Columbia Protest

IOYA calls PEACEFUL Protest at Columbia University

Please join us, the International Oromo Youth Association, in a protest against the dictator of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi. We are all aware of the flagrant human rights abuses and injustices that Zenawi and his regime are responsible for. Therefore, we need to stand up for our brothers and sisters and voice our concerns in this very unique chance to confront one of the worst tyrants in this world. Below are the logistic details. Please email if you are interested and plan to attend.

When: Wednesday, September 22 at 3pm Where: 116th Street and Broadway, New York City (Columbia University) What: A peaceful demonstration against Columbia’s uncritical invitation to a murderous, shameless tyrant. The Protest against Columbia’s invitation of Ethiopia’s Dictator is growing by the day. The following is from the Columbia Spectator Editorial Board. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will speak at Columbia Wednesday. Does this global university have a global conscience?

On Wednesday, Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia, will speak beneath the rotunda of Low Library as a guest at Columbia’s annual World Leaders Forum. According to the WLF website, Zenawi will discuss “the current global environment and its impact in Africa.” What that means, exactly, we are not certain. But we are certain that Zenawi’s presence on campus should give us pause.

Meles Zenawi is not a household name, but he is a despot. His government has carried out numerous extrajudicial killings, imprisoned political dissidents, and brutally suppressed protests by activists at Addis Ababa University. When Columbia first announced Zenawi as an invitee to the WLF, the Forum’s website referred to his “seasoned governmental leadership” and noted the many “progresses” his government has made. After a significant outcry, Zenawi’s bio was removed.

The University claimed the bio was provided by the Ethiopian Mission to the United Nations and published in error, as well as that the “editorial policy of the World Leaders Forum website has been to provide only the basic factual information” about speakers. Perhaps the actual publication of the bio was an honest mistake. But the fact that the University allowed such a glowing description of Zenawi to be published on its own website suggests that it did not consider the gravity of inviting such a politician to speak at Columbia.

The WLF offers students the rare opportunity to engage with leaders and thinkers from across the globe. We do not oppose the decision to invite Zenawi to campus. Rather, we believe the University should take more seriously the fact that the Forum serves as a powerful platform for invitees, particularly those who fall on the margins of the international community. We also find it extremely disturbing that few students have expressed concern over Zenawi’s invitation. Three years ago, College Walk was littered with stinging critiques of the president of Iran.

The facade of Butler was plastered with controversial quotes from Ahmadinejad. There isn’t a large Ethiopian community at Columbia, but that doesn’t excuse us from examining that nation’s political strife. We should not direct our attention only toward leaders with big names or those who have said outrageous things. The World Leaders Forum is supposed to be a hallmark of a global university. If we are truly globally minded, we must also be globally conscious. Students and administrators alike should care about Ethiopia.

Activists from outside Columbia have scheduled a protest here for the day of Zenawi’s speech. It would be a shame if no one within the gates raised a voice about this event. Columbia University is sending around the following inconsiderate message. As is the case with all guest speakers on Columbia’s campus, having Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi speak at a World Leaders Forum does not constitute endorsement of his views or his nation’s policies.

When Prime Minister Zenawi appears at the Forum, his remarks will be followed by an open question and answer period with students and members of our university community. Because we insist that such an open exchange be part of World Leaders Forum events, foreign leaders visiting the University often are confronted with probing questions that they may not face in their home countries. We respect and support the right of those who choose to express themselves through peaceful protest.

Providing such a forum for debate of controversial ideas and issues is central to the University’s free speech values, its educational mission, and its role as a global center of learning.

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