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Panel Celebrates Human Rights Anniversary

December 12, 2008 – In 1999, Chinese police seized activist Rebiya Kadeer on her way to meet with American congressional staffers, and swiftly charged and convicted her of sharing state secrets. She spent the next five years as a political prisoner.

Kadeer says Chinese authorities actually imprisoned her for her political activism on Uighur autonomy and women's rights. She maintains that she was tortured, stripped of her human rights and mocked throughout her detention because of her ethnicity and causes. As an ethnic Uighur, a Eurasian people primarily from what is now western China, her campaign for autonomy is similar to that of the Tibetans.

Sitting on Georgetown University's Gaston Hall stage on Dec. 11 to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kadeer said similar human rights violations still occur on a grand scale every day throughout the world.

"Because of the hard work of Amnesty International and other groups concerned with human rights, I am here in front of you and alive today."

Kadeer remains an outspoken advocate of human rights for Uighurs and other oppressed groups, despite the fact that her husband also was imprisoned for nine years by the Chinese government and two of her 11 children currently are jailed there.

Kadeer came to Georgetown for a panel convened by Anthony Arend, director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service program, to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights anniversary, which the U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved in 1948 in the years following World War II and the Holocaust.

But Arend and other panelists said the world actually has little to celebrate when it comes to human rights.

"We're at the lowest point in the history of our republic, and it's a very sad point," Arend stated.

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, concurred with a scathing rebuke of the Bush administration's human rights record. The president's tenure has been "a direct assault on human rights," he said.

Amnesty International recruited musicians from around the world to spur that activism, especially among younger generations. The panel screened a music video, "The Price of Silence," performed by 16 international artists.


Andres Levin, a Grammy-nominated music producer, produced the song, seeking out artists from around the world.

"Music is one of the most abstract art forms. When done well, with passion, it can convey a message like no other art form can," Levin, also a panelist, said.

Following the panel, Levin teamed up with Cucu Diamantes, a Cuban-born singer-songwriter, to perform three songs about love and power.

"We have to be more conscious of human rights than ever before," Diamantes said. "Music can help raise our consciousness." 

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