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DOCUMENTARIO DEDICATO DA AL-JAZEERA ALLA LEADER RADICALE EMMA BONINO

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EMMA BONINO: POLITICAL ACTIVIST

by Donna Nebenzahl Emma Bonino knows repression when she sees it. In 1998, as European Parliament minister for humanitarian aid, she became involved in a campaign to help women living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. She was visiting a group of women health workers there, and was amazed to see that women took off their veils, they were heavily made up. “They were doctors and teachers,” she says, chatting between calls and a dozen interruptions as she stretches out behind her desk at the offices of Italy’s Radical Party. “Makeup was for them a way to resist, a way to feel real.” The Taliban were furious to discover that the group had photographed the women, and Bonino and her entourage were held at gunpoint for four hours. “I saw there,” she says, her English tinged with the beautiful cadence of her native language, “a blatant violation of human rights.” Now, in the wake of September 11, Bonino’s work in the European Parliament is even more pressing – the ratification of the international criminal court treaty, an effort that finally bore fruit in July of 2002. The concept, she says, is like the land-mines treaty: to have member states establish a criminal court to judge crimes against humanity. It’s a step forward from an ad hoc tribunal established only after genocide, which makes a point but has little deterrent value. Now you will be judged: your impunity is finished. “Look at Milosevic”, she says. “It’s the first time a living guy cannot travel or escape. Look at Pinochet, he might escape but he cannot win the next election. Nothing is more fragile than dictatorships.” She may be considered a criminal by the Taliban, but Bonino is judged by many to be an honest and erudite politician. When she was given the North-South Prize in 1999, Hans-Peter Furrer of the Council of Europe spoke of her role as European Commissioner and the “spirit and personal courage” she showed when “exposing the violations of human rights and shaking the conscience of those who are apparently good-willed but more than often just idle and indifferent…” She may be diminutive and conservatively dressed, but Bonino has never been idle. Her life of activism started at the University of Milan in Italy, where she graduated with a degree in foreign languages in 1972. by 1975 she had given up teaching to become president of the Radical Party. She was elected in 1976 to the Italian House of Representatives; by 1978 abortion was legal in Italy. She was elected to the European Parliament in 1979, where she was appointed Human Rights Commissioner and travelled to some of the most dangerous parts of the world, such as Rwanda and Kosovo. In her decades in politics, Bonino has built a reputation as a skilful political player who honed the radical edge she displayed at her first mass action in the 1910s. “It was a turning point in my life,” she says. She was twenty-seven at the time, and pregnant by a man who had told her he was sterile. Forced to undergo a clandestine abortion after one doctors she visited refused the procedure unless she paid him one million lire, she was humiliated by the experience, and spoke to many other women who felt the same way. “I was shocked,” Bonino says. “I am a good citizen.” So she and her friends organized a centre of civil disobedience, helping women have abortions. The more the women gathered, the more outraged and vocal they became. Before long, they were arrested, and Emma Bonino’s political career was launched. She has never looked back. For her, the rights and responsibilities of individuals is key. In Italy, she believes politicians don’t stand squarely behind their position in the face of the power of the Church. There’s a difference, she argues, between belief and laws. “What my country thought and now thinks,” she says, “is that a sin is a crime.” Known as a courageous street fighter, this most effective communicator believes that dialogue must constantly be fostered between the public and institutions. “But you must have a lot of fantasy also, to attract the media,” she says with a laugh, “like spending five days and nights sitting in front of government building, so people wouldn’t forget to vote in the referendum!”





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[ Unione Europea ] [ Italia ] [ Afghanistan ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

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