Recently three innocent people have been killed by police shootings in Malawi. The police denies any wrongdoing. Human rights’ organization Zenith for Young Women Achievers aims to fight this outright police brutality.
On New Year’s eve, 23-year old Blessings Nyondo was shot by the Malawian police, suspected of being one of the muggers that he was actually running away from. He battled for his life after being shot 8 times, passing away a week later. Four days after the shooting, the police denied any wrongdoing. The shootingof Nyondofollows another recent shooting, where two men were killed in cold blood by a police officer.
The unlawful police shootings are symbolic of Malawian police brutality, threatening and ending the lives of innocent citizens, while the police has a duty to protect people. Zenith advocates for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the police officers who shot the three victims. What’s more, it is insensitive and incoherrent of the Malawian police to adhere to a narrative that the victims were robbery suspects; even if the suspects were criminals, the police officers broke the law and denied the suspects of their right to remain innocent until proven guilty.
Zenithandother human rightsorganizations in Malawi are mobilizingand soon aimtohold public protestsagainstpolicebrutality. The protestswillinclude a solidarity walk in support of families of victims of police brutality.
Political mobilization by migrant women under lockdown in Germany
Women who seek asylum in Germany are often arbitrarily allocated in camps, reception renters and so-called “Heims” (homes). Consequently, in Berlin and Brandenburg refugee women are residing in different, isolated facilities, far from the cities’ infrastructures, lacking reliable public transport and other basic facilities such as internet connection or phone reception. International Women Space (IWS) fights this by actively mobilizing women inside the accommodations to form an overarching political movement.
The isolated living space of refugee women in Germany has been increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once new rules were implemented by the German government, many facilities were put under complete lockdown with no clear end in sight. This prevented residents from accessing any support and information outside the accommodation facilities, including access to wifi. Moreover, the lockdown obstructed the flow of information from the facilities to the public, being even more important as media outlets shifted their focus from immigration related topics to reporting on the pandemic.
The goal is now to build political groups for women inside the different accommodations. The continuous movement of people through the asylum system creates a demand for constant active mobilization inside the accommodations. Women are often transferred, making it difficult to share their acquired political knowledge with new arrivals; knowledge that is built on a daily basis through one-on-one conversations, open meetings, sharing resources and spreading flyers and information. The women groups, formed in each place of residency, meet a few times a month, depending on their capacity and needs. Central meetings are organized with the representatives of each group in the office of IWS. In the case of lockdown, the meetings will take place online.
On a monthly basis, workshops will be organized by the group representatives. The exact topics of the workshops will be determined by the group members themselves, but may include sessions with lawyers for legal advice, meetings with activists, career development, dealing with psychological traumas, among other things.
Fighting the patriarchy
The International Women Space is a feminist, anti-racist political group in Berlin, with migrant and refugee women and non-migrant women as members. The organization fights patriarchy and documents everyday violence, racism, sexism and all kinds of discrimination. The organization was formed in December 2012, during the Refugee Movement’s occupation of a former school in Berlin-Kreuzberg. There, a women’s space was created that remained open until 2014. After their eviction, IWS continued working with new members joining them, and officially registered as an association in 2017.
Women’s resistance is often oppressed, and women’s history is hidden or ignored. IWS takes on the responsibility to counteract this by documenting, making visible, and publishing women’s stories in their own words. By organizing politically their defend themselves against issues and attacks that women are facing on a daily basis as refugee, migrant, and non-migrant women—sexism, racism, the violence of the asylum system and migration polities influence their lives. As a group, they stand in solidarity with each other and provide as well support on a day-to-day basis.
Anti-fascist posters in Dutch province of Friesland
In the Dutch province of Friesland intolerance and exclusion are increasingly commonplace. Rightwing political parties such as PVV and FvD are stimulating this, but also parties in the centre of the political spectrum are sensitive to a culture of “our own culture first” and simplifying questions around immigration. In light of the elections in March, the group Anti Fascist Action Fryslân organizes a number of actions against (institutional) racism and fascism.
Sympathizers of the AFA Fryslân find it worrisome that parties of the political centre and more conventional rightwing parties are increasingly working together with, or take over ideas from, far-right political parties. Fascist ideas that divide people and promotes intolerance and discrimination is seeping increasingly into regional and local politics. Since it is important to actively challenge these voices, the AFA Fryslân will dedicate itself to raise the awareness against racism and fascism, and will fight wherever necessary to counter ideas of intolerance.
In the run up to the March elections multiple actions will be organized in as many places as possible. Yesterday (4/2/2021) all public advertising pillars in the City of Leeuwarden are covered with the poster “Leave no space for racism and fascism.” Also in the town Ooststellingswerf the posters have been put up, and the posters has been presented to the Provincial Government of Friesland.
Action group to distribute pamflet calling out slaughterhouse issues
Vion is the biggest slaughterhouse in the Netherlands, and has been part of the local community in Boxtel for a century. The company provides employment in the area, brings in taxes and buys farmers from the surrounding farmers. At the same time Vion is being criticized for concerns around animal welfare, pollution and working conditions. Sluit Vion! (Close down Vion!)—a coalition of Alle Dieren Vrij; Animal Rebellion; Vrije Bond Noord-Brabant; Autonomen Brabant; Earthlings NL, and Cage Undefined—is campaigning to address everything that is wrong with the slaughterhouse.
Slaughterhouse Vion is ankered in Boxtel. A lot of residents are directly or indirectly connected to the slaughterhouse, but also people that are not tied to Vion are often convinced that the company is important to the village. On the other hand an increasing amount of people is voicing its concerns about the company. Criticism has grown in the last few years, now that more attention is given to topics such as animal welfare, environmental pollution, public health and workers’ conditions. To give an example, a recent corona outbreak in the slaughterhouse led to fear among workers, workers’ conditions is often bad, animals are living in miserable conditions and locals are subject to odor nuisance.
Sluit Vion! wants to start the conversation with the silent majority of people in Boxtel that does not actively support Vion but also does not speak out against the company. The action group wants to inform local residents, start discussions and decrease the support for the company. Around three thousand houses will be given newspaper, containing articles on the multiple forms of exploitation that Vion is upholding, but also with interesting, inspiring stories on what to do if the slaughterhouse were to close. The paper will be supported by posters, stickers and flyers for smaller and spontaneous actions.
Israeli NGO provides a platform for social activists against Israeli occupation
Since its establishment, Israelis have been required by law to enlist in the army, leading to Israel having one of the strongest armies in the world to date. Since 1967, millions of Palestinians have been under occupation and conflicts with neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iran have intensified. In the last decade, more than 100 people have been imprisoned for refusing to enlist, enacting a progressive democratic view that opposes and challenges the Israeli occupation. The not-for-profit organization Social TV aims to make their stories heard.
Established in 2006, Israel Social TV is a non-profit independent media organization promoting social change. Their online archive contains over 4.000 video reports and studio programs in Hebrew, most of which are translated into English, reaching about 200.000 people per month. Whereas written text does not always “change the hearts and minds of people,” visual documentation is an alternative way to promote human rights and bring about social change in Israel, according to the organization.
Social TV criticizes the existing social order in Israel and its militaristic, chauvinist agenda which promotes solutions based on power through an “us and them” discourse. The organization focuses on the plurality of people living in Israel and their environment to oppose the state’s nationalism, commercial interests and political agendas. Social TV promotes a society in which the media plays an active role in social change and provides a platform for groups whose voices are not heard, promoting equality, social justice and solidarity. To do this, Social TV engages in video-based activism (e.g. documenting demonstrations), producing videos on socio-political issues, and offering training programs for social activists to learn to produce independent content.
Opposing the obligation to enlist
Social TV now aims to help visualize the multitude of challenges to Israeli occupation, increasing their outreach. This is often done by refusing to enlist in the army, by which more than 100 peoplehave been incarcerated in the last decade. One of the aims is to record personal interviews with young people in preparation for their decision to refuse to enlist in the army, accompanied by documenting demonstrations in support of those who refuse to enlist on the day of their enlistment. The organization especially aims to reach young people between 16 and 18, who are facing obligatory army recruitment. Het Actiefonds supports Social TV in producing, editing and translating their video-based activism to oppose the illegitimate Israeli occupation.
For more information, click here to see the website of Social TV.
Beach party in front of the town hall
With the end of the year in sight, it is time for record lists. This year, again, the climate records have been broken – quite negative records, that is. 2020 was the hottest year ever measured.
Climate activists put pressure on the people in power to act. Sometimes these are disruptive actions, sometimes more playful. The Extinction Rebellion branch in Deventer put pressure on the City Council in a playful way; the activists braved the cold of December to portray a summer scene. Summer clothes, bathing suits, umbrellas and beach balls were taken to the square in front of the town hall. The purpose of the demonstration was to get the municipality to declare a climate emergency. Make policies to combat global warming before we can sit outside your town hall door in swimwear all year round!
Het Actiefonds sponsored a new microphone and speakers to give some extra strength to these and future actions of XR Deventer. View the photos below.
YATO combats violence against elderly people
Over the past few weeks, violent crimes against elderly people ‘suspected’ of practicing witchcraft in Malawi have increased. Last month, an elderly woman as well as an elderly man, were stoned to death in the Dezda district. Activists hold the police accountable for failing to deal with violent aggressors.
These incidents show that, because of a continuous failure by law enforcement agencies to prosecute those who accuse older men and women of practicing witchcraft, Malawians took the law into their own hands by administering mob justice.
Malawi’s active youth organization Youth Acting Together [YATO] decided to stand up against this violence against the elderly people. On the 25th of November, they held a demonstration to pressure the Malawi Police Service to take these violent crimes more seriously and immediately arrest and prosecute every person involved in mob justice. Next to that, they filed a warning to the public against taking laws into their own hands.
According to Malawi’s Witchcraft Act of 1911, witchcraft doesn’t exist and states that it is an offence to accuse anyone of practising witchcraft. In addition, the 2016 National Policy for Older Persons recognises the duty of the State to protect their rights. Now that the State failed take this responsibility, YATO aims to reinforce these laws by speaking out.
The youth activists fight injustices on many different issues since 2016. They stand up for the rights of poor and marginalized populations by ensuring that their rights are fully protected and promoted. In the past, Het Actiefonds successfully supported several of their direct actions.
Nogsteeds1984 takes action with pro-choice art
In recent weeks, print studio Kapitaal in Utrecht was transformed into an artistic activist breeding ground. Pro-choice action group Nogsteeds1984 reminded us of the urgency of the right to safe abortion through arty silk screen prints.
The right to abortion is under pressure. The terrible anti-abortion lobby is gaining more and more support, as has become painfully clear in Poland recently. In the Netherlands too, conservative supporters are becoming increasingly vocal and with the elections in sight, the pro-choice movement could use a visibility boost.
Action group Nogsteeds1984 took on this task by creating visibility through art. They had four different artistic pro-choice posters -designed by four different artists- silkscreens in large numbers and then distributed them throughout the country.
The immediate cause for the action was the approaching ‘week of life’, organized by the anti-abortion foundation Schreeuw om Leven. During this recurring week, the conservative foundation lobbies for stricter abortion laws, with a silent march to conclude. The goal of the action group Nogsteeds1984 was to set up a campaign that takes a critical view of the anti-abortion lobby. The activist art posters hung along the entire route of the march and were used as protest signs. By being fully visible during the anti-abortion demonstration, the current pro-choice legislation was reinforced.
The group’s name comes from the fact that since 1984 abortion has been legal in The Netherlands. Fortunately, in 2020 we are still Baas In Eigen Buik and we demand to remain so forever!
“We celebrate that we decide about our own body, despite growing opposition.”
Long live reproductive rights!
Header photo: Lester Kamstra
Activists fight against chemical industry in the port of Antwerp
Activist group Ineos Will Fall occupied a forest in the port of Antwerp where the British chemical concern INEOS will build a plastic factory. The Flemish government is still pampering the fossil fuel industry while citizens are being rapped on the knuckles for not separating their household trash. More than 70 people were arrested, followed by widespread media attention.
Conflict of interest
In the port of Antwerp a new project is being planned, for which 55 hectares of forest have to be cut down. The British chemical concern INEOS is preparing to build a new factory, called Project One, for producing ethylene- and propylene. The project, which will most likely run on shale gas to make disposable plastics, is “a textbook example of the wrong choices that are being made for the future of the Flemish industry,” according to action group Ineos Will Fall.
INEOS is refuting the group’s criticism. Project One’s CO2 emissions are said to be more than half the amount of comparable chemical installations. The new factory would be the sustainable, early adopter in the European chemical industry, not only focused on disposable plastics, but on essential products in our daily life, such as in the automobile, construction, energy and medical sectors. Moreover, the company emphasizes that the forest is lying on an industrial piece of wasteland; if INEOS does not build Project One, another company will cut down the forest for another project. The company even promises to plant more trees than it is legally obliged to elsewhere, and will find new habitats for some of the species living in the area.
Ines Will Fall, on the contrary, said that while citizens are being rapped on the knuckles for flying or not separating their trash, the Flemish government is all the while making choices in favor of the fossil fuel industry. The action group wants to start a public debate about investing in circulair and climate-neutral projects for the sustainable transition of the port of Antwerp.
On the 3rd of October 80 to 100 activists occupied the until now still forest-covered terrain of Project One. After displays of power by the police, more than 70 people were arrested. Around 4 am the last of them were released from their cells. The (social) media attention was huge and widespread, the action drawing out comments from many people. Indeed, civil disobedience has proven again to be capable of making visible that which is invisible.
Fueling the Zimbabwean youth’s resistance spirit
Over the past months, the Zimbabwean authoritarian government tightened the grip on their residents. Under the guise of COVID 19 measures, movement is heavily restricted in ways that can’t be explained by the guidelines narrative; activists, human rights defenders, opposition personnel and other government critics are being arbitrarily arrested.
Residents all over the country are fueled by anger — not only about rights violations, but also about the dire state of the health system and deteriorating living conditions. Corruption and mismanagement have led to the collapse of the economy and vast underinvestment in infrastructure.
There is a desire amongst the youth in Zimbabwe to contribute to the change they want to see. Now that the physical public space is effectively closed, what is left for brave youths is to go out at night to reclaim their space and engage with likeminded activists.
In order to continue the series of protests of the past months [such as the #ItsNotSanctions movement and the nationwide 31st of July strike Het Actiefonds supported], Paden Network set up the Youth Can! campaign. The project is aimed at making the youth aware of the fact that they can still be creatively confrontational even in this sickening period where the government is using the COVID 19 cover to stifle public organising, demonstrations and other non-violent forms of confrontation.
The action, held on November 5th, involved the young activists moving around in the dead of the night in several slums and high density suburbs in southern Harare, dropping flyers, placards and posters with government critical slogans. The suburbs have close to a million people between them, and by dropping the placards at strategic high human traffic points, the action directly reached a large audience.
By doing this citizens find a way to circumvent the heavy handedness of government; the resistance spirit finds a new way of expression.