How Not to Help Amina Lawal.
May 16, 2003 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The Hidden Dangers of Letter Campaigns.
A series of email petitions have been circulating over the past year, to prevent the execution of Amina Lawal, a 30 year-old woman found guilty by an islamic court in Northern Nigeria of adultery. Even signature-collecting websites have been set up by local Amnesty chapters (see for example this Spanish A.I. site). But this isn't helping - and is indeed damaging the cause of Amina Lawal, according to BAOBAB, a Nigerian group supporting Women's Human Rights:
...It turns out that letters and petitions, even the few that aren't just chain-letter foolishness, may do more harm than good and that the situation in Nigeria is at once far more complex and less dire than it seems from the outside. There are ways to help, starting with understanding what is really going on...
Good intentions, it seems, aren't good enough if one has little knowledge of what one is campaigning against or for.
posted by talos (12 comments total)
You mean a bunch of clueless people doing useless gestures to make themselves feel like they've done a good deed that day actually accomplishes... nothing?

I better throw out this "no blood for oil" sign and take off my AIDS ribbon. I was so sure I was going to save the world.
posted by bondcliff at 8:16 AM on May 16, 2003

With enough $$$, anyone can be set free. Just ask Marc Rich.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:32 AM on May 16, 2003

I've gotten a few chain letters like this myself, and I always send them back with similiar arguements. I remember a chain letter about the situation of women in afganistan. Very moving, but also very stupid. It's good see more information like this coming out. The more informed people are about really helping the causes they believe in, the better they'll be able to.
posted by wobh at 8:35 AM on May 16, 2003

good article...very informative, thanks
posted by jacobsee at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2003

Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry joined the campaign, printing booklets to be signed around the country. This was done to divert attention from the fact that a country without an army and with a Nobel Prize of Peace was actually supporting the coalition to invade Iraq. Good causes can turn into anything.
posted by papalotl at 8:59 AM on May 16, 2003

What was the road to hell paved with again?
posted by xmutex at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2003

The inaccurate reporting seems more like the troublesome issue here and not letter writing campaigns themselves.
posted by destro at 9:07 AM on May 16, 2003

Always treat email petitions warily - as referenced here (BBC) and here (Mefi).
posted by dash_slot- at 9:21 AM on May 16, 2003

Talos, thank you very much for an interesting and informative article. I never take part in on-line petitions either (for many of the reasons in the article). Have bookmarked the site to refer disappointed and well-meaning 'activists' to. Thx!
posted by widdershins at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2003

slacktivism fails again.
posted by dgaicun at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2003

Just to make myself clear: I often have signed on-line petitions - but only those of which I personally know who the originators are and/or know the issue pretty well.
The moral of this story is certainly "think before you act", or "ask some locals before writing a petition about a country you can't find on the map" rather than "don't act at all". Indeed the women who wrote the article are activists themselves (risking much more than embarassment BTW). They aren't against letter writing in principle either:
International letter writing campaigns have specific potential that can be spectacularly successful (as in the case of Fatima Yacoub in Tchad in the mid-1990s). However, they are not appropriate in this campaign at this time.
They also have this to say:
So how can people and other organisations help? In the immediate, resources (money but not only money) are needed to support both the victims directly and the appeal processes. The victims--almost all of them poor, and most also rural dwellers--have found that their lives and work and those of their families are disrupted. They are economically hard hit, as well as under considerable social pressure...etc.
posted by talos at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2003

In other words, the process is a long way from immediate stoning to death.

Well, no problemo, then!

Dominant colonialist discourses and the mainstream international media have presented Islam (and Africa) as the barbaric and savage Other.

Well, we wouldn't want to tar people as barbaric and savage just because they want to throw rocks at a woman til she's dead because she committed adultery. That'd be "colonialist".

(where a man convicted of theft refused to appeal and had his hand amputated)

Sorry, that's barbaric. I'm not advocating the rule of Nigeria by some sort of outside power, but...
posted by swell at 1:22 PM on May 16, 2003

« Older Bruiseblog   |   80's electronica nostalgia time Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments