Ads 468x60px

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nar Yu Right by Star Zee Promotes Human Rights Day in Sierra Leone

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, Advocaid sent a powerful message to the masses in Sierra Leone through music. Advocaid used the date to launch a song meant to educate women about their rights. 

Nar Yu Right is an upbeat tune sung by Sierra Leonean hip hop artist Star Zee.  Lyrics in the song are used to educate women on their legal rights. Some of the items mentioned are not signing anything that isn’t understood and that when taken into custody a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Advocaid is a defender of human rights. The non-profit seeks to educate women, provide free legal aid to women who cannot find a lawyer, and seeks to put an end to gender violence. 

Nar Yu Right’s music video was shot in a female prison in Freetown, according to Sonia Osho-Williams, a program officer with Advocaid. Many of the women in the prison received a free education from the creators of the video and shared their stories. 

“When you hear some of these stories about these women, a lot of them are victims of domestic violence, a lot of them are victims of gender-based violence. A lot of them, it’s as a result of retaliating or self-defense that they become perpetrators, become in conflict with the law,” said Osho-Williams.

Obama Shakes Hands with Castro on International Human Rights Day

Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project

President Obama is coming under a lot of criticism for his behavior on International Human Rights. The most recent criticism comes after Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.

Freedom House rated Cuba as “not free” in a 2013 report on human rights. The report pointed to a rise in short-term detentions of political dissidents. The detentions spiked in Cuba on several occasions last year. There was a spike in March when the late and former Pope Benedict XVI visited the country. Another spike took place in July when activists Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero became involved in a car crash that killed both of them. And another took place on Human Rights Day. It has been alleged that the crash that killed Paya and Cepero happened after Paya’s car was deliberately forced off the road. 

Obama’s administration has attempted to improve relations with Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro.
“More serious thinking has to be given to an American diplomatic strategy that will encourage freedom in Cuba, and we should assess what might work and what hasn’t worked in the past,” said Arch Puddington, Vice President of Freedom House.

“Cuba is still a hellish dictatorship, but at the same time it is a country that is undergoing a measured amount of change,” he said.

Criticism of the handshake came from several lawmakers in the United States. 

The most powerful statement came from Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) who told Fox News, “It is nauseating. He shook the hand of a murderer, a thug, and those are bloody hands.”

Ros-Lehtinen fled Cuba with her family when she was a child.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rest In Peace Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, a leader in human rights, has sadly passed away today at the age of 95. He was an inspiration to many. He will be missed.

Read NPR's "Nelson Mandela, Inspiration to World" to learn more about one of the greatest leaders of our time.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Human Rights Watch calls for Afghanistan to reject stoning proposal

A proposal to restore stoning as a means for punishing adultery has been put before the Afghan government. Human Rights Watch is calling for the proposal to be rejected out of hand. The group is shocked that the group, led by the Justice Ministry, working on drafting a new penal code would even consider bringing back stoning as a punishment. 

The provisions in the draft are archaic and a violation of basic human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, “if a couple is found by a court to have engaged in sexual intercourse outside legal marriage, both the man and woman shall be sentenced to ‘stoning to death if the adulterer or adulteress is married.’ The provisions state that the ‘implementation of stoning shall take place in public in a predetermined location.’ If the ‘adulterer or adulteress is unmarried,’ the sentence shall be ‘whipping 100 lashes.’” 

The new government in Afghanistan signed on to international human rights conventions and pledged to protect human rights. The proposed penal code would be a strong violation of the agreements the government signed on to. 

“It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Karzai needs to demonstrate at least a basic commitment to human rights and reject this proposal out of hand.”

Rape as a weapon of war: 6000 cases of women raped during Syrian conflict

Syrian students protesting rape. Photo by Katherine Chen, Creative Commons.

A new report compiled by the Euro-Mediterranean Human RightsNetwork (EMHRN) estimates 6000 cases of women being raped and sexually assaulted during the Syrian conflict. Sadly, that number is likely a low estimate since many cases go undocumented. 

Sema Nasar, a human rights defender, collected first-hand testimonies over the first six-months of 2013. Nasar works for the Syrian Network for Human Rights and provided the testimonies to EMHRN.  

The report is titled “Violence against Women, Bleeding the Wound in the Syrian Conflict” and it documents rapes that occurred during government-backed raids in rebel strongholds, rapes in detention facilities and it points a finger at atrocities committed by government and government-allied forces. The document claims that 70% of the abuses reported were committed by these groups. 

Many of the victims have ended up pregnant, found themselves in a world that attaches social stigma to sexual violence, and remain silent on the abuses they endured because of the difficulty in bringing forward charges against the people in charge. 

Lauren Wolfe, a journalist and director of Women Under Siege, confirmed the findings in the report. Her group has been mapping sexual violence against women in Syria over the past year. It has also documented 216 reports of hundreds of victims that were raped by more than one man. 

Several of the testimonies in the report are heart-wrenching. One woman, called Aida, reported being raped on two separate occasions. After the second rape her family was informed of her death. 

“On the fifth day, two members of the security unit came and raped me. I had never seen them in the first four days. When they approached me, I told them that I am not a virgin thinking that they will let go away (...). These two members took turn in raping me and after they finished I fainted and fell on the ground. Then, they moved me to a military police hospital in Damascus and contacted my family to tell them that I was dead,” the report reads. 

There are many other testimonies just as horrifying.  The use of rape as a weapon of war needs to stop.