Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Vietnam's Internet Filtering Related to Politics

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported this week that Vietnam Internet service providers block politics, not porn. According to university researchers, "'Vietnam purports to prevent access to Internet sites primarily to safeguard against obscene or sexually explicit content...However, the state's actual motives are far more pragmatic.'" Blocked sites include ones "'with politically or religiously sensitive material that could undermine Vietnam's one-party system.'" Porn sites, however, are not blocked.

According to the piece:

"China and other regimes worried about political sites also turn their attention to blocking porn, said Derek Bambauer, a research fellow with OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration of Harvard University, the University of Toronto and the University of Cambridge.

Bambauer also said Vietnam's filtering got more sophisticated in just the six months studied."

For the full story click here.

Working Group on Indigenous Peoples Considers Plight of Hmong Lao

Representatives of the Lao Human Rights Council and UN Representative Society for Threatened Peoples last week presented testimony on the plight of the Hmong people in Laos, focusing on refugees who recently fled to Thailand. Part of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) conference, the panel “focused on the ongoing genocide against the Hmong people in Laos,” according to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizations. Human rights advocate Rebecca Sommer presented a documentary titled “Hunted Like Animals” showing the history of the Hmong – from the Vietnam War when U.S. troops recruited and trained the Hmong to the war’s aftermath, when “the Hmong have been constantly persecuted by Laotian and Vietnamese soldiers as reprisals for their help to the Americans,” according to the report. According to Sommer, “‘Today, it’s not simply revenge – the Hmong-in-hiding are used for Vietnamese and Laotian military training purposes.”
For the full story, click here.

Kurdish Political Parties Ask Citizens to Obey the Law

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “Seven Kurdish political parties called on citizens to air their grievances in a legal and orderly fashion and not resort to violence in an August 8 statement printed in the daily online newspaper "Hawler Post" on August 9. Demonstrators have protested in several Kurdish cities in recent days, demanding the regional government provide better services, including electricity and water. "The people of Kurdistan are free to put forward their demands and highlight the [government's] shortcomings. But it is their duty to submit their demands to the government through legal means, to protect its institutions and adopt civilized means in order to have an understanding between the public and the authorities, so that none of them resort to violence," the statement said. The statement was signed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Kurdistan Social Democrat Party, the Kurdistan Islamic Group, the Kurdistan Communist Party,and the Kurdistan Toilers' Party.”

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

During U.S. Visit, Al-Ahram Reporter Seeks Perspectives on the Question “Why Do They Hate Us?”

Cairo-based Al-Ahram writer Gamal Essam El-Din writes about his State Department sponsored month-long, five city visit to the U.S. during which he listened to a variety of American perspectives on the Middle East. El-Din writes that five years after 9/11, “the American political elite has yet to answer the question, ‘Why do they hate us,’ they denoting wither the Middle East or the Arab-Muslim world.” His visit, he continues, “revealed to what extent the why-do-they-hate-us discourse remains central to American life.”
In Washington, El-Din visited Rep. Frank Wolf’s office, where he met with congressional fellow Evan Baehr. According to El Din:
“Baehr believes the Congress to be more serious than Bush about advancing democracy in the Middle East; he recounted how the Congress tried to cut annual aid to Egypt by $250 million – an effort blocked by State Department officials, whose attitude was, ‘No way, we will never let this happen with Egypt.’ The view of the Middle East as a hotbed for tyrannical regimes echoed through all other meetings in Washington, including those with officials from Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).”
In addition, El-Din traveled to New York, San Francisco, Memphis and Philadelphia. In Memphis, he observed: “It was shocking to realise that its residents knew nothing at all of what was going on outside the U.S. One citizen even remarked, ‘All I can do about what you said is to send a letter to the city’s congressman, conveying your viewpoint to him.’”
For the full story, click here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

“Let Other People Get a Chance to Run”: Karzai Tells Fortune He Won’t Seek Reelection

Afghan President Hamid Karzai “strongly suggested he will serve just one term as Afghan leader and not contest his country’s next presidential election scheduled for 2009,” Fortune Magazine reported today. “‘I don’t think it is good to be running all the time. Let other people get a chance to run,’” Karzai said. He added that he wanted to leave Afghanistan with “a good legacy” and to make it “stable and constitutionally strong.”

According to the piece:

“While the election is still three years away, Karzai’s remarks raise significant questions for his desperately poor country and for the international community that props it up – questions of who might replace him, how as much as $20 billion in foreign aid is dispersed, and what impact a lame-duck presidency might have on a government engaged in battle with a resurgent Taliban in its restive southern provinces.”

Karzai also told Fortune he acknowledges “corruption in the whole system” of Afghanistan’s government; that he had “underestimated the task of eradicating opium poppy production,” and that “the international community has weakened his government by rewarding regional pro-U.S. warlords for their role in the Taliban’s ouster, though he insisted there were no warlords in his cabinet or administration.”

He blamed the international community not standing with him as the reason he has not been a stronger leader, according to Fortune.

For the full story click here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Afghan Freedom Quilt Tells Stories of Hope, Sorrow

In the spirit of Freedom Quilts used to help slaves escape north on the Underground Railroad, Bay Area NGOs have worked with Afghan women to create an Afghan Freedom Quilt, the Oroville Mercury Register reported today. Made by widows, the quilt will be used as a fundraising tool for SEED, a three month skills training and economic empowerment program in Fremont, CA and a separate program in Afghanistan. According to the Register:

"Woven into this quilt and its stitched images of Afghanistan, flowers, doves and words of peace are the stories of Afghan widows, whose short biographies are included in an accompanying booklet."

One quilt contributor "relies on her 14-year-old son to support her" after her husband was killed, and another widow "relies on the neighbors' leftovers to feed herself and her four children."

"In a culture where men typically are the sole providers and women are sometimes punished for appearing in public without a male relative, their struggles are many."

The Afghan Widows Project and Grants for Self Reliance program are two of the organizations behind the quilt project.

For the full story, click here.

Vietnam to Promote Regional Tourism

VietNamNet Bridge reported today that the Tourism Department of Ho Chi Minh City, the Tourism Ministry of Cambodia and the Lao National Administration of Tourism will host a 2007 travel expo with the theme "Three countries, one destination" in HCM City. The goal of the gathering, according to the piece is to focus on three areas:

"Making a common kiosk of the three countries; organizing a seminar to introduce Indochina adventure tourism programs by land, sea and air; and publicizing the cultural values of the three countries."

For the full story, click here.

Ayman Nour's Medical Procedure Delayed

Reuters reported yesterday that jailed Egyptian politician Ayman Nour, who was sent to the hospital to have stents inserted into his arteries, was sent back to prison without the necessary treatment. In a letter obtained by LCHR in June, Nour wrote: "I am ill with diabetes, heart disease, arterial disease, and high blood pressure...after nearly 6 months in prison I am feeling death approaching at every moment." At that time, Nour indicated that he had been denied medical treatment. Last week, however, his wife, Gameela Ismail, reported that arrangements had been made for Nour to go to the hospital on Saturday for the stent procedure. Ismail told Reuters Sunday that "authorities had not allocated enough time for Nour to prepare for the procedure, or to receive the proper follow-up care afterwards."

According to the piece:

"'They just wanted to get him finished and return him back to prison,' she said, adding that she had objected to Nour undergoing what she said was a rushed treatment.

"Nour, 41, was taken back to jail on Saturday evening, hours after being admitted to a state-owned hospital in Cairo where the procedure was to be conducted.

"His wife, who must provide the stents doctors will use, has previously said she expected him to be in the hospital for up to a week. She could not say when the procedure would be rescheduled, or if it would take place at the same hospital."

To read the full story, click here.