Stand Up to Injustice

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Stand Up in the Park, 7th July 2019 in aid of the Free Nazanin Campaign

Cardiff Amnesty were joined by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, on his first trip to Wales after ending a 15 day hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy. Richard was in Cardiff for a third night of stand up comedy in support of Nazanin and their daughter Gabriella.

The event on Sunday 7th July was a huge success with expressions of concern and hope for Nazanin’s release. The 7th July also marked Nazanin’s 1,190th day in prison. Cardiff Amnesty and other members of the Ratcliffe family marked this anniversary by unveiling a 500 meter long knitted chain, each link of which contained 1,190 stitches – that’s one stitch for each day in prison!

Cardiff Amnesty has been overwhelmed by support for the Knit for Naz Campaign that was launched in March. Knitting has been sent from every corner of the UK by Amnesty supporters and members of the public in an unprecedented act solidarity.

Messages of Solidarity

Made up of 2,810 links and a mind boggling 3,343,900 stiches, it is impossible to thank everyone who contributed to this ‘chain of care’.

At 500 metres (1,640 ft), is chain is approximately ten times the height of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. It takes around two hours to knit every link and about three minutes to sew them together. On this basis we estimate that the chain represents some 5,760 hours of work. To put it another way, if someone was to knit non-stop 24 hours around the clock, it would take them 240 days to recreate the chain. That’s eight months’ work!

The parcels of knitting that have arrived daily in Cardiff contained messages of support all of which will be sent to Richard and his family. Reading these notes helped inspire the dedicated team of Amnesty volunteers in the time consuming task of sewing all the links together.

For example, there were notes from the Knitting Group at Cottenham Community Centre, who combat feelings of isolation amongst older people, and the All Nations Women’s Craft Group in Hull, who support refugees and asylum seekers.

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Stand Up in the Park, 7th July 2019

We learnt about the dedication of the Haslemere Amnesty Group who write to Nazanin every week and who told us that it was ‘humbling thinking that every stitch represented a day’s imprisonment’. There were also two inspiring messages from the Christians Against Torture Group at Ararat Baptist Church, Cardiff. One of their members confided that

‘… my hands are rather poor these days with arthritis, and my eye are not good, so I was a bit worried that the links were not up to standard but each one I made was knitted with love…’

And a husband who explained that despite having been married for nearly 50 years, this was the first time that he had seen his wife knitting.

Amnesty Cardiff members Knit for Naz at Pettigrew Tea Rooms, Cardiff. May 2019
#Free Nazanin used on the night

We also learnt about individual acts of kindness from a grandmother who made her chain links from the wool left over after knitting for her Iranian grandson, and a woman who had vowed to light a candle for Nazanin ‘every night until she is released … never thinking it would be so long’.

Many people explained how it made them feel empowered to be able to do something practical for Nazanin. Our friends in the Ayrshire Amnesty Group spoke on behalf of many when they said they were knitting in the hope that ‘justice prevails and Nazanin is released and reunited with her family in the very near future’.

There are just too many people and groups to thank individually so we hope that this blog post conveys our deep gratitude. We are truly grateful for your kindness, encouragement and solidarity. Thank you.

Comedy with a social conscience

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Dane Baptiste, Angela Barnes and Robin Morgan

Compere for the night, Clint Edwards, set the scene by reminding everyone that ‘Stand Up in the Park’ had originally been intended as a one-off event. But inspired by Richard and Nazanin’s recent hunger strike the campaign continued undaunted.

The audience in Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens were  treated to hilarious stand up from Dane Baptiste, Angela Barnes and Robin Morgan (pictured right). Side-splitting performances were accompanied by calls for the UK Government to take action to secure Nazanin’s release in an atmosphere not soon to be forgotten.

The most moving part of the evening came when Nazanin’s ‘chain of care’ was unveiled on stage with help from members of the audience. Richard Ratcliffe explained what it meant to Nazanin knowing that she was in people’s thoughts. He gave heartfelt thanks to Amnesty International and the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival for their continuing support after three long years of struggle.

It is little surprise that members of the audience queued up to have their photograph taken holding placards calling for Nazanin’s release.

What would you do with this chain?

More than once Cardiff Amnesty have been asked what will now happen to the knitted chain. The good news is that Richard has asked if it could be donated to his family as a reminder for Nazanin that she was not forgotten during these dark years. We all agree that this is a great idea.

In the meantime, we want to use this chain as a campaigning tool for Nazanin and Gabriella. But here is the question, ‘What would you do with this chain to raise awareness of Nazanin and Gabriella’s plight?’ Why not wrap it around your church or school, perhaps use it to adorn a local council chamber or museum? Let your imagination run wild.

If you have a brilliant idea and the time and energy to put it into action then why don’t you drop us a line? You will find contact details and encouragement below.

The Fight Goes on!

Amnesty International will go on campaigning for Nazanin’s release and to raise awareness of other human rights abuses. If you are inspired to take up the Amnesty banner to fight injustice please contact Owen at amnesty.cardiff@btinternet.com or follow our social media here.

Another huge thank you is owed to the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival for their third year of support and the fabulous Pettigrew Tearoom for their generous support. Finally, our thanks also goes to Natasha Hirst our immensely talented photographer. You can read Natasha’s blog here.

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