Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

The Rafto Prize 2019 to refugee rights defender Rouba Mhaissen from Syria

September 26, 2019

Rouba Mhaissen, Defending the human rights of people living as refugees

The Rafto Prize 2019 is awarded to Rouba Mhaissen, director of Sawa for Development and Aid (SDAID), for defending human rights from the local to the global level for people living as refugees. Rouba Mhaissen has contributed locally to improving the lives of people living as refugees in Lebanon in ways that protect their dignity and right to self-determination. At national and global levels, Mhaissen stands out as a relentless and powerful defender of the human rights of refugees. For more on this and other awards for human rights defenders see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/rafto-prize. For last year’s award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/27/polish-ombudsman-adam-bodnar-winner-of-2018-rafto-award/

The Rafto Conference with a keynote address by the Rafto Laureate will take place 2 November at 11:00-14:00 at Universitetsaulaen, Bergen and the award ceremony the next day 3 November at 18:00 also in Bergen.

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen (31) is a Syrian-Lebanese economist, activist, community mobilizer and development practitioner who works on forced migration and the Syrian refugee crisis. She is the founder and director of Sawa for Development and Aid, and an outspoken defender of the rights of people living as refugees. Her relentless demands for human rights for all refugees have been heard in international fora. Through her advocacy for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Mhaissen underlines the importance of treating refugees and other migrants with dignity and as people with the right to form their own lives and destinies: Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the Lebanese government has maintained open borders for Syrian refugees. The early arrivers were allowed to work in certain sectors of the economy, despite being exposed to expensive fees for work-permits, marginalization, and limited freedom of movement. But as the civil war endures, the refugees’ situation has become precarious. The demographic, political, and economic balance in Lebanon is fragile as a third of the local population lives below the poverty line and one out of four are refugees. Lebanese authorities routinely blame the country’s hardship on the refugees, and the economic crisis has further increased the suspicions of refugees.

In this increasingly volatile situation, the Lebanese government has begun emphasizing return-policies toward Syrians living in Lebanon, through a combination of restrictive policies and rampant discrimination. Unlawful evictions, harassment, intimidation, and attacks on refugees leave many with no choice but to return. Upon their arrival in Syria, many have faced arbitrary arrests, interrogations and torture. For Syrian refugees, both residing in Lebanon or returning to Syria represent impossible “choices”.

The Rafto Prize 2019 is a call to protect human rights for all, irrespective of our legal status. .. The current international neglect of the human rights situation for people living as refugees must stop: In the short-term this means financial support, in the long term assisting resettlement and facilitating return or local integration.

https://www.rafto.no/news/the-rafto-prize-2019-1

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/