Local artists join human rights campaign

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By Daniel Wilson

St Kilda’s street-art royalty Adnate is collaborating with Lawyer-cum-street artist Kaff-eine to support the Amnesty International campaign Write for Rights.

They have painted a mural of Yorm Bopha on Dandenong Rd. If you are city-bound you will see it on your left just after the Astor Theatre.

Yorm Bopha is a Cambodian human rights activist who served 12 months in prison for speaking out against forcible evictions in her community.

She had been defending her community’s rights at Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people have been forcibly evicted since 2007. She also played a leading role in the campaign to release 13 women activists in her community who were convicted and imprisoned in May 2012 after they took part in a peaceful protest.

Today is International Human Rights Day. It is “a day where [Amnesty International] encourage everyone to write a letter on behalf of somebody who is currently under their watch and support,” Kaff-eine explains.

Last year over 250,000 letters were written globally, advocating for Yorm Bopha’s release. Hers is a great example of the power of international pressure and witness that saw her freed.

Forced evictions are still continuing in Cambodia, but Yorm Bopha is at the frontline, defending human rights.

“I think this is a really good story for people driving past and for people who see it – to comprehend the power of writing a letter,” Kaff-eine reasons.

Melbourne street-artists such as Kaff-eine and Adnate have gained the sort of notoriety that has given them a platform for political expression.

Kaff-eine is humble with this responsibility, “maybe if they are generous enough to like my work, maybe they will be generous enough to take on-board the message as well.”

The Lawrence family have donated the wall of their business Arrow Health, and the City of Port Phillip is providing the graffiti proofing to ensure the murals longevity.

Sydney is the stage of another mural in support of the Amnesty International campaign. Luke Cornish, also known as E.L.K. is painting a 7 metre by 30 metre mural of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez. In 2008 she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for ‘aggravated homicide’ after suffering a still-birth at work. In El Salvador, women who miscarry or suffer a still-birth during pregnancy are routinely suspected of having had an ‘abortion’.

Amnesty International is encouraging everyone to call on El Salvador’s Minister of Justice to release Teodora immediately. Their website provides a tool kit and strategy to help win this, as well as the following cases:

USA: Albert Woodfox is a prisoner in Louisiana who, as a member of the ‘Angola 3’ was placed in solitary confinement over 43 years ago following the murder of a prison guard. He maintains his innocence, claiming he was targeted by the state for his political organising in prison.

DRK: Fred Baumna and Yves Makwambala are two members of the Filimbi youth peace movement, who have been labelled ‘terrorists’ and accused of attempting to overthrow the government. Their crime? Organising an event which encouraged young people to hold the regime to account.

Saudi Arabia: Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a prominent lawyer and human rights defender. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for his peaceful activism, under a dubious new counter-terrorism law.

Burkina Faso: One in three girls in Burkina Faso is married off before they turn 18. Some are as young as 11. They’re expected to have as many children as their husbands want, regardless of their own wishes or the threat that early pregnancy poses to their health and life. Once married, many are sent to cook, clean, fetch water and work in the fields, dawn to dusk.

Myanmar: Phyoe Phyoe Aung was arrested after organising a largely peaceful protest in Myanmar, during which police attacked students with batons. She and scores of others now face lengthy jail terms.

Malaysia: Zunar is a political cartoonist faces a long-term prison sentence after posting tweets condemning the jailing of the opposition leader in Malaysia.

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