Amnesty International English-speaking group Berlin (1312)

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English-speaking group Berlin (1312)

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Kite-Flying in the Britzer Garden and at Locktow, Brandenburg

Events organised by Amnesty International with the support of the Rixdorfer Drachen Team.

Way back on the 18 February 2004, the newly formed sub-group for the "Pakistan: Children in the Judicial System" held its first meeting. Our aim was to find ways of bringing the plight of children in Pakistan, whose human rights are being violated by an outdated and at times corrupt system, to the attention of the public.

In certain regions of Pakistan, children and young people who are accused breaking the law often spend long periods in jail, without trial and sometimes in very bad conditions. And although it is against Pakistani law, children are still sometimes condemned to death and executed. Many of these children are very poor and have often only broken the law in order to survive. In many cases, their families can't afford a lawyer or raise the significant amount of money required for bail.

Amnesty International is calling on the government of Pakistan to ensure that the human rights of these children and young people are respected, and that they receive the care and attention they need.

Ulrike, who has spent time in Pakistan, mentioned that kite flying was a popular pastime in that country. An idea was born and the wheels started turning. Several Berlin kite clubs were contacted seeking support. Rainer Timm, from the Rixdorfer Drachen Team, was enthusiastic from the start and a friendly relationship soon developed.

A battle with the local authorities ensued trying to find a suitable venue and to get permission for the flying of kites. After weeks of refusals due to flight paths, security, etc, etc, the Britzer Garden came to our rescue and a date for the event was set.

After heated, and at times heavy debate, among the group members, flyers and posters were designed and developed and postcards were procured.

In the two weeks prior to the event the posters were distributed throughout Berlin and many schools in the neighbourhood of the Britzer Garden were visited and encouraged to participate.

Seven months, a dozen meetings, hundreds of emails and countless telephone calls later, the big day arrived.

Saturday, 18 September 2004

09.00hrs. Under cloudless, sunny skies the group's advance party, consisting of Ursula, Bob and Gib, arrived at the gardens and met up with Rainer Timm from The Rixdorfer Kite Club. At a leisurely pace the group's tent and table were set up while Rainer went about marking off an area for the other members of the kite club who would arrive later. We were there so early because that was the only time we could drive into the gardens with our cars, the actual event was scheduled from 12.00hrs until 18.00hrs. The poster boards were set up and the flyers, petitions and other general amnesty international brochures and information were prepared and laid out.

Our activities and the colourful banners of the kite club were like a magnet to the public and, way before 12 o'clock arrived, we had to do our thing and answer questions.

Slowly but surely the other members of our group, and those from the Rixdorfer Kite Club, began to arrive. Without anybody really noticing 12 o'clock came and went. The semi-professionals of the Kite Club flew large colourful kites into the sky and smaller, just as colourful ones, were being flown by members of the public. The wind conditions were not perfect, but at times there were dozens of kites bobbing in the heavens and it was quite a spectacle.

Around 4.30 p.m. the wind died away and kite flying became impossible. The experts from the Kite Club began the laborious task of dismantling their numerous kites and the interest of the public began to fade. Still collecting the occasional signature, the stand was dismantled and members of both groups began to make their farewells. Rainer and his team said that they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and invited us to their own Kite Festival at Locktow on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October, an offer we would not refuse. We all had an enjoyable, successful day.

Saturday, 9 October 2004, Locktow

The cry went up. "Where is Locktow?"

Maps were consulted. Locktow Hohen Fläming, 84 km south of the middle of Berlin, take the motorway turn off Niemegk, was the answer.

Okay! A team of intrepid adventurers was put together, details were discussed and on a slightly misty Saturday the 9th of October three cars set off from three separate locations in the capital city.

By 10.30am we had all arrived safely at the grass strip known as Locktow (not-so-international) airport. It was cold and overcast, but Rainer from the Rixdorfer Kite Club made us more then welcome. "Only one problem," he told us. "No wind."

We set up our tent and stand as usual and watched as the persistent kite flyers repeatedly tried to get their works of art into the sky. At times some of them succeeded only to be thwarted by the next frustrating calm.

Some members of the group took advantage of the entertainment available and the children's carousel had its work cut out propelling our enthusiastic bunch of females in endless circles. Culinary delights such as pea soup or waffles were also on offer and as the day progressed more and more members of the public began to arrive.

Rainer Timm (in his capacity as moderator of the event) kept us informed over the PA system that there was still no wind and, to our delight, kept promoting our stand, which caused a slow but steady stream of visitors. The amnesty balloons were a great success with the smaller children and their parents were then asked to sign our petitions.

Some people were very sceptical about being asked for a signature, but just our presence at such an event in Brandenburg is good publicity for amnesty international.

At around 4.30 p.m. we decided to call it a day and pack up. Lo and behold we had just finished packing the last of our things away in the car when the sun broke through and the wind picked up.

Maybe we will have better luck next year in deepest Locktow.

Gib Palmer