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Release: March 14, 2002  

International human rights activist to visit UI March 26-28

International human rights activist Dr. Owens Wiwa, M.D., M.P.H., will visit The University of Iowa March 26 to 28, giving several presentations to UI students and the public on globalization, environmental health and human rights issues.

Wiwa is the executive director of the African Environmental and Human Development Agency (AFRIDA), a research and development non-governmental organization that works in resource-bearing communities in Africa. He is also a research fellow for Culture, Communities and Health Studies at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a WHO-affiliated center, in Toronto, Canada.

            "We are thrilled that Dr. Wiwa will share his expertise and insights on human rights and globalization here on the UI campus and in the community," said Maureen McCue, MD, Hewlett Scholar Program director and one of the main organizers of Wiwa's visit. "This has been an incredible team effort with many different offices, community organizations and departments lending their support to make this happen."

            Following is a schedule of Wiwa's public appearances and lectures:

            Wiwa will speak to UI students on "Globalization and Migration" Tuesday, March 26, from 9:30-11 a.m. in the class, "U.S. Health Experiences of Immigrants, Migrants, and Refugees" in Room 36 of the International Center. That afternoon from 2:30-3 p.m., there will be a reception with faculty and students from the UI College of Public Health in the Seebohm Conference Room, Room 283 in the Eckstein Medical Research Building (EMRB) on the UI campus.

            Wiwa will present "Environmental Health and Human Rights," from 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, also in the Seebohm Conference Room

            On Wednesday, March 27, Wiwa will discuss "Global Extractive Industries and Human Rights" from 2:30-4:30 p.m. as a part of the Global Studies News Colloquium at 120 Spencer Laboratories of Psychology on the UI campus.

            Also on March 27, from 7-8 p.m. there will be a free screening of the movie "Delta Force" at the Bijou Theater, located in the Illinois Room of the Iowa Memorial Union. A question and answer session with Wiwa will follow from 8-9 p.m. Delta Force is an hour-long documentary detailing military attacks on Ogoni communities and the relationship between Shell and the Nigerian military dictatorship. Delta Force looks closely at the effects of Shell's environmental assault on the landscape of the most populous area of Africa's most populous nation.

            Thursday, March 28, from 9:30-11 a.m., Wiwa will speak on "Stress, Resettlement & Health to students in the class, "U.S. Health Experiences of Immigrants, Migrants, Refugees," in Room 36 of the International Center on the UI campus. From 4-5:15 p.m., Wiwa will also speak to environment and development students on  "Globalization and Environment," in room W207 of the Pappajohn Business Building.

            At his final public speaking event, Wiwa will address "Globalization, Environment and Human Rights," from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28, in Beems Auditorium of the Cedar Rapids Public Library as part of the UNA-USA Linn County Chapter Forum. Co-sponsors of this specific event include Amnesty International, Sierra Club, and African American Heritage Foundation. A question and answer session will follow from 8:30-9 p.m.

            As a physician in Nigeria, Wiwa treated and documented diseases caused by oil industry pollution and also attended to injuries presented by the victims of human rights abuses inflicted by the military dictatorship in Nigeria. As a result of his work and advocacy on behalf of the Ogoni people, he was arrested and detained by the military government on three occasions and tortured on one occasion. In 1994, the Nigerian military government declared Wiwa and other Ogoni activists "wanted." After the November 1995 execution of his brother -- celebrated author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa -- Wiwa escaped Nigeria with his wife and child, relocating to Canada as refugees. Having continued his education at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, he and his family now reside in Toronto.

            Wiwa has given presentations to European Parliaments and U.S. Congressional Committee hearings on environmental and human rights violations in Nigeria. He has been a tireless activist for the health and human rights of indigenous peoples, traveling to 80 universities and colleges in Europe, North America and Africa, advocating for respect for environment and human rights by transnational corporations and governments.  He has also served as technical consultant to the WHO committee on the United Nations (UN) World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which will meet in Johannesburg, South Africa later this year as a follow up to the 1992 Rio Summit.

            His articles have appeared in several leading newspapers and magazines around the world. He is also the author of chapters in several books, including "Peace, Justice and Freedom: Human Rights Challenges for the New Millennium" (University of Alberta Press). Dr. Wiwa's biography detailing his activism on globalization, "Dance the Guns to Silence: Dr. Owens Wiwa and the Environmental War in the Niger Delta," will be published soon by Macfarlane Walter & Ross.

            UI and community sponsors of Wiwa's visit include the following: the UI African Association, the African American Heritage Foundation, the African Women's Association, Amnesty International, the UI Bijou Movie Theater, the UI College of Public Health, Critical Development Studies, the Global Health Studies Program, the Hewlett Scholar Program, International Programs, the International Writing Program, the Sierra Club, the UI Center for Human Rights, and United Nations Association (UNA)-USA Linn County Chapter.  A number of other university departments and centers are endorsing his visit.

            For more information on Wiwa's visit, contact Maureen McCue at For special accommodations to attend any of these lectures or a complete speaking itinerary, contact Blythe Burkhardt, International Programs, at (319) 335-1436.