And here is posting number two on this cold bright blue February morning. There were some people who were interested in an English translation of the interview my colleague Sanne Rooseboom and I had with Irene Khan (51), secretary general of Amnesty International. The following is a translated excerpt of the original Dutch interview.
'I expect a great deal from the
Irene Khan is a petite woman with curly hair. The 51-year old Bengali Muslim
‘That was a strange start indeed. All my life I have been a Muslim, but after 9/11 this bit of identity suddenly became very important. One would almost forget that I am also a mother, lawyer, cook and
Many people think Islam and human rights are incompatible.
‘There are many democratic countries with a large Muslim population where the two do mix. In
‘If countries violate women’s rights and legitimize their actions through Shariah law, I really have my doubts whether such countries are actually bothered by the Shariah, for remarkably enough, Islamic law is not an issue when these very governments are doing business with the World Bank or the IMF. It simply proves that religion is used as a power instrument.’
‘I was in
‘Over the years I have spoken to many Muslim scholars on the subject. The Koran mostly certainly offers a way out of the death penalty and even to abolish it, simply by appealing to the state’s mercy.’
In 2005 you called
‘No, as I think it is the task of Amnesty to call a spade a spade and shake people up. At the time many people thought my wording was indeed too strong, but now you see that the media have started using the same words.’
‘It is not about quantity. I did not mean to say that
What should happen with
‘It should be closed and prisoners should stand trial within the American justice system. Those who innocent should be sent home. If it not safe for some of them to return home, the
‘I expect a great deal from the
Your organisation has broadened its focus on social rights and not just the death penalty and torture, as Amnesty once did in the beginning.
‘You have to look at the bigger picture. A person’s economic situation is just as important as one’s freedom of speech. Human rights are just as much about war, climate change and corruption. We can’t just focus on a specific number of human rights. Women in
‘Oh, quite a few. I won’t name them, but there are so many countries where the treatment of women is downright outrageous.’
Any ideas what you would like to do after Amnesty?
‘I will at least stay on until the end of 2009. After that, I would most certainly continue with human rights. Or I will become a cook. I love cooking.