The year has started at full blown speed as usually, which always gives me personally a sense of lagging behind from the beginning. The world’s outlook also keeps on changing and one of the first events that has dominated the news has been Tunisia’s Jasmine’s revolution. I’ve followed it with interest. Starting off as protests against rising food prices, a bigger call for freedom, democracy and overthrowing a totalitarian regime became part of the Tunisian protesters call. The big question will be what will it eventually lead to? A new radical regime or actually steps towards the realisation of civil liberties?
I know next to nothing about Tunisia except that it has a lot of all-inclusive resorts for European Holiday makers. The other thing I did know was that there was a totalitarian regime in place and that usually sets off a few (alarm) bells. One is clearly linked to work of my colleagues, the possibility of an Enforced Disappearances, or Political Disappearances as most people know them. In short when a state lets their adversaries disappear for political reasons. The person is usually taken in by the police or other public authorities and after that never heard off again, leaving family and friends guessing, but mostly worrying about what has happened to their loved one, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
As the women’s human rights team, my colleagues from Linking Solidarity are also trying to make sure the work of their program survives, but in part they did see the realisation of what they have worked on for years materialise: the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 23 December 2010. They’ve worked from the beginning with family member groups around the globe, but also people who themselves disappeared (sometimes they do survive), to make sure this Treaty came into being. A small video can explain you much more about the Treaty and what it means. Not the most spectacular, but believe me, the person addressing you in the video has a strong passion for this issue (and I still appreciate the Wodka he once brought back from a trip in Georgia).
How relevant this Treaty is was also shown by another news item. One of our most celebrated football heroes Ruud Gullit has decided to join the ranks of Grozny Terek a football club in Tchetyana on invitation of the current President of Tchetyana, Ramzam Kadyrov. I merely had to say this to my colleague and his immediate response was, ‘Kadyrov has blood on his hands’. My colleagues once tried to get into Tchetyana, but they were refused visa. They did manage to work with the now in Moscow based organisation Memorial, who do try to report on the atrocities that have taken place in the country over the past years. At least five of them have already paid the price with their lives for this – they were murdered. During the meeting he had with Memorial, my colleague was thinking about the question: Which person in this room will be next?
I wonder what Ruud Gullit was thinking when he said yes? The offer of money must have been enormous to shake your hand with a man that doesn’t blink even to let his political adversaries or those trying to expose his human rights violations disappear and being murdered. Ruud Gullit once proudly offered his best football player of the world trophy to Nelson Mandela to show his appreciation and admiration. Many of Nelson Mandela’s allies have suffered a similar fate of disappearance under the apartheid regime. My colleagues would also be able to tell you what a gruesome experience it is to be present at opening up graves to identify those that have disappeared in South Africa. It only leaves me wonder what will happen when Ruud Gullit will win another trophy? Will he offer this than to Ramzam Kadyrov? Or even worse, when he will lose…