Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, June 02, 2006

Women Drivers Emerge in Afghanistan

As reported by CNN, in Kabul, Afghanistan it is very rare to see a woman driver. Last year in the Kabul region, “out of 17,000 driver’s licenses that were issued, only 85 went to women.” Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, which made it illegal for women to drive, more and more women have taken to the wheel. According to Abdul Shokoor Ziaee, “more women should learn how to drive because men and women have equal rights.” Mr. Ziaee opened a Technical and Driving Course school in 2001 and says that “he has seen a small increase recently in the number of women in his school.” Mr. Ziaee has taught both his wife and his daughter, Sofia, 14, how to drive. Sofia “likes driving so much,” however she will not legally be able to dive until she is 19, the legal age for driving in Afghanistan.
According to CNN, driving is not completely foreign to the women of Afghanistan. They report that in the 1980’s the women of Afghanistan had greater rights, which included driving, until the Taliban took over in the 1990’s. Although today women are legally able to drive, “husbands, brothers, and fathers have the final say.” While the legal rights may be there, “Afghanistan is not where it was 30 years ago and women behind the wheel will invite strangers’ stares.”
To read this article in full click here

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Iran's Bahai religious minority says it faces raids and arrests

As reported by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, members of the Bahai religious minority group in Iran have recently been subjected to a heightened campaign of arrests, raids and propaganda ordered by the Iranian government. On May 19th, 54 Bahais were arrested in Iran while involved in a community service project in Shiraz teaching underprivileged children English, science, and math at local public schools--all who were arrested were in their teens and early 20s. This specific arrest has been the largest mass arrest of Bahais in Iran since the 1980s, leaving a cause of concern for many individuals in Iran and elsewhere. Bani Dugal is the representative of the Bahai Community at the United Nations and she has described the recent attacks as a way for the Iranian government to spread terror throughout the Bahai community and make other Iranians accept such terror. US Congress is currently debating whether or not to put forth a resolution which would call on President Bush to make the abuse of Bahais a vital factor in US foreign policy.

There is also a small population of persecuted Bahai followers in Egypt. Similarly to the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, the Egyptian Bahai have had a history of being forbidden to openly practice their faith and spiritual activities and often fear that they are the targets of governmental harrasments, arrests, and injustices.

June 1, 2006
Iran's Bahai relious minority says it faces raids and arrests
By Laurie Goodstein

"Members of the Bahai religious minority in Iran said this week that the government had recently intensified a campaign of arrests, raids and propaganda that was aimed at eradicating their religion in Iran, the country of its birth.

On May 19, Iranian security officials arrested 54 Bahais in the city of Shiraz who were involved in a community service project, many of them in their teens and early 20's, said diplomatic officials and Bahai officials outside of Iran.

They were not charged and all but three were released within six days, these officials said.
It was the largest mass arrest of Bahais since the 1980's, when thousands of them were imprisoned and more than 200 were executed by the new Islamic government.

The developments have alarmed human rights monitors at the United Nations, who say that since December, the government newspaper in Tehran has published more than 30 articles denigrating the Bahai faith — even accusing Bahais of sacrificing Muslim children on holy days. The arrests coincided with raids on six Bahai homes, in which notebooks, documents and computers were confiscated. More than 70 other Bahais have been arrested since January 2005 in smaller clusters, and some are still being held, the monitors said.

"We see a pattern emerging that is quite ominous," said Bani Dugal, who represents the Bahai International Community at the United Nations, where religious and some other groups have consultative status. "It's basically trying to create terror in the Bahai community, and also to win over the Iranian population to accept it."

Mohammad Mohammadi, press secretary for Iran's mission to the United Nations, said he had no information about arrests of Bahais and would not be able to respond until Monday because of an Iranian holiday this week.

The Bahais are the largest religious minority in Iran, with about 300,000 members there. There are five million worldwide. They believe that humanity is one race, that men and women are equal and that all religions and prophets are derived from the same source, God.
They have suffered successive waves of persecution in Iran since their faith was founded there in the mid-1800's by a Persian nobleman considered by the Bahais to be a messenger of God. That belief violates the Islamic teaching that God sent many prophets before Muhammad, but none afterward. The Bahai are discriminated against in some other Muslim countries, where they are far less numerous than in Iran.

Unlike Jews and Christians, who have seats in Iran's Parliament set aside for them as religious minorities, Bahais in Iran are considered "unprotected infidels," said Kit Bigelow, director for external affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States. Bahais are not permitted to attend college, work for the government or practice their faith openly."

To read the complete article, click here:


UN Sees Worsening Human Rights Situation in Iraq

From KurdMedia.com

In its bimonthly report for March/April 2006, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated its “serious concern at the scale of death and injuries in Iraq caused by ongoing violence.” It continues that “while ordinary civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence in the country, the targeting of politicians, members of the public administrations, and academics is increasing.” Not only are the attacks on these individuals that is alarming, UNAMI states, but the attack on their family members of intended targets is “particularly disturbing.” Ashraf Qazi, Iraq’s Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary – General, noted that “political violence resulting in the slaughter or civilians is an act of terror that is unacceptable whatever the cause.” There must be “increased efforts by the new government of Iraq, political parties, and religious, tribal, and civil society leaders to bridge the sectarian divide in the country,” he said.

The UNAMI report also describes conditions in Iraqi prisons and expresses “concerns over freedom of expression in the Kurdish region.”

The UNAMI report concludes that “the conflict negatively impacts on the situation of women, children, and the elderly, severely affecting their access to basic services and undermining their living standards.” Additionally, “the extent of honor crimes, domestic violence, killings and kidnappings are cause for deep concern.”

For the full article click here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

As Mubarak Cracks down, Global Business Leaders Plan to tell him “enough!”

As reported by Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of the Human Rights Watch, global business leaders gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on May 20, 2006. They were there to discuss “the new positive dynamics in the region’s politics” at the World Economic Forum’s annual Middle East meeting. This meeting comes in the wake of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s recent crack down on Egyptians campaigning for democracy and political reform in Cairo.
The plan for the meeting began one year ago before, as reported by Whitson, under pressure from Washington, the Egyptian government allowed political demonstrations that called for the end of Mubarak’s 25 year reign. During the election period Mubarak allowed the demonstrations to occur, while he “promised not to renew the hated emergency laws that allowed the government to restrict things like the freedom of speech and assembly.” Whitson reports that this was enough to bring back Mubarak supporter’s into power. The allowance of demonstrations was quickly demolished after the elections and today “hopes for political reform lay under the boots of security forces sent out to crush peaceful dissent.”
“Stability and the rule of law count heavily in the investments of business people.” Whitson notes that “global business leaders meeting at the World Economic Forum have the chance to do what Egypt prevents its own citizens from freely doing: call on Hosni Mubarak to end the governments attack on peaceful critics and embark on the reforms that Egypt’s economy and society desperately need.
To read the article in full click http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/05/20/egypt13427.htm

The Iraqis are still on a quest for Democracy

As reported by Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times, there are still many reasons not to give up on the Iraqis and their quest for democracy. One such reason occurred in late May 2006 during the Iraqi Parliament’s vote to approve the country’s new cabinet. The Sunni Party leader, Saleh Mutlaq “stood before the Parliament and began denouncing the decision made by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to have Parliament vote on the new cabinet, even though al-Maliki had not yet filled the key security posts”.
At this point, another Sunni politician, Mithal al-Alousi, told Mr. Mutlaq to “sit down”. Mr. Mutlaq “ignored this request and continued his denunciations” until Mr. Alousi “pulled him down in his chair,” despite the fact that this action may anger some Sunni insurgents, the Times reported. Mr. Friedman believes that it is encouraging to see Iraqis take a stand like this because taking risks is crucial in the process of building a progressive Iraq.
Mr. Friedman states that, “in an age of such upset and confusion, one might find it helpful to listen to someone who is familiar with the Arab world and its history, such as Egyptian sociologist and democracy campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim”. He believes Iraq is in a period of “hard labor” in the building of its nation after many years of tyrannical rule. Ibrahim believes that the reason that violence in Iraq is so intense is because of the differing thoughts of the theocrats and autocrats. “Theocrats fear modernity taking root in Iraq and the autocrats fear democracy taking root there,” Mr. Ibrahim said. As a result, they are doing all they can to make Iraq fail.
“Despite all of this, thanks to US and British soldiers, Iraqi elections have been held and Parliament convened,” Ibrahim stated.
To read the full article click here (must be a subscriber to the NY Times online)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Police Harrass New Democracy Group

The International Institute for Vietnam reported that on Saturday, May 27, 2006 attorney Nguyen Van Dai, writer Hoang Tien, professor Tran Khue, and Sir Hoang Minh Chinh gathered at Mr. Chinh's private residence where they were planning to declare that the Democratic Party of Vietnem (DPV) will be restored on June 1, 2006. During the meeting Mr. Dai was able to help Mr. Chinh draft the party's by-laws and the other men checked the document for any errors. As the meeting came to a close, police and security guards suddenly stormed into Mr. Chinh's residence, without his permission, and confiscated all of the party's documents. The police began to question Mr. Chinh about the documents and he admitted to drafting the document and told the police that he was the only man involved in creating the document. However, at the same time, police had confiscated Mr. Dai's computer, where they found a copy of the party's by-laws. The police asked Mr. Dai if having a copy of this document on his computer was legal or illegal and Mr. Dai replied that it was well within his constitutional and legal rights to have the document on his computer, but what the police have done to him, Mr. Khue, Tien, and Chinh are illegal.
Mr. Chinh, Khue, Tien, and Dai earnestly and urgently request the help and protection from the Embassies of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, and all of the EU's countries.
For Further information from the International Institute for Vietnam click here: http://vietforum.org/index.htm