The unforgettable AST (Advocates of Silenced Turkey) Human Rights Festival, which took place in Greenview Park in New Jersey, emphasized justice and awareness by taking a stand against the injustices in Turkey. The event held amidst the greenery drew attention to human rights violations on a warm summer day.
Spread over 15,000 square meters, the festival energetically kicked off with the first rays of the sun on Sunday, August 6. At the festival, AST stood out not only as an event but also as a representative of a movement emphasizing the importance of law, justice, and human rights.
Attended by 1,500 people of all ages, the festival became even more lively and energetic thanks to the dedicated contributions of 110 volunteers. At the “Anatolian Cuisine Showcase”, 8 food tents featured unique regional dishes prepared and sponsored by volunteers, the proceeds of which were used to fund books and reports aimed at raising awareness of human rights violations. Additionally, a tent named “Human Rights Marketplace” selling specially designed products drew significant attention. Artistic activities, such as unique paintings made with calligraphy and necklaces made from rice, added color to the festival.
In the large fair tent area; meaningful mementos of lives oppressed in Turkey were displayed at the “Social Genocide Exhibition”, oil paintings by artist Ümmü Körkü entitled “Lives Affected by Oppression”, and pictures illustrating human rights violations with figures were the most striking parts of the festival. As part of the Genocide Exhibition, the stage costume worn by Kurdish artist Hozan Cane, who was detained by 200 military personnel for singing in Kurdish at a rally, was displayed. Additionally, the wedding ring of Esma Uludağ, who crossed the Meriç River with her three children to migrate to Greece and tragically died abroad without reuniting with her husband, evoked deep emotions among the participants.
Stage programs included the energy-packed “Super Duper Human Rights Show” filled with young people’s courage and meaningful statements, “Parade of Peace and Justice”, and performances adorned with meaningful songs, enlightening both eyes and hearts.
AST Vice President and Board Member Sait Önal, in his speech, emphasized that all participants played a vital role in creating a more just world by coming together for justice and compassion. He expressed that this strong unity nurtures hope against human rights violations.
AST Executive Director Hafza Girdap stated that the event provided an opportunity for young people to gain awareness and address issues, elevating the longing for a fairer and more equal future for humanity.
Genocide Exhibition Coordinator Aslıhan Kas thanked those who contributed to the festival, emphasizing the responsibility of commemorating individuals who have faced oppression in the past and upholding human values.
International human rights lawyer Sarah Teich stated that she continues her mission to provide legal support for human rights violations in Turkey and the situation of Uyghur Turks. She expressed that being deemed worthy of the human rights award of the year by AST once again showed the value given to the struggle for rights.
Mehmet Ali Uludağ, a Human Rights Activist from Germany mentioned, “Especially in the genocide exhibition, I did not see any discrimination. I saw that you embrace everyone who has experienced human rights violations. We can succeed if we are together. AST serves as an example in this regard.”
Additionally, Wayne Mayor Christopher P. Vergano visited the festival and delivered a speech. Vergano stated, “I learned a lot at this festival, especially the genocide exhibition brought tears to my eyes. I’m pleased to see the participation of young people here. In America, we can all defend our rights together. I was happy to be in this environment.”
This meaningful festival encouraged participants to reflect on the value of law and human rights, take action, and foster hope.