Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Putting a Face on Human Trafficking

Naples Daily News reported this week on a pattern of human trafficking showing up in Southwest Florida as part of its series, “The Guatemala Connection.”
Trafficking victims are brought from the remote western highlands of Guatemala into the U.S. NDN reports:
“This quiet spot with mountain views is where questions begin. It’s the home of a victim at the core of a Southwest Florida human trafficking case stirring U.S. and Guatemalan leaders to respond. They believe this horrific crime has been pulsing across their borders for years.
Trafficking’s tentacles are stretching to Guatemalan villages to pluck the poorest and most powerless from their homes: children.”
What is the connection between the origin and destination of the trafficking victims? According to the report, there’s no easy answer:
“Trying to mine reasons why the slave trade thrives between Southwest Florida and Guatemala feels like getting stuck in a spider web. It’s sticky, messy and connected. It’s poverty. It’s migration. It’s smuggling. It’s exploitation. It’s globalization and other ’ations and ’isms that are nebulous even in college textbooks.”
One Guatemalan trafficking victim, now in protective care, was kept isolated from the world by her captors, forced to wake at 4 a.m. to work, and was raped and beaten. She told FBI agents that her stepfather and her mother sold her into slavery at the age of 11.
Her story is not unique. A global network of human trafficking has pervaded the entire world – from the Central Highlands to Vietnam to the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe.
To read the full article on human trafficking in Guatemala, follow the link below:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Women Seek More Political Input in Egypt

Many women activists are upset with the outcome of last month’s parliamentary elections. At the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) conference held on January 25, women insisted that the government must include more women representatives. Out of 444 parliamentary seats, only 11 are held by women. Heba Raouf, a professor at Cairo University, says women need to spend more time recruiting women to run for parliament. She said talking about the women’s lack of rights to a male-dominated government will not do much to advance gender equality. However, even running for parliament seats places a threat upon women, whether they lose or win. With these concerns in mind, it is difficult to get many women to run for political office.

At the conference, the ECWR pushed for 30 percent of parliamentary seats to be held by women. Unfortunately, all of the major parties have not implemented their plans of adding more women.

To read more on this click here:

Aid Estimate for Afghanistan

Afghan financial advisor Anwar ul-Haq Ahadiwas is looking for 10 billion dollars of foreign aid, saying Afghanistan needs 4 billion every year if it is to continue on its track for a stable economical government. So far, the U.S. has planned to contribute 1.1 billion dollars of its extra funding money to Afghanistan. The country has made tremendous improvement by forming a new government since the Taliban was overthrown. However, it relies heavily on foreign aid and troops for security. The question is whether or not the Afghan government is using the aid money properly. Looking at the overall situation of run-down hospitals, continuing inequality towards women and extensive poverty in rural areas that still plagues this country, the big picture looks bleak. However, considering that Afghanistan has an 80 percent illiteracy rate, and hardly any industrialization, improvements will take a while. Ahadiwas said he believes that five more years of support will put Afghanistan on its own two feet. Follow the link:

Afghanistan’s Aid Discussed by Donors

This week donors are meeting in London to discuss aid efforts in Afghanistan. Many Afghans believe that the money is being misused and improperly filtered through the wrong hands. Although progress has been made, such as refurbished hospitals, higher school enrollment rates, new roads, and a more economical currency, big problems remain. Aside from the high poverty rate, Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest mortality rates for women and children. In addition to the high rate of violence against women, one woman dies every 30 minutes in childbirth alone. Modern equipment and better healthcare facilities would help to eliminate this tragic problem. With future aid getting fed through government coffers, Afghanistan is hoping the money will be better managed than it was in the previous years. Click here for more in-depth coverage:

Woman's Rights Activist in Jeopardy

“You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring"

The life of influential Afghan MP Malalai Joya may be in jeopardy. This woman’s rights activist has spoken out strongly against the Mujahideen, the most powerful yet corrupt institution in Afghanistan. In December, members of parliament witnessed an outburst against the Majahideen by Joya, one that some felt was too forward and indecent. The meeting left her without regret, but with many death threats. Those who fear for Joya’s safety wish for her to stop. Others hope she will continue to push her voice against the “criminal warlords,” in the hopes of gaining more rights for women and a safer country overall.

As far as Joya is concerned, she will continue to speak out, adamantly stating, “They will kill me but they will not kill my voice because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring.” For more on this story click here:

Bird flu hits Iraq


The Number of Bird Flu Cases is Constantly Increasing

Agence France-Presse reports:

Iraq's Kurdistan region, which has confirmed its first human death from bird flu, is facing an acute shortage of the vital drug to fight the disease, a medical official said Tuesday. Local authorities in northern Iraq, meanwhile, have culled half a million birds in the border areas with Turkey and Iran.
"We are suffering from a lack of medicine to combat the virus," Tahseen Nameq, head of a joint Kurdish committee set up to combat the spread of the disease, told AFP
"We have received only 50 pills of Tamiflu," or just medicine for five cases, he said.

Iraqi Kurdistan has quarantined 14 people believed to be suffering from bird flu, but officials say that other than the fatality, only one case is suspected to be the H5N1 deadly strain.

Nameq said a massive programme has been launched to cull birds in Kurdistan, in border regions north of Sulaimaniya near Lake Dukan, in Raniya and also north of Arbil.
Turkey, which has 21 cases of the flu, had previously been the only country outside Asia to report fatalities from the virus. Four people have died there.

Read the full story at
http://www.krg.org/articles/article_detail.asp?LangNr=12&RubricNr=24&ArticleNr=9084&LNNr=28&RNNr=70 (Jan 31, 2006)

More on Bird Flu in Iraq
WHO said it was urgently seeking further tests at a British laboratory to confirm the bird flu diagnosis and was dispatching a team of experts to help local health officials in Iraq's largely autonomous northern region of Kurdistan.
"We have 12 patients in Sulaimaniya that have lung infections that we suspect may be the bird flu virus," Kurdistan's deputy prime minister, Imad Ahmed, told Reuters, referring to one of the region's largest cities.
The most serious was 54-year-old Mariam Qader, who came from the same village as the teenage girl who died from bird flu on January 17 and is believed to be a distant relative of the victim.
Scientists say the H5N1 virus is mutating steadily and may eventually acquire the changes it needs to be easily transmitted from human to human. Because people lack any immunity to it, it could sweep the world in weeks or months, killing millions.
Read the whole article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/COL138885.htm
(31 Jan, 2006)

Bombs Hit Christian Targets

Car bombs exploded in quick succession Sunday near four Christian churches and the office of the Vatican envoy, killing three people and raising new concerns about sectarian tensions.
Three people died in the bombing at the Church of the Virgin in Kirkuk, police said. At least nine people were injured in the bombings.
"This was a reaction from the al-Zarqawi people against Christians who they believe support the U.S. military in Iraq," senior Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Adeeb said.
A prominent Sunni Arab politician, Naseer al-Ani, called the bombings "terrorist acts."
At least 17 other people were killed in other violence around the country.

Read the whole article on www.kurd.org (Jan 29, 2006)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Vietnam News Update

The UN Offers Protection to 75 Central Highlanders in Cambodia
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has taken 75 Vietnamese Central Highlanders seeking asylum into its care in Cambodia. UNHCR spokeswoman Deborah Backus says the asylum seekers are at a site in north eastern Ratanakkiri province under the agency's protection.
Read the whole article at http://www.asianews.it/view.php?l=en&art=5171(Jan 20, 2006)

Vietnamese Released from Prison but Fears for his Life
Hanoi (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) - Nguyen Khac Toan, 50, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2002 on espionage charges after he posted articles on the internet about public protests against the government seizing land for development.
He was released on Tuesday as part of a Tet lunar New Year amnesty, but said he is now under house surveillance for the next three years.
Toan described his two years in prison as "like hell" and said he was kept in solitary confinement with no light for three months. He said he was once chained to a wall for a week and not allowed to bathe.
"Being under house surveillance is in some ways worse that prison” Toan said. "Now, I don't know if an out-of-nowhere 'accident' might kill me," he added.
International human rights groups this week applauded the release of Toan, but said Vietnam's continued detention of other government critics show its policy is still to limit freedom of speech.
Read the article at Vietnam Colloquium (subscription service)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vncol/ (Jan. 27, 2006)