Posts Tagged ‘rights of women’

UN Human Rights Council holds special session on Iran on 24 November

November 23, 2022
Iranian demonstrators in the streets of the capital, Tehran.
Iranian demonstrators in the streets of the capital, Tehran, during a September 21, 2022 protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody.  © 2022 AFP via Getty Images

Just before the United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on ongoing human rights violations in Iran on 24 November, Human Rights Watch urge it to establish an independent fact-finding mission to investigate Iran’s deadly crackdown on widespread protests as a first step toward accountability, Human Rights Watch said today.

The demonstrations began on September 16, 2022, following the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, in the custody of the “morality police.” As of November 22, human rights groups are investigating the deaths of 434 people including 60 children. Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of Iranian authorities using excessive and unlawful lethal force against protesters in dozens of instances in several cities including Sanandaj, Saghez, Mahabad, Rasht, Amol, Shiraz, Mashhad, and Zahedan.

“Iranian authorities seem determined to unleash brutal force to crush protests and have ignored calls to investigate the mountains of evidence of serious rights violations,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Human Rights Council should shine a spotlight on the deepening repression and create an independent mechanism to investigate Iranian government abuses and hold those responsible accountable.”

Since mid-November, Iranian authorities have dramatically escalated their crackdown against protests in several Kurdish cities, with at least 39 people killed, according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network. The group reported that from November 15 to 18, at least 25 Kurdish-Iranian residents were killed in Kurdish cities during three days of protests and strikes to commemorate the victims of the government’s bloody crackdown on protests in November 2019.

The authorities have pressured families of recent victims to bury their loved ones without public gatherings, but several funerals have become the scene of new protests. The group said that at least 14 people were killed in Javanrood, Piranshahr, Sanandaj, Dehgan, and Bookan from November 19 to 21, 2022. Radio Zamaneh said the victims included Ghader Shakri, 16, killed in Piranshahr on November 19, and Bahaedin Veisi, 16, killed in Javanrood on November 20.

A 32-year-old Sanandaj resident told Human Rights Watch that the security forces fatally shot Shaho Bahmani and Aram Rahimi on November 17 and forcibly removed their bodies from the Kowsar Hospital in Sanandaj, and threatened the two men’s families outside the hospital.

Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, a parliament member from Mahabad, told Shargh Daily on November 21 that between October 27 and 29, security forces killed seven protesters in the city Mahabad. Mahmoudzadeh said security forces also damaged people’s houses; one woman was killed in her home outside of the protests. He said that since then, another man had been killed, and three more had been shot and killed during his funeral, bringing the total number killed in Mahabad, since October 27, to 11.

Videos circulated on social media show that authorities have deployed special forces and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps units armed with military assault rifles, vehicle-mounted DShK 12.7mm heavy machine guns, and armored vehicles.

On October 24, Masoud Setayeshi, the judiciary spokesperson, told media that authorities have started prosecuting thousands of protesters. These trials, which are often publicized through state media, fall grossly short of international human rights standards, with courts regularly using coerced confessions and defendants not having access to the lawyer of their choice. As of November 21, trial courts have handed down death sentences to at least six protesters on the charges of corruption on earth and enmity against God. The acts judicial authorities have cited to bring charges against the defendants, including “incineration of a government building” or “using a “cold weapon” to “spread terror among the public.” Amnesty International said that at least 21 people are facing charges in connection to the protests that can carry the death penalty.

Since the protests began in September, the authorities have arrested thousands of people during protests as well as hundreds of students, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers outside the protests. Detainees are kept in overcrowded settings and are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual harassment, Human Rights Watch said.

Two women who were arrested during the first week of protests in Sanandaj told Human Rights Watch that the authorities brutally beat them, sexually harassed them, and threatened them during their arrests and later while they were detained at a police station. One of these women said she had several severe injuries, including internal bleeding and fractures.

Over the past four years, Iran has experienced several waves of widespread protests. Authorities have responded with excessive and unlawful lethal force and the arbitrary arrests of thousands of protesters. In one of the most brutal crackdowns, in November 2019, security forces used unlawful force against massive protests across the country, killing at least 321 people. Iranian authorities have failed to conduct any credible and transparent investigations into the security forces’ serious abuses over the past years.

Iranian authorities have also used partial or total internet shutdowns during widespread protests to restrict access to information and prohibit dissemination of information, in particular videos of the protests, Human Rights Watch said. They have blocked several social media platforms, including WhatsApp messaging application and Instagram, since September 21, 2022, by an order of Iran’s National Security Council.

On November 24, UN Human Rights Council members should vote to establish an independent mechanism to document serious human rights violations in Iran and advance on the path to accountability,” Sepehri Far said.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/23/iran-un-rights-council-should-create-fact-finding-mission

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/09/1128111

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/12/iran-pushes-back-against-protests-scrutiny-at-un

Afghan human rights defender Mariam Atahi continues from far away

February 21, 2022

Mariam Atahi left Afghanistan for safe haven abroad in August 2021 with financial assistance from Journalists for Human Rights and the Daniel Pearl Foundation. However, her fight for women’s rights continues, uninterrupted.

As the Taliban began its ‘humanitarian talks’ last month in Oslo, Mariam called for the release of three fellow activists, allegedly detained for protesting against the closure of women’s universities. “It hurts me,” she said, “…to not have any information or hope to give their families asking questions about their whereabouts.”

As co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Campaign, Mariam has been leading a fearless movement to demand accountability for the violation of women’s rights by the Taliban. In 2016, she and four colleagues interviewed women from different provinces to document “what women exactly want” and presented them during the 2016 talks with the Taliban in Qatar. They stressed that the freedom to study, work and participate in public life is important to women in urban Kabul and rural provinces alike.

This work put a target on her back. In late 2019, Mariam was working as a communications specialist at Save The Children and was informed by the National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan that she’s on the Taliban’s hit list. At the time, she was used to fielding multiple ‘mysterious calls’ a week. However, the NDS insisted she take the risk more seriously. Mariam applied for an emergency visa to India and relocated to Delhi for two months. When she returned in early 2020, the threats continued. She changed her look, her route to work and her schedule – but kept on working. In 2021, she took on a communications role with UNICEF.

Fighting for women and children’s rights is in my blood. When I see women suffering, I feel responsible. I want to build a bridge for them to reach their dreams. I have to do this work for the rest of my life.

After the Taliban takeover, Mariam decided to leave Afghanistan for a safer location where she can continue her work.

‘In Kabul, I always felt like someone is knocking at my door. I want to set myself in a better position, so I’m able to mobilize more resources to help my people. I hope to see the international community show their solidarity with Afghan women and make a solid, genuine commitment to safeguarding their rights.”

Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire wins local Human Rights Tulip award

December 11, 2020

Nasra Bishumba Nasra Bishumba published in the New Times of Rwanda on 10 December 2020 the story of Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire, the founder and executive director of I Matter, an organisation that seeks to end period poverty and menstrual shame, to become the first Rwandan to win the Human Rights Tulip award.

This is not the international version of the Tulip Award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/11/armenian-lilit-martirosyan-receives-human-rights-tulip-2020/] but one of the local satellite awards I referred to earlier [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/09/national-level-tulip-award-in-georgia/]

Rwanda’s Divine Ingabire, the founder and executive director of I Matter, an organisation that seeks to end period poverty and menstrual shame, has become the first Rwandan to win the Human Rights Tulip award. The award comes with €5,000 monetary funding that goes to the project. 

The Human Rights Tulip was established by the government of the Netherlands in 2008. Since 2018, selected Dutch embassies have also issued a Human Rights Tulip to a local human rights defender.

At only 23, Ingabire founded I Matter to build and support a community of young and strong women after drawing experiences from a personal story growing up as an orphan and living in poverty.

Receiving the award, Ingabire said that she identified with the struggles of many girls and young women in Rwanda who fail to fully participate in society because of menstruation due their failure to afford the costly sanitary products, lack of enough reproductive health information, and social norms which fuel menstruation shame. “It is indeed a right for every girl and woman to have access to sanitary products as well as sexual reproductive health information. What a journey! This journey can be summarized in these words. Responsibility, acceptance, embracing change and respect for humanity,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude to those who have helped her on the journey to break the silence around menstruation. Ingabire is credited for being some of the organisations that persistently pushed for the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) levied on sanitary pads, culminating into the legislation that was passed in 2019.

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/rwandas-divine-ingabire-wins-human-rights-tulip-award

https://allafrica.com/stories/202012110031.html

Angelina Jolie extolls women human rights defenders in new essay

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019, Annie Martin wrote that “Angelina Jolie sends love to ‘wicked women‘ (women breaking rules and pushing boundaries) in new essay”

Angelina Jolie reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in the September issue of Elle. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The 44-year-old actress reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in an essay for the September issue of Elle published Monday. Jolie began by asking the question, “What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history.” She recounted how accusations of witchcraft have ben used “to control and silence women” in many societies throughout the centuries….”Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society — even unintentionally — have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in”Jolie discussed how modern women across the globe are considered “wicked” for such behaviors as dancing or singing in public, running for political office, or fighting for human rights. These women are sometimes met with violence, imprisonment or social ostracism. “Female human rights defenders across the world are incarcerated for their political views or for defending themselves or others, with courage I can hardly imagine. For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture,” Jolie wrote.

“Looked at in this light, ‘wicked women’ are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse,” she said. “Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.” “If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women,” the star declared.

For more on Angelina Jolie and her human rights work, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/angelina-jolie/

https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2019/08/05/Angelina-Jolie-sends-love-to-wicked-women-in-new-essay/1591565015424/

Asian football and human rights: still a long-term goal

April 7, 2019

That there is still a lot that needs to be done in the world of sports and human rights is illustrated in the piece by Minky Worden (director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch) in the Sydney Herald of 7 April 2019 (“Football leaders stand by as human rights abuses pile up”). Article 3 of the FIFA and AFC Statutes requires the AFC and its leaders “promote and protect
human rights”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/]

A too-rare sight ... Iranian women cheer their national team in an Asian World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain in 2006. Now women resort to disguising themselves as men to enter stadiums.
A too-rare sight … Iranian women cheer their national team in an Asian World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain in 2006. Now women resort to disguising themselves as men to enter stadiums.CREDIT:AP

Yet Sheikh Salman remained silent when Bahrain attempted to extradite Hakeem Al-Araibi, former national football player who had been accepted as a refugee in Australia, earlier this
year – despite strong statements by FIFA itself calling for his release. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/11/bahrain-feels-forced-to-drop-extradition-request-against-footballer-hakeem-al-araibi-who-is-on-the-plane-back-home/]

..He is not the only high-level football official who may not be acting in accordance with the policy. In 2018, 20 members of Afghanistan’s women’s national team made detailed allegations to the Guardian and to FIFA of sexual and physical abuse they say they suffered at the hands of the president of the Afghan Football Federation, Keramuddin Karim, and other officials. FIFA suspended Karim for two 90-day periods and during this time he has reportedly threatened witnesses in the case. He stands accused of sexual assault, physical attacks and intimidation…. The federation general secretary, Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada of Afghanistan, was suspended, yet was also just elected to the AFC’s powerful governing body, the executive committee.

Finally, Iran’s Football Federation president, Mehdi Taj, was elevated to AFC vice-president……….On Friday, before the AFC election, Iranian women filed an unprecedented FIFA ethics complaint against Mehdi Taj, for his role in presiding over their exclusion from stadiums for years. FIFA has said clearly in its second Human Rights Advisory Board report that the stadium ban for women violates FIFA’s statutes, which say such discrimination is “punishable by suspension or expulsion”.

The AFC football leaders from Bahrain, Afghanistan and Iran are bound by the FIFA code of ethics, the FIFA statutes and the FIFA human rights policy. FIFA has made admirable progress in implementing its new policy , and could even raise the bar for other sports federations. But FIFA’s reform efforts risk derailment if the sport’s leaders in Asia refuse to uphold the new global standards. FIFA’s Gianni Infantino, up for re-election unopposed himself this year, needs to find his voice to call out football federation leaders who are undermining reforms. It is time to hold accountable those who are threatening the “beautiful game” with ugly human rights abuses.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/football-leaders-stand-by-as-human-rights-abuses-pile-up-20190407-p51bmp.html

Saudi Arabia for first time openly criticized in UN Human Rights Council

March 8, 2019

Whether by intent or by coincidence, the very critical statement of the UN Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia came on International Women’s Day 2019. There was considerable media attention. Interesting to note is the difference in emphasis between the NYT and the Washington Post:

By Nick Cumming-Bruce wrote for the NYT on 7 March 2019:

“Dozens of Western countries rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression in a landmark initiative on Thursday in the United Nations’ top human rights body. It was the first time states had ever confronted the kingdom over its human rights record in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia is one of 47 members. The rebuke came in a statement signed by 36 nations — including every member of the European Union — that condemned Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” and its use of counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent. The statement pointed in particular to the treatment of Saudi women who have challenged the kingdom’s strict rules. The nations also called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate fully with investigations into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The statement specifically named 10 people, all arrested last year in a crackdown that started shortly before Saudi Arabia introduced reforms allowing women to drive: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi. The statement drew applause from human rights groups, which said it broke Saudi Arabia’s apparent impunity from condemnation in the council.

“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

——-

Ishaan Tharoor wrote for the Washington Post of 8 March 2019 :”The West’s rebuke of Saudi Arabia won’t change its course”


(Anjum Naveed/AP)

The rhetorical attacks keep coming at Saudi Arabia from the West. On Thursday, the European Union signed on to a rare rebuke of the kingdom. …The statement was the first collective reprimand of Riyadh issued at the council since it was founded in 2006…Both the Trump administration and Saudi officials have sought to shield Mohammed from scrutiny, but that hasn’t dimmed the outrage of a host of Western governments and lawmakers. In Washington, Congress is still battling the White House over the latter’s flouting of a legal requirement to report to the Senate on the crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s death. Though U.S. politicians remain bitterly divided on most issues, they have found an unusual consensus in their antipathy toward Riyadh……..

But the Saudis’ response has so far been categorical and unrepentant. “Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom’s permanent representative in Geneva, in reaction to the European Union’s statement. Similar bullish statements came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry this year as members of Congress weighed the passage of a punitive bill.

That Riyadh has endured only the slightest course corrections amid months of controversy speaks, firstly, to the durability of the monarchy’s economic ties with a host of major powers. International political and business elites have shown themselves all too willing to overlook a regime’s record when it suits their interests. But it also speaks to the fact that despite their concerns over Khashoggi’s death, insiders in Washington cheer the Saudi push toward a more “normal” and secular modernity encouraged by Mohammed’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. Movie theaters have sprung up, and women can now learn to drive — no matter that key female activists who clamored for these rights are still in prison.

Mohammed has championed these reforms by inculcating a new spirit of nationalism. “Saudi Arabia’s undergoing an aggressive nationalist rebranding, downplaying an austere religious doctrine associated abroad with terrorism, and promoting veneration of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he pursues an economic overhaul,” noted Bloomberg News this week, exploring the extent to which overt nationalism is supplanting the kingdom’s traditional religious orthodoxy. “Amid efforts to maintain domestic support while redesigning the contract between state and citizen, traitors, not infidels, are the enemy.”

The lecturing from Western capitals, too, plays into this dynamic, deepening national feeling among many patriotic Saudis who have rallied around their prince in the face of “unbalanced” criticism from abroad, said Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington think tank with close ties to Riyadh. He added that “inspiring nationalism is an objective” of Mohammed’s reform agenda.

Critics of the crown prince view him as a fundamentally destabilizing leader. Other experts argue that he’s here to stay. “It’s impossible to not see how much the country has changed” under Mohammed’s watch, said former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross at a panel hosted by the Arabia Foundation last week, saying that though the crown prince may be “reckless,” the United States has much to gain from a “successful transformation” from Wahhabism to nationalism in Saudi Arabia.

—–See also this video clip by OMCT:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1103696655906492417

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/08/wests-rebuke-saudi-arabia-wont-change-its-course/?utm_term=.5e411da39e34

Gender equality awards in the Emirates: all the winners are men

January 29, 2019

On 28 January 2019 Adam Taylor reported in the Washington Post that “the United Arab Emirates drew mockery this weekend after announcing the winners of its gender balance awards — every one of whom was a man”. For a blog with special interest in awards that is hard to resist!

At an awards ceremony Sunday, the UAE named the winners of its Gender Balance Index for the second round of 2018 in three categories: best personality supporting gender balance, best federal authority supporting gender balance and the best gender balance initiative. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, gave out the awards, which were accepted by an all-male cast.

In a news release, Maktoum said that gender equality was in the spirit of the founding father of the Emirates: “The achievements of Emirati women today reaffirm the wise vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, who believed in the importance of the role of women, and their right to work and become key partners in society.”

But the fact that there were zero women among the winners announced Sunday drew widespread criticism and mockery. According to the news release put out by the Dubai media office, Maktoum “recognized the efforts” of one woman — Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum — but she did not win an award. She is the head of the UAE’s Gender Balance Council and wife of a deputy prime minister. “During the Index’s second edition, recipients of the Index’s awards happened to be entities led by men,” the UAE Gender Balance Council said in a statement after the award’s received media attention. “This is indicative of the great and extraordinary progress we have made as a nation, where men in the UAE are proactively working alongside women to champion gender balance as a national priority.”

To be fair: In previous years, the UAE’s Gender Balance Index has honored women and the UAE is the highest-ranked Persian Gulf state for gender equality and second only to Israel in the wider Middle East, according to the United Nations. The country was listed as 34th among nations in a 2017 ranking, just behind Poland.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/01/28/uae-gender-equality-awards-all-winners-were-men/?utm_term=.84ffb3b4f38a

Profile of Human Rights Defender Nadia Ait Zai from Algeria

October 22, 2018

Human Rights Defender Nadia Ait Zai from Algeria works for the rights of women. This is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51512/human-rights-defenders-nadia-ait-zai-algeria_en

Profile of Human Rights Defender Saja Michael from Lebanon

October 21, 2018

This is Human Rights Defender Saja Michael from Lebanon who works on gender issues. This is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51514/human-rights-defenders-saja-michael-lebanon_en

Profile of Human Rights Defender Yésica Sánchez from Mexico

October 20, 2018

This is Human Rights Defender Yésica Sánchez from Mexico who has been involved in the broad struggle for human rights including torture, disappearances and detention with emphasis on indigenous women. This is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51515/human-rights-defenders-yésica-sánchez-mexico_en