WASHINGTON -- March 15 -- Amnesty International has written to American Express regarding its sponsorship of an event featuring Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. The Asian-American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has invited Chief Minister Modi to address their conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on March 24.
Amnesty International has cited the Gujarat authorities, headed by Modi, for failing to protect Muslims during violence in February 2002 during which more than 2,000 people died. During the violence, which followed state government officials blaming a train fire on Muslims, several hundred girls and women were stripped naked, raped or gang-raped, had their wombs slashed and were thrown into fires, some while still alive. The state government took no steps to prevent or stop these widespread and systematic attacks on members of the Muslim minority, and during the attacks, policen stood by or even joined in the violence. Amnesty International has concluded that many of the abuses constitute crimes against humanity.
In Amnesty International's January 2005 report, "India: Justice, the victim - Gujarat state fails to protect women from violence," Bilqis Yakoob Rasool, herself a victim of gang-rape who lost 14 family members reported:
"They started molesting the girls and tore off their clothes. Our naked girls were raped in front of the crowd. They killed Shamin's baby who was two days old. They killed my maternal uncle and my father's sister and her husband too. After raping the women they killed all of them... They killed my baby too. They threw her in the air and she hit a rock. After raping me, one of the men kept a foot on my neck and hit me."
"Amnesty International takes no position on whether a particular speaker ought to be invited for a particular event, but American Express should not ignore the consequences of its association with this speech, delivered by a man who bears responsibility for a climate of fear endured by Gujarat's minorities," said Govind Acharya, Amnesty International USA's India Country Specialist. "We urge American Express to consider the human rights implications of its relationship to this event, and whether there are more constructive opportunities for the company's support that would contribute to curtailing violence against women and minorities in India."