Amnesty International, the International Cities of Refuge, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, the Cartoonists Rights Network International and Editorial Cartoonist Abdul Arts Unite to Protest Human Rights Abuses


On Friday, April 12th Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) will hold its Get on the Bus rally, an annual day of human rights education and activism organized by several AIUSA groups.  In Washington, DC, more than 100 students, teachers and AIUSA activists will rally for human rights in front of embassies and in public spaces.  This year the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) and editorial cartoonist and Somali refugee Abdul Arts — with support from the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) — will join AIUSA in protesting for human rights.  If you are in Washington, DC, on Friday April 12th, we hope you too will join us.

Get on the Bus is an annual day of human rights education and activism organized by several AIUSA groups.  "We ask fellow activists to 'take the day off for human rights' and join together to support so many whose basic rights have been violated," says Carla Bocella, co-coordinator of this year's rally. 

Click here to register.  Your registration fee of just $15 will help defend courageous individuals on the front lines of free speech.  

Started in 1996 by a local chapter in Somerville, MA, Get on the Bus has spread to Amnesty International groups across the country, including New York City and Washington, D.C.  The event's name stems from its history - participants gather together on buses before rallying on behalf of the voiceless. 

CRNI is proud to provide a bus for two of the protests — the protest in front of the Somalia Visa Center and that in front of the Embassy of Bangladesh.  At the Somalia Visa Center we will urge the Somali government to protect journalists and to prosecute those who target journalists for violence.  At the Embassy of Bangladesh, on behalf of exiled cartoonist Arifur Rahman, we will urge the Bangladeshi government to stop violating international norms for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 



Arifur was a cartoonist in Bangladesh drawing for a children's magazine when his troubles began.  He  drew a strip cartoon about a little boy talking to a religious leader about his cat.  While most people understood the cartoon to be an innocent drawing, a number of fundamentalists took exception to it.  The fundamentalists claimed that naming a cat after the Prophet was an insult to Islam.  It was the beginning of a nightmare for Arifur. 

Arifur spent a number of months in prison incarcerated with the worst elements of society.  Cartoonists Rights Network International helped Arifur to leave Bangladesh.  With the assistance of the International Cities of Refuge Network, he found a safe haven in Norway.  In Norway he is making a new life for himself, learning the language while giving lectures in schools and community groups about free speech and human rights. Most importantly, he continues to be a hard-hitting cartoonist whose work makes comment on the unsettled political situation in Bangladesh.

Below is a translation of the innocent cartoon that began Arifur's ordeal: 

Elderly Man -- "Boy, what’s your name?

Child -- “My name is Babu.”

Elderly Man – “It is customary to put Mohammed in front of the name. What is your father’s name?”

Child -- “Mohammed Abu.”

Elderly Man -- “What is that on your lap?”

Child -- “Mohammed cat."





Seating on the bus is limited.  To reserve your seat on the bus for Get on the Bus, join us at 8:30 am at the Friends Meeting of Washington, DC, located at 2111 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC.  The bus leaves at 1:45 sharp from Dupont Circle and returns back to Dupont Circle at 2:45 pm.  On our bus will be a very special guest — editorial cartoonist and Somali refugee Abdul Arts. 

Abdul Arts is a Somali cartoonist who has been in trouble with the al-Shaabab fundamentalist group who controlled most of the country.  They were particularly irritated at his cartoons that show the overbearing military police and the Islamic fundamentalists as equal oppressors of the people. 

When he was in Somalia, they threatened his life, so he fled to Cairo, Egypt, where he continued to post the same hard-hitting cartoons.  He thought he was safe in Cairo.  He was unfortunately mistaken.  His antagonists tracked him down and threatened his life if he didn't stop drawing his cartoons.  They eventually hounded him out of Egypt.  Like Arifur Rahman, Abdul eventually found a safe haven country in Norway. 

Again, the 2013 Washington, DC, Get on the Bus rally will begin at 8:30 am at the Friends Meeting of Washington, DC, located at 2111 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC.  Registration and introductions will take place from 8:30 am to 9:30 am. 

At 9:30 we will begin our first protest at the Embassy of the Dominican Republic.  From 9:30 am to 11:00 am we will protest on behalf of missing human rights activist Juan Almonte Herrera.  Eyewitnesses to his abduction say it was the police that grabbed Mr. Herrera. 

After a break, we will protest the Embassy of Romania from 11:30 am to 11:55 am on behalf of approximately 350 people who were forcibly evicted from their homes and then relocated to a former chemical waste dump. 

From noon to 12:25 pm we will protest the Embassy of Sudan on behalf of the more than 2.6 million refugees and internally displaced persons and the thousands of the people killed since Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir initiated his horrific campaign of violence against civilians. 

From 12:25 pm to 12:45 pm we will protest the Embassy of Indonesia on behalf of Filep Karma.  Mr. Karma was sentenced to fifteen years of prison for raising a flag at a peaceful rally. 

After lunch, at 1:15 pm we will protest at Dupont Circle on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) community of South Africa.  Homophobia and hate crimes against LGBT individuals are common in South Africa, particularly against those living in townships and rural areas.   

Again, at 1:45 pm sharp the first 24 Get on the Bus participants to sign up for the short, CRNI-provided bus ride will head out from Dupont Circle to the Somalia Visa Center and the Embassy of Bangladesh.  Another group of participants will protest the Embassy of Zimbabwe on behalf of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.  Human rights defenders since 2008 have been subjected to unlawful arrests, long detentions, torture and disappearances. 

To learn more about the 2013 Washington, DC, Get on the Bus, click on Get on the Bus DC 2013.