Vanunu Supporters Vigil Around the World

Vigils calling for the release of prisoner of conscience Mordechai Vanunu swept around the globe in late September, marking the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and imprisonment of Israel's nuclear whistleblower. Most of the vigils took place on September 25. On that day, supporters held banners, recited Mordechai's poetry, handed out leaflets, signed cards, and listened to speakers and music in front of Israeli embassies and consulates, and other public places. For the entire 24 hour period, somewhere in the world, people gathered to call for Vanunu's freedom.

The series of vigils began in Wellington, New Zealand. Vanunu supporters spoke out from the steps of Parliament during the lunch hour, and handed out 400 Free Vanunu leaflets.

In Australia, parishioners were joined by the Deputy Mayor of South Sydney for a two hour prayer vigil at St. John's Church, where Mordechai Vanunu was baptized in the summer of 1986. At the same time, several members of the Australian Campaign to Free Vanunu vigiled outside the Israeli embassy in Sydney. They held signs and distributed several hundred leaflets to passersby.

Stockholm, Sweden
Thomas Asplund
For the first time in India, anti-nuclear activists held vigils for Vanunu. At the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, peace songs were sung in English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali. Messages of solidarity from around the world were read, Vanunu's story was told, and his poetry recited. At the close of the three-hour vigil, a moment of silence was observed before a letter to the ambassador was read aloud, calling for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons and Vanunu's immediate release. The embassy refused to accept the letter, so copies were later faxed and sent by courier mail.

In Chennai, telegrams with the message "Free Mordechai Vanunu immediately - He only spoke the truth" were sent to the Israeli embassy by ten constituent organizations of the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons. A dozen of the group's members also displayed signs and handed out 800 pamphlets at a crowded city center bus stop. The signs demanded freedom for Vanunu, abolition of nuclear weapons, and no war against Afghani civilians.

In Israel that day, twenty of Vanunu's supporters, including Palestinian member of Knesset Issam Makhoul, held a vigil in front of the President's Residence in Jerusalem, demanding that President Katzav release Mordechai Vanunu from 15 years imprisonment at Ashkelon. A petition delivered to the President and signed by 12 rabbis asked Katzav to exercise his lawful right and pardon Vanunu for humanitarian reasons.

Oslo, Norway
Trond G. Rasmussen

London, England
Peter Hall
A small but enthusiastic group of demonstrators held a vigil on a sunny afternoon in Oslo at the Norwegian Parliament. Representatives from Nei til atomvaapen (No to Nuclear Arms), Norges Fredraad (Norwegian Peace Alliance) and Kristent Fredslag (Norway Fellowship of Reconciliation) held banners, handed out flyers and engaged in discussion with people passing by.

Heightened security was evident at some vigils, coming just two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Twice as many police as vigilers turned out at the Israeli embassy in Lisbon, Portugal. Local Amnesty International activists, long-time supporters of Vanunu, handed out several hundred leaflets calling for the Israeli whistleblower's freedom.

In London, British Free Vanunu campaigners began their 5 hour vigil on September 25 arguing with police about where and how they could hold their vigil. After vigiling every week for almost ten years at the same spot near the Israeli embassy, they were eventually told to keep to a small area of the sidewalk. There they set up banners, literature, and displays, including a replica of Vanunu's cell. Forty people signed a colorful birthday card to Mordechai. Vigilers held signs, passed out leaflets and collected donations from passersby.

Washington, D.C.
Constance O'Hearn
The global vigil then moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. In Boston, Massachusetts, a small group held a vigil in the pouring rain at the Israeli consulate. In Washington, D.C., about 20 people walked with signs and banners from a busy street corner to the Israeli embassy several blocks away. Heavy security kept the vigil along one side of the embassy, away from the usual monthly vigil location. The group shared reflections and read aloud some of Mordechai's poetry. They remembered victims of violence, and also the life of Sam Day, long-time coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu who died in January, 2001.

The international vigils ended in San Francisco that day, where a small but spirited group were present for six and a half hours in front of the Israeli consulate. They held signs, passed out several hundred flyers, and spoke with passersby about Mordechai Vanunu. A camera crew making a Discovery Channel documentary was there for most of the vigil, and interviewed many of the participants.

Wellington, New Zealand
Margaret Caverhill
More actions around the world remembering Vanunu's whistleblowing and calling for his freedom came later in the week.

In Wellington, New Zealand, Vanunu supporters took their second vigil of the week to the Israeli embassy on September 28. They held signs, distributed more leaflets, and invited people to sign a message for Mordechai. Later that day in Stockholm, about 30 members of Svenska Vanunukommitten held a two-hour vigil under a big banner calling for Vanunu's freedom. They gave away about one thousand leaflets while listening to speeches and music. The Canadian campaign to free Vanunu also held their vigil on September 28, in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Spirited demonstrators handed out more than 800 leaflets, while holding signs drawing attention to Israel's nuclear weapons and calling for Vanunu's release from prison. The global demonstrations concluded on Sunday, September 30, the 15th anniversary of Mordechai's kidnapping from Rome.

Hiroshima, Japan
That day, Japanese supporters vigiled in front of the Memorial Cenetaph for A-bomb victims in Hiroshima. Standing in the rain with their signs, the activists distributed flyers and collected signatures on a petition calling for Vanunu's release.

At two services at St. John's Church in Sydney, fifteen candles were lit, one for each year that Mordechai has been imprisoned.

Each of these vigils around the world brought attention to Israel's secret nuclear arsenal and the whistleblower who has been locked away for so many years. Together, these activists raised a global call for Mordechai Vanunu's immediate and unconditional release.