Posts Tagged ‘human trafficking’

Nyan Kyal Sayn brings his animator talent to the human rights of women in Myanmar

November 14, 2016

Animation in Myanmar goes back to about 1920, earlier than in any other Southeast Asian country. The art form did not prosper under the military regime, but it’s on its way back. One of its most popular exponents has been the well-known cartoonist Aw Pi Kyal. Now his son, Naing Kaung Nyan, 22 – known in the trade as Nyan Kyal Say – has produced a prize-winning work of his own. “My Life I Don’t Want” has won 15 international awards from Myanmar, the United Kingdom, Romania, Barcelona, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States. Based on actual events, it’s about a young Myanmar woman, and promotes awareness of the rights of women and children.

I describe the difficulties she faces, in terms of poverty, poor education, insecurity, sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy and human trafficking that afflict so many young women,” said Nyal Kyal Say, who works in medicine as a house surgeon when he’s not creating animations. “I hope to draw attention to women’s rights, get support from foreign organisations and penetrate the Myanmar animation market.

The 12-minute short, produced in May, took eight months to make, including story development, production, financial support, and sound. It was first screened at the 2016 Human Rights Film Festival and went on to compete internationally. At the prestigious Amsterdam Animation Festival 2016 “My Life I Don’t Want” won Best Animated Short in the Emerging Animation Nation category last month, its 12th international award.

“Two of my animations are about human rights, but the environment is also important. If we don’t maintain the environment, there will be no humans to claim their rights. Then there’s health. I graduated from the University of Medicine and I want to create health edutainment animations that deal entertainingly with questions of health. Most residents of rural areas lack health knowledge and can’t find out because of the language barrier,” he said. “To help them overcome all these problems, I want to produce animations that are easy for everyone to understand.”

For my other posts on animation https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/animation/

Source: Award-winning animator joins the fight for women’s rights

Conversation with Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq

May 19, 2016

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq focuses on protecting women’s human rights, including fighting against trafficking of women and girls, and operates six safe houses for women survivors of violence. The Global Fund for Women interviewed its President, Yanar Mohammed who speaks about her work and the impact from the conflict with ISIS.

Yanar, you’ve been an activist and a defender of women’s rights in Iraq for over 13 years. What do you think are the main challenges women in Iraq are facing right now?
We focused in the last year on working against trafficking in women and girls and expanding a new network, the Network of Anti-Trafficking of Women in Iraq. We started the network in 2013, barely nine months before ISIS began gaining ground in Iraq. As ISIS grew, they started their attacks against women in the north of Iraq, including against the women of Yazidi faith. They trafficked them in broad daylight.

Trafficking in women and girls is now a tactic used by opposing groups in instances of sectarian violence in Iraq. Women and girls are looked upon as the representatives of a community’s honor, and so the sexual exploitation of women and girls belonging to a certain community is seen as the most effective way to humiliate and break it. Unfortunately, it is therefore not a surprise that the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, as a Sunni group, has targeted non-Sunni Muslim women and girls such as Shi’a Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis. Retaliations ensue and wars are led on women’s bodies.

When ISIS began to enslave women, we found that this was the time when we should rise to the occasion and highlight the issue of trafficking in society and the government. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by laws, practices, programs, and by some understanding from the society as to what it means that a woman gets compromised, gets exploited, and gets enslaved. So we set up this network, which is now about 40 NGOs working together on the issue. We began to talk about trafficking in women and girls, especially sexual exploitation, and address it as something that’s not only happening under ISIS but also happening in Iraq more broadly, without anybody daring to give it any importance.

Beyond ISIS, orphans and widows of war in Iraq who are extremely impoverished have fallen prey to sexual exploitation. They are being used and exploited and violated daily in Iraq, without anybody thinking of it as a human rights issue. So this is our focus; we have decided we will work on this until we get the government to pass laws that make the suffering of these women less, and also that open the way for us to protect the women from this kind of violence.

Is there any legislation right now against trafficking?
We demanded that the government pass a law for the financial support of Yazidi women when they step out of their enslavement. When they come back to areas of Iraq that are not under ISIS control, they should be compensated just like prisoners of war for the sufferings they went through. And we were so happy when it took only a few months and the Iraqi government decided to give monthly stipends for survivors in May 2015. That was the first success of the network. At the time nobody else had demanded this kind of support for ISIS survivors, so we felt that we were on the right track and that we should proceed to the rest of our demands that we needed in order to address violence against women.

What would you say is the level of public awareness around the issue of trafficking?
We have struggled a lot to make many words and terms debatable in our society—to remove the taboo. I will give you an example: in 2003 when we began to talk about honor killings and how it needs to stop, everybody was disgusted with us and saying that women’s groups should refrain from speaking about taboo and sexual issues, and that we do not address women’s rights in a way that they find acceptable. It took us almost 5 years to make discussion of honor killings a mainstream argument. Now when you go to Iraq, the issue of honor killing has become such a regular thing to talk about. There are so many NGOs that are standing against it, talking about it, are lobbying against it. Whenever we have an issue like this, we find ourselves the first ones on the front lines to address it until, it becomes a mainstream argument. Now as we talk about trafficking and discuss sexual exploitation of women and girls this issue is a very taboo and difficult issue to address.

How many women and girls in Iraq are at risk of being trafficked?
The dilemma of displacement in Iraq is huge because of ISIS. The number of displaced people is two million, going to three million. Most of these are women, because the men are either in the Iraqi army fighting ISIS or have been recruited into militias also heading to fight ISIS, or stuck in the cities defending them. It may be impossible to give the exact number, but we can estimate that out of the 1.5 million women who are displaced, half of them are between ages 16 and 30—the biggest age group at risk of trafficking. So I would say not less than 100,000 women are being trafficked at this point in Iraq.

So the political instability caused by ISIS is increasing the threat of trafficking for women and girls, even if ISIS is not doing the trafficking directly.
Yes. ISIS has created the most ugly reality of trafficking, where they defend it as a religious right. They say it is their right to enslave the “spoils of war” who are not of Muslim faith. They describe them as faithless and as less of human beings whose enslavement makes them better, makes them closer to Islam. ISIS has brought an example that has totally shocked the region and shocked it in a way as to taking us back to a time when people had no human rights, basically. And they are trying to make it a fact to force on the people of Iraq, Syria, and maybe other places if they are allowed to expand.

Can you tell me about the shelters that your group runs?
Our shelters are currently keeping safe women who survive trafficking. They are also getting educated; our shelters are not only a place for women to rest and be safe, they are also schools for social transformation for women to turn from victims into defenders of women. We only had one shelter until 2008; since then we have expanded to have six shelters all over the country. We also have a pipeline from the southern city of Busra, to direct violated women to our shelters in Baghdad. And we have many supporters in the network of the 40-plus NGOs, who are our eyes and ears in more than nine cities in Iraq and are guiding women who are in need of shelter to us. I like to put it in a very short story: our organization was able to spread its wings over most of the Iraqi cities in the last few years.

However, the Iraqi government is not facilitating our undertaking of women into our shelters. And it boils down to one point—we need a piece of legislation from the Iraqi government to provide legal status to shelters that are run by NGOs or other private sector groups. Although the government does not have a law that says that our shelters are illegal, they do have a law that allows the ministry of social affairs to determine if they should stay open. So some of the tribal and misogynist officials did tell us in the past that we are doing an illegal thing, but they did not shut us down.

So, although we are protecting women from trafficking and domestic violence and all that—although we are doing the duty of the government, the duty the government is not taking seriously and do not want to move on, and although they should be supporting us and applauding us for doing their job, in reality they confront us, telling us that our sheltering of women is promoting promiscuity, that it is encouraging women to go against their families and have full sexual freedoms and come stay in our shelters. So some governmental officials have intimidated us in the past, telling us we are doing something illegal, when we are protecting women.

What can the international community do to help Iraqi women be empowered and experience less violence?
We are asking the international community to ask the legal committee in the Iraqi parliament to legislate for the legal status of our shelters. Letters that are addressed to the Iraqi parliament—and specifically to the legal committee of the Iraqi parliament—asking them to legislate for the legal status of women’s shelters that are run by the NGOs. This would be a great help to us.

Would you say that action now is especially important to protect women? Is right now a critical moment?
Right now is a very critical moment because ISIS is at the point where it can be defeated. It has lost the social support of those among the Sunni groups in Western Iraq that were supporting it because people saw the atrocities that ISIS can commit against them. It is a very special moment in time to act against ISIS, but is the kind of action we are seeking a military one, where we have more US army in Iraq? No.

Our experiences of the last 13 years tell us that US intervention in Iraq never brought us anything good. It always has caused more deterioration. Now is the time to have a political intervention, and to ask the Iraqi government to stop its sectarian, politics that gave way to ISIS, as well as empower the Iraqi army so that they can regain the cities that were taken by ISIS.

What are some of the other forms of violence that women come up against in Iraq?
We have many kinds of violence we undergo, and we know what is making this kind of violence worse, which is Islamist extremist parties reaching power. Some of these parties have shown us a terrible example of what they want to bring to Iraq, including legislating for Jaafari law. This law allows the marriage of a 9-year-old girl to an adult man—in other words it legalizes pedophilia in Iraq. It also allows men to be polygamous, and allows for getting rid of wives if they are not sexually pleasant for husbands.

The amount of humiliating material in this law against women is incredible, and out of this era. It’s something that modern humanity cannot even bear to hear of. We must keep this legislation outside of parliament, because the law was not passed, but it is still waiting for us. The Islamist political parties are just waiting for some stability and for the moment when they feel stronger to bring back this legislation. And that would really be the end for Iraqi women.

Source: In Conversation: Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq – Global Fund for Women

Two Human Rights Defenders in Uzbekistan Sentenced to more than 8 Years

March 15, 2014

On 6 March 2014, in Tashkent the trial of two members of the Mazlum Human Rights Center took place: Fakhriddin Tillaev and Nuriddin Jumaniyazov. They were charged under Art. 135 of the Criminal Code (“trafficking in persons”). The prosecutor asked for 12 years of imprisonment. The court sentenced both the human rights advocates to 10 years and 8 months of imprisonment and applied the amnesty act passed by the Senate of Uzbekistan. The final term of punishment was thus still 8 years and 3 months of imprisonment.
Fakhriddin Tillaev

And the Nominees Are……Oscars for Human-Rights !!

February 28, 2014

Regular readers of this blog know that I like the idea of holding  celebrities accountable (most recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/).   The reason is that there is a mutually reinforcing (and for many profitable) interaction between the stars and the media (which in turn feed on the interest of the public). Celebrities’ views on all kind of issues – including human rights –  can hardly be called private. Their social media are virtual industries and influence millions globally. So it seems a good idea to have an annual look at which celebrities have advanced and which have harmed the cause of human rights around the world. Halvorssen and Leigh Hancock ( of the Human Rights Foundation) have done exactly that in the Atlantic on 27 February 2004 and linked it to the upcoming Oscars night on Sunday. 

(Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

The list of celebrities deserving recognition for their accomplishments in the field of human rights or those who should be ashamed for supporting human-rights violators, is long and contains many video links. Like the real Oscars, the list is slanted in terms of geopolitical interest and I think that if all major international human rights organisations would get together to agree on a list if would be more balanced, but that is probably wishful thinking. Still, the Human Rights Foundation deserves credit for this creative initiative. and here is the summary:

The Nominees for Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights Read the rest of this entry »

Nominations deadline for 25th Annual Roger Baldwin Medal on 15 March

February 14, 2014

New York based Human Rights First is now accepting nominations for the 2014 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty which recognizes an individual or organization who demonstrates exceptional commitment to advancing human rights. Named in honor of the principal founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and the International League for Human Rights, the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award was established in 1989. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the award and it will focus areas such as human trafficking, religious freedom, LGBT rights, refugee protection, and defense of civil society. The winner will be selected by a jury and will receive a $25,000 prize.  The award will be presented at a ceremony during Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights Summit in Washington, D.C. in December 2014. Nominations are due on March 15, 2014.
More information on this award and past awardees can be found at: <http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/human-rights-defenders/baldwin-award> .

For more on other human rights awards see THF’s Digest of international human rights awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

Human trafficking: short film on Italy

February 12, 2014

As this blog always tries to promote the use of films in human rights work, here the link to a short movie about the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking‘s visit to Italy, published on You Tube on 23 January 2014. Trafficking is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world… while destroying millions of lives. It trades in the most precious commodity — human beings — many of whom end up as sex slaves. The film follows an extraordinary woman human rights defender. 

Human rights defenders Alan Morrison and Chutima Sidasathian charged under Computer Crime Act in Thailand

December 23, 2013

On 18 December 2013, human rights defenders, Mr Alan Morrison and Ms Chutima Sidasathian, appeared at the police station in Phuket province. The two human rights defenders are accused of libel and violating the Computer Crime Act for publishing an article entitled “Thai Military Profiting from Trade and Boat people, Says Special Report”, which was published on Phuketwan website on 17 July 2013. The human rights defenders are due to appear at the police station again on 24 December 2013.   Read the rest of this entry »

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights publishes series of handy one-pagers

November 7, 2013

Today the OHCHR announces a series of one-pagers (two-sided!) that provide concise and practical information on complex human rights issues:

Core human rights in the two Covenants

Death penalty

Free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples

Gender-related killings of women and girls

Maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights

National action plans against racial discrimination

Participation of minorities in policing

Trafficking in persons

Transitional justice

Xenophobia.

“Fabricated” charges like trafficking and sexual harassment used to silence Uzbek Human Rights Defenders

September 26, 2013

In what could possibly put trafficking campaigners and human rights organisations on a collision course, the Uzbekistan authorities have recourse to trafficking and sexual harassment charges to put human rights defenders behind bars. Read the rest of this entry »

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans: “Support for Human Rights Defenders worldwide is a Top Priority”

April 18, 2013

The annual lecture on human rights in Maastricht with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, has quickly become a major event on the human rights agenda. As I was not able to attend, i have the great honor to introduce as my first guest author the well-known Theo van Boven, professor emeritus at Maastricht University, former Director of Human Rights in the UN, former Special Rapporteur on several subjects and a Patron of the MEA. With many thanks and in the hope that this will encourage others to contribute:

IMG_0260

Theo van Boven 2011 (c) THF

On Wednesday April 17th, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of The Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, came to a very well-attended meeting at Maastricht University where he made a passionate plea for human rights as one of the cornerstones of Dutch foreign policy. While the Foreign Minister was the main speaker, his appearance was framed in a broader setting with other lively presentations on such issues as the need for consistency between domestic and foreign human rights policy (“practise what you preach”), the role of women in the Syrian armed conflict and the Rights of Lesbian ,Gay, Trans, Bisexual and Intersex Persons (LGTBI rights).
 
Frans Timmermans expressed his strong personal commitment to human rights : “I passionately believe in human rights” and he recalled that no human right was achieved without struggle. He stressed that human rights, the rule of law, and democracy are strongly interconnected but that democratic majorities should respect the rights of minorities and individuals.
 
The Netherlands foreign minister praised the role of persons,groups and organizations who in situations of great risk are standing up for human rights. He pledged his support for human rights activists/defenders as a  “top priority“. It is of crucial importance to help human rights activists in expressing themselves and for The Netherlands to coöperate with other countries, bilaterally and through international organizations, in the defence and the promotion of the values enshrined in human rights instruments.
 
Among the points that came up in the Q and A discussion were the need to give due and equal weight to the promotion and protection of economic,social and cultural rights together with civil and political rights; the inherent and imminent danger to human rights of the use of drones; the serious reduction in the Netherlands budget for development coöperation ( although not implying the reduction of funds in support of human rights activities); and the persistent evil of human trafficking as a contemporary form of slavery.

Theo van Boven