Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Short detention of Afghan journalist draws attention

Afghan reported Sharif Hasanyar was detained and held for 30 hours on Monday while on his way to meet with Afghan police, RFE/RL reported today. The journalist and editor for a Kabul television station was on his way to the National Security Department for an hour of questioning when he was detained. Hasanyar caught the attention of the police department because he had made contact with Mohammed Hanif, a recently-arrested Taliban spokesman.

Hasanyar’s detention was met with outrage by some Afghan parliamentarians and nongovernmental organizations. They warned that arresting journalists constitutes a severe violation of Afghan law. The Information and Culture Minister of Afghanistan has labeled the detention illegal.

For the full article, click here.

Turkey carefully watches the situation in Iraq

As the violence in Iraq continues and the devastation mounts with each passing day, Iraq’s neighbors keep a watchful eye. Turkey is one such neighbor. Sumedha Senanayake of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, proposed why in an article Tuesday entitled, “Turkey keeps a nervous eye on Kirkuk.” Turkey, who has long disputed with the Kurdish population within its own borders, “fears that if the Iraqi Kurds annex Kirkuk into their autonomous region, they will eventually want to carve out an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and thus stoke separatist desires in Turkey's own sizable Kurdish population.”

In response to a census set to be taken later this year to determine whether Kiruk and its surroundings will join Iraqi Kurdistan - as a result of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution - the Turkish Global Strategy Institute held a symposium last week entitled “Kirkuk 2007.” Set to discuss the future of Kirkuk, representatives from Iraqi Sunni, Shiite, Turkoman, Christian and Assyrian groups participated; however, not a single Iraqi Kurd was invited. One representative, Sadettin Ergec, leader of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, proposed that the city be placed under state control. He commented, “"Kirkuk is not a normal province. Rather, it is Iraq's national asset. Therefore, all the Iraqis should have a say in its future and the city.”

Reactions to and implications of the conference were mixed. Several Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament condemned the conference. A member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turhan Comez, stated, “Turkey should announce that it will not recognize the results of a referendum on the future of Kirkuk under these conditions. And we should also announce that we are going to intervene if civil war erupts in Kirkuk.” One Turkish newspaper, “Ortadogu,” even reported last week that Turkish troops were deployed last year along the Iraq and Iran borders for a time when they might be needed to attack Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) fighters and protect the Turkoman population in Iraq. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns emphasized in a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Kirkuk continues to remain a matter of the “Iraqis, since they are sovereign in their country.”

For the full article, click here.

Pressure put on Mubarak in Nour case

There is mounting pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to free imprisoned politician Ayman Nour, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Along with 23 human rights groups, the United States has resumed its call on the Egyptian government to either release Nour or at the very minimum ensure necessary access to his doctors and lawyers. Nour is diabetic and underwent a cardiac procedure in December. His health is deteriorated rapidly and denying Nour access to his lawyers and doctors violates both the Egyptian Constitution and international agreements.

During Secretary of State Condoleezsa Rice’s visit to Egypt she met with Mubarak and pressed him on the Nour case. The 23 human rights groups are asking that his sentence be commuted from five years to the 13 months Nour has already served.

To read the article, click here.

Rare moment of unity in Turkey

The funeral of Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist murdered last week, marked a moment of unity for Turks and Armenians, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. Thousands turned out to mourn the death of Dink in Istanbul, some with red carnations and others carrying signs saying “We are all Hrant Dink” in both Turkish and Armenian. Calls for solidarity between the ethnic groups in Turkey could be heard, with references not only to the Armenian population but also to Kurdish and Jewish communities. Many mourners called for the abolition of section 301 of the Turkish penal code which makes it a crime to insult Turkey or Turkishness. Dink and countless other prominent Turks including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, were prosecuted under this law in the past.

The funeral was attended by Armenian political leaders from Armenia and around the world. The Turkish government sent the Deputy Prime Minister and the Interior Minister in its delegation to the ceremony.

For the entire article, click here.

A face given to the victims of the sex trade in Cambodia

The illegal sex trade in Cambodia includes between 50,000 to 100,000 individuals, with approximately 30 percent being under the age of 18, CNN reported today. Tragically, some victims are as young as five.

Srey, a six year old Cambodian girl, was sold by her parents into the sex-trafficking business when she was just five and drugged and raped repeatedly by her captors. However, she has been luckier than most. Srey was rescued from this horrible industry by Somaly Mam, a former prostitute herself. Somaly has become a leader in the fight against illegal sex trafficking, which is a multi-million dollar industry in Cambodia. To date, Somaly has saved 53 girls from the horrors of human trafficking. According to Somaly, many of the girls have mild to severe mental illnesses as a result of repeated sexual abuse. Some are barely able to function, and many others like Srey have HIV and may not have much time left. Somaly hopes to expand her rural sanctuary for rescued sex workers outside Phnom Penh where the girls are able to receive vocational training.

For the entire article, click here.

Vietnamese Prime Minister meets with Pope Benedict

As the first leader of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to meet with the Pope, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dang, looked to normalize relations with the Vatican, AsiaNews reported today. Today’s meeting focused on the current steps being taken by Viet Nam to protect the rights of its Catholic citizens and what more can be done in this area. The Vatican made reference to “concrete progress” being made in Viet Nam, but also emphasized that some areas are still lacking. Both the Church and the government believe that expanded relations are of great importance and see the benefits of cultivating the relationship further.

The Vietnamese government hopes that embracing the Church and its followers in the country will encourage more moral behavior, especially among the youth, as the country continues to be plagued by corruption as the economy grows at staggering rates. The two sides hope today’s meeting will be the first step in the normalization process.

Lesson to be learned from exiles

Recent activity sparked by last month’s Holocaust Conference, sponsored by the Iranian government, has revealed the importance of recognizing exiles, according to an op-ed, “Wisdom in Exile,” by columnist Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post Tuesday. Abhored by the conference and a good portion of the Muslim world’s silent response to it, a number of exiled Iranians joined together to create and sign a statement. (The statement can be found at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19831.) This group of Iranians wanted to let the world know that all Iranians do not agree with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to host the conference, nor the implications behind it, stating, “the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history.”

The statement contained signatures of Iranians, all from a variety of political stances, living throughout the U.S. and Europe. No Iranians living within the borders of Iran were asked to sign for risk of being incarcerated as a result. As Applebaum concludes, “If nothing else, their names will travel to Iran, via the Internet, where, they hope, their statement will inspire debate. We should take them and their effort to inspire discussion in their country seriously: Who knows, maybe they will succeed.” We must hope that they do, and that other groups will be equally successful.

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Strategy in Iraq should focus on new elements; Kurdish Regional Government offers potential model

The decision to create a new strategy in Iraq was much-needed, but did not offer a realistic approach to creating stability in Iraq, according to Najmaldin Karim, President of the Washington Kurdish Institute, who wrote last week in the Orlando Sentinel. Dr. Karim affirmed that “unless the United States adopts a political policy toward Iraq that accepts these problems, which it has yet to do, relief will only be temporary. U.S. resources will continue to be wasted.”

Although in theory, the new strategic plan is intended to strengthen democracy and provide more security for the disparate ethnic and religious groups in the region, Karim argues that a plan that only advances a military strategy will not be successful. The political and ethnic divisions in the region were instilled under years of dictatorship and success is ultimately dependent on effectively addressing these encumbering internal tensions.

According to Karim, there are four critical factors for U.S. success in Iraq: security, a bolstered economy, legitimate Iraqi autonomy, and an end to the intrusion of foreign religious extremists. Karim believes that Iraq should be afforded regional independence as establishing self-governing ethnic regions – as has been done in the Kurdistan region - looks to be one of primary needs for the region’s success.

For the full article, click here.

India grants additional aid to Afghanistan

India’s Foreign Prime Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, announced today that India plans to grant an additional $100 million in aid to Afghanistan, Reuters reported. India will work with the Afghan government to rebuild the parliament, and conduct a variety of smaller projects including civil servant trainings.

Additionally, the South Asia Association announced today that it would extend its invitation for membership to Afghanistan, which would make the country the eighth member of the group.

As the relationship between Afghanistan and India strengthens, some are worried about the impact of this alliance on the ever-strained India-Pakistan relationship.

For the full article, click here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Progress for women in Afghanistan not without struggles or fear

Since the fall of the Taliban five years ago, women in Afghanistan have seen improving rights and freedoms, but substantial obstacles remain, according to an article from yesterday’s Baltimore Sun. The Afghan Constitution enshrined basic rights for women - allowing them basic freedoms and choices denied to them under Taliban rule. Still, many women look to the Quran and not the constitution for support for women’s rights.

The situation in Afghanistan has gotten better for women, especially in the capital city of Kabul, but there have been struggles and some backsliding. Now, where women and girls began to receive education after the Taliban, some are being kept at home once again. This is not the first time women in Afghanistan have seen their rights blossom and then recede. Women’s rights were enhanced during three separate episodes in the 20th century, but the gains were eventually rescinded through regime change. History is again repeating itself as the resurgence of elements of the Taliban in parts of the country has led to women and girls being taken out of schools and vocational training programs and kept at home.

To read the entire article, click here.

Environmental issues pose security threats

At a two-day meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Economic and Environmental Forum that convenes today, the issue of how environmental concerns like cross-border pollution affect international security will be addressed, according to an OSCE press release. The Forum will focus on issues such as land degradation and migration that can have severe security repercussions if not dealt with. According to Carlos Sanchez de Boado y de la Valgoma, Chairman of the OSCE Permanent Council, “Only by dealing with the problem of the deterioration of ecosystems - a cause of poverty and serious social problems in many countries - can we fight against the lack of resources, which is also inducing environmental migrations.”

This is the first part of a two-part forum. The second part will deal with environmental issues and conflict resolution and prevention.

To read the press release, click here.