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Democrats honor student movemeent

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jane Jacobsen November 15, 2000
Mobile: +55-11-9655-9113

Press Conference Thursday, November 16

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL - The World Movement for Democracy, a global network of democratic activists who are meeting this week in São Paulo, honored five groups who have shown exceptional courage in their work for freedom and democracy at an evening program held yesterday at the American Chamber of Commerce, São Paulo.

More than 400 democrats from more than 80 countries sent a message of solidarity and support to their fellow democrats who often struggle in near anonymity and isolation against some of the most difficult challenges to democracy and human rights around the world. "Democracy Courage Tributes" were presented by leading figures the World Movement during an often moving and emotional ceremony held at the American Chamber of Commerce, São Paulo to the following groups:

The Democratic Mayors of Colombia; presentation by Sergio Aguayo, Mexico; acceptance by Juan Gomez, Mayor of Medellín; Gilberto Toro, Director of the Federation of Colombian Mayors; Efran Hernandez, Mayor of Yopal; Aura Ospitia, Mayor of Alpujarra.

The Civil Society Movement of the Democratic Republic of Congo; presentation by Ayo Obe, Nigeria; acceptance by Kabasele Baptia-Buyangandu Carine, of Women and Children in Defense of Human Rights, DRC as well as representatives from 10 leading civil society groups from the DRC.

Iran's Pro-democracy Student Movement; presentation by Riad Malki, Palestine; acceptance by Mahnaz Afkhami, USA/Iran on behalf of the Student Movement who could not attend. · Lam ­ The Center for Research and Popularization of Chechen Culture, presentation by Irena Lasota, USA/Poland; acceptance by Zulekikhan Bagalova of Lam, of Grozny, Chechnya in Russia.

The Tiananmen Mother's Network, presentation by Chee Soon Juan of Singapore; acceptance by Xiao Qiang of China/USA on behalf of the Tiananmen Mothers.

The Colombian Democratic Mayors have demonstrated not only a high level of commitment to democracy but also extraordinary courage under the cruelest of conditions.

Colombia's mayors have paid the ultimate price to govern and defend democracy in their towns and cities.

Over the past three years, 32 mayors have been assassinated, including 20 candidates for the mayoral elections held last month.

Their unwavering commitment to keep the democratic hope alive, in the face of threats both to themselves and their families has been an inspiration not only to their constituents but also to people throughout the region.

The Civil Society Movement of the Democratic Republic of Congo, composed of thousands of faith-based organizations, human rights groups, and members of the independent press, continues to be a beacon of hope in a country enmeshed in one of the world's largest and most destructive wars.

After struggling valiantly during the early 1990s to move the country from dictatorship to democracy, the Civil Society Movement continues to represent the non-violent option for change in the Congo, as it advocates for an end to the current war, respect for human rights, and greater dialogue among all Congolese in defining the political future of the country.

Iran's Pro-democracy Student Movement has spearheaded the Iranian people's struggle for basic freedoms, including the rights of free assembly and freedom of expression.

Despite the fact that the movement has followed a peaceful course, voicing the people's grievances within the framework of the rules imposed by the authorities, they have been routinely subjected to governmental abuse, including unreasonable search and seizure, flogging, incarceration, denial of legal representation, excessive prison terms, and torture.

Lam, a Chechen NGO, was founded in 1996 to promote education and human values. With the outbreak of the second war in September 1999, Lam ("mountain") broadened that role to assist refugees, provide information to relief organizations, disseminate bulletins about rights abuses to the outside world and bring Chechens from across the political spectrum together to develop plans for ending the war and for post-war reconstruction.

Despite the brutal conditions under which it operates, LAM continues to organize democratic education programs in schools and in refugee camps.

The Tiananmen Mothers Network has played a crucial role in advancing the idea of accountability for human rights abuses in China.

Founded in the aftermath of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing, the network has made extraordinary efforts to establish a true picture of what happened by documenting the cases of people who were killed or wounded.

It has provided moral support for the victims' families, and pursued unprecedented legal action.

The network's founder, Ding Zilin, the mother of a victim of the massacre, has suffered enormous persecution for her insistence on speaking the truth and calling for an end to impunity. -more- -page 2 of 2-

The Democracy Courage Tributes program was organized by Amcham, São Paulo, and was made possible with the support of Latin Trade magazine and Guardian Industries Corporation.

The World Movement for Democracy has been meeting since Sunday evening in an effort to create global networks of democrats who set and pursue practical goals for advancing democracy worldwide.

Participants are sharing valuable experiences with each other about their struggles and successes in their home countries, and are addressing some of the toughest challenges facing democrats in every region of the world through more than 20 topical, regional and functional workshops.

The Assembly will conclude today after a final plenary session when participants will adopt a statement that outlines the conferences conclusions and recommendations for moving ahead to achieve the goals set out by participants in the workshops.

A concluding press conference will be held Thursday, November 16 at the Paulista Plaza Hotel (Alameda Santos 85) at 11:00 AM.

The press conference will feature members of the World Movement Steering Committee including Mahnaz Afkhami, Iran/USA; Carl Gershman, USA; Bolivar Lamounier, Brazil; and Ayo Obe, Nigeria, who will discuss the recommendations of the participants and the next steps for the World Movement.

More information about the World Movement for Democracy is available on the Movement's website at

Particular questions about assembly activities should be directed to Jane Riley Jacobsen at or by phone at +55-11-9655-9113 (mobile until 11/16) or +1-202-293-9072 (after 11/16).

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