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Since Zaganar is free, we are focusing on two cases in Africa: WOZA, a human rights organization in Zimbabwe, and Dawid Isaak, a journalist imprisoned in Eritrea. Here is some background information about these countries based an the annual Amnesty Report and a short description of our cases.


Head of state and government in Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe, ruling the country since 1980. Zimbabwe has a population of 12.8 million people with an average life expectancy of 51.4 years. Last year, human rights defenders were arrested, detained and tortured in police custody. The police continued to operate in a partisan manner, failing to take action against members of President Mugabe’s party when they harassed, intimidated or beat up perceived political opponents. Politically motivated arrests of senior members of the opposition persisted. Scores of supporters were also arrested, some spending months in custody on politically motivated charges. Human rights defenders continued to face arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, politically motivated charges, and even torture in police custody. Community-based activists faced harassment and intimidation because of their human rights work.

Members of the campaigning organizations Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were arrested in Bulawayo. They were reportedly tortured at Bulawayo Central police station. WOZA activists were repeatedly arrested while holding meetings on social issues and released the same day without charge. The government failed to provide education for thousands of children affected by the 2005 mass forced evictions, known as Operation Murambatsvina. In Hopley and Hatcliffe Extension, two settlements created by the government to rehouse the victims of the evictions in Harare, more than 2,000 children were attending unregistered primary schools, in inadequate buildings without trained teachers or stationery. More than six years after the forced evictions, most victims have been driven deeper into poverty because of the government’s failure to find effective remedies.


WOZA, the acronym of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, is an Ndebele word meaning ‘come forward’. The women's civic movement was founded in 2003 and focuses on issues of social justice. They are participating in movements both on a local and international level. A men's wing of the organisation, MOZA, was added at the National Assembly in 2006. Together they have now over 75,000 members countrywide.

Our group supports particularly WOZA's efforts to build schools and provide education for the victims of Operation Murambatsvina.


WOZA on facebook

Amnesty Report 2013 Zimbabwe

Dawit Isaak / Eritrea

Eritreas head of state and government is Isaias Afewerki, ruling since 1993. The country has a population of 5.4 million people with an average life expectancy of 61.6 years.

The last Amnesty Report found Freedom of expression and association in Eritrea severely restricted. No political opposition parties, independent media, civil society organizations or unregistered faith groups were permitted. Military conscription was compulsory, and frequently extended indefinitely. Torture and other ill-treatment were common. Detention conditions were appalling. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimated that 3,000 Eritreans fled the country every month, despite a “shoot to kill” policy for anyone caught attempting to cross the border. National service was compulsory for all men and women over the age of 18. All schoolchildren were required to complete their last year of secondary education at Sawa military training camp, and children as young as 15 were reportedly caught in round-ups and taken to Sawa. The initial national service period of 18 months was frequently extended indefinitely. Penalties for desertion and draft evasion included torture and detention without trial. National service often involved forced labour in state projects, including road building, or working for companies owned and operated by the military or ruling party elites. Prison conditions were appalling, and in many cases amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were frequent. Prisoners were forced to undertake painful and degrading activities, and were tied with ropes in painful positions for long periods. There were thousands of prisoners of conscience in the country. These included political activists, journalists, religious practitioners and draft evaders. None were charged or tried for any offence. The families of most prisoners did not know their whereabouts.

Dawit Isaak

Dawit Isaak is a Swedish-eritrean writer and journalist. He worked as a reporter for Eritreas independent newspaper “Setit”. He and several other journalists have been held in Eritrean prison since 2001 without trial. Dawit Isaak is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government. There have been only a few signs of life since his arrest. In October it was reported that Dawit Isaak, might have died in detention, as he was no longer in the prison where he had been held. The government did not confirm the reports.

Free Dawit

Amnesty Report 2013 Eritrea

ZARGANAR, („our“) prisoner of conscience is FREE

portrait of famous actor and director Zarganar

Popular comedian, actor and director ZARGANAR, an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military government, was sentenced on November 21, 2008 to 45 years’ imprisonment by a special court in Yangon’s Insein Prison. On 16 February 2009, following the appeals by the family, the Yangon Divisional Court reduced the prison sentence to 35 years.

Zarganar was released on 12 October 2011. Since his release he has thanked all of those who campaigned for his release and asked them to keep pressing for the release of all other political prisoners in Burma.


After it emerged that the Myanmar government was obstructing international aid to be distributed to the devastated Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Delta and the surrounding areas, ZARGANAR began to lead efforts to raise and distribute aid from private donors. ZARGANAR’s group had over 400 volunteers, many of whom he himself recruited, who made their way through government-enforced roadblocks and checkpoints to deliver emergency aid to those affected by the cyclone. Despite assurances from the authorities that private donors would be given free access to cyclone affected areas, ZARGANAR and at least 21 others were arrested for their participation in the voluntary aid effort.


MY BLOOD OATH by Zarganar

With row upon row of iron bars they can cage me;

with the heat of seven suns they can roast me;

with a battalion of ogres they can guard me.

But if I took my scarlet blood and sprayed it all across the sky, the bars would melt, the ogres kneel, their suns kowtow before me.

(from: ‘This prison where I live: the PEN Anthology of Imprisoned Writers’. Siobhan Daud (ed.). London, Cassell. 1996. ISBN 0-304-33306-9 (paperback)

Our Case