Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, October 06, 2006

Women's equality in Afghanistan is more than a political issue

Afghanistan is a prime example of how political and legal change does not immediately translate into transformations in the entrenched social and cultural structures that govern women’s daily lives. In post-Taliban Afghanistan women are stipulated by law to enjoy equal rights and opportunities with men. Girls’ education levels are improving and women are rejoining the workforce. A quarter of parliamentarians are women, and the government has implemented special programs to encourage women’s economic participation. However, enduring cultural restrictions that marginalize women’s role in society impede their full enjoyment of these new freedoms. Women who challenge social and cultural norms by taking part in political and economic affairs are often met with scorn, or otherwise they find themselves without the support and cooperation of their colleagues, who are often men.
It is evident that it will take more than just changing the text of the Constitution to alter the conservative Islamic culture, which keeps Afghan women in an inferior position to men. However, pressures for change are coming from women themselves, who are standing up and asking for their rights. Many of these are formerly exiled women, who experienced the relatively more liberated cultures of Pakistan and Iran, are reluctant to give up the freedoms they previously enjoyed now that they are in their own country.
Change has come slowly, and it may be another generation before the expansion of women’s rights takes hold in Afghan society, but positive steps are being taken towards this end.

For full article, click here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

UNPO issues human rights appeal to Vietnamese government

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) recently issued an appeal urging the Vietnamese government to take the appropriate steps to ensure the safe return of Montagnard refugees in Cambodia to their homes, and to ensure the human rights, including religious freedom, of all of its citizens following the reported death of an imprisoned Montagnard man. The Montagnards have been members of the UNPO since 2003.

For full article, click here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Iraq News

Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq on the rise

According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of people in Iraq fleeing their homes to avoid the sectarian violence has reached 9,000/week. The overall population of IDPs has reached 190,000 Iraqis. The largest problem with this flow is that these migrations are beginning to look like they are permanent migrations to safer areas Iraq, and a shortage in jobs in these areas is rampant. Shi’a and Sunnis are remaining divided during this migration, with Iraqi Shi’a migrating to the south and Sunni to the central region of the country. This is threatening to cause a severe humanitarian crisis if adequate food, shelter, and water are not provided to the IDPs.

Palestinians in Iraq in Danger, UNHCR Says

The Palestinians who have sought refuge in Iraq are facing many dangers according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Palestinians have seemingly become targets because of allegations of ties to the Hussein regime, and so the numbers of Palestinians in Iraq has dropped to 20,000 from 34,000 in 2003. According to the report, "Palestinians in Iraq lack protection, have serious problems obtaining identity cards, and have been the target of continuing harassment, threats, kidnapping, and killings. In late September, armed men in Baghdad hand-delivered written death threats to several Palestinians." For those who attempted to flee, some have gotten stuck in the border region between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. In fact 330 have found themselves stranded for four months at a border crossing into Syria. Even those who did manage to leave are facing difficult situations in the countries where they ended up, whether Syria or Jordan, and the UNCHR remains worried about the conditions of these refugees.

Both of these articles were reported in RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 10, No. 183, Part III, 4 October 2006.

Defining the enemy

An op-ed article by William Safire published on October 1 in the International Herald Tribune, describes the Bush administration’s search for a defining appellation for the enemy in the current war. The author asserts that the term, Islamofascism seems appropriate because it separates those terrorists responsible for atrocities carried out under an Islamic rhetoric and the wider Muslim population.

For full article, click here.

Urbanization and the informal economy in Egypt

In Egypt, mass urbanization, as rural and agricultural populations migrate to cities, has led to a rapid expansion of the informal employment sector as urban economies have not adequately adjusted to the rising demand for jobs. According to Dr. Rashad Abdou, a professor of economics at Cairo University, as much as 60 percent of the Egyptian economy is concentrated in the informal sector, the New York Times reported. Makeshift businesses such as Farouk Salem’s cart selling ful, a fava bean stew which is a staple of Egyptian cuisine, as chronicled by the New York Times, provide entire families with a meager income to maintain their livelihood. In the informal economy, however, property rights and tenure are not officially recognized, and the poor live in constant fear of the authorities shutting down their unlicensed ventures, which serve as their primary means for survival.

For full story in the New York Times, click here.

Local population shows ambivalence towards NATO forces in Afghanistan

A victory in September over Taliban insurgents in the Pashmul region of Afghanistan did not immediately translate into local support for NATO troops active in the country. Several days of intense fighting led to the killing or capture of hundreds of Taliban and ousting the growing insurgent presence from the region, with few fatalities suffered by coalition forces. In the wake of the battle, civilian casualties as well as extensive damages to property left ambivalent feelings among the local population about whether the Taliban or NATO forces were to blame for the destruction of the their homes.

For full article, click here.

New York Times columnist says NIE findings are hardly "breaking news"

In an opinion piece published on October 1, New York Times columnist Frank Rich dismisses the recent fury of debates over the latest National Intelligence Estimate as “meaningless”. He contends that the report’s key findings regarding increased levels of terrorism as a result of the American military presence in Iraq, is and has been evident to Americans for some time. Therefore, vehement criticisms against the Bush administration and its refusal to divulge more classified information about the ground scene in Iraq are irrelevant as the American public already knows about the deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, and the administration does not care.

From the start, Rich reminds his readers, the White House played a game of pretense and manipulation to assemble a series of half-truths and fiction in order to bolster the perceived threat from Iran and to justify a military attack against Saddam’s regime. To Rich, it is not surprising then that the cycle of lies continues to this day, as the administration fumbles to defend its “artificial reality” through their mantra of staying the course in Iraq. Meanwhile the facts point to an escalating civil war and the breakdown of the influence of security forces in the area.

The full report is available through the New York Times Select, here.