty – “The Right to Protest”
By Alice Baker on the 13th of December
Within our current society, we have noticed a rise in global movements. Noticeably, the widespread use of social media has transformed both the organisational element of protesting, as well as the style and form of many public assemblies. Amnesty International has strived over the years to guarantee the right to protest across the globe.
Some of us here at AISU wanted to learn more about what the right to protest actually is and what the situation is like both globally and across the Netherlands, where the right to peaceful assembly has been increasingly contested. A couple of weeks ago, a few Editorial Committee members travelled to Amnesty House in Amsterdam for a masterclass on the ‘Right to Protest’. We joined many other eager students from across the country for an interesting afternoon of discussions, activities and, of course, plenty of coffee, tea and pepernoten!
After getting a chance to meet some other students enthusiastic about Amnesty’s work, we got down to answering some key questions. The first that we set out to tackle was: what is the right to protest?
Well, although not officially outlined as a human right under international conventions or declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the “right to protest” stands as the manifestation of a collection of rights: (1) the right to freedom of expression; (2) the right to freedom of peaceful assembly; and finally (3) the right to freedom of association. These fundamental rights assign the state the task of “duty bearer”, meaning the state must endeavour not to restrict a particular right, whilst also putting into place systems and structures to facilitate and guarantee such rights. The measures necessary to ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly or association that must be put in place by governments could, in reality, be quite extensive. Arguably, for states, it may simply be easier to create unnecessary limitations or provide excuses as to why eager campaigners cannot exercise their right to protest, rather than facilitate it. However, in an age where we see growing pressure on civic space, it seems too easy to blame extensive measures completely for lack of compliance. Protests, marches and acts of peaceful assembly often centre around topics that call states or state institutions to account. Therefore, it seems somewhat clear that states would also seek to stop protests, if it meant that less attention would be called to their acts.
Zooming closer into the Netherlands, we were able to build quite an extensive and concerning picture of the situation regarding the right to peaceful assembly and the right to protest. Numerous unjustified infringements, such as unlawful interference with the context of protests, troubles with notification procedures and multiple unjustified arrests during peaceful assemblies have added to emerging concern at Amnesty over the Dutch government’s respect for such rights. Through completing a group activity centred around various cases in which the right to protest in the Netherlands was debated, we saw that often cases were complex. Often there is non-compliance with international standards, which is, of course, a major concern. However, a key lesson from this masterclass was that we must always bear in mind the complexities that surround human rights.
During the masterclass, I became aware of certain questions and started to ask myself: what are the limits to our freedoms and rights? To what extent can and should the state set these limits? How can we ensure the right to peaceful assembly can be guaranteed for all.
As citizens of states and of wider global society, we have the right to express ourselves and to gather with others in order to call the state accountable to their actions. Human rights defenders have been doing just that for years and years. Amnesty International has documented challenges and violations of the right to peaceful assembly in countries worldwide. Therefore, by informing ourselves as to not only the current situations but what our rights actually are, we can be better prepared in our endeavours to ensure human rights, hold actors accountable when they are not upheld, and support others fighting for human rights globally.
Thank you to Amnesty International Netherlands for holding such an interactive, interesting and necessary masterclass!
If you fancy learning more about Amnesty International Netherland’s special events and opportunities for students, then make sure to take a look at their website:
Feel free to share your opinion with us!
Blog by Emma Haverdings