The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Goodbye’s the Saddest Word: We love you, MC Seniors!

To STAND’s graduating MC seniors – It’s been an incredible year with all of you, and we are absolutely in awe of your hard work and dedication to this movement. STAND is stronger because of you and your beautiful hearts, commitment, late nights, and strategic thinking. We have learned so much from each one of you and can’t wait to build upon your efforts in the coming year. We love you, we will miss you, and we can’t wait to see how you move and shake the world!

 

Giulia Duch Clerici, Southeast Regional Organizer, Tulane University

giuliamacAlthough your time on the MC was short, you left a large impact! I am so thankful I got to spend time with you in both DC (at the National Conference) and New Orleans. You radiate kindness and grace and are someone who comes to mind when I think about “walking the walk”. I felt so heard and understood by you when we talked about balancing school and activism. Thank you for what you gave to me and to STAND and for your passion on these issues. Much love!

– Savannah Wooten, Student Director 

Giulia, we have been friends for such a long time! I don’t even remember how many years we have known each other but they have been filled with us awkwardly being the older siblings at all our younger siblings’ events and ceremonies. No matter how much time we spend apart, when we catch up, it is as if no time has passed! I love bonding over our love of salads (or half salad and half pizza #ModernMarket), the Mediterranean, sunshine, Dolcezza (we need to go soon please), and of course, our passion for human rights. Recruiting you for STAND was possibly the best late night idea I have ever had because you are an incredible, hard working, and dedicated addition to the team. Hit me up when you are back in Btown so we can hang out at one of our favorite spots!! Love you to the moon and back, forever and always!

– Farida Ettefa, outgoing Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer, incoming National Outreach Coordinator

Sweet lady, I am so incredibly happy that we met at the Rally for Refugees this past summer! It has been amazing to get to know you and your passion for humanitarian and service work. You are such a thoughtful and loving person, friend, and activist, and I know you are going to do amazing things. I’ve loved what you’ve brought to the team over the past semester, especially within our policy discussions on Syria and the refugee crisis. I’m so grateful for you letting me crash at your home in New Orleans, and for all of your NoLa recommendations. Forever glad to have had you on the STAND team, and I can’t wait to see what you do next and keep cheering you on! See you in DC so soon!!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Tim Hirschel-Burns, Policy Coordinator, Swarthmore College

Timmy1Timmy, you are one of the kindest people I know. I am so happy that we have become friends over the past year and a half—I wouldn’t want to have been the “New Kid in STAND” with anyone else. It has been such an honor to see you open up from the quiet and shy RO to the sassy and hilarious Policy Coordinator! You are always the first person to reach out whenever someone needs help and I am so thankful for all your kind gestures. We are all going to miss you on the MC but know you will be one step closer to single-handedly changing the world in Benin! Best of luck in all you do!

– Casey Bush, Campaigns Coordinator

When I first met you this summer I found you both intimidating and hysterical. Thank you for always being there to answer my overwhelming number of questions and tell me what you really think. When I see someone and know I want them to be my friend I tend to jump right into making fun of them… (solid game plan right?). So naturally I spared no time in spreading rumors that you dye your hair. Thank you for being a good sport and letting me photoshop you into countless memes. My favorite Timmy memory is the Women’s March which I don’t think I would have made it through had you not been my “buddy.” Thank you for keeping me with the group and dragging me through crowds. I will forever be in awe of your knowledge and passion. I’m glad we decided to join forces and end our rivalry and I feel so lucky to have gained you as a friend.

– Grace Fernandes, Digital Media Coordinator

Ahhhh sweet Timmy, I know I am going to find this very hard to distill into a short blurb, but I shall try. From getting to know you as a summer intern, to having you on the MC, you have consistently been one of the hardest workers of the STANDfam I have ever met, bringing so much heart to the team, while also bringing your a-game sarcasm. I have loved getting to know you both as a friend and as a colleague, and getting to debate policy and campaign strategy with you over the years. You’ve been such a rock, and we’ve all come to rely on you so much, and I’m sure the new STAND team will also look to you for guidance during your limited times of internet access. I will really miss your thoughtful analysis of US foreign policy, your ability to roll out a policy brief in record-breaking time, and sharing laughs and eye-rolls over DC politics. Please know you always have a home in DC when you come visit. I can’t wait to hear your reflections from your time in Benin, and thanks for an amazing few years!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Elisabeth Huh, Communications Coordinator, University of Chicago

Elisabeth2We are so lucky to have snagged you for your final year! We’ve loved your thoughtful contributions to MC calls, your “big vision” understanding of STAND, and your heart for both the team and the organization. You bring light and care to those around you and you operate with drive — traits that will take you anywhere you want to go after STAND. We can’t wait to see what you do next and will always be thinking of you!

– Savannah Wooten, Student Director

You are one of the most inspiring, driven, and beautiful people I have ever met – and that is no exaggeration. Talking to you about your high school, gap year, and college experiences left me absolutely mesmerized! I cannot believe that someone could have done so much so well; you have forever left an impact on my perspectives and thoughts. From listening to your TEDx talk (which is one of the most beautiful talks in existence) to hearing your voice and opinions on MC calls, your articulate and passionate words have made me think about different sides on many subjects. I am so thankful that I have been able to listen and learn from your inspirational words and gotten to work with your driven self. Organize the Midwest conference and hearing attendees’ reactions truly showed me your driven vision. All that you did, from getting food to getting the most amazing speakers, made that conference absolutely amazing for everyone. I am so honored that I got to participate in that with you. In that conference and numerous other times you have been the most beautiful soul and person I have ever met. Your way of interacting with people and talking to them is unbelievably kind and gentle. Your heart is truly made of gold and anyone who has met you could easily say that you are truly a beauty (inside and out) like no other! Thank you so much for talking to me and listening to my high school self and thank you so much for making me feel like even I had a place on a table of such intelligent and amazing people. You are truly the most inspiring, driven, and beautiful person I have ever met Elisabeth – thank you so much for being you!

– Harleen Kaur, outgoing Midwest Regional Organizer, incoming Field Organizer

It has truly been a privilege to work with you on the MC this year. You are such a kind hearted, compassionate person and it is evident in all the work you do. It was so much fun planning the conference at UChicago with you, and even though we didn’t think it would end up happening, it did! It was such a successful event and I was so proud of what you, Harleen, and I accomplished. Not only have you been an amazing person to work with, but your lighthearted spirit always makes for entertaining times. It has been so amazing working with and getting to know you this year. You have such great things ahead of you, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!

– Ellen Bresnick, outgoing Midwest Regional Organizer, incoming Education Coordinator

STAND Applauds the Introduction of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

Bipartisan Bill Prioritizes U.S.-specific Tools to End and Prevent Genocide

Washington, D.C. – The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017 was introduced yesterday by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). The bill seeks to make genocide and atrocities prevention a priority for the U.S. government, and to increase its capacity to work towards mass atrocity prevention around the world. STAND welcomes the timely introduction of this bipartisan legislation.

The bill, named after Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, is meant to honor his legacy of human rights advocacy and genocide prevention, and allow the U.S. government to move from remembrance into action.

The bill establishes a Mass Atrocities Task Force that will increase coordination on atrocities prevention between the Department of State, the National Security Council, and other government agencies. The bill requires atrocities prevention training for Foreign Service Officers, and authorizes the Complex Crises Fund, an existing fund used for on-the-ground atrocities prevention programs in places deemed at-risk of genocide or other atrocities. In addition, the bill requires annual reporting by the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department on countries or regions that are at-risk for atrocities.

STAND’s Student Director Savannah Wooten believes the bill is particularly relevant in the current historical moment. “In recent years, civilians have been increasingly targeted in conflict worldwide. It is reassuring to see bipartisan consensus in the Senate on the importance of investing in mass atrocity prevention through diplomacy and development.”

The world is more connected and interdependent than ever, and atrocities in one nation are not isolated incidents. The devastation, loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and political and economic instability that accompanies genocide and mass atrocities are never neatly contained in one region, as the crisis in Syria has shown, and as history has repeatedly proven. It is in the United States’ moral, political, and economic interest to monitor nations around the world that appear at risk for violent outbreaks, and to invest in long-term prevention and peacebuilding efforts to prevent violence before it happens. The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act is essential in ensuring that the U.S. Government has the ability to invest in these prevention efforts in an informed and responsible way.

Dozens of non-governmental organizations support the Elie Wiesel Act, including STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Armenian National Committee of America, Invisible Children, Oxfam America, Refugees International, Search for Common Ground, International Crisis Group, Church World Service, and Jewish World Watch.

Original co-sponsors of the Elie Wiesel Act include Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-M.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities supports a grassroots network of student and youth activists across the U.S. to advocate for proactive policies to end and prevent genocide and mass atrocities. Established in 2004 in response to the Darfur genocide, STAND now also focuses on ending ongoing conflict in Sudan and South Sudan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Burundi, and Yemen. To find out more, please visit us at www.standnow.org.

For more information, contact Savannah Wooten, Student Director at (480) 626-3733 or swooten@standnow.org.

Statement on U.S. Missile Strike on Shayrat Airbase in Syria

On Tuesday April 3, 2017, 86+ civilians were killed in a chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. While STAND has issued statements [1] condemning the attack and mourning the civilians who were brutally killed, we also seek to clarify our position on the U.S. decision to strike regime air facilities in response to the attack.

As our Syrian-American partners have noted for years, the international community has failed to adequately alleviate the immense suffering of the Syrian civilian population throughout six bloody years of conflict. Despite the proliferation of extremist groups, the Assad regime remains by far the largest perpetrator of attacks against civilians, using torture, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and strategies such as double-tap strikes and siege to cause vast civilian harm. The Assad regime’s apparent use of sarin gas is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the 2017 Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons, which called for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014. STAND unequivocally condemns the use of chemical weapons, and maintains unremitting support for the international norm banning their deployment. We encourage an independent investigation into the April 3 attack, and applaud the work of organizations such as Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC) in documenting such attacks by all parties to the conflict.

As an organization committed to civilian protection, we will continue monitoring the Trump administration’s policies in Syria and urge the Trump administration to handle relations with Russia with caution, as escalating conflict would yield particularly devastating consequences for Syrian civilians.  Moving forward, all military action taken by the U.S. to reduce civilian harm must take part within a broader, long-term diplomatic strategy aimed at securing a political solution to conflict. Additionally, the U.S. should seek Constitutionally-mandated Congressional approval for any future military action against the Assad regime, and should work multilaterally with international partners in both diplomatic and military spheres, if necessary, to address root causes of the conflict while pushing Assad towards the negotiating table.

In addition to the recent missile strike, American airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq have caused hundreds of civilian casualties in recent weeks, and we emphasize the need to use the highest possible standards to ensure that only military targets are hit. We urge a robust and independent investigation into these recent air strikes by the US military.

Finally, STAND calls on the Trump administration to take decisive measures to support those uprooted by conflict by providing adequate funding for humanitarian aid and for refugee resettlement, both in the region and in the U.S. Though the Trump administration has said the strikes were conducted out of concern for Syrian civilians, current policies on refugee resettlement and humanitarian aid suggest otherwise. The administration must recognize the immense human cost of its current stances on foreign aid and refugee resettlement and immediately reverse these policies.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/STANDNow/posts/10155248122747049, https://www.facebook.com/STANDNow/posts/10155258933252049

This statement was issued by the STAND Student Managing Committee, STAND’s national decision-making body. Please contact STAND Student Director Savannah Wooten at swooten@standnow.org or STAND Executive Manager Mac Hamilton at mhamilton@standnow.org for any additional information. Click here for a pdf of the statement.

Never Say Never: Taking a Chance on the STAND MC

I am at once intensely critical and hopelessly idealistic, which is why it surprises me sometimes that I grew to love STAND as much as I do. I was incredibly skeptical at first, I will admit, when I went to my first meeting. I think I had a bitter taste in my mouth since I dealt with resume-filler clubs in high school, and truthfully, I feared labelling myself as yet another white woman from the suburbs with the weight of the world on my shoulders, blindly throwing solutions at problems that I will never fully grasp. In my mind, nothing would replace the local, grassroots social justice open forum I grew up with at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.

The jury is still out on whether I am really just another white woman with the weight of the world’s problems on my shoulders, but STAND truly has, most definitely, defied my cynicisms from the very first chapter meeting. Never have I encountered such thoughtful, genuinely passionate individuals so willing to adapt than the people I have met through STAND.

Over the past year or so, as chapter leader and as West Regional Organizer, I have met organizers, students giving up their free moments to learn and advocate, policy experts, and most importantly, survivors. Listening to women from Rwanda, Cambodia, Nigeria, Darfur, and South Sudan tell their stories of resilience shook me to my core. They reminded me of the power of the human soul like no religion class in my 13 years of Catholic schooling ever did.

Engaging with survivors, on-the-ground activists, and youth organizers to lead actions and campaigns has placed STAND and its leadership team at the front lines of a growing global youth network. It is a network of individuals ready to act, to hold even the most powerful human rights abusers accountable, and to provide students with the tools they need to make a difference. Taking part in this network has been the most fulfilling part of my STAND experience.

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Beyond the concrete skills I have gained lobbying congressional offices and attending conferences and retreats, I have gained the support of amazing people in this movement to inform and uplift me. The best part is that, as a Managing Committee (MC) member, I get to welcome more student leaders into our network of solidarity and empower them with the tools to make us the Never Again Generation. Afterwards, I get to watch us all work together towards tangible policy goals at home and abroad.

Like I said, I was incredibly skeptical at first, but I shouldn’t have been. Every meeting and every conference I have attended was filled with leaders as eager to teach as they were to learn. Perhaps I could have gotten more involved sooner, and met these people earlier. That is my only regret. I am so grateful that I found a home at STAND, and cannot wait to see what we can accomplish next.

Check out available STAND Managing Committee positions for 2017-2018 here. Applications are due Friday, March 31 at 11:59 PM.

darcyDarcy Gleeson is a sophomore at the University of Southern California and is originally from Louisville, KY. She is the Vice President of her STAND chapter at USC and STAND’s West Coast Regional Organizer for the 2016-17 school year.

46 Local, National, and International Human Rights Groups Oppose Lifting of U.S. Sanctions on Burma in Lead Up to Aung San Suu Kyi Visit

Washington, DC – As the U.S. prepares for a visit by Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, they must reconsider their decision to lift further sanctions on the country. Today, the U.S. Campaign for Burma and STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities have submitted a letter to President Obama, supported by 44 local, national, and international organizations in opposition to the lifting of sanctions on Burma.

In July 2012, in response to the country’s democratization efforts, the U.S. government began easing sanctions on Burma to support investment in the country. Today, the sanctions that remain are targeted at the richest and most corrupt members of Burmese society and do little to hinder the country’s overall development, rather limiting the military power of groups contributing to the destabilization of the country.

Of the letter, Myra Dahgaypaw, acting Executive Director at the U.S. Campaign for Burma stated, “Though there has been democratic progress in the past few years, there remain a number of pressing issues threatening the stability of the country and its most vulnerable people. In particular, ethnic minorities across the country continue to be abused at the hands of the Burmese military, who often deprive them of water, food, and humanitarian aid. There continue to be reports of sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese military, which the government has repeatedly failed to investigate. The U.S. government must continue to exert pressure on the Burmese government until ethnic minorities in Burma achieve basic human rights.”

Savannah Wooten, Student Director of STAND and a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, added that there are a number of benchmarks that should be met before the U.S. considers lifting further sanctions. In particular, “the Burmese army must cease violations of international humanitarian law; prioritize the inclusion of civil society, women, and youth in peace talks; and address the lack of citizenship for Rohingya as well as further efforts to protect this vulnerable group. The fact that several reputable international reports have concluded that genocide may have occurred or be ongoing against the Rohingya should be reason enough not to lift sanctions.”

Full text of the letter, as well as supporting organizations, is available here.

The letter is signed by ALTSEAN-Burma, American Jewish World Service, Arakan National Congress Party, Association Suisse-Birmanie, Burma Action Ireland, Burma Campaign UK, Burma Link (Thailand), Burma Partnership, Burma Task Force USA, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Carl Wilkens Fellowship, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Franciscan Action Network, Free Burma Campaign (South Africa), Genocide Watch, Global Witness, Harry Potter Alliance, Info Birmanie (France), IFI Watch Myanmar, International Campaign for the Rohingya, Jewish World Watch, Just Foreign Policy, Fortify Rights, Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Kachin Peace Network, Kachin Women Association Thailand, Kachin Women Peace Network, Karen American Association of Wisconsin, Karen Association of Iowa, Karen Culture Organization of Arizona, Karenni-American Association, Peacebuilding Connections, Refugees International, Rohingya American Society (RAS), Rohingya Federation of Arakan (RFA), Rohingya National Coalition (RNC), STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities, Stop Genocide Now, Swedish Burma Committee, Tayovan Women’s Union, Together We Remember, U.S. Campaign for Burma, Wan-Lark Foundation, Watchers of the Sky Initiative, Women Peace Network-Arakan, and World Rohingya Organization (WRO).

ABOUT

U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB) was established in 2003 to help build and channel political will for freedom in Burma. Since then, USCB’s work has delivered tangible results for the people of Burma. USCB are the only U.S. based advocacy organization devoted full-time to human rights, freedom, and democracy in Burma. Through public education, leadership development initiatives, and advocacy campaigns at local, national, and international levels, USCB works to empower Americans, resettled Burmese refugees, and Burmese civil society in Burma and throughout its border regions to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma, raise awareness about the egregious human rights violations committed by Burma’s military, and ensure international actors pursue policies that assist the promotion of democracy and human rights in Burma.

STAND, the Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities, was founded in 2004 by a group of students at Georgetown University. Since then, STAND has expanded to high school and college campuses across the United States. Originally an acronym for “Students Taking Action Now: Darfur,” STAND’s mission quickly expanded to ending and preventing genocide and mass atrocities wherever they may occur. Today, STAND focuses on Sudan and South Sudan, but also on Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and emerging atrocity issues such as those in Burundi and Yemen.

For more information, contact Myra Dahgaypaw at the U.S. Campaign for Burma at (718) 207-2556 or myradah@uscampaignforburma.org, or Mac Hamilton at (774) 722-2861 or mhamilton@standnow.org.

To our MC seniors, with love

To paraphrase Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” We have had an incredible year thanks to our 2015-2016 Student Leadership Team, and our MC seniors have been such a vital part of all that we’ve accomplished.

Francesca, Jake, Emily, Zac, and Clara – we have learned so much from each of you, and you’ve contributed an incredible amount, not only to STAND, but to the genocide prevention movement as a whole. Thank you hardly seems enough for the time, energy, and passion you’ve given over the past year(s) with STAND, but we’re giving it a go!

Francesca Freeman, Student Director, University of Chicago

 IMG_5125Francesca, I have felt so incredibly #blessed to be your right hand lady this year. Your commitment, passion, and vision have made STAND stronger and more effective throughout the past year. You have truly gone above and beyond in every aspect: from overseeing our ~amazing~ summer interns while I was in Rwanda; to double-editing every single blog post, national email, and facebook post; to drafting countless social media posts and leading conference call after conference call, you have done us all proud. I deeply admire your selflessness, commitment, and mad organization skills and will so miss our multiple hour chats and your barrage of punny memes and gifs. I’ve learned so much from you as a colleague and a friend, and I cannot wait to cheer you on as you find your next adventures. Looking forward to many (many, many) more dollar frozen margaritas, genprev chats, and matzo ball soup. So much love!

Yay!

P.S. This is the first meme I ever got from you so we must frame it and cherish it forever.

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Francesca, I can’t believe I am about to pick up the torch from you for the 2016-2017 school year. Being SD is a huge role and responsibility and I have learned a lot from your passion and energy in the position. You are one of the people who first drew me to STAND and I find it touching and fitting that I’m now stepping into your shoes. Thank you for your faith in me as I was just getting started and for being such an instructional and invested team member throughout the last year. This organization is better because you were in it and I know STAND’s love for you will continue beyond your time as SD. Thank you for a wonderful year and for all you’ve done within the genocide prevention sphere — you are loved and appreciated.

– Savannah Wooten, outgoing Education Coordinator, incoming Student Director

Jake Ramirez, Campaigns Coordinator, University of Arizona

IMG_9254At least to me, Jake initially came off as quite unassuming. While quite a few people in STAND have the (endearing, of course) habit of making sure you know within 5 minutes of meeting them that that they identify first and foremost as an activist and want to do nothing else with their life but fight atrocities, Jake’s backward hat and basketball vibe was slightly different. However, as I got to know Jake it became clear that he was one of STAND’s strongest assets. Jake is dedicated to learning and making STAND as effective as possible. As anyone on the MC would tell you, having someone as funny, kind, and chill as Jake made the MC much more enjoyable to be a part of. It will take a long time for me to separate the names Jake Ramirez and Roy Hibbert in my head, but it will take much longer for STAND to get over the loss of such a valuable member. To conclude, there are only two things left to say: first, thank you, and second, bees?

– Timmy Hirschel-Burns, outgoing Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer, incoming Policy Coordinator

Jake, I feel so lucky to have worked with you over the past two years. From the moment I joined STAND as a staff member, I knew we were going to be good friends. You were the first person to welcome me to the team individually, were always super responsive, and were the first to volunteer when the team needed anything, whether or not you knew how to do it. I’m thinking, amongst many other things: figuring out how to use our old website and set the stage for our new one, logging into MailChimp (how the heck am I ever supposed to teach that to anyone else?), learning and mastering PhotoShop in one night, and writing tons of national emails with wicked catchy sub-lines. I will really miss having you on the STAND team next year, but am excited to see what’s next for you–don’t be surprised if I continue to gchat you for national email advice! Can’t wait to have you as a guest speaker at our next conference, which may or may not be called “Kreating, Aiding, Nurturing Youth Evolution (KANYE).”

-Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Emily Collinson, Communications Coordinator, American University

BOOOOIIIIIII do I luuuuv Emily Collinson. I was so intimidated by you when I first met you, which only happens when I meet someone I am totally in awe of (which I was). When I found out I was going to be sharing a room with you during our first conference in DC I was pumped but also scared to death like I just wanted to make a good impression on you SO badly so I was trying to be cool but it’s kind of hard to be cool with someone you just met in a hotel room, but I think we hit it off pretty well. I feel SUCH a strong connection to you (wow this is sappy? are we dating?) and you have honestly become one of my best friends. As a part of STAND, you have provided comic relief and reason at the same time, not to mention a variety of skillz in COMMS and other things. I look up to you in every way and I can’t wait to come stay wit u in DC <3.

-Bethany Vance, outgoing Southeast Regional Organizer, incoming Education Coordinator

IMG_9304Emily, I am so thankful to know you and to have worked so closely with you this past year. You have brought your humor, grace, wit, and skill to STAND this year and have rocked our social media like no other. You are a light and a kindred spirit and the MC has been lucky to have you as both our Comms Queen and our friend. I have nothing but love for you and I know that STAND is just one of many stepping stones in your bright future. I hope you remember your year with STAND fondly — I know you made a huge impact on mine.

-Savannah Wooten, outgoing Education Coordinator, incoming Student Director

Zac Peloquin, Northeast Regional Organizer, Clark University

IMG_9327I am so lucky to have met Zac because, without his passion and excitement for STAND, I would have never joined such an amazing organization. Zac started out as my boss for my work study job at Clark University. Upon hearing that I was majoring in Holocaust and Genocide studies, Zac showed up to work during my shift one day to try to convince me to join STAND. I had no idea what he was talking about whenever he said “National STAND” but he was so passionate about it I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

After being in the club for about a month, Zac asked me to go to DC with him for a STAND summit. We spent about 20+ hours together on a bus to and from DC. Since then, ZP and I have become good friends and have worked together on many STAND events at Clark. It is so great to work with Zac because he is always ready with a creative and ambitious idea. Not only that but he is incredibly hard working–I have no doubt that he could put an entire event together in one night (which I’m pretty sure he did this past semester).

Zac is always the first one to help you when you’re feeling down. I can think of countless times when I was in the library having a rough time studying and he gave me a hug and tried to cheer me up. STAND will not be the same without the constant pictures of his adorable chinchilla, his huge appetite, or his commitment to genocide prevention. Thank you, Zac, for being a great Regional Organizer and friend!

– Casey Bush, outgoing Midwest Regional Organizer, incoming Campaigns Coordinator

As a former Northeast Regional Organizer, I am so so thankful for the incredible work you’ve done in strengthening and expanding our reach in the Northeast this past year. Your passion and work ethic are truly exceptional and I’ve loved watching your work throughout the year. From Day One, you pushed each and every MC member to stay up-to-date on current events, volunteered to be first during roundtables, and were always willing to help out whenever a hand was needed. I’ll miss your videos of chinchilla dust baths, your political commentary, and your giant hugs! Thank you for all you’ve done for STAND national, the Northeast region, and for Clark STAND over the past year – please stay in touch!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Clara Lee, Digital Media Coordinator, St. Olaf College

12651224_10153949577312049_3439320654459187367_nI feel so lucky to have known and worked with you in a variety of capacities, first as a delegate to Global Youth Connect’s Rwanda Human Rights delegation, before I became STAND’s staff member, then as a STAND intern, and finally as a STAND MC member! You have the biggest heart and the most contagious kindness I’ve ever seen. Your thoughtfulness, curiosity, and willingness to try new things have added so much to our team over the past semester. Thanks for your friendship, hard work, and endless tiny tweaks to our graphics (I know my perfectionism isn’t always the easiest to work with). I love you lots and know you will rock whatever comes next for you!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Clara, you are actually the sweetest, kindest person on this whole MC. Okay not even just on the MC, you’re one of the nicest people I’ve EVER met and we were SO lucky to have you. I feel like there were times where we would have fallen apart without your amazing work ethic and dedication. I know you are going to have an incredibly bright future in whatever you choose to do because everyone is going to love you immediately after meeting you, just like we all did. Also, you totally kill the graphic design game. Also thank you for following me on instagram and liking all my pics, it’s a great confidence boost u da best.

– Bethany Vance, outgoing Southeast Regional Organizer, incoming Education Coordinator

“Our Generation is Gone”: The Islamic State’s Targeting of Iraqi Minorities in Ninewa

By Brooke Chambers and Sean Langberg

In the summer of 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State carried out a violent campaign against civilians in Ninewa province in northern Iraq, home to many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities. In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities and irrevocably tore the social fabric of the once-diverse region, with 800,000 individuals displaced, thousands more kidnapped, and at least one thousand people were killed.Capture

In September 2015, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide undertook a Bearing Witness trip to northern Iraq to learn about the atrocities that had occurred there, assess the current situation, and understand the future risks to ethnic and religious minorities and other civilians in the region. We found that IS targeted civilians based on group identity, committing mass atrocities to control, expel, and exterminate ethnic and religious minorities in areas it seized and sought to hold. IS committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing against Christian,Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaean, and Kaka’i and perpetrated genocide against the Yezidi people.

We met with individuals and families who had been forced to flee with little more than what they were wearing. Yezidi men wrote name after name of their missing family members—wives and daughters, who they believed were kidnapped, and sons and brothers, whose circumstances they did not know. Villages and towns that have simply ceased to exist. Minority communities that helped to shape Iraq’s rich and diverse history and today face exile and extinction in the country. As one man told us, “We have no future. Our generation is gone.”

The Way Forward

The US government has specifically stated that preventing mass atrocities—all atrocities, not just genocide—is a core national security priority. As such, the United States and other countries combatting IS should articulate, as part of their broader coalition strategies, efforts and tools that they can employ to address and minimize the ongoing threats to civilians. In the immediate term, this should entail assisting targeted populations in achieving two main goals: (a) protecting civilians and (b) improving accountability for past atrocities.

Protecting Civilians

The current counterterrorism and counterinsurgency paradigms do not prioritize an assessment of, or compel a response to, the unique threats and risks of mass atrocities that local populations and individuals may face. IS will continue to pose a threat to local populations. Countering the group necessitates an ongoing assessment of both IS’s motivations, organization, and capabilities for committing atrocity crimes, and of the vulnerabilities of at-risk communities, as well as their resiliencies that can be strengthened.

Protecting civilians also entails ensuring that those engaged in counter-IS efforts do not harm civilians. The tactics used to win the war to defeat the group and liberate the territory it holds might very well contribute to future cycles of violence, displacement, and devastation. Iraqi security forces and affiliated militias, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, and local self-defense militias all have been accused of human rights abuses in the past. There is a risk that this will continue as IS-held territories are reclaimed.

Improving Accountability for Past Atrocities

Young displaced Iraqis wait for food distribution at a camp on the outskirts of Erbil. —Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The culture of impunity that has prevailed in Iraq for decades is a key driver of violent conflict and mass atrocities today. The general lack of and mismanagement of investigations and prosecutions, and lack of accountability for perpetrators, send a strong signal to those considering taking up arms, whether in support of or against IS, that there are few costs to committing atrocities against minority communities. The Iraqi government’s limited capacity and lack of political will surrounding accountability issues also create significant barriers to transitional justice programs going forward.

There needs to be an immediate investment in transitional justice measures that address both current and past mass atrocities committed in Iraq. This includes documenting crimes perpetrated by IS and affiliated groups, as well as those committed during counter-IS efforts, for the purposes of understanding the full scope of atrocities in Iraq and future prosecutions of perpetrators.

Contact Sean Langberg (slangberg@ushmm.org) for more information

unnamedBrooke Chambers is an Intern at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide

 

 

 

 

17e20e3Sean Langberg is a Policy Assistant at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

 

Join #BooksNotBombs, Create Opportunity for Syrian Students

On January 15, 2013, the first day of final exams, two airstrikes hit Aleppo University, killing 82 students. Since then, more than 4,000 schools have been attacked, putting thousands of children and young adults out of school because it is simply too dangerous to go, or because their schools have been destroyed. Once in refugee camps, the UNHCR has no mechanism for providing higher education to those affected by the conflict that has claimed the lives of over 20,000 children and 189,000 people overall. As barrel bombs continue to fall, and with peace talks just now beginning, we face the fact that the Syria crisis is creating what Malala Yousafzai terms a “lost generation” of uneducated youth in Syria, many of whom have been out of school since the beginning of the conflict nearly 5 years ago.

12347815_218671291797560_5480883326057070544_nThat’s why STAND is teaming up with Students Organize for Syria on Books Not Bombs, a campaign to encourage universities to create scholarships for Syrians. This campaign offers a tangible way for students and universities in the United States to both support their Syrian peers and to promote a genocide prevention agenda. By mobilizing our campuses, we can both raise awareness and invest in Syria’s future. By offering scholarships to Syrians, universities can help build the next generation of doctors, lawyers, architects, and teachers. This is vital, as it is Syrians who will create sustainable peace in Syria and rebuild their homes and communities when the conflict ends.

Genocide prevention is the core of what we do. Books Not Bombs advances this mission in several vital ways. It provides Syrians in dangerous situations an avenue to pursue an education that would otherwise be unattainable. It helps young Syrians develop the skills they need to rebuild their country after the conflict. It provides a valuable cultural learning opportunity for both Syrian and American students. Most importantly, it breaks, the cycle of violence in a small but meaningful way. It tells Assad and any who threaten the Syrian people that we are investing in a beautiful future for Syria and Syria’s youth–a future within our reach.

The conflict in Syria has dragged on for five years too long. The fear of a whole generation of Syrians losing their chance at an education is becoming a terrifying reality. This “lost generation” is the generation that can rebuild Syria and promote peace if they are nurtured and given the tools to do so. Join us — call on your university to create scholarships for Syrians. Young Syrians are seeking peace and education. All we have to do is provide the Books.

Start a Books Not Bombs campaign on your campus by visiting www.books-not-bombs.com!

 jake headshotJake Ramirez serves on the STAND Managing Committee as the Campaigns Coordinator. He is a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Business Economics and minoring in Regional Development. Jake served as STAND’s Communications Coordinator for the 2014-2015 school year and helps run his local STAND chapter. Jake can be reached at jramirez@standnow.org.  

 

francesca headshotFrancesca Freeman serves on the STAND Managing Committee as the Student Director. She is a fourth year at the University of Chicago double majoring in Anthropology and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies and minoring in Human Rights. She was STAND’s Midwest Regional Organizer for the 2014-2015 school year, was involved in her high school STAND chapter, and helps organize anti-genocide initiatives at the University of Chicago. Francesca can be reached at ffreeman@standnow.org.

US Anti-Genocide Movement STAND Merges with the Aegis Trust for Genocide Prevention

US Anti-Genocide Movement STAND Merges with the Aegis Trust for Genocide Prevention

STAND, the US-based student movement to end mass atrocities, is merging with the Aegis Trust as the US branch of the Aegis Youth Department. Founded in 2003 by a group of Georgetown students, over the following years STAND chapters sprang up at schools and colleges across the USA. Originally an acronym for ‘Students Taking Action Now: Darfur’, STAND subsequently expanded its focus to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities wherever they may occur. 

This is a mission shared by the Aegis Trust, which developed in 2000 from the work of the UK National Holocaust Centre. Aegis addresses genocide as a public health issue and works to prevent it in three stages; first, through commemoration and peace-building education designed to break long-term cycles of violence; second, through research, evidence-based policy advice and advocacy for people now at risk of mass atrocities; third, through support for survivors and communities trying to rebuild when genocide is past.

Responsible for the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda – a site where some 250,000 victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide lie buried – Aegis is now being urged by leading figures in Kenya, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR) to take its successful model for peacebuilding beyond Rwanda’s borders.

In particular, the move to help CAR is backed by a youth-led campaign launched in February by STAND and Aegis Students, the youth arm of the Aegis Trust. With STAND now sharing the Aegis umbrella, ‘Action for CAR’ (www.action4CAR.org) promises to be the first such international youth-led campaign.

“Aegis is an international leader in the field of genocide prevention and we’re excited to be a part of their expansion,” said Natasha Kieval, Student Director at STAND. Mac Hamilton, STAND Executive Manager added, “Merging with Aegis strengthens our impact and broadens our resources to fight against genocide and mass atrocities internationally. By joining Aegis, with their focus on youth empowerment for peacebuilding, we will only expand our commitment to experiential student leadership.”

“We have long admired the passion and commitment of our colleagues at STAND. The Aegis team is delighted to be joined by them in this merger,” says Dr James Smith, CEO of the Aegis Trust. “We know from experience just how important youth-led advocacy and peacebuilding are in breaking cycles of violence, and we look forward to working closely with our American colleagues not only for the Central African Republic, but ultimately for the prevention of mass atrocities wherever people are at risk.”

Weekly News Brief 5/02/2013

Sudan

About 95 people are still missing three days after the collapse of a gold mine pit in North Darfur. Sources say rescue workers have not yet reached the Jebel ‘Amer mine, which the local commissioner attributes to the poor security situation in the region. In January, Jebel ‘Amer was the source of a deadly conflict between the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes who fought over its control. More than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013. For a summary of the recent escalation of violence in Darfur click here. For a brief summary of the conflict in Darfur as it has evolved over the past decade click here.The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels swept through Umm Rawaba in North Kordofan on Saturday morning in an attack that took the Sudanese government and observers by surprise. The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which launched an unprecedented assault on Sudan’s twin capital city of Omdurman in May 2008, confirmed its role in the attack. JEM is a member of the SRF, which also includes the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), which is fighting the Sudanese army in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. It also includes the factions of Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and another of Abdel-Wahid Mohamed Nur (SLM-AW).

A new report confirms Sudan’s renewal of support to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group from October 2009 through at least February 2013. The report includes satellite imagery of a likely LRA encampment in Sudanese-controlled territory where rebel leader Joseph Kony was last sighted in late 2012 and reportedly remained for several weeks. The imagery indicates the camp was abandoned by March 2013, but Kony reportedly remains nearby in neighboring Central African Republic and could seek to reestablish his presence in Sudanese-controlled territory in coming months.

A first round of mediated peace talks between Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement – North has ended without an agreement. Talks are centered on politics, security and providing humanitarian aid to Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

South Sudan

More than 1,000 members of one of the largest active rebel groups in South Sudan, the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM), are poised to lay down arms and surrender to the government, officials said last week. According to a government spokesperson, the surrendering rebels will not be prosecuted. South Sudan President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to all rebel groups operating in South Sudan after he took office in 2011. The SSLM was formed in 1999 to fight with southern Sudanese rebels against Khartoum in Sudan’s long civil war. But ahead of South Sudan’s independence in 2011, the rebels turned against Juba, accusing officials of corruption and tribal favoritism. They were one of the largest of the active rebel groups in the state. A team from the SPLA is scheduled to arrive in Unity State on Friday for talks on integrating members of the SSLM into the national army.

An attack on Pibor town by about 200 insurgents led by David Yau Yau has left one SPLA soldier and two rebels dead, officials said Tuesday. The attack, which took place on Monday, followed another raid by Yau Yau’s forces on an SPLA base on Sunday. No one was killed in that attack, which came days after South Sudan President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to six rebel groups, including Yau Yau’s, who have been fighting the government. SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said the attack on Pibor made it clear that Yau Yau was not going to accept Kiir’s offer of amnesty.

The spokesperson for the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) has denied the group was among thousands of rebel fighters that surrendered to the government after accepting an amnesty offer by president Salva Kiir. The SSDM/A was formed in 2010 by former SPLA general George Athor after he failed in his bid to become governor of Jonglei state.

Syria

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emphasized Iran’s ongoing support for the Assad administration and stated that a rebel victory would destabilize the whole region on Sunday. His remarks follow efforts by Egyptian and Iranian officials to establish an “Islamic quartet” with Turkey and Saudi Arabia to help resolve the conflict. On Tuesday, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah made similar remarks, saying that the Assad regime has “real friends in the region” that would not allow it to fall. The main opposition group, the National Syrian Coalition, condemned his statements as threats and warned against any intervention by Iran or Hezbollah.

On Monday, an Israeli lawmaker stated that that Syria’s chemical weapons have begun “trickling” to Hezbollah and that he “has no doubt” that the Assad administration has already used chemical weapons. Israeli defense officials have distanced themselves from this statement. Turkish government and health officials announced Wednesday that Turkey has begun testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties to assess whether or not they were the victims of chemical weapons. Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said Tuesday that the use of chemical weapons in Syria cannot be tolerated and demanded a UN investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Aleppo by rebel groups. He has so far refused calls for investigation into two other alleged uses of chemical weapons.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that there is “limited but growing” evidence that the Assad regime has in fact used chemical weapons and agreed with the Obama administration’s warning that use of chemical weapons would constitute a ‘red line’ for possible intervention, but cautioned that the latest intelligence does not yet constitute proof of such usage. Meanwhile, President Obama stated that he was not prepared to act unilaterally in Syria and suggested that an international consensus on whether or not the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria would be necessary for any military intervention. Senior administration officials have also revealed that the Obama administration is preparing to arm the Syrian opposition and has “taken steps to assert more aggressive U.S. leadership” among those seeking to oust President Assad. The officials also emphasized that the administration will continue to pursue political negotiation and is seeking to dissuade Russia from continuing its support of the Assad administration.

On Wednesday, President Assad made a public appearance at a power plant in central Damascus to commemorate Labour Day as one of only three public visits this year. This visit comes a day after a bombing in downtown Damascus was reported by Syrian state television to have killed at least 13 people and wounded many others. On Monday, a car bombing targeting Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki exploded, killing at least nine people.

Burma

More anti-Muslim violence erupted again on Tuesday. Mosques and Muslim-owned properties were destroyed, although with no injuries have yet been reported. A Buddhist monk named Wirathu, who calls himself the “Burmese Bin Laden”, has been inciting anti-Muslim sentiments and gaining popularity across central Burma. He was sentenced to 25 years of prison in 2001 for his preaching but was released in 2010. Wirathu and his nationalist, anti-Muslim movement known as “969” has been accused of inspiring recent sectarian violence against Muslims in Meikhtila, Central Burma, which has left over 40 dead and 13,000 displaced.

Human Rights Watch published a report on the status of Rohingya in Burma on April 22. The Rohingya are a stateless, Muslim people in Western Burma that were the subject of widespread communal violence late last year. The report urges the Myanmar government to grant citizenship and other basic human rights to the Rohingya and allow humanitarian organizations and the UN access to afflicted areas. Most importantly, however, Human Rights Watch accuses the Myanmar government of failing to stop ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. A day after the Human Rights Watch report, Myanmar President Thein Sein was awarded a prize for his efforts towards peace by the International Crisis Group. Additionally, the EU lifted many of its sanctions against Burma. However, an arms embargo remains in place.

In response to the sectarian violence against Muslims late last year, a Myanmar government commission released its findings on Monday. The investigation suggested that family planning education would help mitigate the “undermined peaceful coexistence” caused by the Rohingya. Additionally, the commission recommended upholding the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law that denies citizenship and other basic rights to the Rohingya. The commission also claimed that those displaced should not yet return to their homes because the risk of violence is still too great. However, the commission did urge the Myanmar government to quell hate speech and increase aid funding.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

At the end of March the UNSC approved a resolution to extend the mandate of MONUSCO, the UN force in the DRC, and to create an intervention brigade tasked with conducting “targeted offensive operations” against rebel groups. The brigade will be led by a Tanzanian general and will consist of 3,069 troops from Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. Christoph Vogel at Think Africa Press is skeptical that an additional force will be able to solve the underlying issues any better than previous forces. With such a small number of troops, it is unlikely that the intervention brigade will be able to confront the multiple armed groups that have formed in the DRC. Their inability to focus on more multiple issues may discredit them in the eyes of locals. In order for the brigade to be successful, he argues, it will need a flexible set of rules of engagement, material assets and equipment, and political support at various rebels. Many human rights leaders and activists have expressed concern that the intervention brigade will only further escalate violence against women and girls in the region.

According to IRIN, tens of thousands of displaced people in Katanga Province have received little or no humanitarian aid since attacks in December and January. Displacements are ongoing, with the most recent attack occurring on March 23. There are currently only 450 UN troops in Katanga, which is an area the size of France.

On April 29, Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, met with the senior leadership of the DRC and the UN mission in the DRC. Robinson is the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and was appointed to this new position in March.

M23 ex-combatants are renouncing their ties with the group and applying for refugee status in Rwanda. If refugee status is given, they will be free to move freely or move to refugee camps in different parts of the country.