Students advocate for imprisoned scholars in Washington, DC – US Student Advocacy Days 2024

Posted May 21, 2024

Earlier this spring, Student Advocacy Seminar students and faculty and civil society representatives gathered in Washington, DC for SAR’s annual US Student Advocacy Days, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The event took place from March 20 – 21 and was attended by over 50 students and faculty members from the United States and Canada, including Muhlenberg College; Roger Williams University; University of Dayton; University of Iowa; Western Connecticut State University; and the University of British Columbia. 

University of Iowa seminar students present on their advocacy efforts.

On Day 1, students presented their advocacy campaigns for wrongfully imprisoned scholars and students. Students highlighted their campaigning methods, such as raising awareness for Ahmadreza Djalali and Niloufar Bayani through on-campus events and filming a documentary in support of Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba. Students shared their experiences with one another and collaborated to develop advocacy strategies. 

Jewher Ilham speaks at Student Adovacy Days 2024.

The day also featured discussions with government and civil society representatives. Sasha LaPonsa (Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission) and Scott Busby (formerly US Department of State) shared insights into how the United States government addresses human rights concerns; Ali Arab (Hostage Aid Worldwide) spoke about effective advocacy and hostage negotiation; and Jewher Ilham, a Uyghur human rights advocate and daughter of imprisoned scholar Ilham Tohti, emphasized the power of global collaboration and mutual support in her keynote presentation.

Students and faculty members on Capitol Hill.

On Day 2, students took action on Capitol Hill and held over 20 meetings with the offices of Members of Congress to advocate for Ahmadreza Djalali, Abduljalil Al-Singace, Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, and Marfa Rabkova. Students also attended a hearing organized by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and debriefed with SAR staff in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  

Thank you to all the participants and presenters, and a special thanks to our host AAAS. SAR’s Student Advocacy Days provides students with practical tools and knowledge to advocate on behalf of imprisoned scholars and the opportunity to collaborate across campuses.
Start a seminar on your campus to join us at the next Student Advocacy Days.