Tag Archives: human rights

Amer Shurrab joining the “Saddle!”

Dear friends,

It is with great excitement that I welcome Amer Shurrab as the new Project Manager for donkeysaddle projects.

Amer’s first official day was Monday–and he has already jumped in with both feet, taking on the many-pronged responsibility of maximizing our projects’ impact and reach.

Amer brings to this work expertise from his recently completed MA degree in International Policy Studies and his MBA in International Management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  He brings his passion when he speaks publicly about the devastation his family experienced (two of his brothers were killed during the 2008/9 attack on Gaza, and four of his cousins during the 2014 Gaza war) and about the ongoing violations caused by occupation and siege.

Most importantly, Amer brings to donkeysaddle projects his deep commitment to human rights, to social justice, and to the principles of equality and human dignity. These principles are at the core of why we do our work, how we do our work, and the world that donkeysaddle projects is trying to build.

Will you join me in welcoming Amer to donkeysaddle projects by making an online $10 monthly donation in his honor, or, a one-time $25 donation? (Or, to send a check, click here.)

Your gift will enable Amer to start his work knowing that his vision of a world where everyone’s dignity and everyone’s rights are accorded equal importance is a vision that we all share.

Welcome aboard the saddle, Amer!  

With excitement,

Jen Marlowe
Photo: Jen Marlowe & Amer Shurrab on a ferry heading to Whidbey Island, WA to show a film and speak about Gaza in July, 2014.


Filed under Gaza, Human Rights

Supporting humanity, dignity and equal rights

Dear friends and supporters,

I am so grateful for your support. You make possible all that we do at donkeysaddle projects.

2014 has brought into stark relief how much critically important work must be done, and how interconnected are so many struggles for freedom, equality, and dignity, whether in Ferguson, Palestine, or Bahrain.

The racism inherent in our country’s state violence (be it the death penalty or police killings), the utter disregard for human life that enabled the recent devastation in Gaza, the continued targeting of human rights defenders from Bahrain to Brazil…these all serve as powerful and painful reminders of how vital it is to highlight everyone’s equal humanity, and to insist on the protection of everyone’s rights and freedom.

In 2014, your generosity helped donkeysaddle projects in the struggle for human dignity and human rights by supporting our ability to:

I will be in Israel/Palestine when you receive this letter, perhaps in Gaza, assessing the impact of war and siege on Gaza’s health and education systems; with Israeli friends in Tel Aviv or Haifa as they struggle to dismantle their country’s structures of power and privilege and replace them with structures of true equality and justice; at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, filming artists who bravely continue in their path of cultural resistance to oppression; or in Jerusalem, documenting the boiling-over tensions of the city, and examining the conditions that led there.

In 2015, your support can enable donkeysaddle projects to continue this ongoing work in Palestine/Israel, in Bahrain, and in the U.S.

Here’s what we have planned in the year ahead:

Your contribution allows donkeysaddle projects to have impact for years to come and supports a vision of the world in which every person’s humanity, dignity and rights are equally respected and equally protected.

Please support donkeysaddle projects with a contribution that feels meaningful to you this year!  For online donations, including monthly donations, please click here. For info on donations via check, please click here.

With warm wishes for a New Year that brings us closer to peace with justice, dignity, freedom and equality for all,

Jen Marlowe
donkeysaddle projects

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Filed under Asel Asleh, Bahrain, Brazil, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Palestine/Israel, Troy Davis

Brazil: AHOMAR Underground

(Cross posted from Frontline Defenders)


AHOMAR's shuttered headquarters

We had to be subtle as we searched for the location of the fisherfolk in Magé, a town on the northern shore of Guanabara Bay. Our very presence, we had been warned, could possibly lead to retaliatory attacks against the fishing community. We walked along the beach as if we were tourists filming the landscape.

We arrived at a shack which served as a beach-side café, with one plastic, sandy table and a fare of beer or juice. Kids scampered in the sand, and flocks of white birds rose and landed in unison on small wooden fishing craft anchored near the shore.

My companions chatted with the café’s proprietor as I filmed the boats.

“Do you see?” Nanda approached and spoke to me in a low voice. She raised her eyebrows, ever so slightly indicating with her head over her left shoulder. “It’s right behind you.”
I looked, trying to appear as if I were not looking at anything in particular, when I saw it, right next to the café.

It was an abandoned beach shack with a coat of whitewash badly in need of reapplication. The word AHOMAR was painted in blue above padlocked turquoise wooden doors.

I discretely filmed the now-abandoned headquarters of AHOMAR (Associação Homens e Mulheres do Mar – Association of Seamen and Sea-women ), whose leaders have either been murdered, or have had to go underground due to repeated death threats (see Front Line Defenders Urgent Appeals from 2013 and 2012).

Magé is close to energy development projects taking place near Guanabara Bay, led primarily, though not exclusively, by Petrobras, the largest Brazilian energy company. Construction of an enormous petrochemical complex in nearby Caxias was completed in 2005, next to a Petrobras oil refinery.

We had filmed the petrochemical complex and refinery en route to Magé, noting the number of energy companies with installations there, the oil and gas pipelines snaking around the perimeter, and the oil flares and white smoke spewing from deep within the refinery into the bright blue Brazilian sky.

The energy industry has polluted Guanabara Bay so egregiously that the fisherfolks’ ability to continue to fish the bay is severely threatened. And, though a Guanabara Bay cleanup project has been approved ahead of the World Cup and the Olympic Games, many environmentalists agree that if the petroleum industries still operate alongside the bay, any “cleanup” will be a superficial fig leaf.

The energy companies’ plans for expansion include oil pipelines that will travel across the bay, despite past ruptures of pipelines in the bay that killed fish by the droves and devastated sensitive ecosystems. Since 2007, AHOMAR activists have been engaged in acts of creative resistance against the energy companies, including anchoring their boats for over a month at the site of the new pipelines to block construction.

The retaliation against AHOMAR human rights defenders has been deadly. Two of AHOMAR’s leaders were brutally assassinated in June 2012, and the activists who took their place, Alexandre de Souza and Pelé de Carvalho, have also received multiple death threats and are currently in hiding.

I tried to reach Alexandre and Pelé upon arriving in Rio, hoping to be able to meet with them, and, if they thought it could be help protect them, record video interviews. Though we reached out on a near-daily basis to those who have direct connections with the human rights defenders, we were unable to make contact and organize a meeting.

Fabrina Furtado, one of the researchers and authors of a substantive report on the environmental impact and human rights violations emanating from Guanabara Bay’s petroleum industry (available in Portuguese), provided more context as to why it was so difficult to reach Alexandre and Pelé.

The horrific murders of the two AHOMAR leaders, and the death threats facing other AHOMAR activists has had a deep impact on the entire fisherfolk community. The trauma has extended not only to those targeted, but their wives, children, parents, and other community members, creating anxiety-related health problems and all the psychological ripple effects that one can expect in situations of extreme trauma and anxiety.

“It’s complicated,” Fabrina told me. “I think that it’s not that Alexandre doesn’t want to speak—in fact, it’s probably because he is a public figure that he is still alive—but, right now, in this moment….it’s complicated.”

I thought back to our attempts in Magé to locate the precise whereabouts of the fisherfolk. When asked, “Where are the fishermen?” people in the town averted their eyes and pretended not to know. We were only pointed in the correct direction on the beach once we asked for the location of the ramshackle beach café, standing next to the shuttered AHOMAR headquarters.

Complicated, Fabrina had told us.

The reality facing the AHOMAR human rights defenders is complicated indeed, but one thing is eminently simple:

Alexandre, Pelé, their colleagues in AHOMAR and their families deserve to live free of the fear of being injured or murdered due to their nonviolent activism.

Not only must their physical and emotional wellbeing be safeguarded, their way of life and livelihood as fisherfolk also require protection.

Guanabara Bay, on which Alexandre and Pelé lives and livelihoods rest, as well as the lives and livelihoods of so many more, demands urgent protection as well.

Jen Marlowe (Twitter: @donkeysaddleorg), documentary filmmaker and writer, is in Brazil filming interviews about the security situation and risks faced by HRDs for Front Line Defenders for anupcoming video series to launch later in 2013.




Petroleum complex in Caxias

Petroleum complex in Caxias

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Filed under Brazil, Human Rights

The Favela Will Not Be Silenced

I just returned yesterday from 10 intense days in Brazil (mostly in Rio) where I was filming stories of human rights  defenders at risk for Front Line Defenders, a human rights organization based in Dublin. I am also writing several blog posts for FLD, the first of which was posted this morning.

Click here to check out the post, called “The Favela Will Not Be Silenced.”

More soon from the donkey’s saddle,



Filed under Brazil, Human Rights