2017-02-07 / Local

Human rights activist speaks in Saxtons River

SAXTONS RIVER — The state of human rights in Guatemala will be “on the menu” at the Human Rights Cafe from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at 24 Main St., Saxtons River, (Christ’s Church). The cafe is a new project of Saxtons River Community Building, welcoming all ages every Saturday morning with coffee and snacks.

Laila has recently returned from Guatemala, where she spent sixth months as a human rights accompanier with NISGUA’s Guatemala Accompaniment Project. Repression of environmental and human rights activists is what the Guatemala Accompaniment Project works to prevent. Laila was sponsored by a local committee, the NH-VT Guatemala Accompaniment Project, and by a church in Needham, Massachusetts.

During her six months in Guatemala, Laila and other accompaniers were requested to be present with communities who were seeking to regain their rights to the lands they and their families had fled during the conflicts of the 1980s. In addition, she supported the ongoing work of the survivors and witnesses to the genocidal violence who are bringing its perpetrators to trial for their crimes.

She also accompanied communities resisting development projects, like the hydroelectric dams that members of rural community in Huehuetenango were protesting. Sebastian Alonso Juan was killed Jan. 17, when private security forces and Guatemala’s National Civil Police opened fire on the peaceful protesters, and he was denied medical aid. His organization had requested accompaniment, but government forces and a roadblock kept away the network that coordinates accompaniers.

For the past 20 years, accompaniers sponsored by NH-VT G.A.P. have supported returned communities, court witnesses in the genocide cases, environmental activists, and others at risk, upon their request. NH-VT G.A.P., with members and supporters in SE Vermont and SW New Hampshire, is one of several groups throughout the US supporting such work in Guatemala, among similar supports from several other countries. The Guatemala Accompaniment Project is a program of NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, see nisgua.org).

Laila will be in our area from Feb. 13 through Feb. 23, speaking at various schools, colleges, churches, and organizations. She has a bachelor's degree (with honors) in Women's and Gender Studies from Eastern Michigan University. As a Palestinian-American, she has been active in women’s rights, Palestinian rights and solidarity with El Salvador.

Please contact Chris Hansen, marcuschristian@hotmail.com, (603) 835-6190 if you want to schedule a presentation by Laila during the weeks of Feb. 13 to 23, or if you want more information. For information about the Human Rights Café, go to srcommunity.org or contact susan@srcommunity.org.

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