Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, February 23, 2007

Syria rejects U.S. proposal to discuss Iraqi refugee crisis

CBS News and The Associated Press reported today that Syria has rejected a U.S. proposal to discuss the Iraqi refugee crisis, and is insisting on a broader and more profound regional debate.

Al-Thawra, a state-run Syrian newspaper, recently published an editorial on the issue saying, ”Had the United Stated been serious about starting dialogue; it would have demanded that all the region's problems be discussed as one package. No one could ever think that any problem is separated from the other.”

However, the Syrian government’s refusal to discuss the situation, as well as their treatment of the Iraqi refugees, has sparked uproar within the country and amongst the international human rights community. Syria has imposed stringent new restrictions on the Iraqi refugees.

The article also notes that CBS News correspondent Liz Palmer recently filed a report on female Iraqi refugees, who are increasingly turning to prostitution in a desperate effort to provide for their children.

For the full article, click here

Attacks against political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities reported in Viet Nam

Viet Nam New Years celebrations shattered by police brutality

Nguyen Phong and Nguyen Binh Thanh, co-founders of the Vietnam Progression Party (VPP), were allegedly detained last week. Vietnamese police officers were seen outside both members’ housesm and the whereabouts of the two remain unknown, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported Sunday. According to the article, “pro-democracy groups have warned that the government has been launching major crackdowns on all dissident activities in the past year.”

For more Deutsche Presse-Agentur article, click here.

Catholic priest detained

Additionally, multiple media outlets reported that Chan Tin, a Catholic Priest and editor-in-chief of “Freedom of Speech” magazine, was arrested early this week in Viet Nam. Although Tin remains in custody, the charges against him are unknown.

For more information on the arrest of Chan Tin, click here.
For the Reports Without Borders press release on the arrest, click here.

Police brutality against Montgnards alleged

There has been a recent spike in police attacks against the residents of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, most of whom are Christian Degar Montagnards. It was rumored that one women was brutally beaten when the police discovered that her husband was a political prisoner and that her sister recently fled to Cambodia, Journal Chretien reported this week.

For more information, click here.

Prosecution of bloggers threaten freedom of expression in Egypt

Raja M. Kamal of the University of Chicago, and Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute recently expressed their disapproval over the treatment of an Egyptian blogger in their Washington Post op-ed Wednesday. Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman was recently expelled from Al-Azhar University in Egypt for his comments regarding the university's curriculum; he is the first blogger in Egypt to be condemned for his remarks.

Kamal and Palmer worry about Soliman’s plight and are gravely concerned about what these recent actions indicate about the future of freedom of expression in Egypt. They write, "We find it shocking that a university would turn a student over to the authorities to be persecuted for voicing his views. The future of learning and science is at risk when dissenting views are punished rather than debated."

For the full article, click here.

A Struggle for Democracy

The Egyptian government remains committed to nullification of its major opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, as the government recently froze the accounts of members that were arrested, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Brotherhood receives all of its money through donations, which are later invested in local businesses.

According to the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, President Hosni Mubarak believes that the group is a viable threat to his own power and is interested in curtailing the Brotherhood’s power before the next elections. The Egyptian government, meanwhile, claims that the Brotherhood is interested in strengthening its clout in the government and establishing a militia.

For the full article, click here.

Egyptian blogger, critic of Islamic extremism, sentenced to 4 years in prison

Adbel Kareem Nabil, an Egyptian blogger and former student at Al-Azhar University was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday, The Washington Post reported the same day. Nabil, who could have faced up to nine years in prison, received a three year sentence for offensive comments towards the prophet Muhummad and the nation of Islam, as well as an additional year for insulting remarks towards President Hosni Mubarak. International rights groups worry that the conviction does not bode well for freedom of expression in Egypt.

For the full story, click here.

Expected spring offensive by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

In their daily Newsline of current developments 23 February, 2007 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports on the following story;

“ Al-Jazeera satellite television aired an interview on February 21 with Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah in which he said that he has deployed more than 6,000 fighters in preparation for a spring offensive against the Afghan government and its allies. "The attack is imminent," said Dadullah, who claims the number of fighters may reach 10,000 once the conflict begins. The fighters are alleged to be hidden as they await orders to begin the offensive. The militant commander also claimed on Al-Jazeera that the group has acquired new antiaircraft weapons suitable for use against helicopters. Dadullah claimed to have successfully shot down a U.S.
helicopter near Kandahar two months ago, and showed video of burning helicopter wreckage. Meanwhile, Ali Jan Orkazi, the governor of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, said the Taliban is growing stronger. JC”

For full article, click here

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Iranian textbooks glorify jihad and martyrdom

In an op-ed published in The Washington Times last week, Nir Boms, Vice President of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East, discusses the alarming findings of an analysis of 115 Iranian textbooks and teaching materials conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.

The Iranian textbooks reveal the extremist regime’s shocking vision. They both foment hatred towards all western influence, and essentially encourage jihad and martyrdom through stories and poems that glorify martyrs.

A passage in a seventh-grade textbook indicative of this indoctrination reads, “Now, in order to continue the Islamic Revolution, it is our duty to continue with all power our revolt against the Arrogant Ones and the Oppressors, and not cease until all Islam's commandments and the spread of the redeeming message of ‘there is no God except Allah’ are realized in the whole world.”

Boms writes, “When Iran sent 36,000 school students to their deaths in Iraqi minefields in the 1980s, the boys shouted slogans praising martyrdom, believing that their death will bring them back to better life.”

For the full article, click here

Taking a stand against female genital mutilation

According to a Los Angeles Times editorial published yesterday, there is good news regarding attitudes toward the practice of female genital mutilation.

In the past few years, thousands of villages in Senegal, Egypt and Sudan have abandoned this terrible practice, which affects an estimated 2 million women and girls annually.

It is believed that the programs most successful in bringing an end to this practice are: building strong organizations at the village level, offering health and literacy education, and addressing regional poverty – especially in ways that strengthen women's economic positions. In Senegal, an organization called Tostan has pioneered these methods, and 1,993 of the country's 5,000 villages have abandoned the practice. But change is slow.

There is hope that more villages will follow the example set by Tostan and renounce the horrific practice of female genital mutilation.

For the full article, click here

NDP official addresses issue of presidential succession

The pro-government newspaper Al-Ahram published an exclusive interview with Ahmed Fathi Surur, speaker of the Egyptian parliament and secretary general of the NDP, where Surur addressed long-standing speculation on the succession of power after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, AKI reported yesterday.

It appears that Mubarak senior has been preparing his son Gamal to follow him, but as Surur reiterated, “Egypt's political system is democratic and does not recognize the hereditary passage of power and the possibility of any citizen to stand as a candidate for election is constitutionally guaranteed.”

This is just one of many issues up for discussion in Egypt after the national assembly approved a request from Mubarak to amend 34 controversial articles of the constitution last month. These reforms truly worry most civilian Egyptians, since they consider the constitutional amendments and ad hoc laws, set in motion by Mubarak, only meant to sustain power irrespective of any popular endorsement or legitimacy. Despite this widely-held sentiment, Surur said that “the amendments to the Constitution seek to facilitate the democratic process and the participation of all parties in the political life of the country”.

For the full article, click here

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

UN mission set to open new offices in Afghanistan

At a press briefing in Kabul yesterday, Tom Koenigs, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, explained that the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) has established several new offices in Afghanistan and are scheduled to open more in the next few months. Koenigs stressed the importance of UNAMA operating in as many, and as different communities as possible.

According to Mr. Koenigs, “UNAMA will be there to bring other agencies and donors into the provinces, to support the local Governors and help coordinate the efforts of other aid agencies to ensure that development is efficiently planned.”

He also wished to convey the message that “Human rights violations including the violence of war, particularly against civilians, occur locally. And therefore allegations of human rights violations have to be verified locally.”

For full article, click here

Afghanistan to reject parliament’s move to grant amnesty

Reuters reported today that Afghanistan has promised to reject a parliament vote from three weeks ago, which stipulated that amnesty would be granted to all Afghans, including war criminals who have committed serious atrocities. Today’s pronouncement comes as a result of the uproar and condemnation the parliamentary vote sparked within the country and amongst the international human rights community, whose members generally maintain that punishing those guilty of war crimes is essential to bringing peace and stability to any society.

“We have our international responsibilities,” Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta told Reuters in an interview. “Under international law ... crimes against humanity, systematic violence against human rights is not a matter for amnesty.”

Afghanistan is again facing deteriorating circumstances five years after U.S. led forces toppled the Taliban’s strict Islamist government. The Taliban continues its propaganda war, boosted by the slow pace of reconstruction, and it is thus even more important for the government to stay on a democratic course. More than 4,000 people died in fighting in Afghanistan in 2006, and both the Taliban and NATO commanders are warning of a bloody 2007 spring offensive.

For full article, click here.