In The Spotlight: Leeds Freedom from Torture

One of the great things about attending university is that it gives you the opportunity to volunteer with a number of great charities. One of these charities, Freedom from Torture, inspired Kaleem Luthra to start a society dedicated to raising awareness of the work done by the charity. The Gryphon got to sit down and talk to Kaleem, President of the society, to learn more about the new society.

Why was the society created?

I got the idea to set up the society probably during the summer of 2015. I heard that the charity wanted to expand to more student campuses across the country, and I had heard about a conference that they had had earlier that year at Birmingham University. I was very interested in the charity, and thought why not? Why not do that at Leeds?

What do you do in the society on a regular basis?

We do a whole host of different things. We host informative talks; we have a fundraising branch so we put on different fundraising events. We also host music nights and film screenings. We usually collaborate with other like-minded societies on similar campaigns when we can. We’re generally here to raise awareness on the charity, introduce it to people who may have not heard of it before, and just assist the charity in any way that we can.

What’s the greatest misconception people have of survivors of torture?

That they’re completely broken individuals. That they’re downtrodden. I’ve heard of stereotypes labelling them as weak. In my experience of listening to torture survivors when I’ve met them, and listening to their talks, the truth has been the complete opposite. Almost all the people that Freedom from Torture work with are asylum seekers and refugees, so you hear stereotypes claiming that they don’t work or they take benefits. It’s the general misconceptions of refugees and asylum seekers that often come up when describing torture survivors.

What are the aims of the society?

Primarily to raise awareness of Freedom from Torture, what they do as a charity, and do our part by also fundraising. We also want to campaign and raise awareness of the issues outside of exactly what Freedom of Torture deal with, like with human rights campaigns. We want to get people talking about issues with torture at the government-level. The society is also a sociable thing to get involved in. I’ve made a lot of new friends through the society.

What would you like to tell people to convince them to join your society?

It’s a great cause. You take a massive amount out of the charity as much as you put in. We’ve really enjoyed everything we’ve done so far. It’s a chance to learn a bit more about a small and niche charity that not many people know about in the UK, but one that is growing very fast. If you’re interested in human rights or medical and psychological rehabilitation, then you should join. Or if you’ve heard of Amnesty International and STAR (Student Action For Refugees), we’re similar to them. 

There is a lot of meaningful work that this society does, and if you’re even the slightest bit interested in the points mentioned in the interview, then join now! Or if you’re looking to meet great people with a desire to do meaningful charity work, then make sure to become a member. You can get more information on the society on their page on the Union website (Freedom From Torture), or by checking out their Facebook page (Leeds Freedom from Torture Student Group).

Elsa Amri

(Image courtesy of Developing Democracies)

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