What a weekend! The fourth annual Scottish Student Conference took place at Edinburgh University the past weekend, and we were very excited to be joined by AI enthusiasts from unis all over Scotland including Glasgow, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and QMU.
The weekend began on a very hard-hitting human rights issue, that of the organ harvesting of Chinese prisoners of conscience. We were lucky receive an eye-opening talk from Ethan Gutmann, an expert China analyst and human rights investigator, who revealed some shocking practices by Chinese officials, including the removing of organs whilst the person was still alive. He also explained that the majority of these atrocities are carried out of Falun Gong practitioners, and many more on other oppressed groups such as Tibetans. After the talk, attendees were keen to take action by signing a petition, a few even spoke to a Chinese journalist who had come along.
— Amna Hayat (@AmnaHayat) March 8, 2014
Scottish parliament considering organ tourism laws with power to incarcerate donor recipients returning from China #aiscotconf
— Rachel Statham (@rachelstatham_) March 8, 2014
Our next event was a panel discussion on human rights and Scottish independence, with Marco Biagi MSP (SNP); Professor Alan Miller, chair of Scottish Human Rights Commission; Richard Hamer, AI Scotland; and Sophie Sandor, Better Together Youth Representative. A wide range of human rights issues were covered in the lively Q&A session, including nuclear weapons, climate change, economic justice and LGBT+ rights. Despite compelling cases from both sides, a vote at the end revealed that our audience were strongly in favour of independence, with the prevailing view that although the UK has greater power over international issues, it is failing to promote human rights as well as an independent Scotland could. Amnesty International as an organisation a apolitical does not take a stance on independence.
— Eilidh Douglas (@eilidhdouglas) March 8, 2014
— Mathew Nicolson (@TirnTern) March 8, 2014
Saturday being International Women’s Day, and also the launch of AI’s ‘My Body My Rights’ campaign, we couldn’t have picked a better time to hear from Tara Rao – Head of ‘Human Rights in Education’ Department and Spokesperson on Women’s Rights Issues, AI India. Her passionate and informative talk considered the nature of gender violence and how we can tackle it. Tara, who acted as AI India’s spokesperson for the notorious Delhi rape case, criticised India’s reaction to this hideous event, which seemed to promote the view of women as victims who need “protection” not “rights”. Tara also criticised the limited role that men have been playing in tackling gender violence, citing cultural constructions of masculinity. All-in-all, it was an incredibly inspiring talk which made everyone present more excited than ever to take part in the campaign action on ‘My Body my Rights’.
‘Once it’s a women’s issue where are the men? Are they not equally moved by this issue? There is also a burden on men.’ #AIScotConf
— Kate Dearden (@katie_dearden) March 8, 2014
If you don’t look at it with a gender lens than you can’t define the problem itself? #AIScotConf
— Michael Heard-Snow (@MichaelHeardS) March 8, 2014
Campaign action photos and video to come – watch this space!!
A midday start was necessary on Sunday following great social the night before, featuring an Amnesty Drinking Game!
We began the day by watching The Square, an Oscar-nominated documentary following the events of the Egyptian Revolution in Tahrir Square. Check out the trailer below:
Our last, but certainly by no means least, talk our the weekend was by Luca Stevenson, Coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe. In light of Amnesty International’s ongoing consultation on sex work, Luca discussed the various human rights issues facing sex workers in the UK, EU and around the world. He talked in depth about trans* and migrant workers, who are most at risk of exploitation, but claimed that “the biggest form of violence facing sex workers is stigmatisation”. He discussed the problematic implications of criminalisation, including the recent sauna raids in Edinburgh, where condoms are confiscated from workers and used as evidence against them. He also explained that, whilst there is an undeniable link between poverty and sex work, we need to remember that poverty is the problem not vice versa.
It’s not too late to add your view to the Amnesty consultation – DEADLINE 21 MARCH. Individual members of Amnesty and Groups (one form per group) can fill in the feedback form and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org – your voice really does count in shaping the future of Amnesty policy!
Feedback form (.doc): Sex Work Consultation Feedback Form
Consultation papers (.pdf): Amnesty Sex Work Consultation Pack
Short summary of consultation papers (for use at meetings/if you’re lazy!) (.pdf): Amnesty Sex Work Consultation Summary
‘you cannot give sex workers rights without ensuring the rights of everyone involved in the sex industry’ #aiscotconf
— Rachel Statham (@rachelstatham_) March 9, 2014
Brilliant talk by Luca Stevenson on sex work & human rights, #AIScotConf are now engaged and informed to take part in Amnesty consultation!
— Eilidh Douglas (@eilidhdouglas) March 9, 2014
The weekend rounded up with a brilliant interactive workshop on campaigning. Attendees were trained on effective, strategic campaigning, before splitting into groups to plan our very own campaigns. The workshop was based on one that members of the Edinburgh group had attended, which was run by Lucy Patterson of Global Zero, who also provided the materials for our replication at the conference.
The weekend was tiring, action packed, but incredibly inspiring. Having the chance to meet student activists from all over Scotland, hear from some incredible speakers and take part in a large scale action made the conference an unforgettable experience. We can’t wait to attend AIUK Scottish Student Conference 2015!