In recent weeks I have found myself campaigning for my brothers & sisters in Russia who are affected by the new Anti-Gay laws instituted by The Putin Regime & it highlighted a matter of enormity for me. The people in Russia affected by blatant Civil Rights violations are really just the tip of the iceberg as so much is going on in the world we don't even know or hear about & some really couldn't care less.
Last night while watching random T.V I caught the end of a show about Twitter & its awesome power to enable us all to effect change. As someone who considers themselves to be an Activist/Defender in all areas of my life I was intrigued to see more. The consequence of caring about what happens to people & how their rights are affected for me is that it takes very little to prompt me to research matters further.
One of the people featured on the show was a young Muslim Woman from Bahrain who talked about the struggles her fellow Bahrainis who are suffering at the hands of the hands of the ruling classes there. Maryam Al-Khawaja is a 26 year old Human Rights Defender, daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja a prominent Human Rights Defender & She is the head of the foreign relations office & Acting President for The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights since Nabeel Rajab was arrested & imprisoned.
I first went to her Twitter page to check her out further & saw a video of a talk she Gave at Tedx this year on "The Importance of standing up for Human Rights" & the similarity in her message to my beliefs were astounding. Maryam talked about the atrocities at the hands of the Bahraini Government for anyone who had the audacity to oppose it or got in the way, Men Women, Children practically anyone.
Maryam tells how her family returned to Bahrain to support the people in their struggle. Her Father was imprisoned several times & so many people just disappear when they oppose the government there. Protesters beaten, Imprisoned, Tortured & killed for merely disagreeing publicly. Not the revolutionary state that Maryam thought it was considering Bahrain has had an uprising every 10 years since the 1920's.
As she told about her life & self imposed exile for her own personal safety & her Fathers imprisonment, it brought home similarities of recent experiences of Syrian friends of mine who had been persecuted for merely opposing the Syrian Government. She highlighted the need for all of us to step up & speak out or our failure to do so makes us an enabler of injustice & I couldn't agree more.
Maryam was unable to work even with her degree & experience due to her Fathers history so became a volunteer & was arrested for volunteering. Eventually she had to return to Europe. She continued to work in the field of Human Rights & like most of us found out about the political & financial implications that prevent true human rights & freedoms in this world.
Before seeing this 2 minutes of footage on a documentary about Twitter I had never even heard of what was going in Bahrain & consider myself to be fairly in touch. Seeing some of the video evidence of what actually goes on in Bahrain put me in mind once more of the atrocities occurring in Syria right this minute at the hands of Bashir Al Assad, killing his own people for failing to comply. The world watches idly by & says very very little.
Anyone who can say nothing while people are being killed, maimed & tortured beggars belief. We in countries were freedom of speech is an automatic right don't really face much more consequence than being disagreed with or disliked & hell I'm not here to be popular, I am here to make a difference & be an Agent of Change. People in countries like Bahrain, Syria, Russia etc risk arrest, beatings, torture (physical,/psychological/sexual) & even death for having an opinion & sharing it.
Anyone with a conscience should be speaking out & being an agent of change & be effecting change everyday. With the information super highway, you don't even have to leave your house or get out of bed, but some of us have become sedate & our Social Conscience got flabby. A Change Agent can be effective everywhere from your own community issues to things happening world wide.
In very simple terms a "Change Agent" is someone who gets of their ass & cares about what is going on in the world & does things that effect change & make a difference. You may think the things going on in Bahrain/Syria/Russia etc don't affect you & I am here to inform you right now they do. Whilst we may enjoy rights & freedoms now we really have no guarantee that those things will last & not speaking out against atrocities elsewhere will contribute to the eradication of our own rights & freedoms.
Most people feel there is very little they can do to effect change but I beg to differ & here a just a few very simple examples:
* Speak out against injustice
* Sign a petition
* Write a blog
* Exercise your rights
* Lobby your Senator/M.P
* Educate yourself on the Issues
* Attend Peaceful Protests
* Tweet/Re-Tweet/Share things of importance
on Social Media & Speak out.
* Don't just be interested in what affects you
* Join an organization/cause & give
Money, Time, Support etc
Maryam has faced imprisonment, violence, abuse, potential arrest &harassment from those who support the regime in Bahrain. Her family, friends & fellow defenders have faced those things & even worse, death. Her Sister has been arrested multiple times. Smear campaigns have been launched against her & fellow defender Nabeel Rajab who is currently incarcerated. She fled her homeland & is still defending Human Rights.
She recently tried to fly to Bahrain but was denied from boarding the plane by order of the Bahraini Government. A Bahraini Citizen prevented from entering the country, The prominent Human Rights Defenders are all imprisoned there. The Government there tell the world change is happening but people are still dying & rights are still being violated. Surely it is time for Sanctions & to cut Aid & Trade?
Get angry, tell someone about it! Exercise that right to freedom of speech that is denied to so many others of our brothers & sisters elsewhere
I would like to extend an open invitation to Maryam to come & be a guest on my show to tell us more about this ongoing situation.
Don't just sit there on your ass, what will you do?
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Xander Gibb has written for many publications and writes with an unapologetic response to the world around.