Text and photographs by Anna Shea, Amnesty International Canada Legal Program Coordinator
I was expecting to have a great vacation in Turkey. I wasn’t expecting to watch history unfold. Fortunately, however, I happened to be in Istanbul between May 26 and June 5. I had rented a room near Taksim Square, and I was in the square or the adjacent Gezi Park for almost 24 hours a day (it’s impossible to stay home when the world seems to be ending…).
For me, the beginning of the protests was the most difficult time, because we all felt forgotten. When I returned to the apartment in the middle of the night on Friday May 31, I anticipated frantic emails and phone messages from my family and friends. But no one had been in touch. This was not surprising, since unless you were directly connected with Turkish protesters on Facebook or Twitter, it was impossible to know what was happening. But the feeling of isolation was nonetheless dreadful. It was such a relief when bloggers and the international media started taking notice. Amnesty – the national office in Turkey and the international secretariat – was one of the first organizations to draw attention to the situation. Simply knowing that people were paying attention – especially people overseas, completely unconnected from the action – was incredibly empowering, much more than I could have imagined.
By Gloria Nafziger,
Campaigner for Human Rights of Refugees and Migrants
On June 17 health professionals across Canada held rallies demanding the government reverse changes to health care for refugees which were made one year ago. The changes have put the lives of some refugees and asylum seekers at risk in Canada. Doctors have reported cases of children who can’t get medication for asthma; pregnant women denied medications while in labour; and fathers who can't get medication for high blood pressure and diabetes. As a result of the cuts to health care many refugees end up being treated in emergency rooms after being turned away from walk-in clinics.
By Tharani Thirumalairajan, Youth Intern, Amnesty International Canada, in Ottawa
On June 4th, 2013, Amnesty Canada ran a four day Human Rights College for youth from across the country as part of Amnesty Canada’s Annual General Meeting. The goal of the HRC was to empower and support young activists and to facilitate their active leadership within Amnesty International. We spent the three days building our human rights knowledge, developing skills as activists, preparing for the AGM. Sharing an experience with other individuals who are also committed to standing up against injustice was inspiring.
By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner
This week Canada had the rather unenviable position of chairing negotiations at the UN Human Rights Council on its annual resolution on violence against women. It is something Canada has done for close to twenty years, and Canada’s leadership has been lauded for progressively strengthening this important resolution.
This should be easy, right? Who wouldn’t want to support actions to combat violence, and in particular sexual violence, against women and girls? Think again. It certainly wasn’t the case this year.