Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXV Number 2, February 2017

  Thursday, February 23, 7:30-9:00 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. 
Alexi will update us on work for Narges 
Mohammadi, our adopted prisoner of 
conscience. Please join us! Refreshments 
  March 10-12, AIUSA Annual General 
Meeting, Albuquerque, NM. The agenda is 
available now on
  Tuesday, March 14, 7:30-9:00 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, March 19, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we read a novel, "Island of a 
Thousand Mirrors" by Nayomi Munaweera.

Hi everyone

Did you survive the deluge?  Driving home 
from work I could hardly see and the wipers 
were going full blast!  Is the drought finally 
over?!    And for the skeptics out there, it's not 
just overly warm weather that can be caused by 
climate change but erratic and unusual weather 
patterns as well.

The recent actions by the administration have 
been alarming to say the least.  I don't know 
what is going to happen next! Thank heavens 
the immigrant ban was (temporarily) halted by 
the courts. There are actions and activities on the 
AIUSA website against the Muslim ban, the 
Wall, and to protect human rights at Standing 
Rock.  Go to for more 
info.  We all need to do what we can to protect 
human rights that are being threatened right 

Con Carino, 

Next Rights Readers Meeting
Sunday, March 19  
6:30 PM 

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E Colorado Blvd.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Nayomi Munaweera

BOOK REVIEW (New York Times)
By Nadifa Mohamad, Sept. 26, 2014 

Say You're One of Them

In one of the many startling scenes in "Island of 
a Thousand Mirrors," Nayomi Munaweera's 
first novel, a Sri Lankan girl riding the train to 
school is suddenly surrounded by a machete-
wielding mob, who demand proof she isn't 
Tamil. In her panic, she recites the Buddhist 
sutras "preaching unattachment, impermanence, 
the inevitability of death," an unholy trinity that 
could apply to all civil wars. This chilling 
exchange reminded me of a conversation I once 
had on a London bus with a Somali refugee, 
who swerved from banal chitchat into dark 
reminiscence. He recalled a moment in 
Mogadishu when he was forced to recite his 
genealogy, the string of grandfathers' names 
that place all Somalis within their clans, and he 
borrowed a school friend's lineage, as his own 
would have marked him for death.

The weight of these humiliations, momentary 
yet everlasting, is the ballast of a narrative that 
ebbs and flows in time and space. From the 
maternal expanse of the Indian Ocean to the 
sterile swimming pools of Los Angeles, the lives 
of Munaweera's characters are defined by 
bodies of water that reflect the state of their 
souls, including the corpse-clogged wells and 
lagoons of the Tamil north and the playful 
shores of the Sinhala south, alive with flying fish 
and ancient turtles.

Yasodhara Rajasinghe; her sister, Lanka; and 
their comrade-in-mischief, Shiva, grow up in the 
same house in Colombo - the Sinhala girls 
downstairs and the Tamil boy upstairs, in a 
partition that matches their island's. A mango 
tree and its fruit are the focus of strife between 
the Tamil patriarch and Sinhala matriarch, but 
the children float through the house and its 
garden, impervious to any divisions.

Before we are introduced to these three, 
however, we are marched through the 
machinations and changing fortunes that bring 
them to life, in a manner that seems breathless 
and unnecessarily hurried: Grandparents die, 
marriages are arranged and lovers betrayed. 
When the violence that has stayed latent finally 
explodes, the residents of the house are thrown 
to the wind, navigating difficult, self-
consciously new lives in the United States. 
Munaweera describes how Yasodhara, growing 
into her Americanness, casts a disdainful glance 
at the newly arrived refugees gathered at her 
wealthy uncle's house for Christmas. She keeps 
her distance, "lest the aura of foreignness so 
laboriously shed" rubs off on her.

While the Rajasinghes buy a car, tend a lawn 
and make a home in Los Angeles, the story 
returns to Sri Lanka and to an anonymous 
village in the north, where Saraswathi, a Tamil 
teenager who finds beauty in mathematical 
equations, lives with her dancer mother, lame 
father and giddy little sister. The predations of 
the national army combine with those of the 
Tamil Tigers to slowly steal whatever happiness 
or comfort this family enjoyed. The uneasy 
relationship between "liberation movements" 
and those they seek to liberate is convincingly 
captured, as are the constant negotiations 
civilians have to make to survive in a war zone 
- take that child but leave me this one. Still, 
Saraswathi's voice never rings true; her 
experiences are heart-rending, but they seem to 
smother any glimpse of what distinguishes her 
from other girls weaponized by the Tamil 

The beating heart of "Island of a Thousand 
Mirrors" is not so much its human characters 
but Sri Lanka itself and the vivid, occasionally 
incandescent, language used to describe this 
teardrop in the Indian Ocean. Despite the 
bloody acts taking place on its soil, Sri Lanka 
remains a place where flower boys chase cars 
down mountain passes, "the buffalo stirs in the 
jade paddy fields" and life abounds restlessly, 
both on land and under the sea.

About the Author
Nayomi Munaweera is a Sri Lankan American 
writer and author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, 
which won Commonwealth Book Prize for the 
Asian Region in 2013.

Nayomi Munaweera was born in Sri Lanka, 
grew up in Nigeria and settled in Southern 
California. She holds bachelor's degree in 
Literature from the University of California, 
Irvine and a master's degree in South Asian 
Literature from the University of California, 

Island of a Thousand Mirrors was her debut novel 
and was published in South Asia in 2012. It went 
on to be nominated for many of the sub-
continent's major literary prizes including Man 
Asian Literary Prize and won the 
Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia in 2013. 
It was long listed for the International DUBLIN 
Literary Award and short listed for the DSC 
Prize for South Asian Literature. The novel was 
released in America by St. Martin's Press in 
2014. It tells the story of the conflict between two 
main ethnic groups in Sri Lanka from the 
perspective of two girls who witness the horror. 
The civil war officially began in 1983 and 
continued until 2009.

By Stevi Carroll

Proposition 66

As we remember, in November California voters 
passed Prop 66 which is intended to make death 
penalty cases a five-year journey from 
sentencing to execution. This result has gone to 
the California Supreme Court where in a closed 
session in December the court voted 5 to 0 to put 
a hold on the proposition.

Enacting the requirements of Prop 66 would 
require more lawyers. At this time, many years 
go by before the appeals process even begins.  
One of the problems with these cases is that 
state appointed lawyers have only $50,000 with 
which to work.  That may sound like a lot of 
money, but when one looks into the amount of 
work it takes to secure the experts to investigate 
the crimes and the inmates' lives, the amount 
dwindles. Also, not enough lawyers are 
available to take these cases, which are not only 
time consuming but also emotionally 
challenging.  Prop 66 requires lawyers who 
represent low-income inmates to represent 
condemned inmates in the automatic appeals. 
As we have learned from Bryan Stevenson 
(Equal Justice Initiative), defending capital cases 
takes a level of expertise not all lawyers have.

California has 749 death row inmates.  We will 
have to see what happens over the coming 
months, and years. 

To read an LA Times article on this, go to

Five States

What do Montana, Colorado, Kansas, 
Washington, and Georgia have in common? The 
governments of all of them are considering the 
death penalty to see if they think it's worth 
retaining both morally and financially. Four of 
the states have bills that would repeal the death 
penalty and replace it with life without parole.

Montana Republican Representative Adam 
Herts is on the record saying, "The death 
penalty system, like so many government 
programs, is wasteful, ineffective, and unjust."

We'll watch and see what happens in these 

Stays of execution
12	Ronald Phillips			OH
23	Gary Haugen				OH
25	Kosoul Chanthakoummane		TX 
	 - rescheduled for July 19, 2017

2	John Ramirez			TX
7	Tilon Lashon Carter		TX
19	Ramond Tibbetts		OH


11	Christopher Wilkins		TX	
	Lethal Injection  1-drug (Pentobarbital)
18	Ricky Javon Gray		VA	
	Lethal Injection 3-drug (midazolam)
26	Terry Darnell Edwards	TX	
	Lethal Injection  1-drug (Pentobarbital)
31	Mark Christeson		MO	
	Lethal Injection  1-drug (Pentobarbital)

Narges Mohammadi
By Joyce Wolf

I have not been able to find any recent news 
about Narges after the Iranian court upheld her 
16-year sentence on appeal in late September. 
We hope, of course, that her fragile health has 
not worsened in prison. We also hope that she is 
still permitted to have regular phone calls with 
her young children, a right she won at the cost 
of a three-week hunger strike. 

At our February letter-writing meeting, we 
signed the last five of the 100 postcards for 
Narges that we had printed last October. Alexi 
will discuss plans for future actions for Narges 
at this Thursday's monthly meeting. We will do 
something to mark Nowruz, the Iranian New 
Year celebration on March 20. 

An Amnesty local group in Oregon is also 
working on Narges's case. They initiated a 
petition on You can support their 
action at

Urgent Actions              18
POC (postcards)              5
Total                       23
To add your letters to our 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.