Mitford International: Nancy Amnesty

It was Nancy Mitford who led me to join Amnesty International. Not personally; she didn’t grasp my hand and suggest, in that cut glass Mitford accent, that I should check it out.

I read her novels and that led to reading about the Mitfords and Jessica Mitford’s autobiographical books, Hons and Rebels, and A Fine Old Conflict. After that, it wa a step to The American Prison Business. This was shelved in Guildford library with other books about penal systems, so I moved on to accounts of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment, and Diary of A Chilean Concentration Camp. This last book described the horrors of the author’s incarceration in a matter-of-fact way that did more than any emotionally charged reports to appall and shock me.

Back at school, my history teacher, a thoughtful woman had constantly tried to make us girls engage with the world around us. Cuttings from the Times, underlined and annoted were pinned to the notice boards outside Room 10 to draw our attention to what was happening beyond Surrey.

We were more interested in the Top Ten.

For a woman so passionate about current affairs, her lessons were generally uninspiring, so it was fortunate that the subject matter was gripping. She believed in the dictation method, and silence. This was a problem when she set us a task where we had to work in pairs, yet were still not allowed to speak. The girl I was working with lived in a village some ten miles from mine, so we could hardly meet up after school.

But I digress.

One day, as we massaged our aching wrists after another hour of dictation, this time about the Spanish Civil War, I think it was probably in the summer term, she made a comment that I have never forgotten.

General Franco, she said, is still alive. This man, an ally of Hitler’s, is in charge in Spain. He is a dictator. People are still being imprisoned and prosecuted for their beliefs. If you go to holiday in Spain, the money you spend on your ice creams is helping him to stay in power.

I don’t know if she left the room thinking none of us had paid attention, but for me, the phrase struck. I vowed not to go to Spain until this regime was overthrown. That wasn’t as noble-minded as it may sound. My parents were pretty hard up and Sapin wasn’t on the agenda for a holiday. Holidays weren’t on the agenda, at least not ones where you actually went away.

But I kept my vow. So I suppose when Nancy led me to Jessica who led me to Chile, the soil was already fairly well prepared. I’ve been a member of Amnesty International ever since.

8 thoughts on “Mitford International: Nancy Amnesty

    • Yes MSF does a wonderful job, as do so many. I find I am inundated with requests for donations and raffle tix to sell, but what I like about AI is that you can do something, not just donate cash.
      At the moment there’s a kite campaign to raise awareness about women in Afghanistan, and there are always letters to write.

      I have just been to your page and I am so sorry to hear about Jake. It must have been so hard. I’m glad you were with him.
      I’m going to get my boy in now.

  1. Franco wasn’t all bad.

    Hitler made a special journey to meet Franco in person to ask that he hand over all European Jews that had escaped across France to Spain. He refused, and Hitler returned with a flea in his ear; subsequently, the relationship was never the same.

    Amnesty would appear, to me at least (and I have much evidence), to have unequivocally taken taken the Palestinian side and have accepted the most obvious lies from Hamas and the PA.

    Hamas’ charter calls for Jewish genocide and Abbas’ doctoral thesis denied the Holocaust. Amnesty, much as Mother Theresa did, keeps extremely dubious company.

      • I don’t know what you meant by that comment Isobel, but I guess you know I’m a little touchy about Israel and antisemitism.

        I don’t want to turn your home site into a cauldron of controversy which is why I am confining my post to this slightly out of date blog. I wrote and posted this on MyT shortly after the bus killings in Sinai a few weeks ago; after reading it I trust you will understand why I am equivocal about IA. I have at least two dozen instances of this kind of IA bias on file.

        If I don’t hear from you again, I’ll understand and you won’t hear from me either.

        Anyway, here it is:

        Amnesty International Criticised Again

        The Jerusalem-based human rights watchdog organization NGO Monitor sharply criticized Amnesty International’s response to last week’s Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, which resulted in the killing of eight Israelis and scores of wounded.

        Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor president, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that “instead of issuing a strong condemnation of the August 18 Palestinian terror attacks, Amnesty International’s statement draws a false equivalence between cold-blooded murder and self defense that targeted those responsible.
        “from Amnesty’s statement, one has no idea that terrorists walked up to a car and brutally murdered the four passengers. Amnesty has immorally treated both the murders and the self-defense response as ‘indiscriminate and disproportionate.’ In obscuring the facts on the ground, Amnesty again makes a complete mockery of international law and human rights values.”

        Citing media reports that the assailants were dressed in Egyptian military uniforms and their illegal entry into Egypt and Israel, NGO Monitor said the attacks represent a “violation of international humanitarian law. If the terrorists indeed originated from Gaza, they also violated the sovereignty of both Egypt and Israel, a detail that was also ignored by Amnesty.”

        NGO Monitor criticized Amnesty for not condemning “the more than 100 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel over the weekend, killing one and injuring dozens” or acknowledging that “10 of the 13 Palestinians killed were terrorists, and that the other three were with the terrorists at the time of their death.”
        When asked about NGO Monitor’s criticisms, Susanna Flood, director of media at the London-based headquarters of AI, wrote the Post on Monday, saying, “We deplore and have repeatedly condemned the firing of indiscriminate rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. We also deplore and condemn killings of Palestinian civilians when these result from indiscriminate attacks by Israeli forces in breach of the laws of war.”

        “…indiscriminate attacks by Israeli forces in breach of the laws of war.”

        That old familiar chestnut. When did Israel launch ‘indiscriminate’ attacks? Can she name any instances?
        Of course she can’t! Israel’s responses are invariably well planned, sharply focused and carried out with surgical precision. Something the terrorists deliberately refrain from as they seek maximum casualties on either side.

        Amnesty International is dedicated to maligning Israel at every opportunity and continues to show itself as a supporter of terrorism. Remember that should you see someone rattling an AI can.

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