Syria: A Humanitarian Crisis Three Years On

January 30, 2014 in Blog, main by Ellen MacAskill

Syria has been in the headlines this week. It has been in the headlines for three years now. And the humanitarian crisis in a country wreaked by civil war only continues to get worse.

Why has more not been done? Why does the conflict persist? What can we do to help?

After a screening in Tuesday’s meeting of BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, I think I speak for us all when I say we were left harrowed, speechless, and asking these questions.

On the following day the UK government announced plans to take in 500 of the most vulnerable refugees – with Nick Clegg insisting that this was an exhibition of our “open-hearted” nature – and the Glasgow University Coalition for Syrian Refugees hosted a panel discussion. The title:

‘Syria: I Can Still See Hope’

The CSR is a collaboration of societies on campus, including Amnesty International, put together to raise funds and awareness for Syria’s plight. Five speakers on Wednesday gathered to inform an audience of students and answer their questions.

First to speak was Kurt Mills, a senior lecturer in social sciences and representative of the Glasgow Human Rights Network. He tackled the day’s headlines straight away: 9.3 million Syrians need assistance and the few hundred that the UK are willing to help is a mere 0.0008% of our own population. Mills said that we should demand more than this “cynical ploy” and stop relying on the £600 million that we have donated in aid. Monetary aid is helpful, yes, but it ultimately keeps Syrians “bottled up” in an unsafe country.

Three speakers from charities stood up to describe the challenges of the situation and emphasise the good work that is already being done. Tristan Jones from Medicine Sans Frontiers outlined the struggle to deliver medical care in a warzone where hospitals themselves have been targeted. A dwindling number of doctors and resources tackling a huge number of casualties means that basic needs are often not met. MSR have been sending doctors to hidden locations, and giving vaccinations to children and antenatal care to women.

From British Red Cross, Patrick MacIntyre told us about the work of the charity in conjunction with Syrian Arab Red Crescent. They work under the principles of “impartiality and neutrality” to provide aid such as medicine, food and hygiene. An Emergency Appeal for Syria was first launched in 2012 and has been extended since.

Amby Karamchedu, president of GU UNICEF, focussed on the work being done to help children in refugee camps, such as Zaatari in Jordan, and in Syria itself. Crossing the border does not guarantee security for Syria’s 6 million affected children. UNICEF’s current aim is to “winterise” the camps so that refugees can deal with the extreme climate. Education is often neglected in Syria and the surrounding refugee camps, despite its benefits for the future of the country. Amby mentioned that campaigner Malala Yousafzai travelled to New York to urge UNICEF executives to increase focus on basic education.

The most moving speech of the night came from a courageous man who cannot be named. From the ancient city of Damascus, he fled Syria when he became endangered by the state. Many of his family and friends have met their fate since the uprisings of 2011. Recounting his story, he was overcome with emotion to the point of nearly breaking down. He urged us to recognise the “Syrian holocaust of the 21st century”.

His words silenced the room. The reaction was unanimous. No matter how many statistics we can reel off and pounds we can donate and articles we can read – nothing compares to the scale of personal tragedy that the Syrian conflict has inflicted.

The Q and A session proved interesting, with Mills pointing out that sending aid becomes more futile the longer the political situation goes un-addressed. We were urged to take individual action by donating what we can, informing ourselves and writing to MPs and newspapers.

When the question turned to the uncertain future of the country, the refugee concluded that he “can see hope as a Syrian”. The end of the conflict may not be imminent or quick, but we must continue to do all we can to give hope to Syria and its people.

If you missed the panel discussion but are interested in the Coalition for Syrian Refugees, look them up on Facebook for information and get involved at two fundraisers this Saturday the 1st, the Challenge and the Ceilidh.

 

P.S. Hello, I’m Ellen, GUAI’s new and first Press Officer! I’ll be updating the site weekly with blog posts and all the Amnesty chat you could ever need and more. See you Tuesday!

Photos from SPB Publicity Launch

January 26, 2014 in main, photos by Rob Hallam

A big thanks to Billy Kirkwood and Neil “Wee Man” Bratchpiece who came along and did some side-splitting improv- we are all looking forward to the 22nd of February!

If you haven’t seen it already: tickets are on sale, so buy yours now!

Ruth by Ruth

German Olympians will wear rainbow-colored uniforms in Sochi | For The Win

January 25, 2014 in Human Rights News, news by Ruth

During a runway show in Düsseldorf Tuesday, German Olympians revealed vibrant new uniforms that are being called a “silent protest.”

via German Olympians will wear rainbow-colored uniforms in Sochi | For The Win.

Room Comfirmed for Tuesday 28 Jan – 433 St Andrews Building

January 24, 2014 in main, meetings by Rob Hallam

The room for our (rather packed!) meeting on Tuesday has been confirmed as 433 in the St Andrews Building. Check out the previous post for details, particularly if you were thinking of standing in the EGM!

The St Andrews Building is located on Woodlands Road, across from the Old Schoolhouse (pub) – see OpenStreetMap below for more info.


View Larger Map

Ruth by Ruth

Tuesday 28th January: EGM, Guantanamo Bay and Syria

January 23, 2014 in events, main, meetings, newsletter by Ruth

Hello all,

This one is coming early as there is an important announcement about the EGM NEXT WEEK. The committee has decided that we would like to create the new position of Press Officer, as there is great importance of using media outlets to publicise our campaigns and events- which is something that we have not achieved due to a lack of time that everyone else on the committee experiences because there is so much else going on! Given the very exciting news that we have received in response to our LGBT rights campaign and petition to Coca-Cola, we felt that the creation of this position couldn’t wait until the AGM in March. Read on for more!

We have an updated Doodle poll for our Guantanamo Bay demonstration next week so please update your availability! http://www.doodle.com/fr7gq32u4xr2rkq6

Next meeting: Tuesday 28th January, 5pm -7pm Room 433 St. Andrews Building

**We are back in the same room as last week**

Extraordinary General Meeting

There will be two positions open:

Campaigns Coordinator – responsible for overseeing the campaign actions. The person with this role will help to research the chosen campaigns and coordinate any events in collaboration with other societies/organisations. Be prepared for lots and lots of emailing.

Press Officer – responsible for engaging with student and local media as well as updating our Facebook/Twitter accounts. The person with this role will work closely with the Campaigns Coordinator and Publicity Officer to put together press releases, blogs and update Amnesty International UK with our news and planned events. AIUK has published resources to help with writing press releases and support this role.

Anyone can run for these positions and if you are interested, then you are welcome to email us and we will be happy to answer any questions.

– After the meeting we will be heading for a drink to welcome the new committee members so everyone is invited for that.

Guantanamo Bay documentary and Syria presentation with guest speakers

Last week we heard a very interesting and useful presentation on the history of Guantanamo Bay and so next week we will show a 15 minute documentary that takes a closer look at the treatment of prisoners who are still held there, the ongoing hunger strikes and the campaign for the release of British resident Shaker Aamer.

The last part of the meeting will focus on Syria with a presentation by Jana. We are also inviting some of the guest speakers from the Panel Discussion which will be held the next day so that those of you who cannot make it have still had the opportunity to hear from other organisations that are working on the to help those affected by the conflict.

Coca-Cola Petition Update

Dom has now launched GU Amnesty’s petition to Coca-Cola through Change.org, requesting that they put the LGBT rainbow on their products to truly support LGBT people as they continue to sponsor the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Not only was this a fantastic idea in the first place, but it has received special attention from the staff at Change.org who have been in contact with us to establish a plan to promote the petition further. They have told us that there are people within the USA and Ukraine who have expressed a desire to help promote the campaign, so this is very exciting news!

1)      Please sign and share with friends!

2)      Join our Thunderclap!

Coalition for Syrian Refugees Events

GU Amnesty are a member of the GU Coalition for Syrian Refugees, a group formed last year to hold events to raise money for charities who are providing aid to those affected by the conflict in Syria.

Wednesday 29th January: Panel Discussion 7-9pm, Boyd Orr LT 1

“Syria: I can still see hope”

This is shaping up to be a fantastic event so I hope you can make it!

Chairperson: Assaad Al Achi from the Syrian Non-Violence Movement, a group that AIUK is working with and supporting.

Other speakers include:

Kurt Mills, Convenor of the Glasgow Human Rights Network

A guest speaker from Syria, supported by the Scottish Refugee Council

Oxfam UK

Unicef on Campus

Friends of MSF Glasgow

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/573301232761988/

Saturday 1st February: The Challenge and Ceilidh

The Challenge is for team of up to 4 people who are enjoy a little competition – all in the name of raising money for various funds for Syrian refugees. Registration is open from 12noon and teams will be given a list of challenges to complete in about 2 hours. The challenges are to be filmed on a smart phone and the winners will be announced at the ceilidh.

The ceilidh is happening in QUDOS at 7pm. Of course there is a raffle with some fantastic prizes, and this event will round up all our efforts and hopefully see a considerable sum raised for our cause.

Saturday 22nd February: GU Amnesty’s 6th Annual Secret Policeman’s Ball + Afterparty!

Our multi-award winning night of comedy is back. Once again we are bringing you the biggest student charity fundraiser on campus, hosted by Billy Kirkwood.

Our afterparty is being kindly hosted by Philanthrobeats who have recently gained official charity status and have raised money for many excellent causes since their first club night in 2012. Check out their website to see their events and how to get involved!

This year looks to be even bigger and better – remember to get your tickets in advance! Here’s the event page for those on Facebook and website page for those who aren’t.

Other events

An opportunity with HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust)

**The deadline for this is the 28th January**

Do you have a passion for human rights and a talent for art, writing or campaigning? Enter the HART Scholarship Competition 2014.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) works to provide lasting change through aid and advocacy for those suffering oppression and persecution. The communities we work with have little presence in the international media, and the humanitarian situations they face are largely unknown and unreported. Many live behind closed borders, meaning it is difficult for aid and support to get in, and for information to get out.

We are calling for essays, artwork and campaign strategies which focus on the political and humanitarian situations faced by our partners around the world, and which raise awareness of human rights violations.

HART Scholarships will be awarded to winning entrants, including the chance to see your work published or exhibited, or to put your campaign plan into action, a cash prize and an invite to tea in the House of Lords. For more information, please visit www.hart-uk.org/campaigns/hart-scholarship-competitions.

14th – 16th February: Students for Co-operation: Founding Conference (Birmingham)

Details on Facebook

Ruth by Ruth

**Special Notice: EGM (and our Petition to Coca-Cola!)**

January 18, 2014 in main, meetings by Ruth

Hi again,

Here are a couple of very important things that require your attention!

Tuesday 28th January: Extraordinary General Meeting

We are sad to announce that our Campaigns Coordinator is stepping down. Dom has put in a huge amount of effort since the start of the year and we are so grateful for all his time and dedication to the role.

This means that in two weeks’ time we will be holding an EGM to elect a new Campaigns Coordinator. Anyone can run for this position and if you are interested, I recommend that you get in touch with Dom or myself to find out more about the role. You can talk to us at the next meeting, or email us and we will be happy to answer any questions.

Coca-Cola Petition

Dom has now launched GU Amnesty’s petition to Coca-Cola through Change.org, requesting that they put the LGBT rainbow on their products to truly support LGBT people as they continue to sponsor the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Please sign and share with friends!

Thanks!

Ruth

Ruth by Ruth

Tuesday 21st January: Guantanamo Bay Events, CSR Panel Discussion, Challenge and Ceilidh

January 18, 2014 in events, information, main, meetings, newsletter by Ruth

Hey all,

Happy Saturday and congratulations for making it through the first week back! It was great to see so many people at the SPB publicity launch on Tuesday; I hope you all enjoyed the comedy preview!

In short, here are the most important links:

 

Next meeting on Tuesday 21st January: Guantanamo Bay (Campaign for January)

**Room change: St Andrew’s Building Room 433A/B**

Our chosen campaign for this month is Guantanamo Bay. Despite Obama’s promise to have it closed, Saturday 11th marked the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay and for a number of inmates, including British resident Shaker Aamer, this will also be their 12th year as prisoners. Many of these individuals have in fact been cleared for release but remain detained at the facility despite international pressure to have them released. Find out more on the AIUK website.

Guest speaker: we are hoping to have Dr Iain Banks from the University to deliver a presentation on the history of Guantanamo Bay.

Demonstration on campus: we are still waiting for the orange jumpsuits so the demo will take place later next week. Fill in the Doodle if you want to take part.

Back-up plan – conflict minerals continued: Our chosen campaign for the year

Communication has been difficult with Dr Banks so this is the alternative arrangement if he is unavailable. We plan on making full use of the fact we have a better room for showing documentaries and will be screening ‘Blood in the Mobile’ a documentary film that looks more into the use of conflict minerals in our everyday consumer electronics. http://bloodinthemobile.org/the-film/

Coalition for Syrian Refugees (CSR) Events

GU Amnesty are a member of the GU Coalition for Syrian Refugees, a group formed last year to hold events to raise money for charities who are providing aid to those affected by the conflict in Syria.

Wednesday 29th January: Panel Discussion – Syria: I can still see hope

Chairperson: Assaad Al Achi from the Syrian Non-Violence Movement, a group that AIUK is working with and supporting.

Other speakers include: Unicef on Campus and Friends of MSF Glasgow

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/573301232761988/

Saturday 1st February: The Challenge and Ceilidh

The Challenge is for team of up to 4 people who are enjoy a little competition – all in the name of raising money for various funds for Syrian refugees. Registration is open from 12noon and teams will be given a list of challenges to complete in about 2 hours. The challenges are to be filmed on a smart phone and the winners will be announced at the ceilidh.

The ceilidh is happening in QUDOS at 7pm. Of course there is a raffle with some fantastic prizes, and this event will round up all our efforts and hopefully see a considerable sum raised for our cause.

 

Saturday 22nd February: GU Amnesty’s 6th Annual Secret Policeman’s Ball + Afterparty!

Our multi-award winning night of comedy is back! Once again we are bringing you the biggest student charity fundraiser on campus, hosted by Billy Kirkwood.

Our afterparty is being kindly hosted by Philanthrobeats who have recently gained official charity status and have raised money for many excellent causes since their first club night in 2012. Check out their website to see their events and how to get involved!

This year looks to be even bigger and better – remember to get your tickets in advance! Here’s the event page for those on Facebook and website page for those who aren’t.

 

Other events:

14th – 16th February: Students for Co-operation: Founding Conference

A message from Students for Co-operation:

Hi, we’d appreciate it if you could see if any of your members are interested in or are in student cooperatives as we are having our founding conference of Students for Cooperation in Birmingham in February! We have some funding too to get students down from Scotland. It is a new national organisation (and cooperative!) for student cooperatives to get together and to help new cooperatives form, thanks!

Here is the event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1424534744446779/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

22nd – 23rd March: Newcastle University hosts the NE Regional Student Conference

We are invited to the North-East regional conference organised by students at Newcastle University. The agenda will be emailed to us at the end of the month but they have requested that we let them know if any of us are interested in attending. Arrangements for food and accommodation will also be detailed later on.

If you are interested then let me know – president@guamnesty.org.uk

As you can probably tell, we have a very busy semester ahead of us! It’s going to be fantastically hectic for the committee but huge amounts of fun for all.

Ruth

Ruth by Ruth

BBC News – Uganda President Yoweri Museveni blocks anti-gay law

January 17, 2014 in Human Rights News by Ruth

BBC News – Uganda President Yoweri Museveni blocks anti-gay law.

**Trigger warning: Strong homophobic language throughout**

Whilst it appears that the President has refused to sign the Bill, Amnesty International reports that there has been no formal veto yet so the pressure must continue.

 

 

Ruth by Ruth

Tuesday 14th January: SPB Publicity Launch with Billy Kirkwood and Guests

January 12, 2014 in main, meetings, newsletter, spb by Ruth

Hello everyone and happy New Year!

I hope you all had a lovely break and if you are feeling a bit rubbish about being back at uni then I hope this gives you a few things to look forward to at least. If you didn’t make any of our meetings last year but are still interested in what we do, then we would love to see you. As always though, you can join us at any time and there are no membership fees – just come along when you can! This weekly newsletter will detail all of our upcoming events so even if you can’t make the meetings, there are plenty of other occasions to join us. If you have any questions about anything, just drop us an email: mail@guamnesty or you can get in touch with the relevant committee member who are listed on our Facebook page and website.

We’ve got a very busy semester with lots of campaigning events and our biggest fundraiser of the year coming up. Here are our plans for January, and some other events that may be of interest to you:

Next meeting: Tuesday 14th 5pm Williams Room, John McIntyre (SRC) Building

–          Secret Policeman’s Ball Publicity Launch

**Please note the change of venue for this meeting!**

Our Vice President, Debbie, and the SPB Sub-committee have been working very hard to get everything organised for our 6th annual Secret Policeman’s Ball comedy fundraiser. This is our biggest event of the year and has won multiple awards from both the SRC and Amnesty International UK for its success.

The date this year is the 22nd February, so get that in your diary! Tickets will be available online soon.

Our first meeting back is going to be the official publicity launch and our host Billy Kirkwood has organised for a few of the performers to give us a short preview of their material to get us excited for the main event. Since it is our first meeting back, we will be going for food/drinks afterwards so you are all welcome to come along.

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/245702882272000/

Tuesday 21st January: Guantanamo Bay

Our chosen campaign for this month is Guantanamo Bay. Despite Obama’s promise to have it closed, Saturday 11th marked the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay and for a number of inmates, including British resident Shaker Aamer, this will also be their 12th year as prisoners. Many of these individuals have in fact been cleared for release but remain detained at the facility despite international pressure to have them released. Find out more on the AIUK website.

Guest speaker: we are hoping to have Dr Iain Banks from the University to deliver a presentation on the history of Guantanamo Bay but are awaiting confirmation.

Wednesday 29th January: Panel Discussion – Syria: I can still see hope

GU Amnesty are a member of the GU Coalition for Syrian Refugees, a group formed last year to hold events to raise money for charities who are providing aid to those affected by the conflict in Syria. One of these events is a panel discussion which we have co-organised and will welcome guest speaker Assaad Al Achi from the Syrian Non-Violence Movement, a group that AIUK is working with and supporting.

 

Other events:

14th – 16th February: Students for Co-operation: Founding Conference

A message from Students for  Co-operation:

Hi, we’d appreciate it if you could see if any of your members are interested in or are in student cooperatives as we are having our founding conference of Students for Cooperation in Birmingham in February! We have some funding too to get students down from Scotland. It is a new national organisation (and cooperative!) for student cooperatives to get together and to help new cooperatives form, thanks!

Here is the event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1424534744446779/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

 

22nd – 23rd March: Newcastle University hosts the NE Regional Student Conference

We are invited to the North-East regional conference organised by students at Newcastle University. The agenda will be emailed to us at the end of the month but they have requested that we let them know if any of us are interested in attending. Arrangements for food and accommodation will also be detailed later on.

If you are interested then let me know – president@guamnesty.org.uk

I hope your first week back doesn’t hit too hard. See you on Tuesday for some laughs 🙂

Ruth