On November 27, Group 11 observed International Human Rights Day by holding its annual Write 4 Rights event. This year the W4R campaign brought to the spotlight women human rights activists who risked their lives and freedom to rise against injustice and protect their communities.
The selection of cases for W4R was not only inspiring, but also highly illustrative of what happen to women when they become political actors around the world. Take the case of Marielle Franco, a black gay woman who grew up in a favela and against the odds managed to get education and become elected to the city council in Rio. Marielle was an ardent critic of police brutality and extrajudicial killings till her last breath: she was murdered right after getting off the stage at a political rally in which she participated in March 2018.
With the far-right movement on the rise in Brazil, and Jair Bolsorano, a politician notorious for his sexism and homophobia, winning presidential election with 55% of voters’ support, some believe that Brazil could be moving towards fascism or military rule. Nevertheless, even in those dire conditions Marielle’s legacy inspired her family, friends and co-workers to continue her fight. Monica Benicio, Marielle’s fiancee, has vowed to defend those who live on margin of Brazilian society: the LGBT people, black Brazilians, and the poor. Women who worked in Marielle’s office decided to run for public office and won their races. One of Marielle’s best friends was elected to the federal Congress.
Marielle became a role model for activists around the world who choose to confront the authorities rather than surrender under their threats. And it isn’t only women who see Marielle as a symbol of resistance. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was deeply moved by Marielle’s story after he read her obituary. Though Waters had never had a chance to meet her in person, he used his celebrity position to pay tribute to Marielle and denounce the rise of far-right in Brazil during his recent concert in Rio.
The effects of consumerism on traditional communities was another insight derived from this letter writing marathon. Nonhle Mbuthuma is a human rights activist from the Amadiba community in Pondoland, South Africa, whose ancestral land has been invaded by titanium mining companies that seek to move Nonhle and her village. Titanium is the metal of choice for spacecrafts electronics, but it is also used for manufacturing consumer goods from tennis rackets to laptop plates. Because of the high demand of titanium in the first-world countries, Nonhle’s community of around 5,000 people could lose their homes, and Nonhle herself could lose her life: she has already survived an attempt to kill her.
The list of the wonderful women human rights activists on whose behalf Group 11 wrote letters also include an anti-death penalty campaigner from Iran, youth rights ambassador from Venezuela, a defender of people with disabilities from Kyrgyzstan, an LGBTI advocate from Ukraine, and local community leaders from Morocco, Kenya, India, and Egypt who were harassed, intimidated, and imprisoned for standing up to social injustice.
As the Group 11’s longstanding tradition goes, no W4R is whole without Todd’s guitar performance. Group 11 members sang along with Todd a wide range of popular 80s hits from Cohen’s Hallelujah to Marley’s Get Up.
Group 11 is proud to announce that the number of letters collected during that W4R night event was 405, and the total number of letters the group helped write through its organizing efforts was 692.
Write 4 Righters from Group 11 in NYC and our North Jersey sister group
Long-time supporters of Guantanamo prisoners’ release, Group 11 members took pictures with a hashtag #TransferToffiq for a social media campaign that urges the U.S. Department of Defense to release Toffiq al-Bihani, a Saudi Arabian citizen who has been held in Guantánamo since 2003 and was not moved out even though he was cleared for transfer in 2010.