One of the raisons d’etre of the annual Amnesty International Human Rights Festival here in Jersey is to galvanise people like me into a bit of action. Out of some sense of duty I duly trotted along to all five films being screened at the Arts Centre this week. This year the featured topics were
- Capital punishment – interviews with a Death Row inmate in Texas, his family, the family of his victims, a former prison guard. Eight days after the final interview with him our boy got the lethal injection.
- A close-up of Putin’s grip on power in Moscow aided by NASHI who have disturbing parallels to Hitler’s youth movement and who deal ruthlessly with any signs of opposition. The context was given by following a young, bright NASHI woman who goes from being a star of the movement to courageously taking a stand against them.
- The rape of Alberta, Canada by the oil industry creating toxic moonscapes and polluting and depleting natural water resources. Did you know that Canada is the biggest exporter of oil to the USA? I didn’t. Of course at both federal and state level the Canadian eyes are only on the economic benefits.
- The suppression of free speech and freedom of expression in Iran. The film was banal enough but the speaker for the evening painted a frightening picture.
- Lack of opportunity for the young people of Kenya. Best film of the week showing how, without money, secondary education is a closed door to most. The film showed three of one village’s brightest youngsters competing for a rare scholarship and the joy of the lad that succeeded together with the devastation of the two girls and their families. There was a cheer from the (very good) Friday night audience when we read that the production crew had subsequently sponsored the girls into their secondary education.
The speakers and films get trawled around the local schools during the week to far better effect than showing them to us old gits. Our children in Jersey lead a blessed life for the most part and it must be an eye-opener for them and gives them a window on what is going on in the wider world.
As for me I’m just left with a sense of helplessness. Amnesty urge everyone to just make one small act – a letter, email, donation. But what to choose? What would you choose?