Sunday, May 22, 2011


The San Francisco-based organization Voice of Witness describes itself as a "nonprofit book series that empowers those most closely affected by contemporary social injustice. Using oral history as a foundation, the series depicts human rights crises around the world through the stories of the men and women who experience them." The series was founded by author Dave Eggers, and physician and human rights scholar Lola Vollen. Books in the series cover such human rights crises in such places as Zimbabwe, the Sudan, the United States, and, most recently, Burma.

In the video above, I talk with the organization's executive director, Mimi Lok, and with Maggie Lemere and Zoë West, the editors of the book "Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives From Survivors of Burma's Military Regime." That book contains not only stories of all-too-common arrests, detentions, beatings and other human rights abuses in Burma, but also -- crucially -- stories of everyday life as well. The protection of human rights means nothing unless you have a sense of the humanity of the people whose rights are being violated. Reading the stories of survivors' daily goings-on, their arrests, their solidarity, their fear, and their courage was troubling, enraging, and finally inspiring.

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