Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XX Number 3, March 2012


Thursday, March 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.

Tuesday, April 10, 7:30 PM.  Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, April 15, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" 
by Tea Obreht.


Hello all

I'm writing this tonight while listening to the 
rain outside hitting the windows.  Spent most of 
today working at the American Diabetes 
Association Diabetes Expo at the convention 
center downtown, where LAUSD Nursing 
Services had a table.  We demonstrated Sugar 
Savvy - Rethink Your Drink. Did you know a 20 
oz Gatorade has 9 tsp of sugar (4 grams per 
teaspoon) and a regular Coke has 10 tsp or 39 
grams? Just like tabling for Amnesty except 
diabetes instead of death penalty! 

This Sunday we're discussing a book written by 
an activist Afghani woman, Malalai Joya.  
Amnesty has this action for International 
Women's Day (which was March 8, but better 
late than never!) on their website.  It is pertinent 
to the issues of women's rights in Afghanistan 
and what will happen when the US leaves, as 
we plan to do by 2014.

This book is timely in view of the recent tragic 
event in Afghanistan (unfortunately, one of 
many) where civilians were massacred. I 
remember shortly after 9/11 when our group 
viewed a presentation from RAWA, the group 
mentioned in this book. Sonali Kolhatkar, now a 
radio host on KPFK, 90.5 FM, was involved with 
this group and brought the plight of Afghan 
women to our attention. 

Thanks to Joyce for helping me get this 
newsletter done this month as this year the 
workload has increased but personnel have not!

Con carino,  Kathy

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:

   Sunday, April 15, 6:30 PM
   Vroman's Bookstore
   695 E. Colorado Boulevard 

   The Tiger's Wife
   by Tea Obreht

By Ron Charles
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 10:14 PM 

Tea Obreht's swirling first novel, "The Tiger's 
Wife," draws us beneath the clotted tragedies in 
the Balkans to deliver the kind of truth that 
histories can't touch. Born in Belgrade in 1985 - 
no, that's not a typo - she captures the thirst for 
consecration that a century of war has left in that 
bloody part of the world. It's a novel of 
enormous ambitions that manages in its modest 
length to contain the conflicts between 
Christians and Muslims, Turks and Ottomans, 
science and superstition. 

The story, which demands a luxurious stretch of 
concentration, works on two levels that initially 
seem unrelated but eventually wind around 
each other evocatively. In the present day, the 
narrator is a young doctor named Natalia, who 
travels 400 miles on a "goodwill mission" to 
inoculate orphans at a monastery in a town now 
separated from her home by a new border. Just 
as she arrives, she gets word that her beloved 
grandfather, also a physician, has died while 
coming to help her. His death is not a surprise - 
she alone knew he had cancer - but the 
circumstances strike her as odd. 

Obreht has lived in the United States since she 
was 12, but she creates a vivid sense of this war-
torn region (we're never told exactly where all 
this is taking place). Her thoughtful narrator 
must navigate the land mines - literal and 
political - that still blot the countryside. Natalia's 
world is a steampunk mingling of modern 
technology and traditional tools - cellphones 
and antibiotics alongside picks and poultices. 

But what confounds her medical work at the 
monks' orphanage is a conflict of values, which 
touches on the novel's most interesting theme. 
While Natalia administers vaccines, a group of 
ragged people is digging in a vineyard behind 
the monastery. They're not gardening; they're 
looking for the body of a cousin abandoned 12 
years ago during the war. One of the men is 
convinced that if they can properly rebury this 
relative, the sickness affecting their village will 
abate. Natalia, of course, would rather these 
superstitious men allow her to examine and 
treat their children, but she also appreciates 
their need to recover and sanctify the remains of 
the dead. Indeed, she now feels the same 

This activity in the present is only the novel's 
skeleton; the meat of the book is supplied by the 
lyrical stories Natalia remembers from her 
grandfather. These tales take place in a time of 
isolated villages inhabited by craftsman, 
traveling peddlers and healers. That "The Tiger's 
Wife" never slips entirely into magical realism is 
part of its magic - its agile play with tragic 
material and with us - because, despite Natalia 
and her grandfather's devotion to science and 
rationality, this is a story that bleeds into fable 
with the slightest scratch. 

Two semi-mythical characters dominate her 
grandfather's reminiscences, stories flecked with 
macabre humor that sound at times like Balkan 
versions of Isaac Bashevis Singer. One is "the 
deathless man," the nephew of Death himself, 
who came originally to heal but eventually to 
carry the souls of the deceased to the other side. 
Again and again, her grandfather crossed paths 
with this mournful but congenial man, whose 
story he never allowed himself to fully believe. 

The other character is a deaf and mute woman, 
viciously abused by her husband, who 
befriended a tiger in the woods. It's a big, 
violent, romantic symbol, like Melville's whale, 
a fiery orange canvas onto which any number of 
meanings might be projected. Natalia claims 
that "everything necessary to understand my 
grandfather lies between two stories: the story of 
the tiger's wife and the story of the deathless 
man," but his relationship to these mysterious 
characters yields only more evocative questions. 
Indeed, it has to be said: There are times when 
"The Tiger's Wife" reaches more for affect than 
for coherence. 

But the reception for this book couldn't be more 
encouraging. Well-deserved praise has been 
accumulating ever since Obreht published a 
chapter in the New Yorker almost two years 
ago, and now that we have the whole, its 
graceful commingling of contemporary realism 
and village legend seems even more absorbing. 

Also, its sentiments are refreshingly un-
American. Anxiously youth-obsessed, we've 
always been awkward and weird about death; 
our rituals for grieving and commemorating are 
still chaotic and ad hoc. But "The Tiger's Wife" 
never strays far from the desire of desperate 
people to do right by the dead, no matter how 
much time has passed. 

"What shall we bury?" is the plaintive cry in 
towns repeatedly bombed and burned. Scattered 
bones must be collected, washed and put to rest. 
The Balkans' legacy of living amid so much 
carnage and desecration has produced what 
Obreht calls "the delusion of normalcy, but 
never peace." That sounds grim and depressing, 
but conveyed in storytelling this enchanting, it's 
the life you remember. 


Tea Obreht was born in 1985 in the former 
Yugoslavia, and spent her childhood in Cyprus 
and Egypt before eventually immigrating to the 
United States in 1997. Her writing has been 
published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, 
Harper's, Zoetrope: All-Story, The New York Times, 
and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in 
The Best American Short Stories and The Best 
American Non-Required Reading. Her first 
novel, The Tiger's Wife, will be published by 
Random House on March 8 2011. She has been 
named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty 
best American fiction writers under forty and 
included in the National Book Foundation's list 
of 5 Under 35. Tea Obreht lives in Ithaca, New 

Gao Zhisheng

By Joyce Wolf

No news is not good news, at least in the case of 
Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience. 
Missing since April 2010, human rights lawyer 
Gao Zhisheng was reportedly admitted last 
December to Shaya Prison in a remote part of 
Xinjiang, but Chinese officials have not 
permitted his family to contact him. 

China passed a new law on March 14 that 
legalized the practice of detaining suspects in 
secret locations. A last-minute amendment 
requires the police to notify the suspect's family 
within 24 hours, but they don't have to specify 
where the suspect is being held, or for how long.

Other parts of the new law replace provisions of 
the criminal code enacted in 1996 and could 
actually improve the rights of some detainees 
such as juveniles and mentally ill persons. 
Evidence extracted with torture will not be 
admissible in court.

From the Los Angeles Times:

  But lawyer Liu warned that the changes are 
  significant only if they are followed 
  adequately. "Once they feel a threat to 
  stability," he warned of security forces, "they 
  will abandon any legal procedure." Liu was 
  detained last April after calls for an Arab 
  Spring-style revolution in China triggered a 
  widespread crackdown on dissent. His client 
  Ai Weiwei was detained for 2 1/2 months at 
  about the same time without charges being 

  China's courts are strictly controlled by the 
  ruling Communist Party, which, according to 
  human rights groups, has often used 
  allegations of  "endangering national security" 
  to silence its critics. Outspoken bloggers, 
  activists and petitioners have been regularly 
  placed in "black jails," unofficial holding pens 
  in hotels and apartment blocks under the 
  watch of plainclothes security agents.

  "Already, many thousands of people in China 
  are being held in secret and are at great risk of 
  being tortured," Catherine Baber, deputy 
  director of Asia Pacific for Amnesty 
  International, said recently.

A bit of good cheer: Group 22 received inquiries 
from two people wanting to take action for Gao 
Zhisheng. Thank you to Donald from Pasadena 
and William from North Carolina! It's great that 
you are joining us in our efforts for Gao.

Have you visited The site 
has news, photos of Gao and his family, and a 
petition you can sign. 

This month let's write to the Minister of Justice. 
This is the fourth time that Gao's brother is 
petitioning for permission to have contact with 
Gao. Let's show that we are supporting him! 

Here's a sample letter that you can use as a 
guide. Postage to China is $1.05.

Minister of Justice
WU Aiying Buzhang 
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijingshi 100020
People's Republic of China

Dear Minister,

I am deeply concerned about Gao Zhisheng 
(___), a Beijing-based human rights lawyer 
who was detained in Shaanxi Province on 
February 4, 2009. Since April 20, 2010, he was 
subjected to enforced disappearance. 

On December 19, 2011, he was admitted to 
Shaya Prison in a remote area of Xinjiang.

I urge you to ensure that Mr. Gao is not 
subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while 
he is in custody, that he receives whatever 
medical treatment he may require, and that he is 
able to contact his family and lawyers. His 
brother, Gao Zhiyi, is now petitioning the 
authorities for the fourth time to ask permission 
to contact Gao Zhisheng.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent 
matter. I look forward to hearing from you 
regarding the current status of Gao Zhisheng.

[your name and address]

Please also send a copy to:
His Excellency Ambassador Zhang Yesui
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008


By Stevi Carroll

March: The month that contains not only St. 
Patrick's Day but also International Women's 
Day! Go Woman!  And do not ever think the 
advances we women have made are GIVEN to 
us.  Be vigilant, now and forever!

   The SAFE California Campaign

No new news about the SAFE CA Campaign at 
this time.  Of course, the one thing we can 
continue to do is consider a contribution.  
Education will be the key to a successful 
campaign, and as we all know, education is not 
cheap.  But as saying goes, "If you think 
education is expensive, try ignorance."  And 
ignorance will be a mighty opponent to this 
ballot initiative. 

To help the SAFE California campaign, give 
money. Donations can be mailed to 
SAFE California Campaign
237 Kearny Street, #334
San Francisco, CA 94108
or you can go online

Look for more information as I get it. You can 
also go to the SAFE California Facebook page or 
to the campaign's website:

   Worldwide Executions, Women and Capital 

I was thinking I'd like to know more about the 
death penalty worldwide, and I found a site 
from the UK.  The site features interesting 
information about executions and monthly 
tracks them around the world.  For 2012, only 
January and February stats are available. 

Our friends in Saudi Arabia beheaded nine 
people during this time, mostly for murder but 
also for drugs.  Iraq hanged 69 people - 
terrorism.  Iran busily dispatched 45 for crimes 
related to drugs, rape, murder and armed 
robbery.  China's line on the chart was blank 
and that sent me on a search.  It seems China 
does not release its execution numbers.  I did, 
however, find an article 
reality-show-axed-from-air/) explaining that the 
40 million TV fans who have been tuning in to 
the  "Interviews Before Execution" reality show 
will be without it after five years of watching 
because of 'internal problems'.  And here I 
thought I was grossed out by what I think might 
be US reality shows.

Along with other interesting information, the 
UK website also has a list of women worldwide 
who have been executed from 2000 to the 
present.  Go to
ml if you'd like to see.  I guess in the spirit of 
equality, the author of the page ends with, "My 
own research shows the vast majority of 
respondents of both sexes do not feel that 
women should be treated more leniently than 
men." Love that equal opportunity, eh?  March = 
women's month, oh yeah.

   Death Penalty Abolition Worldwide Since 1961

Amnesty International has an interesting 
interactive world map 
with a timeline that goes from 1961 to 2010.  Just 
clicking from one decade to the next, I could see 
the transformation in thinking about and acting 
on the death penalty throughout the world.  In 
1961, a very small area of land carried the 
"Abolitionist for All Crimes" color, but by 2010, 
the "Retentionist" color had eroded, and while 
not all countries have abolished the death 
penalty, the number has grown significantly. 
Check this map out and see where in the death 
penalty world the USA stands.

   Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about 
   injustice (a TED talk)

My little Roku box is supposed to let me see 
TED talkson my TV, but alas, the other 
afternoon when I left work early thanks to this 
pesky cough that kept me awake the night 
before, the stream for TED would not flow.  The 
talk I wanted to see was Bryan Stevenson's We 
Need to Talk About Injustice.  As I wandered 
through websites looking for some grist for my 
death penalty mill, I came across the link to Mr. 
Stevenson's talk.  While he deals with a variety 
of topics, he also discusses the death penalty.

"It's interesting, this question of the death 
penalty. In many ways we've been taught to 
think the real question is "Do people deserve to 
die for the crimes they've committed?" and 
that's a very sensible question.  But there's 
another way of thinking about where we are in 
our identity.  The other way of thinking about it 
is not "Do people deserve to die for the crimes 
they commit?", but "Do we deserve to kill?"

To see Mr. Stevenson's entire TED talk, go to

   Life Without the Possibility of Parole for 

During the week of March 18, the US Supreme 
will hear arguments on whether it is cruel and 
unusual punishment to sentence juveniles to life 
in prison.  The Court's focus will be on two 
separate cases involving men who were 14 years 
old when they committed murder.  Now Evan 
Miller is 23 and Kuntrell Jackson is 26.  

According to the ACLU, approximately 2,570 
inmates who committed crimes as minors are 
sentenced to juvenile life without parole 

Here are the results of a poll (from March 17, 
2012, when I took it) that appeared with the 
article about Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson.

Quick Poll
Should a 14-year-old convicted murderer face 
life in prison without parole?
Yes:  57.71%            No:  42.29%

To see an interactive map of the US that shows 
the number of inmates serving JLWOP, go to
state/.  I checked out California first.

   Stays of Execution

February 2012
28	Anthony Bartee 		Texas

March 2012
6	Michael Ryan		Nebraska
8	Dustin Briggs		Pennsylvania 


February 2012
29	Robert Moorman		Arizona
				Lethal Injection
29	George Rivas		Texas
				Lethal Injection

March 2012
 7	Keith Thurmond		Texas
				Lethal Injection
 8	Robert Towery		Arizona
				Lethal Injection

15	Timothy Stemple		Oklahoma
 				Lethal Injection

Death Penalty             3
UAs                      12
POC                       5
Total                    20
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake 
research and action focused on preventing and 
ending grave abuses of the rights to physical 
and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and 
expression, and freedom from discrimination, 
within the context of its work to promote all 
human rights.