Podcast: The Coda
‘Stop Burning this Country to the Ground’
34. Hungary: Learning useful lessons from your enemies May 11, 2023
In recent months, a sustained uprising in Iran, led by women, has inspired admiration and support across the world. It is by no means the first time in over 40 years of fundamentalist Islamic rule – there have been repeated waves of courageous protest since 1979. The poem in this episode’s Coda is by the late yet still beloved Iranian poet Simi Behbahani, and was written during a moment of rebellion in 2009 when citizens came out to reject election results they believed had been rigged. Human rights activists Farnoosh Hashemian reflects on what the poem – and its author – mean to her.
Music: “Morgh e Sahar” (Bird of the Dawn) by Ostad Morteza Naydavoud, performed by Kayhan Kalhor (Kamancheh or Spiked Fiddle) and Yo-Yo Ma (Cello).
Farnoosh Hashemian, bio
Wikipedia: Simin Behbahani: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simin_Behbahani
NPR: Poet Simin Behbahani: Neda Is ‘Voice Of The People Of Iran’
Wikipedia: Morq-e Sahar, “Unofficial national anthem for Iranian Freedom”
Youtube: Morq-e Sahar played by Kayhan Kalhor and Yo-Yo Ma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHi-fj9iX6g
‘When we go to the Ministry of Defense, we start with poetry.’
33. Strategy: The pain of charting a new course– and the gain April 20, 2023
Human rights advocate Dilrabo Samadova marvels at the way poems show up in absolutely every aspect of life in her country, Tajikistan. She says solidarity, justice, and equality feature in Persian poetry as far back as the sixth and seventh centuries, proving these are not “foreign values.”
Dilrabo Samadova: https://notorturetj.org/en/address/dilrabo-samadova-public-association-office-civil-freedoms-i-do-very-right-job
Office of Civil Freedoms: https://freedom.tj/
Bani Adam by Sa’adi Shirazi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bani_Adam
Tajik Literature and poetry: https://www.advantour.com/tajikistan/culture/literature.htm
Poet – Rumi: https://www.rumi.org.uk/love_poems/
Poet – Omar Khayyam: https://nikmood.com/11-khayyam-poems-in-english-and-farsi/
Poet – Loik Sherali: https://www.nasimfekrat.com/search/label/Loiq%20Sher-Ali?m=0
‘These young artistes are fearless!’
32. South Africa: The challenge of offering solidarity without strings March 29, 2023
For Tutu Alicante, human rights lawyer and longtime activist against dictatorship and corruption in Equatorial Guinea, it has sometimes felt like a long and uphill struggle. But there are some new kids on the block – young artistes who are using their music to condemn the illegitimate wealth of the president and his family, and the shocking poverty of the country’s people. “It gives me a lot of hope,” says Tutu, “it’s become very clear to me that we need other avenues to combat autocracy, to combat kleptocracy, high level corruption. And music is a universal language.”
Music featured in the Coda:
Negro Bey “Carta al Presidente” from the album “Reliquia”
Russo Nnangdong “Cuestión de Libertad” from the album “Kuestiones”
Tutu Alicante bio: https://www.magnitskyawards.com/bios/tutu-alicante/
EG Justice: https://egjustice.org/
Negro Bey, Carta al Presidente: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MleHYf4seI
Russo Nnandong, “Cuestión de Libertad”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijkg_dVT8Ko
Human Rights Watch – Equatorial Guinea page: https://www.hrw.org/africa/equatorial-guinea
The liberating power of an Audre Lorde metaphor
30. Egypt: The price of defeat, the power of conviction January 31, 2023
Two years ago, Nigerian environmental rights campaigner, Ken Henshaw, had never heard of black lesbian feminist, Audre Lorde or her lecture, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. But when someone gave him a copy of Lorde’s fiery take-down of white feminist academics for avoiding discomfort and hanging on to their privileged connection with the white patriarchy, Ken was transfixed. Could he apply the ‘Master’s Tools’ metaphor to his own activism? Had he really been challenging the oil companies and the government, or was he working within limits they prescribed?
Music featured in the Coda: Tchakare Kanyembe, Album: Live at Sacred Fire Stage Boom 2008, Track 2
Ken Henshaw, bio
We The People
Audre Lorde’s The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.
‘It’s about finding our own way towards freedom’
29. Human Rights: A tension at the heart of the United Nations January 11, 2023
Seamus Heaney’s poem Casualty, written amid the troubles in Northern Ireland, circles around themes of violence, complicity and freedom. It turns on an event that followed Bloody Sunday, the day in 1972 when British soldiers shot dead 13 unarmed civilians in Derry as they were protesting internment without trial. Criminal defense lawyer Chris Stone reads the poem about a friend of Heaney’s who refused to abide by a curfew called by the IRA, and reflects on its brilliance, and the profound impact it had on him.
Seamus Heaney’s Casualty: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/51607/casualty-56d22f7512b97
Bloody Sunday, or the Bogside Massacre: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)
Chris Stone: https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/people/christopher-stone
Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights: https://strengthandsolidarity.org/about/
‘We always fall. But you keep trying until you reach the top’
28. Guatemala: The digital spark that ignited a protest movement December 20, 2022
Johnson Ching-Yin Yeung, a social justice and rights activist in Hong Kong, knows that setbacks in his work are inevitable, but rock climbing teaches him an important lesson. Climbing with ropes requires you to trust your fellow climbers. You will certainly fall from time to time but their support, a determination to succeed, and the prospect of a magnificent view from the top – keeps you going.
Johnson Yeung on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_Yeung
Guardian: ‘My head was completely free’: the rise of climbing as therapy https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/apr/08/my-head-was-completely-free-the-rise-of-climbing-as-therapy
South China Morning Post (paywall): Hong Kong protests: heavy jail sentences for rioting will not solve city’s political crisis, former Civil Human Rights Front convenor says https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3020905/hong-kong-protests-heavy-jail-sentences-rioting-will-not?module=perpetual_scroll_0&pgtype=article&campaign=3020905
Transcript: How tactics and structure informed the struggle in Hong Kong https://strengthandsolidarity.org/paper/how-tactics-and-structure-informed-the-struggle-in-hong-kong/
Podcast : Hong Kong: Winning support abroad for the struggle at home https://strengthandsolidarity.org/podcast/5-winning-support-abroad-for-the-struggle-at-home/
When dancing Salsa is good for human rights
27. Palestine: Refusing to be a second-class citizen December 08, 2022
Vivian Newman Pont is a human rights advocate and researcher at Dejusticia in Colombia. The work exposes her and her colleagues to the impact of war and impunity and inevitably takes a toll. When things get too much, Vivian fires up some music and gets out on the dance floor.
- Bio: Vivian Newman Pont
- Dejusticia website
- Indiana University Salsa Project: Politics and Salsa
- Book: Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences by Kristin Luker
Music Featured in the Coda:
- “Oriente” by Asere from “Cuba! Cuba!” from the album, Putumayo Presents
“La Noche” by Alvaro Jose Arroyo from the album, Grandes Exitos
Waywardness – how targeted minorities refuse oppression
25. Europe: Building solidarity with Migrants and Refugees June 22, 2022
For minority communities it can be exhausting to sustain morale and self-confidence in the face of exclusion and stereotyping. Raheel Mohammed, director of Maslaha, a London-based organization dedicated to defending and supporting muslim communities, has been moved and inspired by the writings of Saidiya Hartman on waywardness – as a strategy to refuse oppression, even when you are incarcerated.
- Raheel Mohammed, Maslaha
- Raising the voice of Muslim people in prison during Ramadan, Maslaha
- An Exhilarating Work of History About Daring Adventures in Love, The New York Times (February 2019)
- Hartman, Saidiya V. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2019
Staying hopeful in dark times
24. Afghanistan: Can the Taliban tame the hunger for rights? June 06, 2022
Last month, Ferdinand Marcos Junior was elected president of the Philippines, thirty-six years after his father was chased from office by the People Power revolution in 1986. For activists like Mary Jane Real, this is grim news, bringing back memories of brutal rule, torture and impunity. But an essay by Rebecca Solnit has given her a surprising insight.
- Mary Jane Real
- Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the inexplicable – The New Yorker, 2014
- Bong Bong Marcos (BBM)
- The return of a Marcos to power in the Philippines is a warning to the world – The Guardian, May 2022
Keeping faith with your country – from exile
22. Part 1 – A high stakes struggle to secure rights and justice for Libya April 21, 2022
For the human rights defender forced to leave their home country to get away from threats of violence or detention, there is a strange life ahead – of dislocation and adaption to a new culture, while remaining umbilically connected to their place of origin. Guatemalan activist Gabriel Wer shares a poem by celebrated Argentinian poet Juan Gelman who lived much of his life in exile.
Valuing friction in the work of advancing rights
21. Myanmar’s citizens battle military rule – alone March 31, 2022
Denise Levertov’s poem, Making Peace, says that we bring peace into the world by speaking it, and for Ryan Figueiredo, there’s special meaning here for the social justice activist. Fighting to make rights and justice a reality inevitably causes in friction but that’s not a negative, Ryan says, it polishes us in the work that we do. Perhaps we are – as the poem has it – “facets of the forming crystal” we hope to grow.
Real activism happens IRL (in real life)
19. Social movement or professional NGO? Can it be both? February 28, 2022
In recent years, human rights lawyer and racial justice activist Nani Jansen Reventlow has been helping to build a vibrant digital rights field. But as important as online spaces are for advancing rights, she’s worried about people forgetting that real change only happens in the real world and she’s calling on Gil Scott Heron – the late but still much beloved poet, musician and social critic – to help her make the point.
“The Revolution will not be televised” by Gil Scott-Heron was featured on the album Pieces of a Man released on the Flying Dutchman label in 1971
Stop scrolling and read!
18. An epic struggle against military rule in Sudan February 12, 2022
Irish human rights leader Liam Herrick doesn’t know exactly how it happened, but one day he realized he had stopped reading literature and history even though he had always loved books. Inspired by his kids’ love of stories, he set out to regain the reading habit.
- Profile of Liam Herrick
- WSJ: The Therapeutic Value of Reading
- Inkheart, by Claudia Funke
Being Queer in Malaysia: ‘A little bit out but – still not out’
17. Aim high! A Victory for New York’s Undocumented Workers January 20, 2022
Queer rights activist Henry Koh reflects that in their home country Malaysia, the only space where queer people are acknowledged is on screen – in flamboyant characters played for laughs. They reflects on growing up gay in a society that expects you to stay in the closet.
Finding inner calm by swimming in turbulent waters
15. Pushing back against xenophobia in South Korea August 26, 2021
When Mike Davis, CEO of Global Witness, wants to take a break from calling out states’ harm to the environment or corporate corruption, he dons a wetsuit and heads out into the waves.
A song from Argentina that evokes community and creativity
14. Protecting the mental health of human rights workers August 11, 2021
Economic and social justice campaigner Ignacio Saiz tells us about a song that means a great deal to him – Balderrama, by the great Mercedes Sosa. It celebrates a famous bar in Argentina’s far northern town of Salta, whose musicians and regulars cherish the community that gathers there.
Getting into good trouble in Zimbabwe
12. Building activist movements for the long haul July 13, 2021
Inspired by the late US Congressman John Lewis, young activist Namatai Kwekweza reflects on the difference between bad trouble and good trouble and explains why she’s determined to keep making a noise about injustice: “I personally believe that if the noise didn’t really achieve anything, then they wouldn’t be telling us to keep quiet.”
Being the light of the world… an activist on the demands of her faith
11. What’s so great about a feminist manager? June 30, 2021
Yemi Adamolekun is inspired by the Gospel of Matthew which calls on Christians to project their values and shine so that all can see their faith in action. But on the reluctance of Nigerian churches to take a stand on issues like corruption, she comments: “I’ve come to realize that being light and being salt will make you unpopular. It’s much safer not to be seen as anti-government.”
- Gospel of Matthew, 5: 13-16 (New King James Version)
- The Sermon on the Mount (Wikipedia)
- Enough is Enough Nigeria
- More about Yemi Adamolekun
Lessons in courage from a Salvadoran Archbishop
10. Mexico: In search of trust – beyond privilege and exclusion June 17, 2021
When Jim Goldston arrived El Salvador as an early career lawyer in 1987, he was appalled by the right–wing junta’s violence against its own citizens. He quickly joined local efforts to document the atrocities perpetrated by El Salvador’s state-instigated death squads. While there, Jim constantly encountered the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero – a Salvadoran religious leader who was assassinated in 1980 for speaking out against state repression. Romero’s words, and memories of his leadership, were still fresh in the minds of Jim’s colleagues and he quickly found himself renewing his commitments to a career in rights.
- A Year of Reckoning: El Salvador a Decade After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero : An Americas Watch Report, March 1990, by James Goldston – March 1, 1990
- Roque Dalton’s Poems Clandestinas/Clandestine Poems (Spanish and English edition (English and Spanish Edition), New Americas Press, April 1, 1984
- La Nueva Canción: The New Song Movement in South America
- Las Casas de Carton by Los Guaraguao
- Archbishop Óscar Romero Becomes a Saint, But His Death Still Haunts El Salvador, The New Yorker, 2018
Poetry – the secret weapon that helped topple a regime
9. Nigeria: Driving Police Reform Through Mass Protest June 03, 2021
Suliman Baldo has been an advocate for human rights in Sudan for decades, working outside the country with organisations and citizen groups to support those standing up against the oppressive regime of Omar El Beshir. Engaging young activists and organisers of the uprising in 2018-19, he saw how musicians, artists and poets were playing a key role in expressing popular hope and seeding the language of protest. He shares a poem by the late Yousif El Badawi, and then quotes verses by Azhari Mohammed Ali that were chanted in the streets.
A 20th-century revolutionary poet offers solace and strength to a contemporary human rights activist and and campaigner
8. When does the language of rights have power? March 30, 2021
Kazi Nazrul Islam is the national poet of Bangladesh, writer of impassioned political verse and composer of songs encouraging his people to rebel against British rule and throw off the colonial yoke. Lifelong human rights campaigner and lawyer Adilur Rahman Khan grew up hearing Nazrul at home and continues to feel energized and inspired by his legacy.
- The Rebel (Bidrohi)
- Celebrating Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rebel Poet of Bengal
- Ongoing harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan, Frontline Defenders
- More about Odhikar
A veteran activist in Israel on a poem she has come to cherish
7. What do human rights leaders need? March 19, 2021
Jessica Montell is a veteran human rights activist in Israel, where she leads HaMoked, an organization dedicated to supporting Palestinians in the occupied territories whose rights are being violated by Israeli government policies. She is a past leader of the human rights organization B’Tselem and of SISO, an Israel-Diaspora partnership against the occupation. She shared her reflections on a poem by Marge Piercy, called To be of Use.
“To be of use” by Marge Piercy Copyright ©1973, 1982 by Marge Piercy From CIRCLES ON THE WATER, Alfred A. Knopf. Used by permission of Robin Straus Agency, Inc.”
How a 1970 samba promised Brazilians a future beyond dictatorship
6. Argentina: A stunning victory for women March 04, 2021
The song seemed straight-forward. The singer is fed up with his domineering partner and warns: in spite of you, things are going to be OK. The day will come when you will pay for the tears you have caused. But the lyrics of singer-songwriter Chico Buarque’s Apesar de Voce carried a dual meaning and Brazilians living under military dictatorship understood the true target of his critique. Activist Alessandra Orofino tells us the song is still inspiring her today.
- Song: Apesar de Voce
- Wikipedia: Chico Buarque
- Lyrics and background to Apesar de Voce
- “Brazilian Popular Music: the soundtrack of the political opening (1975/1982)” by Marcus Napolitano
A Mexican feminist speaks women’s truth to men’s power – 300 years ago
5. Hong Kong: Winning support abroad for the struggle at home February 12, 2021
Juana Inés de la Cruz was born in the mid-seventeenth century in Mexico and – exceptionally for a woman in that time – grew up to be an intellectually brilliant and passionate philosopher, musical composer and poet. She was under pressure to marry but chose instead to enter a religious order where she continued to study and write and dazzle her intellectual community. South African human rights lawyer Kayum Ahmed came across a scorching poem – “A Philosophical Satire” – she wrote to denounce the contradictory attitudes of men towards women and he was stunned by the power of her fiercely independent feminist voice.
- More about Juana Inés de la Cruz
- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: The First Great Latin American Poet
- Sor Juana, or, the Traps of Faith by Octavio Paz
Afghan champion of human rights Shaharzad Akbar shares a poem by American 19th century poet Emily Dickinson
4. China: Securing local funding for rights January 28, 2021
In our podcast’s first episode, Afghanistan Human Rights Commission chair Sharharzad Akbar said of daily life in her country, under a constant barrage of terrorist attacks, that “when you leave in the morning, you don’t know if you’ll come back in the evening, every single day.” She told us that she wanted to be able to offer her commissioners and staff encouragement even when she could not be certain there was a positive future ahead. In this episode’s Coda, she shares a poem that reminds her that hope is always within reach.
More on Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
Text of the poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers”
More on the work of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, mentioned by Shaharzad Akbar
Transcript of Shaharzad Akbar’s interview with Strength and Solidarity
US civil rights activist Charles Cobb Jr shares a song commemorating the day that US civil rights activists met an African anti-colonial fighter in 1963
3. Has the human rights framework outlived its purpose? January 05, 2021
This episode’s Coda spotlights a brief but — to the participants — momentous encounter in 1963 between young black activists in the US civil rights struggle and a prominent African anti-colonial fighter. Kenya’s Oginga Odinga, shortly to become his country’s Vice-President, was on a tour of the United States at the invitation of the State Department when leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, got wind of his presence in Atlanta and asked for a meeting. Charles Cobb Jr, then a field organizer in Mississippi, was in the group that sat down with Odinga – a meeting commemorated in a song by the SNCC Freedom Singers.
- Background on Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
- SNCC Workers Meet Oginga Odinga, December 1963 – SNCC Digital Gateway
Turkish human rights leader Murat Celikkan shares an Ariel Dorfman poem that evokes the pain and fierce determination of the “disappeared” and their loved ones
2. South Africa: Rebuilding a movement’s culture after crisis January 05, 2021
Veteran human rights defender Murat Celikkan has been in jail three times — he knows what it is like to be locked up for your beliefs. Formerly a senior journalist and editor whose solidarity with Kurdish journalists was the cause of his most recent incarceration, he now co-leads Hafiza Merkezi, or Truth, Justice and Memory Center, in Istanbul which works to uncover the fate of numerous individuals forcibly disappeared by the Turkish state in the late 90s and never seen again. For the Coda, Murat chose to share a poem by Ariel Dorfman that speaks intimately and powerfully to the issue of abduction and the anguish of those left without information or contact about their loved ones.
- Other poems by Ariel Dorfman
- A Day in the Life of a Jailed Writer and Human Rights Advocate Murat Çelikkan – Literary Hub
- Learn more about the Turkish rights organization Hafiza Merkezi
- Chile: Now More Than Ever by Ariel Dorfman – The New York Review, August 2018
A reading of the Persian poet Hafez’s ‘10,000 Idiots’ by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
1. Afghanistan: Daring to believe in human rights January 05, 2021
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his role until 2018 as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had the task of urging member states to meet their obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and calling them out when they failed. The role required him to take a tough stance in defence of rights yet he came to acknowledge the limits of his role as a supporter of those fighting for their rights. In this episode’s Coda, Zeid shares a poem by 14th Century poet Hafez on the perils of arrogance
- Background on Hafez – The Poetry Foundation
- Background on Zeid Ra’ad Al Huessein – OHCHR