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ISSUE 121 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2008

Distance diverts support

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 18, 2008

As spring approaches and finals appear imminent, the ever-present reality of struggles for basic human rights may seem greatly removed. In addition, our present situation as students greatly limits the feasible means through which we directly articulate protest and activism.

However, this does not mean that we stop doing what we can when we can. It does not stop us from being informed or acting.

For the better part of the past 18 years, Aung San Suu Kyi has existed as a prisoner of conscience -- that is, an individual incarcerated for articulating peaceful protest. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she has fought tirelessly for furthering democracy in her homeland of Myanmar as the leader of the National League for Democracy.

The military junta's brutal repression of pro-democracy protests earlier this year drew international attention, throwing into sharp relief the government's continued failure to respect the human rights of its citizens -- particularly in the area of prisoner's rights.

Thousands of people are believed to have been arrested during the crackdown, and Amnesty International estimates that around 700 remain in detention. While arrests have declined since late September, political activists continue to be imprisoned and Amnesty International believes many that remain incarcerated are at high risk of torture and ill treatment.

This Friday, April 18 the St. Olaf and Carleton chapters of Amnesty International will be co-hosting the annual Jamnesty Concert in the Pause (from 8 -- 9 p.m.) to raise money for Freedom Now.

Freedom Now is a non-profit organization which utilizes "focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts designed to compel the release of individuals deprived of their liberty in violation of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Among Freedom Now's featured campaigns is Aung San Suu Kyi. Musicians from Carleton and St. Olaf will be playing, all dedicated to raising funds and awareness. Featured artists include Archaic Revival / The Last Known Whereabouts (St. Olaf) and Malt-o-Millionaires / Aaron Kaufman (Carleton). This is a fundraiser and though there is no cover fee, please give what you can to support this important campaign!

Physical separation does not allow us the space to ignore. Living and working in a small, liberal arts college evironment tends to allow us removal from the actual world. If one doesn't actively seek out international news, they won't recieve it. Our days loose the reminder of the constant struggle for basic human rights around the world.

Our small academic communites should be able to provide human rights education to everyone ready to listen. More importantly, academic communities should provided the ability to mobilize for those that want it.

College campuses should constantly hold reminders of the struggles outside our perifiery. That way, our position as students and American residents should compel us to question, acknowledge and act within our own individual realm. As noted writer Arundhati Roy writes, "Our strategy should be not only to confront empire but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance."

Elizabeth Linn is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in political science with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies.

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