UHRC Teams with ‘Invisible Children’ to Expose Plight of Uganda’s Child Soldiers

From left to right: Invisible Children "rodey Janet Ikpa, UHRC Members Sanan Shirinian and Nora Kayserian, and President of Invisible Children at UCLA Cord Greene. Photo by Vache Thomassian

GLENDALE–On December 29th, 2009, the United Human Rights Council (UHRC) held a special documentary screening exposing the long-ignored terrors that plague the people of Northern Uganda.

Invisible Children, a nationwide organization dedicated to stopping the atrocities against innocent children taking place in Uganda, was invited to showcase the film, which chronicles the efforts of three young activists as they seek to help end the abduction and forced militarization of children in Uganda.

Attendees met with Cord Greene, President of Invisible Children at UCLA, and Janet Ikpa, an Invisible Children “rodey”, after the screening for a discussion on ways to get involved with the organization and its campaign.

President of Invisible Children at UCLA Cord Greene discusses the campaigns mission and activities. Photo by Vache Thomassian

“UHRC organized the screening to raise awareness about the neglected crisis in the African region,” explained Nora Kayserian, a UHRC member. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that no one leader, no country, no government gets away with crimes against humanity, whether its genocide or the abduction of children.”

“Human rights is not an issue specific to one culture or race, it’s a human issue. I believe it is up to us as human beings to speak out against injustices in order to bring about social change. It is important to work with other human rights organizations because there is strength in numbers. We can have a greater impact and make the world more peaceful if we collaborate with other organizations.”

Invisible Children was founded in 2003 by three young students from Southern California–Laren Poole, Jason Russel, and Bobby Bailey–who decided to embark on a film-making journey half way across the world in Darfur, Sudan.  En route to Darfur, they witnessed the terrifying reality that has tortured Uganda for decades—A brutal civil war waged by Joseph Koney and his guerilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Documentary screening of Invisible Children. Photo by Vache Thomassian.

Kony has been engaged in a violent campaign to establish theocratic government in Uganda. he LRA, which earned a reputation for its actions against the people of northern Uganda, has abducted an estimated 30,000 children and displaced 1.6 million people since its rebellion began in 1986.

The three activists saw Kony’s brutality first-hand during what was supposed to be a short layover in a village in Uganda, as his guerilla’s raided villages across Northern Uganda, annihilating communities and kidnapping their children.

“Invisible Children, Rough Cut” became the first documentary to capture the atrocities in the central African nation. The film quickly gave rise to a global campaign to raise awareness about the LRA rebellion and their crimes against humanity.

The film, which continues to be shown at university campuses and communities across the country, inspired thousands last year to call on President Obama to lead the effort to stop Koney, rescue the child soldiers and commit to the recovery of war affected areas. Thus far, over 250,000 people have signed the “Citizens Arrest Warrant for Joseph Kony” and 193 Members of Congress have co-sponsored the LRA Disarmament Bill.  Click here to sign the petition

Abducted Child in Uganda. Photo courtesy of Invisible Children.

The organization has also been working to rebuild schools in war-torn Northern Uganda. Through its “Schools for Schools” program, Invisible Children empowered students at 1,600 schools across the US last year to raise more than $740 million in 100 days to revive and rebuild 11 partner schools in Uganda.

The documentary stands as the foundation for this activism, inspiring regular people across America to action. “When I first started college, I wasn’t really into anything cultural, I didn’t really care about that stuff,” said Ikpa, a volunteer who travels from community to community screening the documentary for people. “But when I was a registered assistant in the dorms at UCSB, my friend came to me and told me that I have to watch this video. After I saw it, I started bawling. I couldn’t control myself. I had to do something.”

“Now I’m making a real difference for people in Uganda,” she added. “I wouldn’t be doing what I was doing if I didn’t think my actions mattered.”

Kayserian pointed to Ikpa’s heartfelt remarks as the reason why the UHRC sought to screen the film. “Our broader vision and mission is to raise awareness and activate people to take action against human rights violations in whatever way they can,” she explained. “We want to educate and empower in any way possible, whether it’s through film screenings, art, poetry, or direct action.”

Photo display spotlights plight of Ugandan children. Photo by Vache Thomassian

The documentary showing, in that regard, marked a stepping stone for the UHRC’s activities for 2010.  On January 15, it will be hosting an evening spotlighting the activists of Turkey who have been targeted, harassed and even murdered for their efforts to advance Kurdish human rights, Armenian Genocide recognition, and freedom of speech and equality. 

The event, titled “The Opposite of Silence,” will begin at 8:00pm at the Glendale Armenian Youth Center, located at 211 West Chestnut St. Glendale CA 91204. It will showcase a blend of art, music, video and speeches and feature remarks by Kani Xulam of the American Kurdish Information Network, who will discuss the ongoing plight of Turkey’s 30 million Kurds and their decade’s long struggle for liberation against Turkish oppression.

The United Human Rights Council is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation. By means of action on a grassroots level, it works toward correcting and exposing the human rights violations of governments that distort, deny, and delude history to disguise past and present genocides, massacres, and human rights violations. For more information about the Opposite of Silence or on the activities and mission of the UHRC, contact: uhrc@ayfwest.org


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