Tag Archives: Human Rights

Interview with artist and Passion for Freedom winner Roberta Coni

12 Dec

The annual Passion for Freedom Art competition took place last month in which a group of international artists were asked to address the subject of religion and human rights.

The exhibition comes directly from The One Law for All campaign against the Sharia Law in Britain. The Sharia law is an Islamic law based on a combination of sources, including the Quran and the Sunna.

Courtesy of onelawforall.org.uk

According to a report by One Law for All, in the Sharia law’s penal code, women can be stoned to death for sex outside of marriage, homosexuality is punishable by death and improper veiling is punishable with fines and imprisonment. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s and while a man can have four wives and can easily divorce, a woman must give justification for requesting a divorce, some of which are extremely difficult to prove.

In a law that values retribution as an appropriate form of justice, One Law for All fiercely campaigns against its implementation in the UK.  Civitas estimates that there are at least 85 Sharia courts in Britain that implement and enforce the Sharia law, mainly covering issues such as divorce. Considering the severe disadvantage women are at in the first place, (and the many that are unaware of their rights under British law) that proceedings are not recorded and that there is no legal accountability, it’s clear that activism and action is needed by the government who have so far been sluggish to react.

Fuelled by this need for action and legal equality, the artwork for the Passion for Freedom competition aims to reflect this injustice and covers issues ranging from child ‘marriage’ to women’s oppression.

After the exhibition, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the winning artists, Roberta Coni, about her views on the Sharia law and her winning piece, Erasing Herself.

What was the motivation for taking part in the Passion for Freedom exhibition?

I believe that art is often considered only for its decorative aspect, so this seemed to me the perfect opportunity to denounce this mentality and bring attention to this tragic issue to people who are unaware.

My painting “Erasing herself” is a portrait of an old woman to which I removed, with a brush stroke, the features and her identity, as the Sharia dictatorship does. Personality, freedom and individual choices, are buried under a heavy silence and submission, thus denying all freedom and original identity of the woman. Where Sharia law is state law, a woman is, in terms of rights, a pariah.

What are your views on the Sharia law and has it been implemented in Italy?

Sharia is a religious code for living, found in the Quran and the Sunna, that covers all aspects of life. The woman’s role is always inferior to male relatives. Women are subjected to a limited life- their identity and individual freedom doesn’t exist, that should be a human right for any individual. Continue reading

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Interview: Mikey Watts on Mining & Human Rights in Peru

19 Feb
All photos:  Mikey Watts 

On March 14, LAMMP (the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme) is holding an international conference on ‘Mining, Women and Human Rights in Guatemala’. One person who’ll be filming there is young British documentary maker Mikey Watts, who I caught up with last week to talk about his last film and forthcoming projects.

I’d first heard about Mikey’s film Laguna Negra back in October. Perusing The Guardian, I noticed a video and article about alleged torture in the province of Piura, northern Peru, linked to a mining company called Monterrico Metals. It was a British company, and yet there was barely a whisper of news about it in the UK. In 2003 Monterrico had pressed ahead with a copper mine project that the local population had not agreed to. The mine was going to occupy vital agricultural land and would pollute the valley’s water sources. Monterrico had a legal requirement to obtain the consent of at least two thirds of the population. They didn’t, but were supported by the government nonetheless and so went ahead with the mine. In 2005, locals, including children and the elderly, made their way to the mining site in a last attempt to have their objections recognised. They were tear gassed, arrested and allegedly tortured by police and the mine’s security guards.

It was a Peruvian photographer friend, Adrían Portugal from the collective Supay Fotos, who first sent me a link to Mikey’s video on VimeoLaguna Negra is a 20-minute study of how mining has affected people in the Huancabamba valley, northern Peru. The film follows two people, Servando and Cleofé, as they describe their lives, land, protest, how they are perceived, and question the purpose of environmentally and socially destructive ‘development’. It has won a series of awards, including: Grand Jury Prize World Cinema Student at the Amsterdam Film Festival 2010, Best International Documentary (Festival Internacional de Cine de Lebu 2010), and the Rights in Action International Award (Bang! Short Film Festival 2009). I met Mikey last week to discuss how it all started, his stay in Piura, Huancabamba, the impact of and inspiration behind the film, and the projects he’s working on now.

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