Jamnesty! 2019 by Saira Madarasim (A’21)

by tuftsigl
May 15

On Friday April 12th, Tufts students gathered in Hotung Cafe to listen to some great tunes and advocate for human rights at the Tufts Amnesty International Chapter’s annual Jamnesty! Music for Human Rights event.  The night featured performances by Burst Into Dames, The Blank Quartet, and Gam Solub, three wonderful student music groups. While enjoying free food and the music of these bands, students had the chance to  sign letters addressed to key stakeholders in responses to three cases, hoping to enact change and evoke urgent action.

The first case centered on the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), a residential school for people with disabilities in Canton, Massachusetts, which uses shock aversive devices for discipline. Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, said, “The rights of the students of the JRC subjected to Level III Aversive Interventions by means of electric shock and physical means of restraint have been violated under the UN Convention against Torture and other international standards.” In light of the inhumane disciplinary practices at JRC, students signed letters addressed to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services and to the FDA Commissioner urging them to implement the FDA’s proposed ban of electroshock devices and stop the abuse occurring there.

The second case focused on Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh is an Iranian human rights lawyer who was charged for her advocacy efforts, particularly those related to women’s rights and hijab laws. After two unfair trials, she was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. In response to this, Tufts students signed letters asking the Iranian government to release Sotoudeh from prison and to “stop criminalizing the work of women’s rights defenders, including those who peacefully protest against forced hijab, and abolish forced hijab laws.”

The third case involved the persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya. Amnesty International stated, “At least 40 individuals have been arbitrarily detained and tortured,” and, “at least two people are reported to have been tortured to death.” These homophobic attacks come in the wake of the 2017 purges during which 100 people were abducted and killed because of their perceived sexuality.  The lack of accountability for these past purges has, according to Amnesty International, “enabled this homophobic crackdown to resume.” To protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, students signed letters addressed to President Putin.  These letters urge him to undertake an investigation of the persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya, protect anyone who may be at risk of such persecution, and bring the perpetrators of the killings, torture, and detentions to justice.

Students at the event signed a total of 286 letters, making their voices heard about important human rights issues and continuing the tradition of fusing art, community, and human rights at Tufts’ Jamnesty!