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Ladies in White (Spanish: Damas de Blanco) is an opposition movement in Cuba consisting of spouses and other relatives of jailed dissidents. The women protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white dresses and then silently walking through the streets dressed in white clothing. The color white is chosen to symbolize peace.

The movement received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005.

Contents

Origins

During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison.[1]

For their part, the Cuban government accused the 75 individuals of "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state", including belonging to "illegal organizations", accepting money from the United States Interests Section in Havana and of "hijacking", "terrorist activities", and collaborating with foreign media.[2] In the view of The Committee to Protect Journalists, The Black Spring violated the most basic norms of international law, including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."[3]

The Ladies in White group was formed two weeks after the arrests.[4] Relatives of the prisoners began gathering on Sundays at St. Rita's Church in Havana to pray for their relatives. After each Mass, they began a ritual procession from the church to a nearby park. The white clothing they wear is reminiscent of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who used a similar strategy to demand information about their missing children from the 1970s military junta. Each marcher wears a button with a photo of her jailed relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Notable members

The Sakharov Prize

In 2005, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded jointly to Reporters without Borders, Nigerian human rights lawyer Huawa Ibrahim, and the Ladies in White. Five of the leaders of the movement were selected to receive the prize: Laura Pollán, whose husband Hector Maseda is serving a 20-year sentence; Miriam Leiva, whose husband Oscar Espinosa Chepe has been conditionally released due to a serious illness; Berta Soler, whose husband Angel Moya Acosta is serving 20 years; Loida Valdes, whose husband Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was sentenced to 26 years; and Julia Núñez, whose husband Adolfo Fernández Saínz is serving 15 years. Some of the women were prevented from visiting their husbands to tell them of the award, but Laura Pollán told the Wall Street Journal that those who were told "are very happy and very proud." [1]

The Cuban government barred the group's leaders from attending the Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Strasbourg, France.

Attacks on Ladies in White

Sizable mobs have attacked the Ladies in White, yelling insults at them, and assisting the police to throw them into police buses.[6] Several of the members report that they have been detained and threatened by the police and that their homes have been ransacked.[citation needed] On Palm Sunday in 2005, the pro-government Federation of Cuban Women sent 150 women to counter-protest the group. According to a post in insurgente.org, a Marxist internationalist website, the importance, level of support and legitimacy of the Ladies in White is highly questionable.[7]

Criticism

French journalist Salim Lamrani alleges that the Ladies in White are funded by the US government and by Florida-based organisations which are connected to anti-Cuban terrorism, citing an article in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, as proof.[8] According to Lamrani, Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has said "Our white scarf symbolises life while those women, that you are talking about [Ladies in White], represent death." and "The so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo symbolise our love for our children who were murdered by tyrants imposed by the United States."[9][10]

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References

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Ladies in White (Spanish: Damas de Blanco) is an opposition movement in Cuba consisting of wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. The women protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white dresses and then silently walking through the streets dressed in white clothing. The color white is chosen to symbolize peace.

The movement received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005.

Contents

Origins

During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison.[1]

For its part, the Cuban government accused the 75 individuals of "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state", including belonging to "illegal organizations", accepting money from the United States Interests Section in Havana and of "hijacking", "terrorist activities", and collaborating with foreign media.[2] In the view of The Committee to Protect Journalists, The Black Spring violated the most basic norms of international law, including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."[3]

The Ladies in White group was formed two weeks after the arrests.[4] Relatives of the prisoners began gathering on Sundays at St. Rita's Church in Havana to pray for their relatives. After each Mass, they began a ritual procession from the church to a nearby park. The white clothing they wear is reminiscent of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who used a similar strategy to demand information about their missing children from the 1970s military junta. Each marcher wears a button with a photo of her jailed relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Notable members

  • Laura Pollán Toledo[5]

The Sakharov Prize

In 2005, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded jointly to Reporters without Borders, Nigerian human rights lawyer Huawa Ibrahim, and the Ladies in White. Five of the leaders of the movement were selected to receive the prize: Laura Pollán, whose husband Hector Maseda is serving a 20-year sentence; Miriam Leiva, whose husband Oscar Espinosa Chepe has been conditionally released due to a serious illness; Berta Soler, whose husband Angel Moya Acosta is serving 20 years; Loida Valdes, whose husband Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was sentenced to 26 years; and Julia Núñez, whose husband Adolfo Fernández Saínz is serving 15 years. Some of the women were prevented from visiting their husbands to tell them of the award, but Laura Pollán told the Wall Street Journal that those who were told "are very happy and very proud".[6]

The Cuban government barred the group's leaders from attending the Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Strasbourg, France.

Attacks on Ladies in White

Sizable mobs have attacked the Ladies in White, yelling insults at them, and assisting the police to throw them into police buses.[5] Several of the members report that they have been detained and threatened by the police and that their homes have been ransacked.[citation needed] On Palm Sunday in 2005, the pro-government Federation of Cuban Women sent 150 women to counter-protest the group.

Criticism

Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has criticized the symbolic use of the white scarf, stating "Our white scarf symbolises life while those women, that you are talking about Ladies in White, represent death." Bonafini went on to remark that "the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo symbolise our love for our children who were murdered by tyrants imposed by the United States."[7][8] However, the Ladies in White have never issued an official statement regarding their support for the United States.

The Cuban government has criticized the Ladies in White for being a subversive association of American-backed terrorists.[7] However, Cuban law limits freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press. Concerns have also been expressed about the operation of due process. A Human Rights Watch 1999 report on Cuba notes:

Cuba's provision regarding contempt for authority (desacato) penalizes anyone who "threatens, libels or slanders, defames, affronts (injuria) or in any other way insults (ultraje) or offends, with the spoken word or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public functionary, or his agents or auxiliaries." Such actions are punishable by three months to one year in prison, plus a fine. If the person demonstrates contempt for "the President of the Council of the State, the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the members of the Council of the State or the Council of Ministers, or the Deputies of the National Assembly of the Popular Power, the sanction is deprivation of liberty for one to three years.[9]

News

See also

References

External links


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