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(Amsterdam) – Human Rights Watch, in collaboration with De Balie, ASN Bank, and De Groene Amsterdammer, will present the second edition of the Human Rights Weekend from January 31 to February 2, 2014. The event will take place at De Balie in Amsterdam.

The theme of the weekend is “Close to Home: human rights violations in and around Europe.” The weekend will include films and discussions with their directors, Human Rights Watch experts, photographers and journalists. Topics include Russia and the Pussy Riot punk rock group, war journalism, freedom of expression in Belarus, LGBT-rights in Serbia, land grabbing, life in a Palestinian refugee camp, and documenting change in Egypt.

“The Netherlands has often been in the forefront of the human rights movement,” said Anna Timmerman, Netherlands director at Human Rights Watch. “We want to build on that interest with an interesting array of films and discussions about key human rights issues affecting Europe.”

Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, will speak at the opening program on January 31. He will discuss the greatest challenges of our time for the human rights movement, based on Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014, to be released on January 21.


Friday, January 31
7:30 p.m.
Opening: Close to Home

Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, will discuss the greatest challenges of our time for the human rights movement, in response to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014, to be released on January 21. His discussion will be followed by an interview with Lama Fakih, Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch, about the most recent developments in Syria. The moderator will be Max Christern, journalist, publisher, and presenter.

9 p.m.
“Pussy Riot – a Punk Prayer” (Russia)

Director: Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin
Running time: 86 minutes

In the winter of 2011, after a controversial election, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin as president of Russia. The vote followed months of mass protests that challenged Putin’s rule. Around the same time, a group of young, radical-feminist punk rockers known as Pussy Riot took a stand against the direction in which Putin was taking Russia. Wearing colorful balaclavas, tights, and summer dresses, they entered Moscow’s most venerated cathedral and air-guitared their way through 40 seconds of “Mother Mary, Banish Putin!” Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin collaborated to chronicle the way one small act of protest captured global attention and to show the personal side of Pussy Riot.

Lerner and Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, will be at De Balie to talk about the courage of these young women, who despite everything remain committed to their protest against the government.  The moderator will be Casper Thomas of De Groene Amsterdammer.

Saturday, February 1
2 p.m.
“A World Not Ours”  (Lebanon, Palestinian diaspora, refugees)
Director: Mahdi Fleifel
Running time: 93 minutes

In a World Not Ours, Mahdi Fleifel enables viewers to feel for his family, friends, and home as strongly as if they were their own. His themes are universal, yet rooted in a specific place: the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh in Lebanon. The camp’s name translates as “Sweet Spring.” It was hastily built in 1948 and houses 70,000 refugees in one square kilometer. Fleifel spent his formative years in the camp in the 1980s before his family settled in Denmark. For years, he’s been returning and keeping a video diary.

At the heart of the film is Fleifel’s relationship with his friend Abu Eyad. They share an obsession with World Cup football and Palestinian politics, but Fleifel comes and goes while Abu Eyad stays in the camp. Viewers eavesdrop on Fleifel’s conversations with the camp residents for an unfiltered take on life there and residents’ grievances with their own political leaders, Lebanon, and Israel.

Fleifel will take part in a question-and-answer session via Skype. Lama Fakih, Syria and Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, will talk about the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon at De Balie. The moderator will be Evert de Vos of De Groene Amsterdammer.

5 p.m.
Land Grabbing and Land Rights

A debate on the rise of land grabbing by investors in the name of economic development, which has led to increased human rights abuses and destroyed livelihoods. Across Africa, Latin America, and Asia, hundreds of cases have emerged. In the last two years, after much public debate and campaigning by advocacy groups and victims, companies and governments have made a range of policy commitments to help stamp out this damaging practice. The big question is whether the commitments will achieve real change on the ground.

Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, Farah Karimi, director of Oxfam Novib, and Jan Burger of Coca-Cola will participate in this debate. The moderator will be Hansje van der Zwaan-Plagman, senior adviser sustainability at ASN Bank.The program is in collaboration with Oxfam Novib and ASN Bank.

7 p.m.
Close to Home: Voice of the Refugee

What is it like to be a refugee living in The Netherlands? After a difficult journey often wrought with dangers, refugees arrive in The Netherlands hoping to start a new life in a safe environment. However, life in The Netherlands may also translate to being homeless, always being on the watch for the police, fear of detention centers and expulsion, discrimination and loneliness. Refugees tell their stories about how they came to The Netherlands, their fight with diverse situations they encountered, and their daily life. Evert De Vos of the Groene Amsterdammer will be the moderator.

9 p.m.
“Dangerous Acts, Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus” (Belarus)
Director: Madeleine Sackler
Running time: 76 minutes

Belarus is called the last dictatorship in Europe, but it is hardly covered in the news. This documentary tells the story of the Belarus Free Theatre, a group that makes provocative theater about repression in Belarus. The group performs both nationally and internationally in an attempt to bring attention to the human rights violations under the government of Alexander Lukashenko. In the government’s ideology, alcoholism, child abuse and suicide do not exist. Topics such as sexual orientation and political diversity are taboo.

Sackler paints a picture of the underground theater group a few months before the elections of 2010 and one year after the elections. The hopeful months end in an expected and disappointing election result, which encourages the group to flee the country and find political asylum abroad. Their performances in cities such as New York turn out to be a great success, though the actors still dream of returning home to Belarus.

Hollis Kurman, Netherlands Committee member at Human Rights Watch, will conduct a question-and-answer session with Sackler via Skype, with an introduction by Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Sunday, February 2
1 p.m.
“‘Which Way Is the Front Line from Here?’ The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington” (Photojournalism, human rights activism, warzones)
Director: Sebastian Junger
Running time: 79 minutes

Film about the photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) and his search for the humanity within armed conflict. He collaborated on several missions with Human Rights Watch. During the filming of the Academy Award-nominated film “Restrepo” with Sebastian Junger, the author and documentary maker, Hetherington was looking not just for action, but also concentrating on the many smaller and seemingly insignificant moments that make a war human.

Hetherington showed the personal stories that hid behind newspaper headings. In every task he showed a deep understanding of human experiences, and a lively sense of how visual images can be used to influence social change. The images he took during the civil war in Liberia and Libya provoke a unique sense of intimacy, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding violence. Despite spending most of his life travelling to the very center of armed conflicts and wars, Hetherington looked for truth instead of adventure.

A panel discussion will consider the responsibility of journalists and researchers in conflict areas, and how far do they should go in their search for the truth. Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch will give the introduction and Lama Fakih, Syria and Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian photographer Roger Anis, and Nicole le Fever from NOS news will participate in the discussion. The moderator will be Joost de Vries of De Groene Amsterdammer.

3:30 p.m.
Reporting Change in Egypt

As a photographer for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, Roger Anis has experienced the Egyptian social unrest up close since 2011. He experienced how the initial feeling of unity among Egyptians during the protests at Tahrir Square in 2011 unraveled and changed to disunity. What is the influence of the Egyptian revolution on the daily life of citizens? How have the Copts in Egypt been used as political tools by every successive regime? And what does this mean for Egypt’s democratic transition? Monique Samuel of De Groene Amsterdammer will interview Anis on the basis of his touching images and discuss the changes that have taken place in Egypt since the revolution in 2011.

Anis takes part in the Reporting Change project, a collaboration between World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch. Reporting Change aims to document and report social unrest and developments in the Middle East and North Africa in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In the context of this project a group of photographers from the Middle East and North Africa have conducted workshops about visual journalism and research. Reporting Change is made possible by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

7 p.m.
“The Parade” (Serbia, LGBT rights)
Director: Srdjan Dragojevic
Running time: 115 minutes

Srdjan Dragojevic’s “The Parade” takes a comedic look at Serbia through the lens of one group's fight to hold a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade. Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch, will introduce the film.

When a bulldog is shot, an improbable alliance develops. Viewers meet Pearl and Mickey, a couple about to be married, and Mirko and Radmilo, a couple involved in the Gay Pride parade. Mirko happens to be Pearl’s wedding planner and Radmilo, his partner, turns out to be the veterinarian who saved Mickey’s dog's life. After a lover’s quarrel, Mickey – who is less than accepting of gay pride – makes a deal to protect the participants in the parade to win Pearl back. Mickey and Radmilo embark on a road trip across Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo as Mickey attempts to assemble a security team for the parade. As they gather Mickey’s old friends from the war, it becomes clear to all that so-called enemies are often the greatest allies.

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