The fight for human rights

Last weekend, Carnegie Mellon students gathered for Three Days for Change, a series of events centered on raising awareness about human rights issues. Three Days for Change was organized by Amnesty International and the Activities Board (AB), with individual events hosted by a variety of organizations.

“The objective of [Three Days for Change] is to get people on campus, just for three days, to think about human rights,” said Eileen Morrison, a senior in business and international relations and president of Carnegie Mellon’s chapter of Amnesty International. Amnesty advocates for worldwide human rights.

Three Days for Change started on Thursday with a screening of Seoul Train, a documentary about North Koreans trying to escape from inhumane conditions. As depicted in the film, there are around 3 million victims of a major famine in North Korea since 1995. Hundreds of thousands have fled the famine to China, but the Chinese government violates international treaties and does not help these refugees, instead sending them back to North Korea. The documentary follows refugees as they escape from North Korea through China using an underground railroad.

On Friday, Philip Akol, a Heinz School student, gave a talk titled “Sudan: A Country in Conflict” in McConomy. The talk focused on his personal experiences as a refugee and how they relate to the current situation in Darfur. When he was 8 years old, Akol fled from Sudan, spending several years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Akol discussed various issues affecting the situation in Sudan. One particular topic was the economic benefit of controlling oil deposits in southern Sudan that northern Sudan doesn’t want to give up.

“We have been fighting for 47 years, and nothing has happened,” Akol said. Akol portrayed his hopes that the United States will address the human rights concern in Sudan. “The United States of America has the power to stop the war in Sudan, but we don’t have the will at all.”

Most of Three Days for Change was less information-intensive, including concerts and other fun activities. By providing a variety of different events, the weekend appealed to a larger crowd of people.

FORGE (Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment) hosted a concert in Skibo Café on Thursday night. Popular band We the Living performed a well-attended and exciting concert. Between songs, the band members talked about an organization called Invisible Children that they support through merchandise sales. Invisible Children raises awareness about the situation in Northern Uganda, where there is a civil war between the government and a Christian guerrilla army rebel group that kidnaps children and uses them as soldiers.
On Friday, FORGE, AB, and The Women’s Leadership Institute hosted “Sounds for Change,” an open-mic event in Skibo Café. In between acts, they talked about human rights issues, thus relating the concert to the rest of the weekend.

The “Olympics for Darfur” event on Saturday afternoon educated attendees about China’s role in Darfur and gave out petitions to boycott the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

Each of the three days of the event ended with a human rights-related movie screening in McConomy.

“We wanted three human-rights-focused movies, but we wanted them to be about three different regions of the world,” said Morrison.

The Thursday night movie, The Price of Sugar, is a documentary about human rights violations in the Dominican Republic. The Friday night movie, Darfur Now, is a documentary focused on the genocide in Darfur following the stories of six people and their thoughts about the Darfur conflict. Paradise Now, shown on Saturday night, is a foreign film about the Palestine-Israeli region. The movie is about two Palestinian friends who are recruited as suicide bombers to attack Tel-Aviv, but eventually question their decision.

Three Days for Change covered various human rights issues affecting different regions of the world. The events educated Carnegie Mellon students about global conflicts and encouraged them to lend their hands in helping to stop human rights violations. Morrison hopes that attendees will use the information learned from the events and apply their individual talents towards helping to promote change.

“We’re not asking anyone to be an expert on all human rights issues,” Morrison said, “but it’s just finding a cause that you care about and devoting a couple hours a week to helping people.”