Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Hell and Hope: a documentary film about three women who escaped ISIS and made a new life in Germany

August 13, 2019

‘Hell & Hope’. This documentary is filmed in Germany in 2018, where 1,100 Yazidi survivors of ISIS brutalities found refuge. There, they have managed to rebuild shattered lives even as mothers and sisters are missing – presumed enslaved or killed – fathers and brothers dead. Before it was too late for Salwa in Iraq’s Sinjar, before the militants came, she says it was Yazidi men who prevented them from running.The men refused to run despite their wives asking them to. ‘We men don’t run away, we stay and fight’. But the women didn’t know how to drive, so they couldn’t run either. I doubt if in all of Sinjar, even four women know how to drive – if they knew how to drive, they would have escaped and survived. The men could’ve stayed and fought if that was what they wanted. They should have fought and not let us face what we faced.” said Salwa, Yazidi Survivor Knowing how to drive seems like a small thing, in the grand scale of what was happening in Iraq and Syria. And yet it is that small independence they were denied that might have made all the difference.

The camera follows three women – Lamiya, Salwa and Bazi – as they go about their lives in Germany; to classes, to work. Lamiya was one of two Yazidi women survivors who won the EU’s prestigious human rights award – the Sakharov Prize – for their work in advocating for their besieged community. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/01/sakharov-prize-2016-went-ultimately-to-two-yazidi-women/]

……

Despite the gripping horror of each story, there is not much different in the perspectives offered than what we’ve heard over the years now in countless pieces of reporting – the kidnappings, the slavery, the killings. What’s new is the fine detail that comes out when you have multiple women tell broadly the same story; the banality of evil.

Two of the three women who spoke expressed disgust, contempt and were especially distressed by the encouragement given to Daesh terrorists by their wives. It was felt as a deeper betrayal, even though Salwa explains why they did it: “What we saw was that the women encouraged their husbands. This is why I always say that women should see the world and get an education. They controlled women’s minds. What was Daesh telling their wives? They would say that women don’t go to heaven, that a woman is incomplete. Only men go to heaven, so in this life, women must please their husbands, and when they go to heaven, they can ask for their wives to join them. After a Daesh militant kills Yazidis, because they are infidels, he will go to heaven and if he is satisfied with his wife, he will ask for her to come.”

..how did they make it out of that hell? The German government reached out. “The girls did not apply for asylum. The government of the German state of Baden Württemberg came up with a special quota program to give girls, children and other victims a direct residence permit for 3 years.” Amish Srivastava, Director, Hell & Hope…

Watching the documentary is an exhausting experience, but the viewer is forewarned. One of the first lines that appear on the screen is “Girls risked their lives to escape Islamic State captivity. Few succeeded.”

https://www.thequint.com/entertainment/movie-reviews/hell-and-hope-isis-yazidi-women-escaped

FOR SAMA also wins award at Durban International Film Festival 2019

July 25, 2019

On 25 July 2019 the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) announced that the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award 2019 has gone to: For Sama directed by Edward Watts and Waad al-Kateab. The film earlier won Galway’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/16/31st-galway-film-festival-honors-for-sama-as-best-human-rights-film/

40th Durban International Film Festival award winners 2019

31st Galway Film festival honors ‘For Sama’ as best human rights film

July 16, 2019

Galway Film Fleadh 2019 award winners chosen

On Sunday July 14, 2019 the 31st Galway Film Fleadh came to a close after many Irish and international film premieres, screenings, workshops and discussions. On the last day of the festival, the film fleadh held it annual awards honouring the best of the filmmakers working in every discipline who brought their work to showcase in Galway. The best Human Rights Film (chosen in association with Amnesty International) wasFor Sama” (https://www.forsamafilm.comDirector Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts – Producer Waas Al-Kateab). The documentary film is an intimate yet epic journey into the female experience of war. The film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria,’ and the choices she has to make to protect her daughter.

“The Boy At The Back Of The Class” gets upgraded

March 24, 2019

The founder of a London human rights organisation (Making Herstory) has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 for her story about a Syrian child refugee. Onjali Q. Raúf won the award for her The Boy At The Back Of The Class, which tells the story of Ahmet, a nine-year-old Syrian boy who moves to a new school after fleeing his war-torn homeland, won best story.

The Boy At The Back Of The Class was inspired by the children she met while working in refugee camps. The story follows the arrival of Ahmet, separated from his family, in a strange new world. When none of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, Ahmet’s new school friends “come up with a daring plan, embarking on a seemingly madcap adventure”. The Waterstones prize judges said: “Told with heart and humour, it’s a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense”.  James Daunt, Waterstones Managing Director, said: “It is, notwithstanding its urgent contemporary relevance, a book that is funny, generous and vivid. It is a joy to read, and we recommend it unreservedly.”

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/culture/arts/syrian-child-refugee-story-wins-waterstones-childrens-book-prize-2019/

Annual Report of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

January 13, 2019

The Annual Report of the Most Prominent Work of the Syrian Network for Human Rights in 2018

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) is a non-profit non-governmental human rights organization that was founded in June 2011 in light of the systematic rise of violations of human rights in Syria. SNHR aims to support the preserving and defending of victims’ right and consequently accounting process, achieve justice and peace, raise the awareness of the Syrian people in regard to their civil and political rights, and amass efforts and capacities in the context of stopping violations of human rights in Syria. The Syrian Human Rights Network works primarily on monitoring and documenting violations in Syria, and publishes research and reports related to such violations, as well as visual evidence from its investigations, such as photos, maps, graphs and infographics, in addition to working on advocacy and mobilization to defend the rights of victims, for justice and accountability in Syria. It also contributes to progress towards achieving justice and accountability in Syria.

SNHR is a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICR2P), a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, a founding member and a member of the executive committee of the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG), and a partner with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Additionally, SNHR collaborates closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI), which was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and with a number of international human rights organization such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Al Karama organization, and The Syrian Campaign, In addition to a number of local Syrian organizations.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/16/the-silenced-voices-of-syria-special-campaign-aimed-at-human-rights-defenders/]

View full Report

Bloggers and technologists who were forced “offline” in 2018

January 8, 2019

Read the rest of this entry »

Raed Fares Assassinated in Syria [“What can they do? Kill me?”]

November 26, 2018

Raed Fares
Raed Fares’ radio station defied threats from jihadist groups and resisted orders to stop playing musicPresentational white space

Raed Fares, a well-known Syrian activist, was killed in the north-western town of Kafranbel, in the in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. Fares and fellow activist Hamoud Jneed were attacked in their car. Jneed died immediately, while Fares was transferred to Orient Hospital, where he later died. It was not the first time the founder of Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country, had been targeted. His activism had earned the ire of both militants and the Syrian government. Four years ago, two gunmen for the Islamic State (IS) militant group shattered several bones and punctured his lung in a failed attempt to silence Fares. More attempts on his life would follow and yet the former estate agent was determined to carry on.

It was not just Fares the militants took issue with. The radio station – with its music and female presenters – also angered the groups which overran the town and surrounding area. Four years ago, when IS had a presence in Idlib province, the station’s office was raided by militants. In 2016, Fares was detained by the Nusra Front, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which currently controls most of Idlib province, had ordered Radio Fresh to stop broadcasting music. The station’s response was to play long sequences of other sounds, such as tweeting birds, clucking chickens and bleating goats. “They tried to force us to stop playing music on air,” Fares told the BBC in 2017. “So we started to play animals in the background as a kind of sarcastic gesture against them.”

Among the many expressions of concern is the Human Rights Foundation as Fares spoke at its 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum: “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the assassination of Raed Fares, a dear friend and esteemed member of the Oslo Freedom Forum community. Raed worked tirelessly to counter fundamentalist narratives through journalism and to empower his fellow Syrians to build a better future. His work, bravery, and determination to succeed despite the many threats on his life make him a hero of the Syrian revolution,” HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov said. … Fares first became known outside of Syria in early 2014, when he started writing eye-catching, often sarcastic protest signs and sharing photos of them on social media. ….He quickly became one of the most trusted sources of on-the-ground footage and information on Syria’s continuing conflict. With his death, many reporters outside Syria have lost a vital and increasingly rare source, and agents of misinformation will grow that much stronger in his absence.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46320355

https://mailchi.mp/db20e9d559e0/off-speaker-raed-fares-assassinated-in-syria?e=f80cec329e

In spite of or because of the US’ absence, the 39th Human Rights Council considered a relative success

September 29, 2018

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, including the creation of independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and a dedicated space on the Council’s agenda in 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in Venezuela. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/many-hrd-issues-at-the-39th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

In a joint statement, several NGOs (ISHR The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Amnesty International, Article 19, Center for Reproductive Rights. CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, FIDH, Forum Asia, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the Council’s adoption of landmark resolutions on several country situations:

On Myanmar, the creation of the independent investigative mechanism is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Furthermore, the leadership by a group of States, including Latin American countries, on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, was as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

The Council also adopted a resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

On Sudan, the Council adopted a weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a “deal” Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

The Council failed to take action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and to monitor and respond to the government’s moves toward authoritarianism. 

In addition, the Council continued with its weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

Many States, NGOs and the High Commissioner, raised concerns about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

On thematic resolutions, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs, as well as a resolution on the safety of journalists. The latter sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks.  

The Council also adopted by consensus a resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice. More States need to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Read the full statement here.

Sergio Vieira de Mello Lecture 2018 by Staffan de Mistura

March 8, 2018

Monday 19 March, 18:30 – 21:00, Staffan de Mistura, United Nations special envoy for the Syria crisis, will give the 2018 Sergio Vieira de Mello Lecture.

Staffan de Mistura is the United Nations special envoy for the Syria crisis. Having previously served as the head of the UN missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has over thirty years’ experience of working in conflict-affected areas and within humanitarian agencies. The event is moderated by the journalist Sophie Shevardnadze and will take place at Auditorium Ivan Pictet at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva. Registration is required for this event. Register here

The annual lecture is organised by the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation and the Graduate Institute.

Last year: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/27/angelina-jolie-gives-2017-sergio-vieira-de-mello-lecture-on-15-march-2017/

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in last Council Statement does not mince words

February 28, 2018

 “Given this is my last address as high commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt,” outgoing U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on 26 February 2018. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] And he was: Zeid delivered one of the strongest and clearest denunciations from a top U.N. official about the Security Council veto. He didn’t mention specific vetoes, but the context made crystal clear he referred to war in Syria, over which Russia and China have repeatedly used the veto to block efforts such as to hold war criminals to account or punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons. Zeid instead spoke more broadly and decried “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times“: Syria, the Ituri and Kasai regions of Congo; the embattled city of Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; and Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.  He denounced the “minimal action” taken even though his office has repeatedly exposed human rights violations that “should have served as a trigger for preventive action.“The High Commissioner stated that the five permanent, veto-wielding council members “must answer to the victims” if the veto is used to block any action that could reduce human suffering. “Second to those who are criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” he said Still, Zeid praised France for “commendable leadership” for its recent push for a code of conduct on use of the veto, which he said Britain and more than 115 countries have supported. “It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto,” he said.

Another outspoken statement that lead to furious reactions concerned especially some eastern european states: “Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary‘s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?”  This led to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó  urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to resign. “It is not acceptable for an employee of an international organization to make such disgusting accusations. The Supreme Commissioner must resign, “Szijjártó said. “We have to defend our borders and we will make every effort to clarify the full stance in the UN debate on migration“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

For the full text of the High Commissioner’s speech delivered on 26 February 2018 in Geneva see below:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/united-nations-zeid-raad-al-hussein-russia-china-us-security-council-veto/
http://www.novinite.com/articles/188279/Hungary+Wants+the+Resignation+of+the+United+Nations+High+Commissioner+for+Human+Rights%2C+who+Called+Victor+Orban+%22Racist%22
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-u-n-human-rights-chief-blasts-1519666939-htmlstory.html

——

37th session of the Human Rights Council: Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Published on 26 Feb 2018)

Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Friends,

May I begin by welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous decision in relation to a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which came after intense lobbying by our Secretary-General and others, and we applaud Sweden and Kuwait for their leadership in the Security Council on this. We insist on its full implementation without delay. However, we have every reason to remain cautious, as airstrikes on eastern Ghouta continue this morning. Resolution 2401 (2018) must be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence: seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing.

Eastern Ghouta, the other besieged areas in Syria; Ituri and the Kasais in the DRC; Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; Northern Rakhine in Myanmar have become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times, because not enough was done, early and collectively, to prevent the rising horrors. Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action. And given this is my last address as High Commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt.

Second to those who are criminally responsible – those who kill and those who maim – the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So long as the veto is used by them to block any unity of action, when it is needed the most, when it could reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people, then it is they – the permanent members – who must answer before the victims.

France has shown commendable leadership among the P5 in championing a code of conduct on the use of veto; the United Kingdom has also joined the initiative, now backed by over 115 countries. It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto.

Mr. President,

A few miles away, at CERN, physicists try to understand what our planet, and the universe or universes, are made of. What matter is, at the most basic level, and how it all fits together. To understand the physical world, we humans have long realised we must tunnel deeply, beyond molecular biology and geology; and go to those sub-atomic spaces for answers.

Why do we not do the same when it comes to understanding the human world? Why, when examining the political and economic forces at work today, do we not zoom in more deeply? How can it be so hard to grasp that to understand states and societies – their health and ills; why they survive; why they collapse – we must scrutinize at the level of the individual: individual human beings and their rights. After all, the first tear in the fabric of peace often begins with a separation of the first few fibres, the serious violations of the rights of individuals – the denial of economic and social rights, civil and political rights, and most of all, in a persistent denial of freedom.

There is another parallel with physics. Gravity is a weak force, easily defied by a small child raising a finger, but there is also a strong force governing the orbits of planets and the like. So too with human rights. Some States view human rights as of secondary value – far less significant than focusing on GDP growth or geopolitics. While it is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is simply not treated as the equal of the other two. The size of the budget is telling enough, and the importance accorded to it often seems to be in the form of lip service only. Many in New York view it condescendingly as that weak, emotional, Geneva-centred, pillar — not serious enough for some of the hardcore realists in the UN Security Council.

Yet like in physics, we also know human rights to be a strong force, perhaps the strongest force. For whenever someone in New York calls a topic “too sensitive,” there’s a good chance human rights are involved. And why sensitive? Because a denial of rights hollows out a government’s legitimacy. Every time the phrase “too sensitive” is used, it therefore confirms the supreme importance of human rights, and their effect as a strong force.

For no tradition, legal or religious, calls for or supports oppression – none. Discussions about rights are avoided by those who seek deflection because of guilt, those who shy away from difficult decisions and those who profit from a more superficial, simple, and ultimately useless, analysis. Better just leave it to Geneva, they say – and the crises continue to grow.

To understand the maladies of societies, grasp the risks of conflict, and prevent or resolve them we must — like particle physicists – work ourselves into the smaller spaces of individuals and their rights, and ask the most basic questions there. The most devastating wars of the last 100 years did not come from countries needing more GDP growth. They stemmed from – and ¡ quote from the Universal Declaration – a “disregard and contempt for human rights”. They stemmed from oppression.

Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?

Mr. President,

Perhaps we have gone mad, when families grieve in too many parts of the world for those lost to brutal terrorism, while others suffer because their loved ones are arrested arbitrarily, tortured or killed at a black site, and were called terrorists for simply having criticized the government; and others await execution for crimes committed when they were children. While still more can be killed by police with impunity, because they are poor; or when young girls in El Salvador are sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for miscarriages; when transgender women in Aceh are punished and humiliated in public. When Nabeel Rajab is sentenced to five years for alleging torture; or when 17 year-old Ahed Tamimi is tried on 12 counts for slapping a soldier enforcing a foreign occupation. When journalists are jailed in huge numbers in Turkey, and the Rohingya are dehumanized, deprived and slaughtered in their homes – with all these examples bedevilling us, why are we doing so little to stop them, even though we should know how dangerous all of this is?

It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations such as these, and not a lack of GDP growth, which will spark the conflicts that can break the world. While our humanitarian colleagues tend to the victims – and we salute their heroism and their selflessness – their role is not to name or single out the offenders publicly. That task falls to the human rights community, that it is our task. For it is the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights which will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This, we cannot allow to happen.

We will therefore celebrate, with passion, the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which incarnates rights common to all the major legal and religious traditions. We will defend it, in this anniversary year, more vigorously than ever before and along with our moral leaders – the human rights defenders in every corner of the globe – we will call for everyone to stand up for the rights of others.

This is, in the end, a very human thing to do. Artificial intelligence will never fully replicate the moral courage, the self-sacrifice and, above all, the love for all human beings that sets human rights defenders apart from everyone else. As I close out my term as High Commissioner in the coming months, I wish to end this statement by saying it has been the honour of my life to have come to know many of these defenders; to have worked with them, and for them.

Thank you.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/37th-session-human-rights-council-opening-statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights