Issue 311: Leading Dissidents Meet Inside the UN, Challenge World Leaders on Rights Abuses

Leading Dissidents Meet Inside the UN,
Challenge World Leaders on Rights Abuses

NEW YORK, Sept. 21, 2011 – With the eyes of the world focused on the UN in New York, leading dissidents and human rights activists from Iran, Syria, Cuba, Burma, North Korea, China assembled inside the world body today, calling for oppressive regimes to be ousted from key UN human rights panels.

Organized by UN Watch with 20 co-sponsoring groups, China’s Yang Jianli, Iran’s Ahmad Batebi and other former prisoners of conscience gathered for theWe Have A Dream: Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution, with marathon sessions today at Manhattan’s W Hotel and then at UN headquarters.

Testifying of their harrowing experiences in fighting repression, the dissidents are working to finalize a declaration (click here for draft text) to be adopted tomorrow. The draft appeal calls for the removal of China, Cuba, Iran and Saudi Arabia from key UN rights bodies. The manifesto will demand respect for the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and refute a frequent argument of authoritarian regimes by asserting that basic freedoms apply to all peoples, all societies, at all times.

On the eve of an address to the UN General Assembly by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian dissident Ahmad Batebi,who spent nearly a decade being abused and tortured in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, told the summit:

“Ahmadinejad is at the UN representing a regime that executes more people in the world than any other country except for China… This regime threw me in prison, and made me confess by sticking my head in the toilet.”

Batebi said: “My dream during the dark days in prison was to die. It is very different from my dream today.” He continued, “I want the world to know that no dictatorial regime can be dealt with through persuasion.”

The summit also heard from the celebrated Cuban dissident blogger YoaniSanchez, who delivered her address by telephone from Havana after sending a Twitter message to the organizers informing them of her desire to speak. Sanchez told the summit: “Technology enables us to reach those places where our government does not permit us to travel. But the path to end the state monopoly on information is still a long one for us.” Sanchez ended her remarks by urging the UN to act decisively on the vital issue of access to the internet, declaring: “Today’s information is tomorrow’s democracy!”

Syrian dissident Rami Nakhleh, who recently escaped Syria after organizing protests against the Assad regime through social media, told the summit of the Syrian people’s yearning for freedom. Nakhleh said: “We Syrians have tasted freedom, we will never give it up. Today, there is even more reason to topple Assad’s regime than six months ago.”

North Korean defector Young Ae Ma, a former intelligence officer who became a Christian and was then imprisoned and tortured by Kim Jong Il’s security services, told a rapt summit audience of her experiences under one of the world’s most secretive and repressive regimes. Noting the continuing attempts by western nations to engage the Kim regime diplomatically, Young Ae Ma declared: “Kim Jong Il has to be overthrown before we can even talk about human rights in North Korea.”

* The We Have A Dream summit continues tomorrow from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the W Hotel in New York City, at 541 Lexington Avenue (49th St.). The public is welcome; admission is free. Click for program.

UN Watch