Amnesty International at Bellevue College presented a series of human rights films in order to expose students to issues often overlooked and to provide a safe place for constructive and innovative discussions oriented around the violations of human rights unfolding in various places around the world.
One of these films was “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” a documentary by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. Scahill was on the pursuit to exhibit the undisclosed truth behind the United States’ expanding covert wars.
In response to the gripping film, Magenta Loera, active student within Amnesty International Bellevue College who was hosting the film series on Amnesty’s behalf, asked, “What do we have to hide? Why do we have to cover it up?” The U.S. has been killing thousands of innocent civilians in countries such as Afghanistan and Yemen. Verbal defenses regarding these incidents are insufficient. In the film, General Hugh Shelton claimed that one man killed, among countless others killed by the Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan, “could have been a terrorist.”
“[The concept of terrorism] is so much behind closed doors,” Loera added. “They can say all these things, but they don’t have to explain them. They can say, ‘there was terrorism,’” as they did with regards to Anwar al-Awlaki. He was murdered by JSOC, and “there’s no proof that he was involved with terrorism. He was angry … [he utilized his] freedom of speech, but there was no proof. And yet all [government representatives] have to say is, ‘well that’s confidential, but we can assure you that he did bad things.’” This is a dangerous predicament.
The next film of the series, “Maria in Nobody’s Land,” followed a number of migrants on their journey from Central American to Mexico and for some, to the United States. The film was a compilation of various accounts. The screening was intended to support the International Violence Against Women Act and bring reality to the hardship faced by migrants.
The domestic Violence Against Women Act was passed in the U.S. in 1994, later to be reauthorized and expanded multiple times. The VAWA covers domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. As of the most recent round of expansions, Native Americans, undocumented persons and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender are also covered under the act. The I-VAWA would further integrate and prioritize prevention of violence against women into U.S. foreign policy. Reintroduction for the I-VAWA was set to occur on Nov. 21, 2013 the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat, for Illinois’s congressional district 9.
In “Maria in Nobody’s Land,” due to their vulnerable state, migrants, especially women and children, face high risk of being kidnapped, extorted, raped and murdered. Those without money were tortured and killed. In one month alone, Mexico saw 9,000 migrants kidnapped. The United Nations cites that “between 500,000 to 2 million people are trafficked annually [worldwide] into situations including prostitution, forced labour, slavery or servitude, according to estimates.”
According to the fact sheet of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign: Unite to End Violence Against Women, “On average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime.”
The fact sheet also incluces that, “The costs of violence against women are extremely high. They include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused women and their children and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity, and the costs in human pain and suffering.”
Students interested in becoming more involved with Amnesty International’s events on campus can learn more by contacting Magenta Loera at firstname.lastname@example.org.