November 20, 2002

'Day of Action' Held to Foster Human Rights

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Members of Cornell’s Amnesty International (AI) chapter held a “Day of Action” in the Straight Memorial Room to promote human rights yesterday. The event featured speakers, petitions and films intended to draw attention to the plight of victims of human rights abuses.

“We want to inform the Cornell community about what’s going on in the rest of the world” said Max Eisenburger ’05, president of the AI Cornell chapter. “It’s something that people do care about, but they need to know that it’s going on.”

The event focused on a handful of global human rights concerns. These include the use of child soldiers, violations of women’s rights, diamond sales supporting rebel groups in Africa and the imprisonment of Leyla Zana, jailed in Turkey for advocating for Kurdish rights. Tables with posters, petitions and informational materials were set up for each cause, while chapter members circulated and answered questions.

“It’s an ongoing process, you don’t just attain human rights” Eisenburger said. “They have to be constantly protected and defended.”

In addition to printed materials, the event hosted several speakers. Prof. Matthew Evangelista, director of the Peace Studies Program, opened the event with a speech addressing the current presidential administration’s response to some of the causes being promoted.

Tenzyn Gephal, member of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) and the local Namgyal Monastery, spoke about the importance of a personal commitment to promoting peace. “Kindness and compassion are the ultimate sources of happiness,” Gephal said.

Meagan Scheehan, an Ithaca College student, recounted her recent trip to Georgia to join in an annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a facility previously known as the School of the Americas and accused of providing military training for Latin American human rights violators.

“It was a really powerful experience,” Scheehan said. “There were about 15,000 people there this year.”

Organizers sought to create increased awareness of human rights issues around the world, with the hope of spurring activism and eventually creating change. Farah Hussain ’05, who helped promote the event on Ho Plaza, said “I think it’s really important for people like us, students … who have an education, to go out there to let other people know about what’s going on. Activism helps a lot, every little bit helps.”

In addition to the day of action, organizers held a day of silence on Monday, during which participants dressed in black and handed out information on human rights without speaking, as a show of mourning for victims.

The Cornell chapter of Amnesty International is a group which follows guidelines set by the organization but is operated by students and funded by the University. Each year the group chooses a number of causes supported by Amnesty International to promote at Cornell.


Archived article by Jeff Sickelco