Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, March 07, 2008

Iranian workers’ rights activists imprisoned

Two Iranian trade union leaders, Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi, continue to be detained due to their peaceful campaigns for workers’ rights, said Peter Tatchell in an editorial for the Guardian on Thursday. “They have been beaten, denied medical treatment and imprisoned because of their legitimate activities as trade union organizers,” he said.

Independent trade unions are not permitted in Iran. According to the article, “only state-sponsored labor councils are permitted and, to ensure their loyalty to the state, there are restrictions on who can stand for election to these councils. They are, in effect, instruments of the state for the purpose of controlling and pacifying worker discontent.”

Over the last three weeks, several other workers have been fined and flogged in the city of Sanandaj.

Protests took place on Thursday in more than 40 countries worldwide as part of Free Osanloo Action Day, coordinated by a group of trade unions.

For the full article, click here.

Activist subjected to arbitrary violence and imprisonment in Iran

Prominent Azerbaijani activist Mr. Abbas Lisani has been arbitrarily abducted and imprisoned, the Committee for Abbas Lisani’s Rights announced in a press release on Friday.

According to the statement, he has been sent to a prison in Yazd, a city in central Iran, a considerable distance from his family in his hometown of Ardabil. In the process of the journey he was “subjected to physical violence by being battered and kicked.”

Mrs. Ruqeyye Lisani has expressed her deep concern about the events, saying that “Abbas has let it be known that he shall resort to a hunger strike as the last option remaining to him to protest against the ongoing arbitrary treatments.”

“We believe that the life of Mr Lisani is in great danger,” said the statement. “We ask the entire international community to speak out on behalf of Mr. Lisani.”

For the full press release, click here.

Iran elections will not bring change

Iran’s repression of the media and serious limitations upon candidates will result in elections where people face a choice “between different shades of conservatism,” said Jon Leyne for BBC News on Friday.

A third of prospective candidates have been disqualified for the elections, which will be held on March 14.

According to the article, there is considerable dissatisfaction within Iran due to President Ahmadinejad’s economic mismanagement. Inflation is now more than 20 percent, and unemployment and job insecurity are big problems.

But this is unlikely to be reflected in the outcome of the elections, and cannot be expressed through the media. “The Iranian government is in a bunker mentality, with less and less room for even the mildest forms of dissent.”

This means, said Leyne, that “those looking and hoping for major change in Iran are likely to be disappointed.”

For the full article, click here.

Women call for larger political role in solving poverty and conflicts

Women call for larger political role in solving poverty and conflicts
Over 50 female professionals from around the world gathered to discuss women’s empowerment reported USA Today on Thursday.

Participants included “leaders, foreign ministers, lawmakers, first ladies and top European Union and U.N. officials” who called for a greater role in conflict resolution. The group encouraged all female leaders to “give voice to those who would otherwise be voiceless.” Ferrero-Waldner said, “Women are often the most vulnerable members of society, subject to discrimination and abuse like harmful traditional practices or punishment by stoning.”

Leaders such as Finnish president Tarja Halonen encouraged the promotion of women’s rights within countries and acknowledged “the plight of women's rights to education and representation in Afghanistan as a big problem,” the article stated.

Participants urged their fellow leaders to treat women equally and invite them to policy making tables because women’s perspectives are desperately needed in conflict resolution.

For the full article, click here.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq plans to step down

Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, intends to retire early next year reported BBC News on Friday.

Crocker has been in Iraq for 2 years and with the Foreign Service for 37 years. As a fluent Arabic speaker, Crocker has had assignments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait. He arrived in Baghdad in March 2007.

“Mr. Crocker is credited with bringing in a number of experienced diplomats into the US embassy in Baghdad and restoring a sense of discipline to America's largest diplomatic mission,” reported the Washington Post.

Coincidently, General David Petraeus will also leave Iraq, on a “schedule rotation of duties,” states the article.

For the full article, click here.

High rates of trauma and sickness exist among Iraqi refugees in Egypt

A troubling number of the estimated 70,000-150,000 Iraqi refugees in Egypt have developed serious psychological and stress-related illnesses, the United Nations IRIN news agency reported on February 27.

Chronic diseases like heart ailments and diabetes, as well as more unusual ailments such as loss of speech, sight, and stunted growth are afflicting a growing number of Iraqis in the refugee camps. Ahlam Tobia, a medical doctor who works with refugees in Cairo says that Iraqi refugees have a high rate of medical problems when compared to other refugee populations, such as the Sudanese and Somalis. Severe poverty among the Iraqi refugees exacerbates their health problems further.

Dr. Tobia believes that Iraqi children are displaying health problems unique to their population, possibly attributable to the radioactive waste, and assorted chemicals left from Iraq’s war with Iran. “In other communities congenital diseases are very rare – maybe we find an abnormality of one in 100,” she said. “Among the Iraqis, I see them in the tens.”

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Poor sanitation in Afghanistan claiming thousands of lives

According to a recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, preventable diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery affect 25 percent of Afghan children under five each year, and kill about 600 every day, the U.N.’s IRIN news agency reported Wednesday.

Described in the same article were results of the State of the World’s Toilets 2007 report, which labeled Afghanistan as the very worst place for sanitation. About 92 percent of the population does not have access to proper sanitation. Apparently, it is not out of the ordinary for poorer Afghans to see human feces, sputum and even animal dung floating in the running water they use for drinking and bathing. These unsanitary conditions have lead to the spread of waterborne diseases.

For the full article, click here.

Catholic-Muslim summit to take place at Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI will host Catholic-Muslim talks in November to improve relations between the two religions, BBC News reported Wednesday.

A 2006 speech in Germany where the Pope quoted criticisms of Islam provoked anger among Muslim communities throughout the world. However, the speech motivated a number of Muslim scholars to appeal to the Pope for more theological dialogue.

Although the Vatican has not apologized for the 2006 speech to the degree that Muslims would have liked, the BBC’s Frances Kennedy said that the Pope realizes there is a “need for a wider, if more difficult, dialogue with Islam.”

The summit will be held November 4-6 in Rome. Twenty religious leaders and scholars from each religion are expected to attend.

For the full article, click here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Iran threatens to deport over 1 million Afghan refugees

The director of Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants, Seyyed Taghi Ghaemi, said on Monday that all Afghan refugees without valid documents will be deported, the United Nations’s IRIN news agency reported the next day.

Deportations from Iran had been halted during early January because of the harsh weather in Afghanistan, but the process now looks to be beginning again. According to Iranian estimates, over one-half of the Afghan refugee population in Iran is there illegally. The U.N has acknowledged Iran’s right to deport illegal aliens, but it has called for this process to be gradual and humane.

A massive influx of poor individuals back into Afghanistan, a war-torn nation with an underdeveloped infrastructure, would leave many returnees without the resources necessary to meet their basic needs.

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lao military launches offensive against unarmed Hmong civilians

The Lao military is currently engaged in a “massive military operation to isolate and destroy Hmong communities and villages in the mountains and jungles,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in a press release on Monday.

The main ground force army units and special forces of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the People’s Army of Socialist Vietnam are “hunting and killing unarmed Laotian and Hmong political and religious dissident groups, including Christians, Buddhists and other religious believers, who are suspected of opposing the Lao regime,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Thailand continues to repatriate Lao-Hmong refugees and asylum seekers from Thailand to Laos, where they will almost certainly be at risk.

It is against this backdrop that Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has visited Laos, in a move condemned by a coalition of Lao and Hmong organizations in Washington, DC.

For the full article, click here.

Human rights award winner barred from leaving Iran

An Iranian women’s rights campaigner has been prevented by police from leaving the country to pick up a human rights award in Sweden, Reuters reported Monday.

Parvin Ardalan, who is a leading figure in the campaign to collect one million signatures for greater women’s rights, was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for 2007. She had already boarded her plane at Tehran’s international airport when she was informed she would not be permitted to leave. Airport police took her passport, saying they were acting on a judge’s order.

“I think they didn’t want me to attend the prize ceremony because it was a good opportunity for me as an activist, a member of the women movement,” the 41-year-old journalist said.

Dozens of activists have been detained for their involvement in the one million signatures campaign since it began in 2006, with most being released after a few days or weeks.

For the campaign’s website, click here.

For the full article, click here.

U.S. permits allocation of aid to Egypt

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has waived U.S. congressional restrictions on military aid to Egypt’s aid, Reuters reported Tuesday.

At a joint news conference in Cairo, Rice was joined by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

“I have exercised on behalf of the United States the waiver in terms of Egyptian assistance ... The Bush administration sought to have that flexibility,” Rice said. “We believe that this relationship with Egypt is an important one and that the waiver was the right thing to do.”

The initial restriction was placed on Egyptian aid as leverage to require Egypt to, as the article notes, “protect the independence of the judiciary, curb police abuses and put a stop to arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.”

Rice later added: “I have said to the foreign minister even today the importance the United States attaches to democracy and reform in Egypt and the importance that we attach to progress on those fronts.”

For the full article, click here.

Worldwide survey reveals over 50,000 Muslims want democracy

Gallup surveyed more than 50,000 Muslims in 35 countries regarding Western democracy and freedoms, reported BBC News on February 27th.

This survey was first conducted after September 11th, 2001 when President George W. Bush asked, “Why do they hate us?” Next month the poll will be published in the book Who Speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think. One of the authors, John Esposito, expressed how the majority of Muslims who were surveyed said they admire Western democracy and freedoms. However, the individuals surveyed decided they do not want those elements imposed on them personally. Mr. Esposito stated, “What the majority wants is democracy with religious values,” along with freedom of speech.

The article reported that the polled Muslims think that improved ties between the West and Islamic societies can occur, if the West can “change its negative views towards Muslims and respect Islam.”

For the full article, click here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

German organization providing shelter for threatened Muslim women

A volunteer rescue organization in Germany is creating a safe haven for Muslim women, BBC News reported on February 28.

Sibel, a 20-year-old Turkish woman living in southern Germany, was repeatedly beaten by her father and her brothers since she was a youth. When her family made plans for a visit to their homeland, Sibel ran away from home, sure that a visit to Turkey would result in an arranged marriage. A rescue organization in Berlin helped her begin a new life, and supported her while she pursued a career in business.

Hatun Surucu, a single mother who left a forced marriage in Turkey, was not as lucky. Surucu was shot in the head by her own brothers for dishonoring her family. Shocked by the sudden death, a German friend of Surucu formed the organization, and named it after Surucu and her son. The group is funded by donors and run by volunteers who provide various services to help women in need. The article reports that the organization “has a telephone hotline, a website and drivers ready to rescue anyone fleeing a forced marriage, or worse.”

For the full article, click here.

HRW denounces arrests of Brotherhood members

Recent arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members have brought the total number of arrested in 2008 to more than 600, the legal news and research website Jurist reported on March 1, citing statements made by Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.

According to Stork, the program director for HRW’s Middle East & North Africa division, Egyptian officials claim the grounds for arrest are admissible, citing membership in an illegal organization as an act of illegality. Officials often claim informally that the Muslim Brotherhood aims to overthrow the existing order by violent means, despite the fact that none of the arrested members have been charged with committing or advocating violence, he said, adding that the government enforces the ban on the Brotherhood irregularly at best.

Stork adds that: “Most of those rounded up since the beginning of the year appear to be leaders of the organization and members or sympathizers who planned to run as candidates in municipal elections scheduled for early April.” Stork believes that, given these circumstances, Egypt is violating its obligation to protect its citizens’ right to freedom of association. He continued to say that, “the government’s on-again off-again campaigns of repression violate the rights of Muslim Brotherhood adherents to freedom of association and expression and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.”

For the full article, click here.

Afghan mothers giving opium to their children as medicine

Recent studies by the United Nations Office for Drug and Crimes have shown that in remote areas such as Badakhshan Province, Afghan mothers are giving their children opium in place of medicine, IRIN reported.

The villagers are seemingly oblivious to the serious health risks posed by use of the drug; the practice appears to be very common in isolated areas, with some women administering opium to their children three times a day. The UNODC says that at least one million people are addicted to drugs in Badakhshan, and that 45,000 of them are women.

For the full article, click here.