Activists advocate human rights on campus

Activists advocate human rights on campus

by Laura Nguyen

02_25_13_News_HumanRights2_RDThe San Diego State Human Rights Festival brought together students, teachers and the public to educate them about human rights around the world and inspire them to become activists.

The festival, which was held from Feb. 18-20, was organized by Amnesty International at SDSU and sponsored by Cultural Arts and Special Events. AI is a global network of activists who campaign against human
rights violations.

“It is the people in AI and their respective countries that are liberating the world,” film and international security and conflict resolution senior and AI
SDSU President Nadir Bouhmouch said.

AI’s goal on campus is to bring people together to take action and fight for human rights. The three-day festival is AI’s outreach tool to make a statement through diverse themes, guest speakers and videos.

The event’s theme on Monday was women’s rights, featuring Concordia University communication and cultural studies freshman Layla Belmahi.

“Everyone should be an activist for women’s rights because a healthy society is one where women are participants,” Belmahi said. “You can’t have development without women.”

Belmahi is a Moroccan feminist, democracy activist and co-founder of Woman Choufouch, a women’s rights movement born out of the Arab Spring and dedicated to ending sexual harassment and abuse.

“It was interesting to hear a woman’s story in all its complications,” Islamic and Arabic studies junior Alexandra Brown said. “I found it self-reflective and it has deepened my understanding about things
happening elsewhere.”

Tuesday’s theme was self-determination of different peoples and featured Lhamo Tso. Tso spoke about her husband, Tibetan political dissident and filmmaker Dhondhup Wangchen, who is imprisoned in China for highlighting Tibetan attitudes toward Chinese occupation in his film “Leaving Fear Behind.”

Wednesday’s theme was freedom of assembly and expression, featuring University of California Irvine history professor and author Mark Levine. He spoke about the controversial topic of the Arab Spring.

At the end of each night, audience members were given the chance to comment on human rights issues and ask the speaker questions.

“I hope students will see how speakers are fighting for human rights in other countries and are inspired to fight for our rights on campus and around the country,” Bouhmouch said. “At the very least, I hope that students will come to appreciate their rights, realize how precious their rights are and not take them for granted.”

AI SDSU hopes to be the link between campus and the rest of the world, educating students about politics and making it easier for them to express themselves. The first step is to engage students and bring to light important topics such as the right to education.

“I saw the “SDSU Harlem Shake” official video the other day,” Bouhmouch said. “I wish this many students would gather together at once to fight for human rights.”