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50th ANNIVERSARY OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
This year, 2011, marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International. Although it has been suggested by some that this is no reason to celebrate (it was originally thought that with concerted action the human rights issues of the world would be sorted in a matter of years), the group decided to take the opportunity to reflect on what has been acheived and celebrate our successes. And what better way to do that than with a birthday party? Saturday the 28th of May was bright (and breezy!), and we came out en masse to take over a corner of Prenzlauerberg's Kollwitz Platz. After months of careful planning and thoughtful organisation, the stall was set up in good time for the Saturday brunchers and market explorers, and we made quite an impact with everything co-ordinated in Amnesty yellow and black.
There were displays of material from our West Africa subgroup's current campaign as well as some of the more uplifting "Success Stories" from the past 50 years and some brilliant snapshots of some of Group 1312's activities over our decade-long existence. In true Amnesty form, we had letters on hand for members of the public to sign, campaigning for the release of three prisoners of conscience: Halil Savda (a Turkish conscientious objector), Mohammad Sadiq Kubudvand (an Iranian-Kurdish journalist) and Abuzar Al Amin (a Sudanese journalist). To keep the mood festive we had balloons and a fantastic cake (lovingly detailed with the Amnesty candle in black and yellow) which were well received, particularly by the passing children.
The more theatrically-minded members of the group provided entertainment every hour on the hour in the form of a play depicting the legend of the founding of Amnesty, by Peter Benenson (a British lawyer) in 1960-61. With the help of a well conceived script and a fantastic narrator, the audience was transported to 1960's Portugal to hear the tale that apparently inspired Benenson's actions: the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of two students for proposing a toast to Freedom in what was then a fascist state.
Both the stall and play ran without a hitch and the whole event was thought to be well worth the many hours of organisation. We came away with over 230 signed letters to ship off to their respective countries and donations with which to post them, as well as a significant number of signatures added to our current Cambodia petition against forced evictions. What was perhaps most important though, was the number of people who approached us directly to tell us about their involvement with Amnesty, ask what it was all about or praise the role that our organisation is playing in the world today. We may have a long way to go, many more campaigns to run and letters to write but reflecting, just for a moment, it looks like we're getting pretty good at it!