St John’s Protects the Human

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On Friday St John’s College held a hand ‘tattooing’ day to support political freedom in Burma, as part of a campaign in the build-up to the country’s November elections.

A banner was also hung in Museum Road covered in the handprints of the students, while around 30 members of the college had the names of Burmese political prisoners written on their hands and were photographed in St John’s Thomas White Quad. The demonstrations are part of the ‘Protect the Human’ campaign run by Amnesty International, a human rights group.

St John’s student Nyasha Weinberg is the driving force behind Amnesty events at the college.

“We told the volunteers who had their hands tattooed about some of the history of Burma so that we can raise awareness of what’s happening there… there are currently 2,200 political prisoners in the country.”

The photographs will be sent as a petition to South East Asian leaders at a conference in November.

A fundraising Halloween party is being held at St John’s this Sunday and a joint bop between the JCR, MCR and Oxford University Amnesty International is planned for fifth week. Weinberg hopes to keep the events “regular but varied” so that students remain interested.

St John’s student Tim Kiely has also been involved in the organisation of this week’s events. “This week is about raising awareness of the work that Amnesty does for human rights and encouraging people to get involved at a college level,” he said. “Once you realise that unglamorous and unsexy things, like letter-writing lunches, have a tangible effect on the world you want to be involved.”

The Burma campaign has been the focus of the University-wide letter-writing lunches, held on Thursdays at Oxford’s Vaults and Gardens restaurant, for the first two weeks of term. Campaigners within the University and internationally hope to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the country prior to the elections in November. Burma is one of the world’s most repressive political regimes, described by Human Rights Watch as “a textbook example of a police state”.

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