Archive for November, 2010

Leyla Zana quotes

The first political prisoner whose case I worked on for years, & a constant source of inspiration …

“I shall struggle so that the Kurdish & Turkish peoples may live peacefully together in a democratic framework.” — Leyla Zana

“I have appealed for peace & dialogue. My crime has been to use a Kurdish phrase for the friendship of Kurds & Turks & their coexistence during my oath of loyalty in parliament.” — Leyla Zana

“Let us refuse to be silent! Speaking freely is a decisive step forward on the road to freedom.” — Leyla Zana

“I had always said that even if they shut me up in a fortress or chained my body, they could not shackle my spirit. With my last breath I would continue to speak out, write & declare my message of peace, brotherhood, & democracy.” — Leyla Zana

“The action being brought against my Kurdish parliamentary colleagues & myself represents a first in Turkish political history. It is in fact the first time that, under a supposedly civilian government, elected representatives of the people have been arbitrarily jailed & brought to trial for their opinions & threatened with death sentences. This trial has no legal basis. It is entirely political.”

“When governments oppress a minority, the rights of all its citizens — not only those of the minority — are threatened. For the sake of democracy in Turkey, Leyla Zana ought to be freed.” — Elie Wiesel

Leyla Zana &  her colleagues were released in 2004.

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Thoughts On the Death Penalty – 2003

Today I started to do some organizing around the apartment. I found some of my old notebooks, material from former campaigns, and other things I’ve kept over the years.

The following is a response paper I wrote in October of 2003 – during my junior year of high school – for one of my classes.

I first heard about the death penalty when I was about ten years old. I was sitting in CCD class at St. Ed’s Center. The teacher asked our class what we thought about the death penalty. I had never really watched the news or read newspapers. I had never asked my parents about what went on in our country or in the world. I didn’t know what the death penalty was. Of course I didn’t raise my hand and say I didn’t know. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking about something I thought everyone else knew about. I waited for others to start the discussion. As it turned out, a few people had opinions. I listened to the discussion and learned that the death penalty was a punishment given to people who murder people. It’s wrong to murder people, so why shouldn’t they be punished? That was the first thought that crossed my mind. But then I thought about this some more. The punishment is death. Isn’t that murdering someone? Shorter after this crossed my mind class was over. My mom picked me up and when I got home, I played outside with my friends. The death penalty escaped my mind.

I always seemed to isolate myself from the news and current affairs. I didn’t want to be bothered with what was going on outside of my life. However, I realized that I couldn’t do that any more. As a human being, I’m part of the world and I should know what’s going on. That’s when I got to know more about the death penalty. The more I heard, the more I began to think. I formed an opinion on the topic: anti-death penalty. I decided to further research the death penalty. After gathering fact after fact, I knew enough to be able to argue my opinion. I also knew more than enough to be outraged that the United States uses the death penalty. Data shows that the death penalty does not deter crime, which is a main claim for its use. The United States is the only Western country that still uses the death penalty. It costs more money to execute a death row inmate than to provide for a prisoner with a life sentence. Minorities and poor people are more likely to end up on death row than white people and rich people. There are innocent people on death row – innocent people who are killed for a crime they did not commit!

When I found out that Paris Carriger, a former death row inmate, was going to be speaking in Massachusetts I knew I had to see him. He had spent twenty one years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit, and luckily lived to tell about it. Dunbar, someone Paris had considered a friend, committed a murder and then framed Paris. The only DNA of his on the site was on masking tape that had been taken from his truck and placed at the scene. Dunbar’s DNA was all over the crime scene, but that didn’t matter because Dunbar had told the police that Paris had committed the murder. Paris was arrested and found guilty. Even years later, when Dunbar confessed to the police that he had really committed the murder, Paris stayed on death row. Twenty one years after being convicted, Paris was finally proved innocent and freed. However, Paris will never be the same. He still has nightmares sometimes about being executed. It’s hard for him to go on speaking tours, but he goes on them any way, to show how flawed the system is.

Listening to Paris’ story reaffirmed my opinion on the death penalty. It was both amazing and shocking hearing about his experiences on death row. I have read a lot about the death penalty, some articles are so sad that they make me cry. However, listening to someone who was personally there who’s standing right in front of you is a completely different experience. Paris is an incredible man. How he can speak to group after group about his experience, I’m not sure. Talking to him afterwards also personalized the death penalty for me. Even after being released from death row, he’s still affected by the death penalty. He’s living off of disability because of damages that happened in prison, whether they’re from encounters with other death row inmates or the small cell he was crammed into day after day, night after night. After speaking with Paris I’m more determined than ever to see that the death penalty is abolished!