Juke on a mission in Budapest Part 2: Amnesty Freedom Clubs
It took three consecutive weekends of travelling on sweltering hot busses and packed trains for hours on end to the other end of Hungary, but it was worth it. After three intensive training sessions in Budapest, Debrecen and Pécs, filled with presentations, films, debate, dialogue, teambuilding and planning, three Amnesty Freedom Clubs are ready to go. They’re eager to take action and stand up against human rights violations in Hungary and beyond.
No poor children in Hungary
For most of these Freedom Club students, human rights violations aren’t some abstract, far-away concept, but a very real and tangible reality. Take IT student Kristóf from Debrecen who founded the Invisible School, a mentor programme for underprivileged children in his region. The Debrecen City Council took issue with his request for funding since ‘there are no extremely poor children in Hungary’. The government takes care of everyone, the Council claimed. That is not Kristóf’s experience however.
Sleeping rough is forbidden
And how about Fanni, who is also active for A Város Mindenkié, an organisation that stands up for the rights of homeless people. She experienced how homeless people in her hometown Pécs were harassed by the police, and sometimes even dragged off to the police station for the sole reason they were sleeping rough. Life has always been hard for homeless people, but has become even tougher since the government made homelessness a punishable offense.
And without exception, Freedom Club students feel the restrictions on academic freedom in Hungary. Funding for gender studies has ceased, the Central European University is forced to leave Budapest and the Academy of Sciences threatens to lose its independence to award funds for research programmes. It’s getting ever more difficult to receive a proper education.
Inspiring international students
Not only Hungarian students joined Freedom Club. International students from all over the world studying in Hungary, wanted to become part of this platform to meet kindred spirits and receive more tools to raise awareness on human rights and to effectively take action.
They shared moving stories during our training weekends: Laly and Nour from Syria escaped the atrocities of war. Ash from Kenya was beaten up by the police when he was arrested for no reason and Belemir from Turkey got banned from her university after organising a peaceful protest in Istanbul. They are now in Hungary and reached out to Amnesty to continue their fight for human rights.
It’s for these students that Amnesty Hungary set up the Freedom Clubs: to unite these young human rights defenders so they can share skills and knowledge to create change. In turn Amnesty learn from the students’ experiences, since students are not just the changemakers of the future. They are the changemakers of today. In the next blog I will update you on the activities of the Freedom Clubs so far.