Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Human Rights Defender Rehana Hashmi Activist in Residence at Carleton

May 12, 2021

On 12 May 2021, Carleton University’s Department of Law and Legal Studies welcomed human rights advocate Rehana Hashmi as the inaugural Activist in Residence (AiR). Hashmi will teach students and provide them with access to her first-hand experience and an international perspective.

I didn’t choose to become an activist,” says Hashmi. “I was forced into activism at age seven when my father went to prison for speaking out against the dictatorship. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/14/rehana-hashmi-woman-human-rights-defender-from-pakistan/

“Carleton is one of the first in Canada to start this type of program to help protect human rights defenders. They can come, rest, reflect, recharge and do their work without being silenced.”

Building on the department’s successful participation in the Scholars at Risk initiative, the new AiR program provides a home base for human rights activists within an academic setting, particularly for those at-risk. Students and faculty will have the opportunity to learn from someone with personal, lived experience fighting to protect human rights.

As part of the AiR program, Hashmi is working on a series of video interviews with human rights defenders from around the world. “When they are in exile, there should be mechanisms to protect them,” says Hashmi. “The Activist in Residence program is one way to do this.”

Hashmi also teaches a fourth-year seminar on patriarchy, human rights and informal justice. Students learn how traditional patriarchal attitudes operate towards women and minorities seeking legal justice.

“Students in the course get to learn from many human rights defenders,” says Hashmi. “Through online learning, we have been able to bring in experts from around the world. Recently, mothers from Palestine and Israel presented in a JurisTalk about how they lost their children, but are still doing reconciliation work.

“Activists bring knowledge from the field to help students get a firsthand experience on how advocacy works. This knowledge narrows the gap between the Global North and Global South. Faculty and students benefit from stories from the field, but it also helps activists at-risk.”

After being exiled from her home city for her activist work, Hashmi became even more involved with activism, giving shelter to women who were beaten or had acid thrown on them. Through Sisters Trust Pakistan, Hashmi helped victims of domestic violence and women and girls to break free of religious fundamentalism and forced marriages. This was just one step in her journey to support and protect the vulnerable.

The challenges in Pakistan are more difficult for women like Hashmi who are fighting to defend human rights. Offenders target women’s children and extended families. Women can’t always leave when they are at-risk. They may have many obstacles including limited mobility, family and societal restrictions to consider

https://newsroom.carleton.ca/2021/carleton-welcomes-inaugural-activist-in-residence-rehana-hashmi-human-rights-defender/

Pakistan goes after family of escaped human rights defender Gulalai Ismail

February 4, 2021
Mohammed Ismail, above in 2019, faces charges of sedition and terrorism financing, which human rights defenders say are bogus and thinly veiled revenge against the family for embarrassing the state security services.
Mohammed Ismail, above in 2019,.Credit…Saiyna Bashir for The New York Times

Jeffrey Gettleman and Zia ur-Rehman report in the New York Times of 3 February 2021 that Mohammed Ismail, father of the women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail, now faces harsh terrorism charges that critics say are about revenge, not justice. (Digest: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/91dafeaf-7056-466f-82b9-4a380ba6391a]

Gulalai Ismail, one of Pakistan’s boldest human rights defenders and a stalwart critic of Pakistan’s security services, succeeded in escaping to the United States in 2019, humiliating the authorities who had been persecuting her. Now Pakistan has taken aim at her parents, accusing them of terrorism, and throwing her father, who was recovering from Covid-19, into jail.

A bail hearing ended with Mohammed Ismail being led away in handcuffs. He faces charges of sedition and terrorism financing, which human rights defenders say are bogus and thinly veiled revenge against the family for embarrassing the state security services.

Ms. Ismail, who now lives in New York and has applied for political asylum in the United States, said the charges against her and her parents were “malicious and false.” “This is about setting a precedent,” she said on Wednesday, by phone from Brooklyn. “If a woman raises her voice, the whole family will face consequences.

Ms. Ismail made a name for herself by spotlighting the rampant abuse of women and girls in Pakistan, especially gang rapes perpetuated by government soldiers. She also joined the Pashtun Protection Movement, a human rights protest group known as the P.T.M., and whose rallies became the focus of a massive crackdown by the Pakistani security forces. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/06/gauri-lankesh-and-gulalai-ismail-win-2017-anna-politkovskaya-award/]

https://www.ucanews.com/news/civicus-demands-release-of-pakistani-rights-activist/91311#

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka are all in the same rickety boat when it comes to human rights

December 17, 2020

TRT World published a summary of a report by the South Asia Collective “India and Pakistan no different on how they treat minorities”. Please note that Turkish Radio and Television Corporation is the national public broadcaster of Turkey. One looks there in vain for information on human rights violations in Turkey itself. Still the report referred to (produced with the financial support of the European Union and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) is of interest:

The past ten years have been abysmal for minorities and civil rights activists in South Asian countries including India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to the South Asia State of Minorities Report 2020. 

Governments have introduced repressive laws that curb freedom of expression, persecute journalists and bar people from organising peaceful demonstrations, says the report published by the South Asia Collective, an international group of activists and NGOs. Some laws disproportionately target minorities such as Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, and Christians in Pakistan.  One policy that transcends almost all the regional governments is their attempt to restrict the role of NGOs – especially if they receive funding  from abroad. 

India, where minorities have faced state-sanctioned violence since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was re-elected last year, has handicapped foreign NGOs by setting limits on how they can spend money received from international donors.  Most of the affected NGOs are the ones that work in areas which highlight abuse of power, government indifference towards the plight of minorities, and the brutality of security forces. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/06/istanbul-court-jails-four-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-charges-seven-acquitted/]

“BJP rule has been characterised by the open targeting of several high-profile NGOs, with foreign funding freezes being the weapon of choice,” the report said. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/29/amnesty-feels-forced-to-shut-sown-its-india-office-amidst-govenment-pressure/]

New Delhi's discriminatory amendment to citizenship law has further alienated India's Muslims.
New Delhi’s discriminatory amendment to citizenship law has further alienated India’s Muslims. (AP Archive)

Other policy changes such as requiring NGOs to register with income tax authorities every five years are a similar tool of “administrative harassment”. ..

The intimidation is not limited to NGOs as journalists reporting on creeping BJP authoritarianism often feel the wrath of the state.   “…between 25 March and 31 May 2020, at least 55 Indian journalists faced arrest, physical assaults, destruction of property, threats or registration of FIRs (police reports),” the report said. 

New Delhi increasingly relies on internet controls to curb dissent. Internet shutdowns jumped to 106 in 2019 from only six in 2014 as authorities used different laws to control the flow of information.  Kashmir faced a complete internet blackout for months after the Muslim-majority region’s nominal autonomy was withdrawn last year…

India is also using the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to target Dalits, a caste of Hindus who face widespread discrimination under the country’s hierarchical caste system… Changes in the Citizenship Act that target Muslim migrants and the brutal police reponse to subsequent protests — in which 22 people were shot dead in Utter Pradesh state in a single day — further illustrate the worsening status of minorities in India. 

In neighbouring Pakistan, India’s archrival, minorities and those activists trying to help them, fare no better. 

“NGOs and INGOs (international NGOs) are subject to extensive regulation involving multiple, lengthy procedures of registration, security clearance, and approvals for funding,” the report said.

The Christians and Hindus in Pakistan regularly complain that young girls are forced to convert to Islam.
The Christians and Hindus in Pakistan regularly complain that young girls are forced to convert to Islam. (AP Archive)

In recent years, Islamabad has increased vigilance on NGOs which it fears might be working on a foreign agenda to promote dissent.  What will particularly bother Pakistan’s policymakers is the report’s focus on how the country’s Blasphemy Law, meant to protect religious sentiments, continues to be misused against minorities. 

In reality, the law explicitly discriminates against Ahmadiyas since parts of it criminalise public expression of Ahmadiya beliefs and prohibit Ahmadiyas from calling themselves Muslims, praying in Muslim sites of worship and propagating their faith.”  Just this week, a report by the United States Commission on International Rights Freedom pointed out that Pakistan accounts for nearly half of the incidents of mob violence against alleged blasphemers.  

At times, people accused of blasphemy are killed in court in front of police and lawyers.   Christians, another minority, are frequently targeted while authorities do little to protect them.  For instance, a church constructed in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab province had to be sealed in 2016 after local Muslims agitated against it.  This alienation doesn’t stop at the places of worship – young Chrsitan students are continuously harassed by their peers to convert to Islam, the report said. 

Similarly, Sri Lanka witnessed rising levels of intolerance towards minorities in recent years, especially as successive governments tried to pacify extremist Buddhists to garner their votes.  Muslims in Sri Lanka have felt a wave of discrimination and official apathy after the suicide attacks that killed more than 200 people last year.  “After the Easter attacks, Muslims, particularly a large number of Muslim men, were arrested seemingly without reasonable cause.” Jingoistic government-aligned media has helped paint Muslims as the villain in Sri Lanka. 

The incitement of hatred and vitriol by media outlets continues unabated. For example, Muslim Covid-19 patients were identified by their faith, unlike other patients, and blamed by the media for spreading coronavirus.” 

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/india-and-pakistan-no-different-on-how-they-treat-minorities-42419

Profile interview with Ahmer Khan, a journalist from J&K with a mission

November 4, 2020

On 18 October 2020 the Week published an interesting interview with Ahmer Khan, an award winning multimedia journalist under the title: “Covering other humanitarian stories helped me process the trauma of J&K, my homeland’’

ahmer-khan Ahmer Khan, multimedia journalist from Kashmir

Ahmer Khan is an award-winning, multimedia journalist from Kashmir. He was nominated for the Emmys 2020 for the Vice News film, India Burning, which focused on the plight of the 200 million Muslims in the country after the rise of Hindu nationalism. Khan is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize by European Commission 2018, AFP Kate Webb Prize 2019, and the Human Rights Press Award 2020. He is also among the finalists for the Rory Peck Award 2020. He has contributed to major international publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, TIME, Al-Jazeera, Radio France International,, The Christian Science Monitor and Vice News, among others. Khan talks to THE WEEK about his career and what it is to be a journalist in Kashmir.

Edited excerpts:

Was it the camera or telling stories through visuals that you were attracted to? 

Well, it was a little bit of both. Kashmir and photography are directly proportional to each other. First, I used to click pictures with a Sony Ericson handset. But I always knew what I was going to do in future. So I studied journalism and worked simultaneously.   

What exactly did your work consist of in ‘India Burning’? 

..I was a local producer of the film and I shot some parts of the film as well. My responsibility was to take care of everything in Assam. From set-up to the execution.

Is there a reason why you work with international media rather than the national media?  

Yes, of course. I have never worked with any Indian organisation purposely. I did not want my stories to get distorted and manipulated the way editors of most of the Indian organisations do. I am grateful that I have found work elsewhere because there is too much saturation and it is hard for stories to get accepted anywhere now.  

How did you establish your name in the industry? 

I think I chose to report outside Kashmir from the beginning. I didn’t restrict myself to Kashmir or even India. I have reported from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. That is something not everyone does.  

Has living amidst the conflict in Kashmir, in any way, affected you as a person and as a journalist?

Our home is a dystopian state. We all have had encounters affecting our lives forever. My father passed away when I was 10 years old. I think every job/assignment in Kashmir is scary. The fear of uncertainty is always there. 

You deal with more humanitarian stories, you are always in the middle of conflict and turbulence, you report on natural disasters and political disruptions. What is it that drives you to this beat? 

It all comes from the basic human tendency of wanting to explore more of what you have grown up seeing. I grew up in the ’90s in Kashmir when the turmoil was at its peak and then I witnessed the uprising from 2008, 2010 and the following years. I, like any other Kashmiri, witnessed young Kashmiris being killed, tortured and extreme human rights violations on the streets. It is too much to handle and process, but when one looks at the other side of the world, we see pain everywhere and start being grateful for what we have. I think for me, covering other humanitarian stories helped me process the daily trauma of my own homeland.  

How is covering stories in Kashmir different from other places in India?

In Kashmir, everything is way too personal. At times, we have to cover the stories while looking at the dead bodies of our own people. It is hard to keep aside your human side. But covering other human rights stories elsewhere and in mainland India, including Assam and Delhi has surely strengthened me more. Although, in Kashmir, it is getting extremely difficult to work freely as days pass. There is a constant fear of being muzzled for telling the truth. And, I think it’s happening across the South Asian countries.

You deal with a lot of life-threatening situations, you have also been harassed by the authorities. How does that make you feel? 

Most people in the media in Kashmir have faced harassment and intimidation by the state. We have recently seen journalists being booked in stringent terror laws. We are living through one of the most dangerous periods of all times for the Kashmiri press to work. It is natural to feel worried. There is a continuous fear of life for all of us. .. 

You identify yourself as a multimedia journalist. How is covering a story through writing, photography and videography different? 

I am quintessentially a photographer and videographer. I started writing because I know the media nowadays is shrinking into one multimedia space. One skill isn’t enough. So the work adds. When you go to cover the story, you have to shoot, take quotes, video interviews and also make sure that you have got all aspects of the story in terms of text, video and photos. It is hard work but satisfactory in many ways. I also do radio stories. In fact, my Lorenzo Natali Media award was for my first radio story for Radio France International. Being a freelance journalist, you have to keep up with the demands of editors as there is a lot of uncertainty. 

What do you have to say about the mainstream journalism that is turning blasphemous? 

What they are doing is not journalism. It is dangerous and authoritarian. If a journalist does not report about the oppressed, undermined or underprivileged, he or she is just doing PR. …

https://www.theweek.in/leisure/society/2020/10/18/covering-other-humanitarian-stories-helped-me-process-the-trauma-of-jandk-my-homeland.html

Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize 2020

August 26, 2020
Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign '#SweepersAreSuperheroes'
Pakistan’s Human Rights activist and lawyer Mary Gill has been honored with this year’s Anna Lindh Prize.

Komal Fatima Web Editor of BolNews on 25th August, 2020 reports that Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill has won the Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign ‘#SweepersAreSuperheroes’

Mary Gill is a former MPA and a member of Women in Law. Gill was nominated by WaterAid Sweden. Lena Hjelm-Wallen, the chairman of Anna Lindh’s Memorial Fund and former foreign minister in Sweden, stated: “As a lawyer and activist, Mary James Gill connects human rights, health, and working conditions not least thorough the Sweepers are Superheroes campaign. Mary’s insistent work for the most vulnerable groups, based on human rights is entirely in line with the values Anna Lindh stood for. Therefore, we are very proud to award Anna Lindh prize 2020 to Mary James Gill.

For more on this and similar awards see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/anna-lindh-memorial-fund-prize

Mary Hill has run a successful campaign. Her motive ‘Sweepers are Superheroes’ launched in 2017 has gained international recognition as well. Through this campaign, she became a voice of garbage collectors who work in vulnerable working conditions. She spoke for the rights and safety of sanitation workers.

Pakistani Lawyer Mary Gill Wins Anna Lindh Prize for her campaign ‘#SweepersAreSuperheroes’

Tabassum Adnan from Swat, Pakistan, tries to work within the Jirga system

July 31, 2020
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Khalida Niaz in MENAFN (Tribal News Network) of 29 July 2020 tells the story of Tabassum Adnan from Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who has been nominated for the Women Building Peace Award in the US.

Tabassum is working for human rights, with particular emphasis on women rights, in Swat since 2010. He has the honour of being the founder of first women Jirga of Pakistan. For this effort, she won Nelson Mandela Award, International Woman of Courage Award and several other awards.

Tabassum said in a special interview with TNN that she has worked a lot on human smuggling, Swara, early marriages and share of women in ancestral property. She said she is now planning to work on the use of ice and other drugs by children to save their future.

‘When I arranged a sitting with women of my area, I realised that they are being denied their rights and they must have representation in the Jirga. Earlier, Jirgas only had male members and no one listened to the problems of women. A woman can better understand the problems of other women. I also used to raise voice for women’s rights by attending Jirgas of men,’ she told TNN.

Tabassum is the first woman in Pakhtun history who was invited to a Jirga of men which was hearing a case about alleged sexual abuse of a child in Swat. She said once a case of Swara (giving a girl in marriage to rival family as compensation to settle dispute) was given to her in which all the accused Jirga members were arrested. She said the family members of the arrested people were requesting her to forgive them, but she asked them to approach the court for this purpose. She said if the girl’s father has committed a crime then he, and not his daughter, must be punished for it. She said she also has a daughter and she can understand how the girls suffer due to this obsolete tradition.

The rights activist said she initially included eight such women in the Jirga who had the ability of public speaking and decision making. She said the number of women in the Jirga has increased now. She said her Jirga has resolved about 2,000 cases so far and many other cases are in process of being resolved.

About her personal life, Tabassum said she was born in Swat and then went to Qatar with her father. She said she returned to Swat for marriage and settled there. She said she started working for women’s rights after her divorce and set up Khwendo Jirga platform for women for resolution of their problems. She said she has three sons and a daughter.

Tabassum faced many hardships while carrying out her mission for women’s rights. Besides problems on local level, Jamia Ashrafia of Lahore also issued a fatwa (edict) against her by accusing her of spreading obscenity.

I never asked any woman to uncover herself. I only want to give them confidence to fight for their rights. There is no harm if a woman sitting in her home decides to raise voice for her rights,’ she said.

Tabassum said now men have also started contacting Khwendo Jirga for resolution of their domestic disputes involving women. She said men feel comfortable in discussing problems of women with women members of the Jirga. She said she is also the first woman member of Dispute Resolution Council of Swat Police Station where many women arrive for resolution of their problems. She said she also encourages young girls not to afraid and speak up for their rights.

The rights activist enjoys full support of family for her work, but she sometimes receives threats from those affected by the Jirga decisions. About major problems of women in Swat, she said the ratio of divorce is increasing and prostitution has also increased besides the property disputes. She said the practice of Swara has reduced significantly.

Tabassum said she gets more recognition abroad as compared to Pakistan. Although she got a certificate from the district police chief, but she complains of not receiving much encouragement from the government.

https://menafn.com/1100562913/Pakistan-How-Swats-Tabassum-got-nominated-for-international-award

NEW: “Cypher”: Comics for Human Rights Defenders

July 23, 2020

On 23 July 2020 Front Line Defenders launched the first edition of a very interesting new Monthly Digital Magazine: Cypher – Comics as Eyewitness”.

This project advances the organization’s storytelling and narrative framing work in collaboration with and in support of human rights defenders (HRDs). Working with artists from around the world, including the awardwinning visual storyteller, Beldan Sezen, as creative director, the Magazine will be a monthly publication featuring 3 or 4 stories of HRDs and the challenges they face.
Each month, Front Line Defenders will collaborate with comics artists
from around the world, pairing them with HRDs to develop stories
that portray their work and the challenges, risks and threats they
face. The first edition features stories from:
Kenya (artist: Nomes Dee) – a profile of Ruth Mumbi’s efforts to defend the rights of evicted families in the Kairobangi neighborhood of Nairobi as the COVID-19 pandemic spread; [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/22/human-rights-defenders-in-york-programme-tell-their-story-ruth-mumbi/]
Pakistan (artist: anonymous for security reasons) – the story of the abduction enforced
disappearance of Pakistani HRD Idris Khattak, as told from the perspective of his daughter;
Lebanon (artist: Pascale Ghazaly) – with COVID-19 hitting, ongoing street protests against political and economic corruption and the collapse of the economy, Ethiopian domestic workers found themselves kicked out and abandoned, as even the embassy refused to help; a collective of domestic workers organized critical support;
Brazil (artist: Lyvia Emanuelly ) – transvesti HRD Rosa Luz is a social media and YouTube influencer and rap/hip hop musician; when she used her art to criticize political leaders, she faced intense backlash in the media and from politicians, including death threats, only returning to her public role after a hiatus to ensure her security.

Front Line Defenders comes to this project following a four-year process of developing, producing and disseminating the critically-acclaimed nonfiction graphic novel, La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/04/la-lucha-the-story-of-lucha-castro-and-human-rights-in-mexico-new-comics-book-out/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/cypher01final.pdf

UN Experts Appalled by the Enforced Disappearance of Idris Khattak even though now re-appeared

June 30, 2020

UN experts no only jointly addressed three big countries [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/] but on 30 june 2020 a group of experts also spoke out on the re-appearance of Idris Khattak, a human rights defender who went missing last year (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/25/how-human-rights-defender-idris-khattak-went-missing-in-pakistan/)

While welcoming of course the disclosure by the Pakistani Government of the whereabouts of Khattak, they strongly condemned his enforced disappearance. On 16 June 2020, the Pakistani authorities acknowledged for the first time that he has been in the custody of law enforcement authorities and detained incommunicado since then.

“The enforced disappearance of Mr. Khattak, which began over seven months ago, is an intolerable attack on his legitimate work of monitoring, documenting and advocating against a range of human rights and minority violations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan,” the independent experts said.

Even today, Mr. Khattak remains deprived of the most basic protections of the law, and his enforced disappearance subjected him and his family to severe and prolonged suffering, that could amount to torture,” the experts said. “Given the arbitrariness of Mr. Khattak’s arrest and detention, and the very serious violations of his integrity and procedural rights, we call on the Government of Pakistan to immediately release Mr. Khattak and to provide him and his family with adequate redress and rehabilitation,” said the experts..

The experts stressed that there can be no justification for the Government’s failure to end enforced disappearances and that any such violation must be investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Truth and justice must be served, both in the case of Idris Khattak and for countless other victims and their families in Pakistan. State-sponsored disappearances and related impunity may amount to a crime against humanity and must end now,” they said.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26010&LangID=E

International Women’s Day 2020: Dad, a digital warrior in Pakistan

March 9, 2020

With her “Hack the patriarchy” laptop stickers, Nighat Dad is a digital warrior. But this human rights award winner and founder of Pakistan”s first cyber-harassment helpline still tears up as she describes receiving calls from women afraid of being killed by male relatives for using the internet. Nighat Dad established the help line in 2016 with prize money (100,000 euros) from the Dutch human rights award, the Tulip

Much of Pakistani society lives under the patriarchal, outdated code of so-called “honour” that systemises the oppression of women by preventing them from, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home. Activists have denounced pervasive, sometimes deadly violence by men — usually male relatives — against women who break those taboos. The situation is dire enough in the offline world.

But Pakistan is only just beginning to grapple with what violent notions of honour mean for women online, in a country where internet penetration is at 22 percent and growing, but digital literacy is low.

Much of the work the helpline does is to explain to women what recourse they have. Social media companies are playing ball, Dad says — some have even agreed to establish “escalation channels” for getting content off the internet quickly when a woman”s life is in immediate danger. But she warns that community guidelines developed by such companies, usually US-based, are not appropriate in Pakistan. “I think they need to do more,” Dad says. More than three years on, the Tulip money has run out. Now the helpline survives only by the grace of small grants from groups such as the Netherlands-based Digital Defenders Partnership, which supports rights activists.

…. She cites last year”s International Women”s Day march in Pakistan, which saw women turn out in unprecedented numbers loudly celebrating divorce and periods, among other things. The response was swift and shocking in its intensity, with Dad describing mullahs making rape and death threats against the march organisers in videos widely distributed online. The 2016 murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch has also impacted her, she says. Baloch divided Pakistan with her videos and selfies, tame by Western standards but provocative in Pakistan. She was strangled by her brother in 2016 in what has been called the country”s most high-profile “honour” killing.

She was a hero for me… she did what she wanted to do, and not every woman can do this in Pakistan,” Dad says.

Dad says she cannot help but see the similarities between herself and Baloch. They are from similar backgrounds, both left abusive marriages, and both have gained fame by loudly challenging social taboos online — though admittedly not in quite the same way. Her murder “shook me badly,” she tells AFP. “It was enough to shake us all.”

……

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/nighat-dad-pakistans-digital-warrior-battling-the-patriarchy/1755905

https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistani-lawyer-fights-abuse-of-women-who-dare-to-go-online/30469845.html

2020 International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. State Department

March 4, 2020

Today, Wednesday 4 March 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts the Annual International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State to honor 12 women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognize the accomplishments of these women. For more on this and 7 other international awards that have word COURAGE in their name, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The 2020 announcement comes remarkably quickly on the heels of last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/usas-international-women-of-courage-awards-for-2019/

This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting various cities throughout the country, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their program on March 16. The 2020 awardees are:

Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan) After successfully launching and operating a women-focused radio station, Afghanistan’s Zarifa Ghafari became mayor of Maidan Shar, in conservative Wardak province, at the age of 26.  When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared and she was forced to flee.  Despite death threats, Ms. Ghafari came back, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.  She then withstood a walkout by all of the male members of her office.  She later demonstrated ability and courage in tackling her town’s problems.  Despite fierce opposition from vested interests, she successfully launched a “Clean City, Green City” campaign that reduced littering.  Ghafari’s courage has inspired girls and women not only in her community and the wider province, but across the country.  In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped empower the women of Afghanistan.

Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia) Using her platform as a journalist, Kocharyan has championed children with mental health issues and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight against psychological, physical, and domestic violence against women and children.  Through her dedication and resolve, Kocharyan became famous for launching “Voices of Violence” in August 2018.  She has become a spokesperson on gender-based violence in Armenia and has continued to speak out despite harsh criticism – from people on the street who yell “shame” as she passes by, to parliamentarians speaking out against her and threatening her with lawsuits.  She successfully started a conversation about domestic and sexual violence that is slowly leading to some action. Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Armenia, where traditional social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender equality, and the division of household tasks remain rigid, making her achievements and impact all the more impressive.

Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan) Shahla Humbatova has worked as a defense lawyer in Azerbaijan since 2013, and is one of a handful of legal advocates who have been consistently willing to defend individuals facing punishment for exercising their fundamental freedoms.  She has bravely defended human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, youth activists, members of the political opposition, and others.  Her example has inspired other lawyers to better advocate for their clients in politically sensitive cases, and her courage in representing LGBT clients in a conservative culture has pushed civil society further down the path to tolerance.  She is one of only two female lawyers to take these cases on in a difficult environment in which human rights lawyers have regularly been harassed and threatened in social media, suspended from practicing law, and disbarred. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/]

Ximena Galarza (Bolivia) Ximena Galarza is a Bolivian journalist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked as a reporter, a television presenter, and news editor on some of Bolivia’s most important news channels including Red UNO, Cadena A, and TVU. Across her extensive career, Galarza has interviewed hundreds of politicians, academics, intellectuals, artists, and experts. She has also trained journalists to better inform the public of their rights and obligations. Galarza’s work has supported democracy in Bolivia and exposed corruption and violations of democratic freedoms. Since 2015, Galarza has hosted the program Jaque Mate (Check Mate) on TVU, one of Bolivia’s most prestigious news programs. In 2019, two of Galarza’s interviews impacted Bolivia’s history by demonstrating fraud in the October 20 presidential elections.  The electoral irregularities were later confirmed by an independent analysis from the Organization of American States.

Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Claire Ouedraogo is the President of the Songmanegre Association for Women’s Development (Association féminine songmanegre pour le développement), an organization she founded that focuses on eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. She also serves as a senior advisor on the National Council to Combat Female Genital Mutilation. She is an active member of the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights. In 2016, the prime minister of Burkina Faso nominated her as an Ambassador of Peace for her work in empowering rural women. Despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks and violent acts against civilians in Bam Province, Mrs. Ouedraogo continues her courageous work on behalf of vulnerable women threatened both by FGM/C and terrorism.

Sayragul Sauytbay (China) Sayragul Sauytbay was born in Ele Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.  She attended medical university and worked as a doctor, teacher, education director, and headmaster. In July 2016, Sayragul and her family attempted to move to Kazakhstan but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) confiscated her passport and prevented her from going with her husband and children.  From November 2017 to March 2018, Sayragul was forced by the CCP to teach Chinese to ethnic minority people in a detention camp.  In March 2018, Sauytbay fled to Kazakhstan to avoid being sent back to the camps, where she feared she would die.  Subsequently, Sauytbay become one of the first victims in the world to speak publicly about the CCP’s repressive campaign against Muslims, igniting a movement against these abuses.  Her testimony was among the first evidence that reached the broader international community of the CCP’s repressive policy, including both the camps and the coercive methods used against Muslim minorities.  Sayragul and her family received asylum in Sweden, where they now live.

Susanna Liew (Malaysia) Following the February 2017 abduction of her husband, Christian pastor Raymond Koh, allegedly by state agents, Susanna Liew has fought on behalf of members of religious minorities who disappeared in Malaysia under similar circumstances—including Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and Ruth Sitepu—or who face persecution for their beliefs.  Susanna actively pursued justice for her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (SUHAKAM) 2018-2019 public inquiry into enforced disappearances and continues to push the government to investigate these cases and prosecute those responsible.  Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians.  Susanna and Raymond founded Hope Community in 2004, a non-profit organization that works with the poor, needy, and marginalized.  She previously served as a school principal and educator.

Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua) Coppens is one of the leaders of the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua. She participated in numerous protests against the Sandinista government and the violent, repressive tactics deployed by its security forces. In September 2018, she was abducted by Nicaraguan police from her residence after participating in a peaceful protest. She was released in June and continued to speak out against the regime in Nicaragua. She had the opportunity to repatriate to Belgium during her first captivity, but refused. On November 14, Coppens was imprisoned again when she and 12 other activists attempted to bring water to mothers of political prisoners on hunger strike. She and other political prisoners were released by the regime on December 30, 2019.

Jalila Haider (Pakistan) Known as the Iron Lady of Balochistan, Jalila Haider is a human rights attorney and founder of “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organization to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognize the right to life for the Hazara following a series of targeted attacks. Ms. Haider has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities. As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home.

Amina Khoulani (Syria) Khoulani is a survivor of the Assad regime’s detention and torture centers, which have arbitrarily detained over 140,000 Syrians, and has dedicated her life to helping the families of forcibly disappeared Syrians.   A long-time civil society activist, she fled Syria in 2014 after her release from prison. She was imprisoned for six months for “peaceful activism” and her husband detained for two and a half years at the notorious Sadnaya Prison. They survived, but her three brothers died while in regime custody.  From this devastating experience, Khoulani rededicated her life to seeking information and justice for the families of the disappeared. She is a founding member of “Families for Freedom”, a women-led movement launched in 2017 by families who’s loved ones have been detained and disappeared in Syria. Forced from her home and country, living under constant threat as a refugee without government representation, she continues to advocate for human rights, democracy, and peace in Syria.

Yasmin al Qadhi (Yemen) After obtaining her journalism degree, Yasmin Al-Qadhi was one of the first women to write articles for local newspapers during the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Sanaa’a.  When the civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, Yasmine and her sister Entisar established the Marib Girls Foundation.  Through the foundation, she works with senior army officials to combat child recruitment and obtained the military’s commitment to release any child recruited or detained.  She fostered support for women displaced by the conflict by coordinating with the local and international community.  She also raised awareness by co-producing a film about the negative effects of displacement on women and children. Yasmine still resides in Yemen, a tribal society where women are discouraged from working in public spaces. She is working to change social norms and has become a role model in her society.  Both at home and abroad, she encourages women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in civil society and the UN-led peace process.

Dr. Rita Nyampinga (Zimbabwe) Rita Nyampinga has been a human rights defender for more than 35 years, fighting for gender equality in the workplace since she joined a trade union in 1983.  She is also a trained mediator, and a mentor for girls and young women in leadership.  Her experiences during detention led her to form the Female Prisoners Support Trust to support women and children in detention and raise awareness of the appalling conditions they face. Dr. Nyampinga continues to serve on several boards including Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women Academy on Political Leadership Excellence, and Women AIDS Support Network.  Her goal is to see a world that protects and respects the rights of prisoners through a just and fair legal system that is nondiscriminatory based on gender.  In 2010 she became the Social and Economic Justice Ambassador for Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development.  Dr. Nyampinga won the Female Human Rights Activist of the Year in 2014 from Alpha Media House.

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2020 International Women of Courage Award Recipients Announced