October 21, 2011

Amnesty International panel urges student action

Darren Leow / The Chicago Maroon

Amnesty International (AI) hosted a panel discussion Tuesday in Harper Memorial Library on conditions in Syria, violence in Chicago, and the death penalty in America, urging students and community members to take action.

Human Rights Program Executive Director Susan Gzesh facilitated the panel, which consisted of Syrian-American activists Noura Almasri and Alaa Basatneh, Director of the Illinois branch of the anti-violence group CeaseFire Tio Hardiman, and AI’s Midwest Regional Director Debra Erenberg.

Almasri and Basatneh said that their activism began after the Arab Spring this past year, when they began organizing peaceful protests both locally and nationally against the Syrian government’s treatment of its people. Their presentation consisted of illustrations of candle vigils, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, and Facebook groups held by the peaceful protests they had joined.

Hardiman discussed local youth violence in Chicago, its root causes, and its broader global implications.

“I appreciate the [freedoms of America], but it saddens me, the situation of my brothers and sisters around the world,” Hardiman said.

As the final speaker, Erenberg focused on the death penalty in America, but also attempted to unify the panelists’ points.

“Once you shine a light on these issues, they have to change,” Erenberg said.

A question-and-answer session followed the panel, and several audience members said they appreciated how Hardiman and Erenberg brought the human rights issues back home.

Second-year Shakara Pailoor said he enjoyed hearing the connection between local and international issues and how they are similar on some essential level.

In his talk, Hardiman expressed similar thoughts.

“If you eat, I eat, and we’ll all be happy,” she said.