Posts Tagged ‘rights of women’

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

Voice of Libyan Women founder on how to break the cycle of violence

June 4, 2015

Canadian-born Libyan activist Alaa Murabit speaking at 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum (26 May) shows how ongoing conflict has affected daily life in Libya. She stresses the importance of acknowledging and integrating local communities in peaceful solutions, and focuses on the key role women in particular should play in peacebuilding. Murabit shares how her organization, the Voice of Libyan Women, organized the largest grassroots campaign in the country to address security issues, the cycle of violence, and the rights of women. She emphasizes that by creating cohesive and cooperative societies, rather than ones divided into factions, Libya can achieve peace and stability.

Human Rights Defenders from York: Hikma Rabih, Sudan

January 26, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.

In York, Hikma can wear jeans – something she’d never be able to do in her own country. “Sudan is a very patriarchal society,” the 33-year-old human rights lawyer says. “Women cannot wear trousers, and I cannot go out in public without a scarf on my head. I want to wear my trousers.

Born in North Darfur, she graduated with a law degree from Elnileen University in Khartoum in 2002, then started work as a protection officer at a refugee camp in South Darfur for civil war victims. In 2009, her organisation was closed down by the government.

York Press:
Hikma Rabih

Undeterred, in 2011 she set up a legal aid centre in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Her organisation provides legal aid and representation for women who would otherwise have no chance of getting justice. Because of strict adultery laws, women who have sex outside marriage face 100 lashes, she says: married women who commit adultery can be stoned. If a woman is raped, but fails to prove it in court, she can be given 100 lashes as an adulteress. “The men always go free,” Hikma says.

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defenders from York: Valdênia Paulino Lanfranchi

January 24, 2015

On 16 February 2015, the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.
 

Valdênia grew up in the slums – or favelas – of Sao Paolo, Brazil’s biggest city. Home for her mother, father, three brothers, two sisters and herself was a small house with a tin roof. Her mother took in sewing. Her father worked in a factory until, in his mid-40s, he became ill. Because of poverty, many children end up on the streets, where they’re at risk of violence, abuse, disease and hunger. They have little chance of an education – and many girls end up in prostitution, Valdênia says.

When she was 14, Valdênia helped open a ‘safe’ house for young girls who worked as prostitutes. The police didn’t approve. “Who controls prostitution?” she says. “The policemen, and the men who have money.”

York Press:
Valdênia Paulino Lanfranchi

She lived with the girls for ten years, then helped open two human rights centres to help families in the favelas. She went to university, and got degrees in education and law. Eventually, after suffering repeated attacks and threats, she and her husband Renato, also a human rights worker, moved to Paraiba, in north-eastern Brazil. There Valdênia, now 47, joined the Oscar Romero human rights centre, working to protect the rights of local ‘indigenous’ people.

She also, in 2011, became Police Ombudsman for Paraiba – the first woman to hold the post. It brought her into conflicts with ‘those in power’. “I was then a victim of everything from raids on the headquarters of our organisations to sexual violence and death threats.” Brazil is supposed to be one of the world’s emerging democracies. “But we have more than 100 human rights defenders threatened with death,” she says. “We have inequality, poverty, hunger. Why? What has happened?”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).

Human rights defenders in York programme tell their story: Ruth Mumbi

January 22, 2015

On 16 February 2015 the York Press carried a feature story by Stephen Lewis about 5 human rights defenders in the temporary shelter programme at York University. The aim of the placements is to give those fighting for human rights around the world a breather, as well as the chance to forge contacts with other human rights workers and organisations around the world.As these are not the human rights defenders who figure highly in the news, I will in the coming days give you their stories. The first is Ruth Mumbi from Kenya:

York Press:
Ruth Mumbi

LIFE is tough in Nairobi’s Mathare slums in Kenya and “a lot of young people opt for crime so that they can have something to put on the table,” says Ruth Mumbi, who grew up here. There are small seeds of hope, however: among them the Bunge la Wamama Mashinani. It means the ‘grassroots women’s parliament’, says Ruth, flashing a smile. She helped found it, and now acts as coördinator.

We wanted to create a space for women to come together to discuss the challenges they are facing. Most women felt that we were not being fully heard.” The Bunge has few resources – not even a building. “We usually use small open spaces in the slums to hold our debates“.

The slum is riven by racial divides as well as crime – in 2006, fighting between rival Luo and Kikuyu groups saw at least ten people killed and hundreds of homes burned. But the young men who go out to rob, and rape, and kill, all have mothers or wives, Ruth says. “At the end of the day, they go back to their households, to their women. We should be talking with our kids to stop this.”

The Bunge also lobbies for better access to health care – and better access to justice for women who are raped or abused. The law can be an impossibly expensive business. “So we have been working with pro-bono lawyers and women’s rights organisations to provide free legal representation to women,” Ruth says.

As a human rights defender, she herself has faced harassment and intimidation. In 2011, she and a colleague were charged with incitement and remanded for two days in prison after leading a protest about the high death rates at a local maternity ward. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/kenya-rights-defenders-remain-under-attack/]. The harassment continues Ruth says: “Telling me to stop, sending threat messages, sending my mother messages telling her daughter to shut up or else.” And who is this shadowy ‘they’? “I believe they were the police.”

5 human rights defenders in York tell their incredible stories (From York Press).