Springfield Woman Works for Human Rights in Guatemala

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Springfield Woman Works for Human Rights in Guatemala


Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

In the where-are-they-now department, here's an update on Kelly Lee, a former outstanding Springfield High School student who went to Simmons College and then transferred to - and graduated from - Harvard University, with a degree in African-American studies. She plans to leave this month to become a human rights observer in Guatemala.

Lee already had racked up an impressive human rights rsum during her high school and college years, ranging from writing regularly about racism as a student on The Register-Guard's 20 Below team to a hunger strike at Harvard to protest the lack of living wages for blue-collar workers at "one of the richest institutions in the world."

She recently sent a widely distributed "friends and family letter" to explain her plans and to ask those who support her goals to help the nongovernmental organization that she will represent.

She will be living for six months in the Ixil region of Guatemala, watching what happens in communities involved in legal cases against military and political leaders alleged to be "the intellectual authors of the Guatemalan genocide which occurred between 1980 and 1983," Lee wrote. "I hope to promote justice and peace, and give to the Ixil peoples a measure of safety and support so they can continue to pursue justice and rebuild their lives, families and communities free of the fear and terror they have lived with for nearly half a century."

After Guatemala signed a peace agreement in 1996 to end the country's civil war, the United Nations determined that more than 200,000 civilians had disappeared or been killed in the conflict, "more than 600 villages and communities had been destroyed and more than 1 million civilians had been forcibly displaced," Lee said.

The U.N. report placed blame for 93 percent of the worst atrocities on the regime's military and paramilitary forces. …

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