AmnesTea Party

On the beautifully sunny afternoon of the 15th of June, CUAI hosted its annual AmnesTea Party on Jesus Green.  Surrounded by Amnesty bunting, balloons, stickers and badges, guests enjoyed the glorious weather and chatted about upcoming CUAI projects.

As well as the summertime beverage par excellence (ie. Pimm’s), AmnesTea Party goers were treated to a variety of delectable savoury goods donated generously by Cambridge student favourites – Nanna Mexico and Gardies – and the delicious Bridges Cafe. However, the selection of sweet treats was even more impressive, consisting of scrumptious donations from Krispy Kreme, Patisserie Valerie, Chocolat Chocolat, Savino’s Caffè Bar Italiano,  Fudge Kitchen, and Mr. Simms’ Old Sweet Shoppe.

AmnesTea Party-goers enjoying an expansive array of delicious goods donated by local shops, cafes and restaurants
AmnesTea Party-goers enjoying an expansive array of delicious goods donated by local shops, cafes and restaurants

Of course, the event would not have been complete without CUAI’s trademark letter writing session, campaigning to protect the human rights of Syrian refugees M.F. and J.B. (names withheld for security reasons), at risk of being forcibly returned to Turkey under the illegal EU-Turkey deal, and Azerbaijani youth activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov, who were arrested on 10 May in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for alleged drug possession after they painted political graffiti on the former President’s statue.

Keen human rights defenders wrote letters to the Chief of Staff of the Hellenic Police, Zacharoula Tsirigoti, urging the Greek authorities to ensure that M.F and B.J. are not returned to Turkey and to examine the substance of their asylum claims in Greece; and calling on them to immediately halt the return of all asylum-seekers and refugees to Turkey who would be returned on the grounds that it is safe.

They also addressed the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, insisting that Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov are examined by an independent forensic expert and that their injuries are appropriately documented;  and calling on the authorities to carry out an immediate, effective and impartial investigation into their allegations of their ill-treatment and the fabrication of false charges.

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CUAI x WikiRate Collaboration- ‘Where Your Technology Comes From’

On the 3rd of May, CUAI had the pleasure of hosting a joint, interactive event, entitled ‘Where your technology comes from: Investigating sourcing practices‘ with Cambridge Wikirate Society.

Wikirate is an exciting and revolutionary new technological platform that provides digital activists with an alternative to ‘clicktivism’ that requires a little more thought and research.

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Participants used the Wikirate platform to investigate companies’ mineral sourcing and usage practices

This collaborative event was born out of CUAI and Wikirate’s joint desire to find out what companies are doing to ensure they source their minerals responsibly. This is why Wikirate decided to create a database investigating companies’ mineral sourcing and usage practices.

Products we use every day — like smartphones, laptops and cars — contain minerals that may have fuelled violence, abuses, and corrupt criminal networks in countries like Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The event kicked off with introductions by experts from Amnesty International UK, The WikiRate Project and others speaking about why responsible sourcing matters. Participants then used the WikiRate platform to research companies using publicly available information; generating data that will help us – the consumers – ensure that companies are held to account for abuses they commit.

Dr. Richard Mills (left), from Cambridge University's Psychology Department, and Lucy Graham (right), from  Amnesty International's Business & Human Rights Team, address participants
Dr. Richard Mills (left), from Cambridge University’s Psychology Department, and Lucy Graham (right), from Amnesty International’s Business & Human Rights Team, address participants

By using Wikirate’s impressive database we were able to check up on how ethically sourced the minerals companies use for their products are. Although the possibilities for the use of this technology are extremely broad, at our event we were focusing on whether or not companies use ‘conflict minerals,’ so called because they come from areas of the world where wars over resources are common – such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Reading through pages of corporate jargon was challenging at first, but once we became used to it we were able to scan and analyse these documents, with the aid of searching questions provided for by the Wikirate platform, in order to find out what they were and weren’t telling us. To be among the first to trial such new technology was really exciting for everyone who attended, and CUAI thinks that Wikirate’s technology will certainly be vital for holding companies to account and protecting the human rights of workers in the future.

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Truth For Giulio Rally–April 22nd, 2016

Students from the university gathered on Kings Parade to echo the calls of thousands of protesters worldwide, on Friday 22nd April, in support of the Truth For Giulio campaign. The campaign aims to bring to light the true events surrounding the tragic death of Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found on the 3rd of February following his disappearance in Cairo on the 25th of January. Giulio’s murder was “This is a fight for academic freedom”, said Priscilla Mensah at the rally. The CUSU president emphasised the Student Union’s commitment to the campaign, offering their condolences to those who knew Giulio, noting too just how acutely the loss has been felt among the Cambridge community.

Cambridge students were not the only group represented at the rally. As well as CUAI, the Cambridge Amnesty City Group lent their support to the event, and as a result the march attracted people from all over Cambridge and even beyond. Within the university, Dr. Anne Alexander from the POLIS department – who had helped draft the letter, which was signed by over 4600 academics nationally, forcing the campaign even further into the spotlight– assisted in promoting an academic interest in the event. Dr. Glen Rangwala, an academic in the department where Giulio worked and one of his supervisors, delivered a more personal account of what Giulio was like, and urged those in attendance to continue to pursue the cause in his name. He dispelled any myth that what happened to Giulio might have been as a result of a lapse in caution: Giulio was well aware of the risks, exercised caution in every way expected of him, and yet was still a victim of this horrific crime.

Their voices were joined by those of CUAI’s chair, Eleanor Hegarty, and the chair of the Cambridge Amnesty International City Group, Liesbeth Ten Ham. Specific reference was given to the Verita Per Giulio campaign, which has gained huge momentum in Italy as in numerous other countries, and which was established and backed by Amnesty International. Eleanor outlined CUAI’s plans to assist the campaign further in the future, in particular by launching a national social media campaign, and continuing to promote the petition to pressure the British government into taking appropriate action.

The huge variety of groups present at the rally was a testimony to the shock and outrage caused by Giulio’s death. Aside from members of the university and Amnesty groups, movements such as Egypt for Solidarity, as well as various trades councils, had members present to show their support for the cause.

At the CUSU council meeting on Monday, a close friend of Giulio’s, Sophie Roborgh, emphasised how our work is far from over. Reminding students of the shocking locality of the incident – Giulio was a student here, just like us – she asked once more for the support of the student community: ‘as his university, we are his first call of defence’. Despite the rally being evidence of how the tragedy of Giulio’s death reverberated through Cambridge, and of the ability for the community to mobilise in support of an issue as important as this, there still remains no justice. The Italian government have made bold diplomatic statements in a mounting campaign for truth, but our own government appears scarily disingenuous. It is blatantly clear now that the public have spoken, with the petition reaching 10,000 signatures – the required amount to demand a response from the government – enough evidence in itself.

CUAI will continue to pressure the British government to address the case directly, and with urgency. We are following the campaign closely, and are encouraged by the announcement over the past few days that Italian delegates are to visit Cairo before the end of the week, following the eventual decision of the Egyptian authorities to hand over some, though not all, of the phone records demanded by the Italian investigative authorities some weeks ago. Further news that the British Foreign Affairs select committee have directly referenced Giulio in their report – which suggests shortcomings on the part of the British government to address human rights issues worldwide – is another affirmation that the campaign can, and must, continue.

To sign the petition, click here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/120832

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Members of Egypt for Solidarity gave their support

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Members of Trades Unions also participated

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A shot of the rally

 

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Supporters carrying banners

 

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Signs call for both Truth for Giulio and for Egypt’s Disappeared

 

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Cambridge University Amnesty International Chair Eleanor Hegarty addressing the crowd

 

 

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An immense turnout of those who are calling for Truth for Giulio

 

 

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Daniel Zeichner, MP, speaking

 

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CUSU President Priscilla Mensah talks to the group of supporters

 

 

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Dr. Glen Rangwala of the POLIS department gave a touching personal description of what working with Giulio was like

 

 

 

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Amnesty Member Laura Spirit helped coordinate with the Cambridge City Amnesty group

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Jamnesty-Easter 2016

Downing Bar recently joined the illustrious ranks of London, Paris, and Los Angeles in being host to a human rights concert, and can easily lay claim to being just as much of a success. The masses poured in on Friday evening (the 29th April) and were treated to a enjoyably diverse range of live music and comedy. There were those who had never performed live before, and those who harbour hopes of a professional career, and everyone in between. The sizeable crowd were treated to both original material, and well-known covers, in an evening that catered for those who came especially for the music, and for those who wanted something a bit more casual. CUAI’s very own Tiffany Hui and Madeleine Lofchy put the rest of the exec to shame by turning in one of the stand out sets of the night!

All in all, £180 was raised on a wholly successful and entertaining evening. Our thanks go out to all the attendees, performers, and anyone else who helped out along the way!13082159_1074590019251501_1210832825_n

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CUAI College Rep Achievements – Lent 2016

As always, our reps did not disappoint, and organised a creative and exciting range of awareness and fund raisers as part of CUAI’s focus on homelessness and its effort to support the local charities Students Supporting Street Kids (SSSK) and Cambridge Homelessness Outreach Programme (CHOP).

 

Christs – Bake Sale on Valentine’s Day

On the 14th of February 2016, Christ’s College held a bake sale, which was well-attended and showed some superb baking action from the MCR – in particular, Christ’s college rep Robin Lamboll would like to give special credit to Robert Bielik for his excellent apple strudel. The event raised £47.

 

Murray Edwards – Fundraising and Film Screening of ‘Pride’

Throughout the term, college rep Rosanna Gregory managed to raise £30 by doing washing up for people. On Thursday 25th of February, a film screening of ‘Pride’ was held, raising £7.

 

Caius – Doughnuts at Downing Site

On a cold but beautifully sunny afternoon on 3rd March 2016, Caius reps Madeleine Lofchy and Tiff Hui brought doughnuts to Downing Site, in aid of Students Supporting Street Kids and the Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme. 2 hours and 180 Krispy Kremes later, they had raised £154, spread awareness about SSSK and CHOP’s work, and supplied their grateful customers with Amnesty stickers to continue spreading the word.

Doughnuts at Downing Site - feat. Caius college rep Tiff Hui
Doughnuts at Downing Site – feat. Caius college rep Tiff Hui

Jesus – Fundraising at Jesus College’s International Women’s Day Tea Party

On International Women’s Day, Jesus College hosted a tea party open for all genders to attend, with music, spoken word and food. Jesus rep Ellie Williams organised collection for CHOP and SSSK at the event.

Clare – Collaboration with Clare Ents

On the 4th of March 2016, Clare college reps Charlotte Dunn and Eleanor Fawcett hosted an unforgettable collaboration between CUAI and Clare Ents. The event was a great success, with an encouraging response from ents-attendees and a night of delicious AmnesG&Ts and AmnesTinis. The college reps helped raise awareness about Amnesty International – in particular its views on the Human Rights Act – as well as the work by SSSK and CHOP. An impressive total of £108.12 was raised.

CUAI takes over Clare Ents
CUAI takes over Clare Ents

 Downing – Pub Quiz

Downing bar turned yellow on the 8th March as the regular and ever-popular pub quiz was conducted in conjunction with CUAI. Seemingly there are a lot of people still looking for academic pursuits even after a day’s work as attendance was good, and £32 was raised for what is obviously a fantastic cause!

 

Homerton – Open Mic Night

On the 8th of March, CUAI rep and SSSK committee member Isabel Goodman organised an Open-Mic night at the Portland Arms. The evening involved fantastic acts showcasing music, comedy and spoken words. A charity raffle (with an impressive top prize £80 punting tour as a top prize) was also held. Over £200 were raised overall!

 

Emmanuel - Combining environmental and social concerns

Through the  EnvironENT quiz held on the 10th of March, Emmanuel College Rep Laura Schubert raised £74 for Amnesty homelessness by including SSSK and CHOP.

 

Fitzwilliam – Documentary Screening of ‘Departing: Arrivals’,

Following on CUAI’s focus on refugees during Michaelmas 2015, the Lent Term fundraiser at Fitzwilliam College took the form of a film-screening and Q&A for the short documentary, ‘Departing: Arrivals’, documenting the experiences of Syrian refugees who have found asylum in the UK. Director Hafsah Naib was on hand to answer questions from an enthusiastic audience, and everyone involved walked away with a greater knowledge of the ‘grey area’ of the refugee experience, which turned out to be very different from media reports. CUCRAG representative Sarah Collins was also present and gave a brief talk about the group’s work in the Calais ‘Jungle’ and how more students can get involved.In the end, Fitzwilliam rep Savannah Tiger Adeniyan managed to raise £40 to go towards CUCRAG’s efforts.

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Director Hafsah Naib and CUCRAG representative Sarah Collins at the documentary screening of ‘Departing: Arrivals’

 Want to get more involved?

If you want to find out more about what our lovely college reps are up to, or join your college Amnesty group, check out their Facebook pages:

Clare

Emmanuel

Fitzwilliam 

Jesus 

Murray Edwards 

 

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Dear CUAI college reps and members, thank you and well done!

As we start a fresh term in Cambridge and welcome a new Executive Committee, it seems appropriate to take a look back at what CUAI’s college reps and members have managed to achieve throughout the past year.

Number of Letters Written = 1 340

Money raised by CUAI reps for Calaid and CUCRAG (Michaelmas 2015): £388

 Money raised by CUAI reps for SSSK and CHOP (Lent 2016): £692.24

Although it is easy to succumb to cynicism and become disillusioned with the state of human rights campaigning in today’s world, it is important to remember that we can make a difference.

Through the power of letter writing, Amnesty International has achieved some phenomenal success stories – achievements that CUAI college reps and members throughout the Cambridge have made a crucial contribution to. If the following good news stories seem familiar, this is because college reps throughout Cambridge have organised letter writing campaigns to address these issues. So, on behalf of CUAI’s ex-College Reps Coordinator, thank you and well done!

Cuba: Artist Danilo Maldonado was released on the 20th of October 2015 – He spent almost 10 months in prison without trial following accusations of “aggravated contempt” after being arrested on 25 December 2014 for transporting two pigs with the names “Raúl” and “Fidel” painted on them.

USA: Ernest Johnson Issued Stay of Execution – The United States Supreme Court issued a stay of execution in the case of Ernest Johnson shortly before he was due to be put to death in Missouri on the 3rd of November 2015.

Argentina: Relmu Ñamku was absolved on the 4th of November 2015 – This Indigenous leader was charged with attempted homicide on 26 October for hurting a policewoman in 2012, when her community resisted eviction from their ancestral land, in Argentina’s Neuquén Province.

Tunisia: Marwan Released – A Tunisian student jailed for engaging in homosexual relations was freed after his sentence was reduced on appeal on the 17th of December 2015.

USA: Albert Woodfox was released on the 19th of February 2016 – He had been in solitary confinement for 4 decades.

China: Peter Dahlin and Pan Jinling Released - A Swedish national who had been held in secret detention since the 3rd of January 2016 on suspicion of “endangering state security” has been released and deported to Sweden.His girlfriend has also been released, although she remains in China.

Singapore: Kho Jabing Issued Stay of Execution – He was not executed on the 6th of April 2016, as had been planned.

Greece: Refugees Allowed Access to Transit Camp-  A large transit camp with facilities appropriate for cold weather at the Greek border with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (Macedonia) is now working at its full capacity providing relief and emergency assistance to refugees arriving in the area with the aim of crossing the border.

If you ever wondered about the actual, tangible outcome of your letters, hopefully this encouraging list of success stories has managed to convince you of their value! Remember –  the cause is always worth fighting for.

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How to Change the World: Tackling Inequalities in the UK

This February CUAI decided to tackle the issue of UK inequality in an inspiring event that merged art and discussion to find new ways of combating inequality. The event explored the intersections and relationships between race, education, welfare and access to justice in creating inequality, allowing us all to get a more sophisticated understanding of how inequality is perpetuated.

We were very lucky to hear from two professionals who are working to make the UK a more equal place. Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang gave an inspiring account of his work in TeachFirst, which aims to close the gap in educational inequality, giving every child the best start in life. We also heard from Grace Seller from Frontline, about how social work can transform people’s lives and give them new opportunities. Both speakers gave us a new perspective on what it means to work with the most disadvantaged in society on a daily basis and how access to education and welfare can change a person’s life for good.

What was particularly inspirational about the evening was that it presented us with a myriad of ways that people can confront inequality. Mariam Ansar gave a fresh personal perspective on the issues of inequality by talking about her own background and her work for CUSU’s BME campaign and reading her poem that beautifully encapsulated the difficulties faced by those from disadvantaged communities. Troy Aidoo’s screening of his short film was a poignant exploration of the violence experienced by black communities at the hands of the police, yet another example of how disadvantaged communities experience injustice even in a justice system that claims to be equal to all. Mariam and Troy’s artistic work gave us a more personal understanding of the pain caused by the systemic injustices of British society and has inspired all of us to work harder to tackle inequality wherever we find it.

If you would like to support Troy’s work (he is currently working on a project called 1500 and Counting challenging deaths in police custody) have a look at the crowdfunding page below or check out his website.

Crowdfunding page: https://www.indiegogo.com/…/1500-and-counting-f…/x/13312315…

Twitter feed: @1500andCounting

Website: http://1500andcountingfilm.com/

If you would like to know more about Frontline, TeachFirst or CUSU’s BME campaign and the work they do check out their websites or watch Frontline’s short film about their work.

CUSU BME campaign: http://www.bme.cusu.cam.ac.uk/

Frontline film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84bE1M6Usz0

TeachFirst website: https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/

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Creating Hope in Prisons: Clare McGregor on Coaching Offenders

In the final week of Lent term, CUAI welcomed Clare McGregor, Managing Director of Coaching Inside and Out (CIAO), a charity that offers life coaching to prisoners, to the Institute of Criminology where she gave a talk about criminal justice and the rights of offenders.

Clare began her talk by explaining that she had experienced three all-female red-brick institutions in her life: her school, Newnham College, where she was a student, and Styal Prison, where she has worked for the past five years coaching women. Of these, she said, Styal contains by far the most potential.

It is this potential that, through life coaching, CIAO hopes to unlock in prisons. Coaching involves finding out what offenders want to change and what is holding them back, and, as Clare explained, this has proved that the only thing that sets offenders apart from other people is the social circumstances that lead to them ending up behind bars. Many of Styal’s residents were themselves born in the prison’s mother-and-baby unit, which illustrates the fact that their life prospects were determined at birth.

Clare made the important point that CIAO’s clients ‘are not stupid, they just have very different career options to the rest of us’, referring to the fact that these are individuals who offend not out of choice but because they know no other option. One client was quoted as having explained that she ended up working on the streets because she needed to support her family, and, being ‘shit at shoplifting’, saw no other choice. CIAO works on the principle that that everyone has the right to a chance to escape such hopeless circumstances, and aims to help them find the ability to do so.

A sense of injustice led Clare to her work helping those who are given very few chances in life, and she stressed in her talk that we too are capable of working to change what we believe to be unfair. As CIAO’s work proves, small steps can allow progress to happen and help us work towards social justice.

For more info see CIAO’s website: https://coachinginsideandout.org.uk/
You can also follow Clare on Twitter @Clare_McGregor and email her

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Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign 2016!

Lent term 2016 saw the launch of CUAI’s first ever Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign!

The campaign was a part of the larger ‘Hope and Home’ campaign lead by Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) and the Cambridge Hub. We also collaborated with a range of other student initiatives advocating for the rights of the homeless communities in Cambridge and abroad, including Cambridge Streetbite, Students Supporting Street Kids (SSSK), and Hiraeth.

All term CUAI’s wonderful college reps have been fundraising for b  and CHOP. The money raised in aid of SSSK will be going to grassroots organisations around the world that support street kids, and the money raised for CHOP will be used in further work engaging Cambridge students with organisations working with nthe homeless community in Cambridge.

As well as raising money another aim of our campaign was to engage students with the already existing initiatives helping the homeless community in Cambridge. In one of our weekly meetings we invited representatives of SSSK, Streetbite and Hiraeth to give quick talks about what they do and how CUAI members can get involved. As well as this CUAI sponsored a weekly Streetbite round after our normal Sunday meetings. This gave CUAI members an opportunity to directly help the homeless community in Cambridge, as well as get an idea of the significant numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge (not the 3 people the local council recognise).

We ended our campaign by hosting a panel discussion entitled ‘Homelessness and Human Rights: What’s being done and What Can We ado?’. The panel featured speakers from a range of different organisations looking at homelessness as a local, national, and international human rights abuse. Barry Griffiths joined us from Jimmys a shelter in Cambridge, François Holmey from Just Fair UK, and Sarah Rose from the Amos Trust. We are incredibly grateful to the speakers for joining us and hope everybody enjoyed the event!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this campaign possible! If you’d like anymore information about how you can get involved with the organisations mentioned above then please see the links below.

Jimmy’s shelter: http://jimmyscambridge.net
Just Fair: http://www.just-fair.co.uk
Amos Trust: http://www.amostrust.org

Cambridge Uni Amnesty International: https://www.facebook.com/camuniamnesty/
Students Supporting Street Kids: https://www.facebook.com/SSSKcambridge/
Cambridge Hub: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHub/
Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHomelessOutreachProgramme/
Streetbite: http://streetbite.soc.srcf.net/
Hiraeth: https://www.facebook.com/hiraethcambridge/

 

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