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Angolan Rapper Breathes New Life Into ‘Freedom Now’ Movement, As Hunger Strike Threatens His

VigiliaLuatyBeirao

Vigil for Luaty Beirão, an imprisoned activist on hunger strike in Angola. The sign reads “Luaty hang in there, you're a true warrior” in Portuguese. Photo: Facebook (reproduced with permission).

Imprisoned with more than a dozen other youth activists since June 20, Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão has been on a hunger strike for almost one month, and his life is now considered to be in imminent danger. Luaty Beirão has reportedly become so weak that he is no longer able to drink water and has begun fainting. Thanks to desperate actions like Beirão's, the world community is finally taking notice of human rights violations committed by the regime of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who's been in power for more than three decades.

In the wake of these reports, several organized movements have intensified their ongoing campaigns to raise an outcry over the imprisonment of these activists, and bring special attention to Beirão's deteriorating health. The rapper's Facebook page, which his friends and family now manage, shares the following story:

A situação de saúde do Luaty é preocupante.
Estamos a falar de uma vida. De um angolano que luta pelos seus ideais, mesmo que isso possa causar danos à sua própria saúde.
Não fique de braços cruzados. Exija a liberdade. Hoje é ele, amanhã poderá ser qualquer um de nós.
‪#‎liberdadeja ‪#‎luatybeirao ‪#‎ikonoklasta ‪#‎presospoliticosemangola ‪#‎revus ‪#‎brigadeiromatafrakuzx

Luaty's state of health is worrisome.
We are talking about the life of an Angolan who fights for his ideals, even if that may damage his own health.
Don't just stand there with your arms folded. Demand freedom. Today it is him, tomorrow it may be any one of us.
‪#‎liberdadeja [FreedomNow] ‪#‎luatybeirao ‪#‎ikonoklasta [Iconoclast] ‪#‎presospoliticosemangola [PoliticalPrisonersinAngola] ‪#‎revus ‪#‎brigadeiromatafrakuzx

As a result, many in Angola have turned to international news outlets, like the Portuguese-language news service Voz da América and DW – África, for updates about Beirão and his compatriots:

Estado de saúde do ativista Luaty Beirão é crítico

O ativista já não se consegue levantar sozinho e tem dificuldade para beber. Familiares e ativistas foram, esta quinta-feira (08.10), impedidos de o visitar. Dezenas de pessoas concentraram-se em Luanda em solidariedade.

Health of activist Luaty Beirão is in critical condition. 

The activist can no longer stand up by himself and is having difficulty drinking. Family members and other activists went this Thursday (Oct 8), but were not allowed visitation. Dozens of people rallied in Luanda in solidarity.

After confirmation that Luaty Beirão's health was in critical condition due to his hunger strike, a few countries in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, such as Portugal and Cape Verde, held demonstrations of solidarity. On October 8, the first vigil in support of Luaty Beirão was held at the Holy Family Church (Igreja da Sagrada Familia) in Luanda, Angola's capital.

ULTIMA HORA: MUDANÇA DE PLANOS
Vamos juntar-nos na igreja da Sagrada Família, vestidos de branco e com velas vamos orar a Deus e pedir que salve a vida do nosso irmão Luaty Beirão, às 18h na Sagrada Família. Venha!
O seu silêncio pode custar a vida de um verdadeiro angolano. O medo depende da imaginação, a cobardia depende do caracter.

LAST MINUTE: CHANGE OF PLANS
We will gather in the church of the Holy Family, dressed in white and carrying candles. We will pray to God, asking to save the life of our brother Luaty Beirão, at 6:00 p.m. at Holy Family Church. Come!
Your silence could cost the life of a true Angolan. Fear relies on imagination, courage relies on character.

Attendance was massive, and supportive comments flooded local social media.

Writing on Facebook, Tchokwe Tchokwe said:

vigilialuatybeiraoangola

Photo: Facebook (reproduced with permission).

Óptima ideia, pelo simbolismo da Sagrada Família e também pelo “aliado” que conseguimos ! … Se até DEUS está a favor da causa dos nossos “manos”, quem poderá estar contra ? …

Good idea—both for the symbolism of the Holy Family and also for the “ally” we created! … After all, if God is on the side of our hearts’ work, who can be against us? …

On the other hand, José Júnior wrote:

Vão de tudo o que vocês pedirem para o bem de todos.Deus vai responder e não tardará,se Ele não existe em vão vocês vigiam,mas se JEOVA existe então povo angolano comecem a festejar porque nessa vigília Deus fará grandes coisas.Creiam no Senhor.Deus abençoe.

Above all, what you ask for goes toward the well being of everybody. God will answer and he won't take long, if He doesn't exist then you held vigils in vain, but if Jehovah exists then the Angolan people can begin to celebrate because God will do great things with our vigil. Believe in the Lord. God bless.

The demonstration found many supporters not just in Angola. In Lisbon, activists staged another vigil on October 9:

Em Lisboa, vigília em simultâneo com Luanda e Mindelo. O largo de São Domingos esbanja solidariedade ao Luaty e aos 14 activistas presos desde 20 de Junho, pesando sobre eles a absurda acusação de atentado ao Presidente da República e Golpe de Estado.

Lisbon is holding a simultaneous vigil with Luanda and Mindelo. All of São Domingos Square is promoting solidarity with Luaty and the other 14 activists jailed since June 20, held on the absurd charges of attacking the Angolan President and trying to overthrow the government.

As demonstrators gathered in Lisbon, the public in Luanda returned to the Holy Family Church for a second vigil on October 9:

A greve de fome do Luaty tem uma razão: Excesso de prisão preventiva. Eles podem aguardar pelo julgamento em casa […]
O Luaty parará a sua greve de fome assim que as autoridades libertarem-no desta ilegalidade que é excesso de prisão preventiva. HOJE: vamos rezar mais uma vez para tentarmos amolecer até os corações mais gélidos.
Ás 17:30 na Igreja Sagrada Família. Estar mudo é compactuar com toda a violência.

Luaty is on hunger strike for a reason: excessive pre-trial detention. They could be awaiting their judgements at home […] Luaty will stop his hunger strike as soon as the authorities release them from their unlawful imprisonment, from this excessive pre-trial detention. TODAY: we pray once again that we may soften even the hardest of hearts.

At 5:30 p.m. at the Holy Family Church. To stay silent is to go along with all the violence.

Two days later, family and friends headed to the hospital for an update about Beirão's health status:

Vários familiares estão à porta do Hospital Prisão São Paulo desde as 10 horas, a tentar visitar O Luaty Beirão, para poder aferir o seu estado de saúde. Aguardam a decisão do director sobre o direito ou não de visita. O horário afixado é das 10h às 12h. Nenhuma explicação foi dada, nao se sabe o seu estado de saúde actual.

Various family members have been [waiting] at the door of the prison hospital of São Paulo since 10:00 a.m., trying to visit Luaty Beirão, to assess his state of health. They are waiting for the director to decide whether to grant them visitation rights. The posted visitation schedule is from 10:00 a.m. to noon. No explanation was given, no one knows his current health condition.

The musician Waldemar Bastos also joined calls for the release of these 15 activists:

Exmo Sr Presidente da República de Angola José Eduardo dos Santos. .
Na qualidade de cidadão Angolano venho pedir-lhe por favor que intervenha na Libertação do nosso Compatriota Luaty Beirão e de todos os presos políticos estabelecendo pontes , criando assim um clima de Amor entre os Angolanos. Faltam -me palavras para expressar tamanha Angústia e Tristeza por favor aceite o nosso Apelo.

Dear Mr. President of the Republic of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos…
As an Angolan citizen I request that you please intervene and release our compatriot Luaty Beirão and all the political prisoners working to build bridges. Such an act would help foster a climate of mutual goodwill among Angolans. I lack the words to express the country's current anguish and sorrow. Please hear our plea.

Activists recently launched an online portal called “Liberdade Já” (Freedom Now) that collects photos posted on social media with the hashtag #LiberdadeJA (#FreedomNow) and publishes them on its website. Currently there are hundreds of photos from all over the world depicting people crying out with raised fists and the words “freedom now.”

liberdadejaangola

“NO AR | SITE “LiberdadeJÁ!” PARTICIPA!

O grupo “Liberdade JÁ!” lançou uma ACÇÃO-SITE que conta com a tua voz! Acede ao site e carrega uma fotografia com o teu apelo. A tua imagem-mensagem vai ser enviada, com a tua autorização, todos os dias, para uma mailing list com diferentes entidades nacionais e internacionais de Direitos Humanos, assim como para o Tribunal Constitucional de Angola e Assembleia Nacional de Angola.

Somos pela Democracia. Somos por Angola. Somos pela Liberdade Já! Visita o site e, juntos, vamos exigir LIBERDADE!”

On-air | Go to “LiberdadeJÁ!” Take part!

The group “Liberdade JÁ!” launched an action site that depends on your voice! Go to the website and upload a photo with your call to action. Your image and message will be sent, with your permission, every day to a mailing list of different national and international human rights organizations, as well as to the Angolan Constitutional Court and the Angolan National Assembly.

We are for Democracy. We are for Angola. We are for Freedom Now! Visit the site and, together, we will demand FREEDOM!

Supporters can sign a petition in support of Beirão at the website of Amnesty International, which has been monitoring his situation from the start:

Neste momento decorre uma petição em apoio a Luaty Beirão e que conta com milhares de assinaturas. Podes juntar-te à causa fazendo a sua assinatura.

Right now, a petition in support of Luaty Beirão is circulating and has gathered thousands of signatures. You can join the cause by signing the petition.

The petition is also being circulated on Twitter:

Please, sign and spread the word. Thanks! : ) #Angola #Angola15 #liberdadeja #freedomnow

— Xoices (@Xoices) October 9 2015

Angolan journalist and activist Rafael Marques calls Luaty Beirão his “hero”:

Agora peço-te, Luaty, meu amigo, irmão e meu puto (porque tratas-me sempre por kota e este é o meu troco): lê esta mensagem e, lentamente, volta a comer.

Já ganhaste, porque derrubaste, com a tua convicção, qual cavaleiro andante e solitário, os moinhos de vento que ainda escondem o frágil poder do presidente e da sua procuradoria. Estão a nu, expostos no circo que eles próprios criaram. Só a insensibilidade humana os salva de sentirem vergonha.  Aceita o meu abraço e o meu pedido para que te alimentes, em nome da nossa liberdade. A luta continua e vitória não será deles, dos que nos oprimem e espoliam sem dó nem piedade.

A vitória será nossa, meu herói.

I am asking you now, Luaty, my friend, my brother, and my kid (because you always treat me like a “kota” and it's my turn): please read this message and, slowly, start eating again.

You already won, because you brought down, with your conviction, that lone knight, those windmills that still hide the fragile power of the president and his prosecutors. They are laid bare, exhibited in the circus that they themselves created. Only their callousness saves them from feeling shame. Accept my hug and my request that you eat, in the name of our freedom. The struggle goes on and victory will not be theirs, those who oppress us and plunder with no pity.

Victory will be ours, my hero.

So far, it's not known with any certainty how healthy or ill Beirão and his fellow inmates actually are. Supporters nevertheless continue to hold vigils in Luanda and Lisbon, fearing for these prisoners’ lives.

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