2016 Amnesty Student Conference

Contributor: Octavia Akoulitchev

I was lucky enough to attend the second day of the 2016 Amnesty Student Conference, which took place at the Human Rights Action Centre, in Shoreditch. Despite the searing rain and cold without, the atmosphere inside was electric. Student groups had gathered from across the country, not only to network, but to discuss the most pressing human rights issues and the best ways of tackling them. There were boards along the walls where you could write what you felt strongly about, but before I had time to write much the first part of the day was announced: ‘good news session’. This was an opportunity for the groups to share some of their greatest successes over the past year, and by the end of the session everyone was more enthusiastic than ever. Afterwards there was a plenary (‘creating rights-respecting communities’) led by the Human Rights Education Team, and then a choice of workshop (I went to the ‘Creative Campaigning workshop’) led by the renowned Dan Jones. The rest of the morning was filled with more networking, STAN elections, and activities.

 

I found the plenary on human rights in the UK the most inspiring event: Laura Trevelyan spoke brilliantly about Amnesty’s most major key projects of the moment, giving insider knowledge about the Against Hate and Human Rights Act Campaign. She was acerbic and precise: she gave a lot of advice on how best to argue for the two campaigns with respect to their most disputed elements, as well as how to deal with ebullient aggressors in a more general sense. She didn’t spout clichéd abstractions that we’ve all heard a hundred times before – she was pertinent. I came away with a much more concrete understanding not only of the Against Hate and Human Rights Act Campaign, but also how to deal constructively with people against those acts. The day ended with the STAN elections, and I left exhausted but very, very hopeful: the students, speakers, and campaigners there had showed me that all our writing letters, calling MPs, and going on marches, is working.

img_9962 img_9965 img_9951 img_9948 img_9945

Read More

Michaelmas 2016: The State of the States

At the beginning of November, just before the American election, we decided that it was time to address some of the crucial human rights debates currently going on in the USA. Such a diverse topic requires a diverse range of experiences and mediums, so we were very pleased to be able to host a whole range of people with different perspectives on the issues of human rights in the US. This is why our multimedia event used poetry, comedy and discussion to try and deal with some of the complex issues surround human rights in the US
Blaire Andres, from Reprieve, gave a very important first hand account of Reprieve’s work for individuals on death row and how inhumane some of the execution methods are. Kate Dunbar followed this with a very insightful discussion of the problems of the US justice system, especially in relation to the war on drugs and how this linked to racism.
It was not all so serious, however. Speeches and first hand accounts are important to address certain issues but we also wanted to give people a chance to deal with some of these issues through a more artistic medium. We were delighted to have a hilarious performance from some of the members of the Trump’d cast, who gave us a lively performance of some of their best numbers. Our screening of Border Bedazzlers, a film about children painting the Mexican/American border wall, was an uplifting reminder of the little acts of goodness that can be used to brighten even the most difficult situation. We finally ended our night with a beautiful performance of poetry by Phoebe Thompson, who dealt with some of the most difficult issues in the US, including race, refugees and security through her simple and inspiring poetry.
We were so happy that we were able to bring this diverse group of people together to create such an engaging and well-rounded performance that got to the heart of what struggles human rights campaigners in the US face. It was lovely to see so many people there and talking to the audience afterwards showed us that this is a cause that many people feel passionate about and we will continue to fight against human rights in the US and abroad.

 

Contributor: Laura Bates


15281836_10211282748892597_1680967974_n

Blaire Andres, human rights lawyer from Reprieve, delivering a fascinating talk

Read More

NGO Networking Event Michaelmas 2016

The term ‘networking’, in Cambridge, immediately conjures up mental images of milling around in business-wear eating canapes and swigging prosecco, provided by some huge multinational in return for that last remaining bit of your soul once you graduate. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

At CUAI’s NGO Networking event on the evening of the 17th of November, representatives from many Cambridge-based charities and campaign groups gathered to exchange contact details, discuss campaigning methods and plan future collaborations. The turnout was impressive, and a wide range of organisations were represented, from both Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities and also the local area. Discussion focussed on what the best methods of encouraging active participation from broadly sympathetic bystanders might be, with demands on the time of busy students often a problem that limits the person-power of student activist groups. Overall, great connections were made and it is hopefully an event that will be repeated in the future.

Contributor Alfie Denness

15138467_1225019630901974_9160314544503889444_o

15138307_1225019634235307_4399627039743043944_o

Read More

Jamnesty Michaelmas 2016

CUAI returned to Downing Bar on the 21st October to host its now renowned ‘Jamnesty’ open mic night. Word had obviously spread since the last event, as we were inundated with requests to play from some really talented musicians across Cambridge’s student body.

 

Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh got things off to an impressive start with a set of his own material, whilst Jade Cuttle’s delicate voice left everyone enraptured. Returning favourites Zac Evans and Emily Myles both pulled large crowds through the door, and Holly Musgrave left such an impression on the hosts that she has since been invited back to perform at Downing Bar! Clara Collingwood brought a nice change of tone, and we were even treated to a number from CUAI’s very own Tiffany Hui. Time was left at the end for some impromptu performances, with a rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ being particularly memorable.

 

One of the best things about ‘Jamnesty’ is its ability to attract people who had just dropped into the bar and might not otherwise have come into contact with Amnesty International. Not only were stickers given out and petitions signed, but a total of £285 was raised. Thank you to all the performers and here’s hoping the next event will be equally successful!

 

Contributed by: Patrick Wernham

14729168_1172450842825520_137735314529940209_n

 

 

Freedom on their minds at Jamnesty

 

 

14642141_1172450846158853_3795743719240650525_n

Tiffany Hui, songstress extraordinaire, soothes us with her dulcet tones.

 

14606474_1172450849492186_3661890406884265352_n

Clara Collingwood was a pleasure to hear

 

14721476_1172451072825497_8902742698345917041_nHolly Musgrave was simply amazing

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Participants
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.

Read More

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

IMG_8540

Members of Egypt for Solidarity gave their support

IMG_8553

 

Members of Trades Unions also participated

IMG_8566

A shot of the rally

 

IMG_8567

Supporters carrying banners

 

IMG_8582

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

 

IMG_8584

 

 

IMG_8587

 

 

IMG_8590

 

 

IMG_8602

 

Cambridge University Amnesty International Chair Eleanor Hegarty addressing the crowd

 

 

IMG_8604

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

 

 

IMG_8607

Daniel Zeichner, MP, speaking

 

IMG_8619

CUSU President Priscilla Mensah talks to the group of supporters

 

 

IMG_8620

 

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

 

 

 

IMG_8631

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

Read More

13081832_1074590009251502_563303179_n

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

13128743_1007620842620564_1084055778_o13084109_1074589992584837_1160197930_n13106000_1202748986404325_1208940246_o

Read More

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.

12788117_10206193118895468_1204661236_n
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 

 

Read More