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Mourning the death of a colleague, and fearing for the life of another

April 2011

Sometimes the work we engage in as people who believe in a just peace in the face of a brutal world is quite simply heart breaking. Today is such a day.

  A longtime leader in the struggle for Palestinian freedom and creative solutions for peace, Juliano Mer Khamis was gunned down in Jenin. Juliano helped direct the Jenin Freedom Theatre, a longtime Grassroots International grantee and source of inspiration to people across the world. Facts about the circumstances of his death are still unfolding, as is the profound loss for such an important and vibrant young.   Juliano’s Israeli-Jewish mother founded the first children’s theater in Jenin refugee camp, and he described himself as “100 percent Palestinian and 100 percent Jewish.” His film about his mother’s theater, Arna’s Children, honors her work and is considered by many as one of the best documentaries to come out from Palestine.   Grassroots International joins with others across the world in mourning his death.   Today we also learned that our ally Miriam Miranda Chamorro, president of the Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), was attacked and arrested as she attended a peaceful protest in solidarity with striking teachers in Honduras. Authorities in the municipality of Tela stormed the protest and arrested Miriam—she was the only person detained from the large group and was held at the police station for 10 hours.   OFRANEH is an organization which has worked since 1978 for the promotion of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna community’s capacity for self-determination through programs which support their political, social, economic and cultural advancement. Miriam was a participant in the 2005 Dublin Platform for human rights defenders.   During her arrest, a number of tear-gas canisters were reportedly fired directly at Miriam, striking her in the stomach and causing her serious injuries. She was reportedly dragged along the ground, beaten and subjected to racially-charged insults by police. She was then taken directly to police station in the municipality of Tela, where it is reported that she was held in detention for some two and a half hours before being read her rights. Four hours after her arrest, she received medical treatment for burns on her stomach, pulmonary spasms as well as blows sustained all over her body during her arrest.   Miriam was “provisionally” released in the evening of March 28. However, she now faces charges of sedition and blocking the public’s right of way. The former charge carries the possibility of 10 to 15 years imprisonment.   Grassroots International joins with our allies the American Jewish World Service, Urgent Action Fund and Front Line in urging authorities in Honduras to:  

  1. Drop all charges against human rights defender Miriam Miranda Chamorro, as it is believed that the legal action against her is solely related to her legitimate and peaceful work in defense of human rights;
  2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation with a view to identifying those responsible for the injuries Miriam sustained and bringing them to justice in accordance with international standards; and
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Honduras are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

 To take action on behalf of Miriam, please contact Hugo Llorens, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras at 011 + 504 + 2236-9320 or via mail to: Embajada de los Estados Unidos de América, Avenida La Paz, Tegucigalpa M.D.C., Honduras..   Those like Juliano and Miriam who do the front-line work to create a more just world, who challenge those who abuse power and who mobilize others often face violence and repression. Their voices remind us of the power of people to affect change, and the importance of solidarity and international support.   Sometimes the work we engage in as people who believe in a just peace in the face of a brutal world is quite simply heart breaking. And sometimes it is all we can do to make meaning in an unjust world. Juliano Mer Khamis – Viva!

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