Posts Tagged ‘demonstrations’

Lebanon: human rights defenders use graffiti to express hope

January 24, 2020

The blue graffiti reads: “Oh, my wonderful country.” Photo by Nohad Elhajj.

Since the 17th of October 2019, Lebanon has been in the grips of widespread public protests against the social, economic, and political conditions of the country. The protesters are holding the government accountable for degrading living conditions and demanding serious and drastic changes. ….. But something, equally alive, captivates the place: graffiti. Building walls, stone barriers, wooden panels, even the asphalt ground are all covered with graffiti. With their diverse slogans, creative motifs, and direct, uncensored political and social messages, the graffiti artists collectively illustrate the people’s discourse demanding a full-fledged social and political reform.

On 23 January 2020 Nohad Elhajj – a development practitioner and independent researcher – wrote an interesting piece on this aspect in Global Rights, with rich illustrations:

….. reflecting on the present status of human rights and the human rights movement is of utmost need. More importantly, we need to consider questions about the future of those rights and this movement. In his 2019 article, Thomas Coombes offers a new way to address the future of Human Rights with “hope-based communication” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/30/positive-communication-is-the-only-way-forward-for-effective-human-rights-work/]….

Graffiti is defined as “a form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group”. The definition by itself poses a duality; would unauthorized marking of public space become positive communication? Would it possibly shift perspectives? Maybe not all, but some graffiti certainly does convey political messages. The question here is not about authority per se but the disruption of this authority. The act itself is intrinsically disruptive and political whether graffiti is acceptable or not. Starting from this understanding, graffiti, as a visual act, then can be leveraged as a participatory and accessible medium to shift public perspectives on human rights issues. Yet, the human rights movement does not only need to shift the public opinion but also to shift the current governance structures, which is beyond the impact of graffiti. The graffiti in Riyad El Soloh Square is a good illustration of this.

Graffiti is not new to the Lebanese society, but revolution graffiti is particular and powerful because of its relevance, the messages it conveys, and the places it occupies to convey these messages. The graffiti artists practiced their right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, while communicating, directly and clearly, human rights demands from women rights, LGBTQ rights, economic and social rights to civil and political rights. (Shown in Pictures below).

……
The Lebanese graffiti artists have pushed and merged both boundaries of political participation and art. The graffiti imposes itself on the observer and on the spaces it occupies with wit and audacity. It overwhelms the observer with emotions of anger, despair, longing and revolt but also with hope. Much of this street art offers a thought-provoking mosaic of entangled messages and images. The graffiti above shows a white pigeon (a recurring image) combined with a strong slogan about workers’ rights; this combination conveys that those rights, and other demands, will be achieved in the future.

Similar to that, the graffiti at the beginning of this article offers another perplexing combination. The whole piece can be read as: “Oh my wonderful country, sectarianism burned us”. As much as it articulates a cry of despair with hurt and agony, it also retains the image of a wonderful country before civil war and a political system that has crippled it for the past 45 years. The generation who lived the war is still lamenting it and the following generations were still living in the resulting divisions and sectarianism—up until the 17th of October 2019. Akin to the protests, the graffiti captured a future hope of a country that will regain its glory after necessary social and political change.

The artists’ urge to mark every visible surface around Riad El Soloh square with spray paint and brushes placed them right in the middle of an already contested political and social scene, and it placed the rights discourse in the middle and around this scene. This graffiti proved to be a strong visual expression of all the protesters’ demands and a way to engage the public with it, both inside and outside Lebanon. Through their paint, these graffiti artists created a distinctive, unprecedented, and positive narrative about human rights in Lebanon: a narrative that more and more organizations and activists are now hanging onto.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/graffiti-creates-positive-human-rights-narratives-in-lebanon/

 

Iran: nothing good to report in December 2019

December 20, 2019

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in Iran last month. In a report released on 16 December 2019 Amnesty says that according to reports it compiled, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests with lethal force. The organization interviewed dozens of people inside Iran. It also analyzed video footage obtained by the group, which shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The report said thousands of journalists and human rights defenders have also been arrested in an attempt to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s repression. Iran has yet to disclose details of the casualties.

On 18 December the European Union extended sanctions against Iran by another year over what the bloc says are serious human rights violations. The EU said in a statement it extended a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 people and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and others. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. The extension prolongs the sanctions until April 13, 2018.

On 19 December 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it is “appalled” by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine. However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist — Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi — for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18. The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.

RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison. Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.

On 20 December 2019 UN human rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and mistreated during recent protests, and expressed concerns over the hundreds of people who have been killed. “We are shocked at reports of the ill-treatment of those detained during the protests that took place in November 2019, and deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths,” the experts said.

——

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20191216_26/

EU extends sanctions on Iran over human rights violations

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/rsf-appalled-five-iranian-journalists-get-total-25-years-prison

UN Experts Alarmed at Alleged Mistreatment of Detained Protesters

Monday 25 April: what will happen in Egypt?

April 25, 2016

Brian Dooley, Director of Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program, wrote in the Huffington Post that today, Monday 25 April 2016, could be a watershed day for Egypt‘s military leader. This day is a national holiday Egypt which marks the 1982 withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai. President Sisi‘s agreement to hand over the two uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia may put a spark into the constantly simmering discontent in the human rights movement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Six UN human rights experts urge probe into recent violence in Venezuela

March 9, 2014

On 6 March 2014 a group of six United Nations experts has asked the Venezuelan Government for prompt clarification of allegations of arbitrary detention and excessive use of force and violence against protesters, journalists and media workers during recent protests. “The recent violence amid protests in Venezuela need to be urgently and thoroughly investigated, and perpetrators must be held accountable,” the experts stressed in a news release. They also expressed their shock at the reported deaths of at least 17 persons during the demonstrations. “We are deeply disturbed by the allegations of multiple cases of arbitrary detention of protesters. Some were reportedly beaten – and in some cases severely tortured – by security forces, taken to military facilities, kept in incommunicado detention, and denied access to legal assistance,” they said….“The reconciliatory dialogue that is so deeply needed in Venezuela is not going to take place if political leaders, students, media groups and journalists are harassed and intimidated by the authorities,” they stated.

The experts speaking out on Venezuela are Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention; Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

via United Nations News Centre – UN human rights experts urge probe into recent violence amid Venezuelan protests.

PS: It is ironic that at the same time the Government of Venezuela has invited the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to hold a special meeting at the historic Yellow House in Caracas on 17-18 April 2013.

Is Tanzania’s police restricting the freedom of assembly of HRDs?

February 23, 2012

Earlier this month, 16 prominent human rights activists were arrested in Dar es Salaam on the grounds of unlawful assembly. The human rights defenders were arrested at the Muhimbili National Hospital, where the police allege they had gathered illegally and were intending to hold an illegal demonstration, although the group maintained that they were merely going to observe the dialogue between the government and health officials.

Article 20 of the Constitution of Tanzania enshrines the right for people; “to freely and peaceably assemble, associate and cooperate with other persons”. However, as expressed in the constitution, this right can be limited by other national legislation for certain purposes, including ensuring public order or where it is in the public interest. The Police Force and Auxiliary Services Act forms part of the national legislation, which regulates public assemblies. This Act states that notification must be provided to the police 48 hours in advance of a planned public assembly. The police are given broad powers to prohibit the assembly if they believe it “is likely to cause a breach of the peace, or to prejudice public safety or the maintenance of public order”.

see: http://www.africareview.com/Opinion/Policing+public+demonstrations+in+Tanzania+gone+too+far/-/979188/1333258/-/fd5k6a/-/

Female protesters systematically targeted in Egypt say local NGOs

December 19, 2011

On Sunday 18 December 2011, five local human rights groups accused the Egyptian military of systematically targeting female political activists.

The 5 NGOs (Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Women and Memory Association) accuse in a joint statement the military rulers of exercising “unprecedented violence against protesters, with the targeting of female activists being a distinctive feature of the proceedings to disperse sit-ins, as depicted in pictures and video clips showing protesters being arrested, beaten, dragged and stripped of their clothes.”

Female protesters systematically targeted, say rights watchdogs | Al-Masry Al-Youm: Todays News from Egypt.