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Common people fighting for human rights


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A comparison between Nelson Mandela from Africa, and Estela Barnes de Carlotto from Argentina, two common people that became real heroes for different reasons.

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Common people fighting for human rights

  1. 1. COMMON PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Looking backwards in human history, one can find many people who, wanting to fight for theirown rights, ended battling for what is morally good and correct for a whole country. Born in differentnations, of different cultures and struggling for different reasons, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela andEstela Barnes de Carlotto have demonstrated, through direct and non-violent action, that commonpeople can obtain welfare for themselves, for their contemporaries and for future generations. The childhood and adolescence of these two people show parallels but also great differences.Mandela was born in 1918 in a village in South Africa, and groomed to adopt high office as Chief afterhis father’s death. He heard his elders’ stories about his ancestors’ braveness when fighting for theirfatherland and wanted to bestow freedom to his people. His primary education took place at a localmission school and his secondary studies at a Wesleyan school of some repute in Healdtown. After thathe went to University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree, which he finished by correspondenceafter being suspended for joining in a protest boycott. Estela Barnes, born in 1930, was the only childin a lower-middle class home. She was a very good student; she liked theatre, reciting poems, singing,and being the conciliator between their class mates every time they had differences. She went to theHermanas de la Misericordia Secondary School, a catholic institute administrated by very progressivenuns and later she studied to be a teacher. Strong family traditions and religion as well as study, whichare similar at some points, but differ at some others, shaped both personalities. Living in countries where an important part of the population was being deprived of their basicrights, a turning point would take place in their lives. Mandela, together with a small group of youngAfricans, become part of the African National Congress – ANC – and entered politics in order totransform ANC in a mass movement for national emancipation, and the African National CongressYouth League – ANCYL – was founded with the objective of attaining the redistribution of the land,education, culture, trade union rights and representation in the Parliament for all South Africans. “Mandela soon impressed his peers by his disciplined work and consistent effort and was elected as the league’s National Secretary in 1948. By painstaking work, campaigning at the grass-roots and through its mouthpiece Inyaniso (“Truth”) the ANCYL was able to canvass support for its policies amongst the ANC membership.”1On March 24th 1976, a coup d’etat took place in Argentina. The military regime conducted the countryunder a policy of terror. 30.000 people, of all ages and social condition, were deprived of their freedomand tortured, and about 500 children abducted with their parents or born in undisclosed detention 1 Biography. Memory for Justice -From Nelson Mandela Foundation Web site: 1
  2. 2. centres where the pregnant women were taken. Those children were treated as war booty andappropriated by people to whom they considered their true parents although they have been authors orabetters in their parents’ executions and stealers of their identities. One of those pregnant women wasEstela Barnes de Carlotto’s daughter – Laura Estela Carlotto – who was kidnapped for being a Peronistactivist university student. Her husband had also been missing during 25 days and released after thepayment of the ransom. Estela de Carlotto commenced a new life, seeking her missing daughter andthen her grandson, Guido. Laura’s body was delivered to her parents nine month after herdisappearance. “Aquí nace otra Estela, una Estela hecha de la misma masa, pero que toma posiciones, que tiene actitudes distintas”2 South African regime, signed by the domination of a white minority and a policy of rigid racialsegregation – apartheid – which was in force since colony times, as well as Argentina’s NationalReorganization Process, enforced by the military dictatorship which ruled the country between 1976and 1983 would change their lives. Fighting for a cause which affects a whole country requires organization and does not need touse violent methods. As a Volunteer-in-Chief, Mandela travelled around his country to organizeresistance to discriminatory legislation and, for that reason, he was charged and taken to trail. In spiteof that, he was given a suspended prison sentence taking into account that he had adopted a non-violentcourse of action, although he was prohibited from attending gatherings. In those days Mandela wrotean admission examination to become an attorney and was admitted, nevertheless he was obliged tomove his office to the outskirts of the city, so that their clients could not go there during working hours.At the same time, Mandela was asked to organize a plan to maintain dynamic interaction with themembers of ANC avoiding public meetings. He was the victim of repression in several occasions,banned, pursued, sentenced to life imprisonment and offered release on the condition of renouncing hisposition. Never did Mandela dispose his ideals: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. 3Yet, in 1985, Mandela initiated a dialogue with the government. Regarding Estela de Carlotto, shebegan to collaborate with the mothers of other missing young and joined the non-governmentalorganization called Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, which had been established with the purpose of fighting 2 Castory, G. Estela de Carlotto. Una abuela que no se rinde . Revista Umbrales. Retrieved Setiembre 2000 Nº 110. From Revista Umbrales Web site: 3 Nelson Mandela. I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandelas statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964.. From ANC Org. Web site: 2
  3. 3. for the return of their grandchildren. Although they did not know well what to do, or which strategy touse, and being full of fears, they were sure they have to strive and do their best for that cause. Havingbeen a teacher, Estela de Carlotto began raising awareness of whom those ruling the country were infact, especially during Malvinas War. She was also persecuted, threatened, and her property – houseand car – shot in various occasions. Those grandmothers had to devise the means to meet withoutcalling the attention of those who wanted to silence them. They simulated birthday meetings in pubsand cafés in Buenos Aires city, they sang, gave presents and smile while exchanging information,which was compiled in a written summary of each of their missing relatives and estimated dates ofbirth of the children born in captivity. They request for help to the local political parties, which did notdesire to get involved, and after that they appealed to international humanitarian aid, but again silencewas the only response, until the moment they resorted to the Organization of American States, whichacted on the claim requesting intervention to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.Almost without economic resources, about 40 travels were made until the time they achieved that theallegations were considered "serious violations of the right to freedom, security and integrity of theperson and the right to protection against arbitrary detention."4 Once had that occurred, they began toreceive financial and organizational support from several agencies and institutions. So, Estela deCarlotto’s methods were not only non-violent, but also by legal means. “Creemos que el amor construye, el odio no, aún a riesgo de parecer tontas o débiles...”5Madela and Barnes de Carlotto were consciously aware that they could not fight alone, so theygathered other people to obtain the necessary strength to achieve their aims. Both struggles were socially satisfactory and provided recognition to these two people, whoseefforts did not cease. In 1982, after 18 years in prison, Mandela was freed, and in 1994 he became thefirst elected president of his country in a peaceful transition to democracy. During his government heestablished the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations duringwhite domination and introduced changes such as housing, education and higher living standards forblack population. After retiring, he continued acting as adviser to the peace and social justice. He wasawarded the Nobel Peace Price for his action in South Africa. On the other hand, despite the fact thatArgentina regained democracy in 1983, it was still hard to open criminal investigations to identify theidentities of missing children as there were no scientific methods to determine parentage conclusively.In view of that panorama, Estela de Carlotto and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo recurred to the AmericanSociety for the Advancement of Science of the United States, which result was creation ofgrandparentage index. Using that, a complex system of investigation began to take place, they created a 4 Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Resolución Nº 31/78. Caso 2553. Argentina. CIDH, 18 de noviembre de 1978. From CIDH Web site: 5 Castory, G. Estela de Carlotto. Una abuela que no se rinde . Revista Umbrales. Retrieved Setiembre 2000 Nº 110. From Revista Umbrales Web site: 3
  4. 4. National Bank of Genetic Data and several members of the military junta were indicted andcondemned despite the military pressures and upheavals. Barnes de Carlotto was nominated for theNobel Peace Prize along with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo for their efforts to locate and return theidentity of hundreds of missing children born in captivity who were deprived of their identity. ByFebruary 2010, more than a hundred grandchildren had been recovered and they continue in search ofmore missing people. There was no evidence in the early lives of these two individuals to indicate the sacrifices,efforts and struggles they would have to draw. They were ordinary people, living ordinary lives.Circumstances, as well as other men actions, changed them. They probably never imagined forthemselves a life as the one they lived; nevertheless, what is certain is the good they accomplished forthemselves, for their families and for society as a whole. Everyone should have into account that onecan become a Mandela, or an Estela de Carlotto, and be prepared to do so. Many people believe thatthey would not have the strength or the will to face this sort of things but, eventually, everyone isinternally trained, or can be trained, to defend his own rights. Were parents and educators able to maketheir sons and daughters aware of this, deprivation of rights would not be allowed so easily in thefuture.BIBLIOGRAPHY 4
  5. 5. • Biography. Memory for Justice -From Nelson Mandela Foundation Web site: • Castory, G. Estela de Carlotto. Una abuela que no se rinde . Revista Umbrales. Retrieved Setiembre 2000 Nº 110. From Revista Umbrales Web site: • Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Resolución Nº 31/78. Caso 2553. Argentina. CIDH, 18 de noviembre de 1978. From CIDH Web site: • Nelson Mandela. I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandelas statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964. From ANC Org. Web site: • Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. History of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Children Who Disappeared or Who Were Born in Captivity. From Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo Web site in English: • Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. La Historia de Abuelas, 30 años de búsqueda. Octubre, 2007. ISBN 978-987-23866-2-7. 2007. From Abuelas Org. Web site: areas.php?area=bibliografia.php&der1=der1_mat.php&der2=der2_mat.php • MLA style. Nelson Mandela - Biography. 3 Jul 2010. From Nobel Prize Org. Web site: • Nelson Mandela Biography. Retrieved 06:32, Jul 2 2010. From Biography Web site: • Nelson Mandela Foundation. Biography. From Nelson Mandela .Org Web site: • Tenewicki, I. Y Abramowski, A. La larga lucha contra el silencio. (Entrevista a Estela Barnes de Carlotto). El Monitor. Nº 6. From Ministerio de Educación. Presidencia de la Nación Web site: 5