Posts Tagged ‘women human rights defenders’

International Women’s Human Rights Week: two events in Geneva along UN Human Rights Council

February 28, 2019

During International Women’s Week there are two events focusing on Women Human Rights Defenders:


March 1, 2019
 11:30-13:00 Room XXV Palais des Nations, Geneva

Women human rights defenders are on the front lines of struggles to attain peace, security, dignity and sustainable development for all. They work diligently to advance justice, freedom and equality to meet the ultimate goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, State and non-State actors, in the majority of cases involving violations against these defenders, have experienced widespread impunity including at the international level. Women human rights defenders met in New York at a high-level event at the UN Headquarters in July 2018 to send a strong message: “we’ve had enough!”

Join us in Geneva parallel to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council where women human rights defenders will present how the shortcomings and gaps of the UN system with regards to women human rights defenders protection can be filled.

Panellists: 

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Rogeria Ferreira Peixinho, WHRD from Brazil
  • Brenda Valladares, WHRD from USA
  • Lucy Mazingi, WHRD from Zimbabwe
  • Cindy Aung, WHRD from Myanmar
  • Alda Facio, member of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice

Moderator :

Veronica Vidal, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Cosponsors: ISHR, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and Just Associates (JASS). All are members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition. (https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-32017?e=d1945ebb90)

For some of my older posts on WHRDs: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/page/5/


The Geneva Gender Debate: 6 March 18h30 – 20h00 Auditorium Ivan Pictet, Maison de la Paix, Geneva

In the tradition of the Oxford Union debates, the Graduate Institute and the International Gender Champions are hosting their 3rd Annual Geneva Gender Debate during International Women’s Week.

This year’s topic: Gender & Language

The motion: This house believes gender neutral language is not a necessity for gender equality.

Introductory remarks: Philippe Burrin, Director, the Graduate Institute, Geneva

The debaters for the House:

  • Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
  • Michael Gaffey, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva

The debaters against the House Motion:

  • Inger Andersen, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Elhadj As Sy, Secretary-General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Moderator: Caitlin Kraft-Buchman, Executive Director and Founder, Women@theTable

This debate is organised in partnership with the International Gender Champions and the Gender Centre of the Graduate Institute. To register: http://graduateinstitute.ch/events/_/events/corporate/2019/the-geneva-gender-debate-2019

 

Call for nominations MEA 2020 (deadline 26 March 2019)

February 22, 2019

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

 CALL FOR NOMINATIONS – 2020 

 

The award aims to recognize individuals, or exceptionally an organisation, who are working in conditions hostile to fundamental human rights, are at risk, and in need of protection. 

For more information on this and other awards for human rights defenders, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders

 

 

 Nominees must be currently active in the promotion and protection of human rights. 

 Nominations are welcome from all regions, genders, and human rights related themes. We take a broad view of what a human rights defender is. Nominations of women are particularly encouraged. 

 Special account is taken of those who combat human rights violations by courageous and innovative means. 

Three finalists are selected and will be announced in October 2019. The laureate is selected from among them, and all three are invited to participate in the ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva, in February 2020. 

Submit a nomination at:  http://www.martinennalsaward.org/nominate-candidate-2020-martin-ennals-award/ 

Deadline: 26 March 2019

Human Rights Defenders’ issues in the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 20, 2019

Based on the – as usual – excellent briefing by the International Service for human Rights on the key issues on the agenda of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (starting on 25 February 2019), I am focusing on the items that concern human rights defenders most.

The UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 40th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 25 February 2019 to 22 March 2019.

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions.

Protection of human rights defenders including women human rights defenders

The Council will consider a resolution, presented by Norway, on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The resolution should call on States to commit to conditioning the provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. It should also acknowledge the increasing willingness of some companies to speak out against threats and attacks on human rights defenders, and to raise the bar on accountability for companies who don’t.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on women human rights defenders on 28 February. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/17/latest-report-by-special-rapporteur-on-women-human-rights-defenders-is-now-available/]

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. [I did almost too many posts on this, see recent ones: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

The UN has taken action towards addressing this critical issue including:

  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

However, ISHR and most NGOs remains deeply concerned about reprisals against defenders who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistently with previous calls, urges all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. (In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals)

Country-specific:

China

The past year was marked by vitally important monitoring and review of China’s human rights situation by the United Nations human rights system. The upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council provides a key opportunity for States to reinforce the issues raised over the last year, and express collective concern about worsening rights abuse in China and the government’s failure to follow through on its obligations and commitments.

ISHR and almost 40 other organisations are calling on the Council to adopt a resolution addressing human rights in China, with particular focus on Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minority groups, over a million of whom are being interned and detained in Xianjiang region alone. [see: https://www.ifex.org/china/2019/02/19/xinjiang-resolution/]

Saudi Arabia

If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work. ISHR recalls that in November 2018, Saudi Arabia underwent its Universal Periodic Review where at least 23 States called for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in the kingdom. Over 170 organisations from across the globe have previously called for the Council to hold an inquiry into human rights abuses in the country. [see also how Saudi Arabia is trying to cover up its violations: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/%5D

Burundi

At last Council session, the Council renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, who will present its oral briefing on 12 March at 12:00. ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/]

Other thematic reports and country situations

The Council will also consider the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism on several occasions. The High Commissioner will present a report on the issue and the Special Rapporteur will present her annual report focused on national security restrictions on civic space, as well as reports of the visits to TunisiaSaudi Arabia, Sri Lanka,  France and Belgium. [see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/anti-terrorism-legislation/]

The Council will consider several reports on torture, including the annual report of the Special Rapporteur, the reports from his visits to Serbia and Kosovo, Ukraine, and Argentina, and two reports by the Secretary General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

At this 40th session, the Council will discuss a range of economic, social and cultural rights in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders alongside the annual report of the Secretary-General on the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights globally.

Country situations

The High Commissioner will present her first annual report to the Council on 6 March at 10:00. In addition, the Council will consider reports by the High Commissioner and mandate holders on several country situations. The Council is also expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. The country-specific debates include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission on human rights on South Sudan 
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Iran
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Mali 
  • High-level interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic
  • Interactive dialogue on the OHCHR report on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral report on Ukraine 
  • High Commissioner oral briefings and Secretary General reports on the following countries: Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Yemen and Afghanistan

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on several countries and provides an opportunity for Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria and Chad to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers.

Resolutions

During the organisational meeting for the 40th session held on 11 February 2019, the President of the Human Rights Council presented the programme of work. It includes four panels of discussion and 108 reports. States also announced at least 15 resolutions but more can resolutions can be expected. These include:

  • Rights of Child (GRULAC and the EU)
  • Human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (EU, Japan)
  • Human rights situation in Myanmar (EU)
  • Human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Morocco, Norway, Peru, Romania, Republic of Korea, Tunisia)
  • Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (UK, Germany, Macedonia)
  • Human rights situation in South Sudan (UK)
  • Human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom)
  • Human rights defenders (Norway)
  • Human rights situation in Iran (Macedonia, Moldova, UK, Sweden)

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived onhttp://webtv.un.org. These panel discussions include:

  • Annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming titled “Human rights in the light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward” which will take place on 25 February at 16:00.
  • Biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, titled “Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality” which will take place on 26 February at 09:00.
  • Debate on the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies (for the Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), which will take place on 15 March at 16:00. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/mea-at-25-high-level-anniversary-panel-looks-at-human-rights-in-crisis/]

Side events

Many side event will be organized by NGOs (you can download the draft list of NGO events here). the ISHR is organizing at least 3 that are of particular interest to human rights defenders:

  • Protection of women human rights defenders, 1 March from 11:30 to 13:00 in Room XXV
  • Can the UPR advance Freedom of Expression in China?, 13 March from 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XXIII
  • 20 years after the adoption of the HRD Declaration: The positive experience of West Africa on the development of national laws protecting defenders, 20 March 15:00 to 16:00 in Room XXIII

Also relevant are:

  • Reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, organised by Forum-Asia, will take place on 28 February, at 14:00 (time and location TBC). This side event aims to provide the international community with information on the Government’s implementation of the resolution 30/1 from the perspectives of civil society, and share proposals for further action by the Human Rights Council.
  • Counter terrorism laws and civic space, organised by the Civic Space Initiative (A19, CIVICUS, ICNL and WMD) and will take place on 1 March at 10:30 (time and location TBC).
  • Escazu and Beyond: Strengthening the global normative framework on protecting environmental defenders, organised by CIVICUS and will take place on 5 March at 11:00 (time and location TBC). The side event aims to bring together civil society representatives, UN bodies and State representatives to discuss their intersecting role in promoting and protecting civic space for environmental defenders.
  • Saudi Arabia : Time for accountability, organised by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, to take place on 4 March.
  • Film screening of the Long Haul: a documentary tribute to human rights activist and professor Sir Nigel Rodley, organised by the International Commission of Jurists and the Permanent Mission of the UK. It will take place on 7 March from 13:00 to 15:00.
  • South Sudan: No sustainable peace without justice, organised by DefendDefenders. It will highlight ongoing grave violations in South Sudan despite the signing of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, lack of domestic accountability, and the need to renew the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CoHR) in South Sudan. It will take place on 8 March from 13:00-14:00 in Room XXIV (time and location TBC).
  • Human rights in Myanmar, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 11 March at 16:00 (time and location TBC). Defenders from Myanmar will present their perspectives on the next steps the Human Rights Council should take to ensure justice and accountability for mass atrocity crimes, to address root causes, and provide support for victims.
  • Human rights in Malaysia, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 13 March at 13:00 (time and location TBC). Following Malaysia’s UPR in November 2018, civil society from the country will suggest steps for the government to implement its UPR recommendations, while engaging with civil society and the national human rights institution in the process.

Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/09/ishr-sets-out-the-priorities-for-the-human-rights-council-in-2019/]

If you want to stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC40 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-key-issues-agenda-march-2019-session-0

Latest report by Special Rapporteur on (women) human rights defenders is now available

February 17, 2019

“My report on women human rights defenders is out and will be officially presented on 28/02! All over the world women fight so human rights can be a reality for all of us. As a result, they face attacks. Leaders must recognize and protect them....”said UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst on Twitter on 11 February 2019

Human Rights Council 40th session
25 February–22 March 2019 Agenda item 3

A/HRC/40/60 – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Situation of women human rights defenders

Summary: In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, reviews the situation of women human rights defenders, covering the period since the issuance, in 2011, of the last report by the mandate holder on this topic (A/HRC/16/44 and Corr.1). He focuses in particular on the additional gendered risks and obstacles women human rights defenders face and recognizes their important role in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Special Rapporteur refers to the relevant normative framework for the work of women human rights defenders, describes the challenging environments in which they operate and analyses the impact of patriarchy and heteronormativity, gender ideology, fundamentalisms, militarization, globalization and neoliberal policies on the rights of such defenders. He also refers to the situation of specific groups of women human rights defenders.

The report contains recommendations and examples of good practices to support the building of diverse, inclusive and strong movements of women human rights defenders, and recommendations addressed to all stakeholders to ensure that women defenders are supported and strengthened to promote and protect human rights.

https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G19/004/97/PDF/G1900497.pdf?OpenElement

For some of my other posts on women human rights defenders see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/page/5/

ISHR sets out the priorities for the Human Rights Council in 2019

February 9, 2019

On 28 January 2019 ISHR presented a blueprint for States with recommendations to some of the key issues the Human Rights Council should address in 2019. 

In 2018, the Council adopted some landmark decisions

  • an independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar
  • Yemen, renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts
  • Burundi, extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

At the same time, several situations of gross rights violations escaped Council scrutiny for political reasons.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/04/general-assemblys-3rd-committee-concludes-2018-session/]

The annual “High Level Segment” in March 2019 is a critical opportunity to set the agenda for the year. The Human Rights Council’s three regular sessions in March, June/July and September are further opportunities to advance priorities.

Here is ISHR’s checklist on the human rights situations and issues which should be advanced in 2019.

States should commit to strengthening the Council by demonstrating leadership, principled action and sustained follow through.

All regional groups presented the same number of candidates as seats for the 2018 Council elections and several States with terrible human rights records and with poor records of cooperation with UN mechanisms were elected, turning the elections into more of an appointment process, and going against the vision of the Council’s founding document.

States should collectively express concern about China’s failure to uphold human rights principles and protect the rights of its citizens, especially ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans and those involved in the defence of human rights. China’s rejection of critical dialogue and universal principles is especially worrying as the Chinese government becomes increasingly active in the Council – a space dedicated to those same values.

States should also collectively press for the immediate and unconditional release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work.

States should also initiate Council action to address recent cases of reprisals in Egypt as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing after her visit in September 2018. These attacks come amidst a context of wide-scale repression against civil society through intimidation, arbitrary arrests, unfair prosecutions and travel bans.

States should collectively denounce the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including reprisals for engaging or attempting to engage with UN mechanisms. As a minimum, States should call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, such as Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

At the 40th session:

The Council will consider a resolution on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment. ISHR calls on States to address the particular threats and attacks against this group of defenders, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The draft resolution should call on States who prioritise the protection of human rights defenders to condition their provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. ..The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on the situation of women human rights defenders. States should publicly recognise the specific risks and threats women defenders face and commit to taking further measures to enhance their protection, underline the legitimacy of their work, their specific protection needs and adequate remedies to the specific violations they face.

At the 41st session:

Thanks to the sustained efforts by civil society and supportive UN Member States, the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was established in 2016. At the 41st session, ISHR urges States to renew the mandate and ensure that it is not weakened, so that it continues its vital work in capturing good practices and assisting States in ending discrimination and violence based on SOGI. The mandate continues to work with a diverse range of States from all geographical regions. Defenders from across the globe have affirmed that the mandate has contributed to their protection and recognition of their work. ..The Council will also consider a resolution on migrants and human rights. States should ensure that the text reiterates their obligations to support and not restrict defenders’ in their vital work and to protect migrant rights defenders in the face of rising intolerance, xenophobia and illiberalism. ISHR recalls Principle 18, from the OHCHR Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, which sets out measures States can take to respect and support the activities of migrant rights defenders.

At the 42nd session:

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At the 42nd session in September 2019, States should not miss the opportunity to cite specific cases of reprisals at the second interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals….Finally, the accessibility of the Council to rights holders, victims and defenders is both a key contributor to, and indicator of, the Council’s relevance and success.  As discussions on enhancing the efficiency of the Council resume, States should continue to support and guarantee that any proposed measures do not restrict or limit civil society participation at the Council.

Call for nominations for women human rights defenders from East Africa to learn about digital safety

January 26, 2019

The community of Safe Sisters is announcing the 3rd round of women’s digital safety fellowship program to start in March 2019. They are looking for creative, self-motivated and dependable women who want to take their digital safety skills and online activism to the next level and they invite women human rights defenders from Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda to apply. The workshop is scheduled in March 2019 in Kampala, Uganda.

Two years ago, they started the work of building a community of tech-savy East African women ready to stand up and defend digital rights and digital safety while fighting online harassment in their communities. Since then 21 amazing women from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Tanzania have been trained to play an important role in their communities as digital security mentors! [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/09/defenddefenders-launched-new-security-manual-for-human-rights-defenders-in-africa/]

Participation involves 

Minimum 4 hours per week for 3 weeks before the first workshop to complete self-study assignments and exercises. Please note these exercises are mandatory for participation in the workshop; you must be available for weekly email check-ins with mentors;

You must be able to attend a one-week workshop to be scheduled in March 2019 in Kampala, Uganda. You will get an opportunity to seek small grants to carry out community digital safety activities of your own; you will work with mentors and peers as they improve their skills and work to defend your community; and Opportunity to participate in the 2nd gathering of Safe Sisters to further grow skills and reflect on practice and experience gained during project implementation

Application requirements 

Applicants must have a demonstrated interest in digital safety and security; should have experience working in the human rights and/or media field with strong links to communities who are digitally at-risk; must hold a sufficient level of English, as English will be the working language; and must complete and submit the application form.

Selection Criteria 

Priority will be given to applicants who: demonstrate experience with strong technical competencies (though this need not be formal education); have experience with tech and human rights initiatives; demonstrate an understanding of their own and their community’s digital safety challenges and needs; Propose creative project ideas; and construct clear project objectives/goals.

Applications are now open until 15th February 2019. You can apply by filling out the online application form.

For more details, visit Defend Defenders.

2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran

January 24, 2019

On 23 January 2019 RFE/RL reported that Iranian human rights defender Reza Khandan got a six-tear prison sentence. The next day Amnesty International issued a damning overview of the situation of human rights defenders in that country: Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in a sweeping crackdown against protesters and dissidents in the past year. See more below:

Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013
Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013

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Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq have to live dangerously

January 7, 2019

Activist Hana Adwar speaks as she follows online news of the the assassination of Tara Fares in Baghdad. (AP)
Activist Hana Adwar (AP)

Human rights activism is a risky business in the Middle East in general but it is more so in Iraq where female activists have been targeted, wrote Oumayma Omar on 6 January 2019, based in Baghdad for the Arab Weekly. A series of killings in 2018 sparked fears of a coordinated campaign to silence successful and outspoken women in Iraq. In August and September 2018, four prominent women were assassinated, including activist Soad al-Ali in Basra and Tara Fares in Baghdad. They had campaigned for women’s freedoms and rights in a conservative, tribal society.

The new political situation in Iraq has been detrimental on all Iraqis, especially women,” said Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) from self-exile in Canada.. “After the US-led invasion (2003), a new political system was created leading to a most sectarian, tribal and religious society where women’s lives don’t have much weight.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/01/iraqi-human-rights-defender-yanar-mohammed-laureate-of-2016-rafto-prize/]

Discriminatory practices against women have become a fait accompli and the norm in Iraqi families in rural areas as well as big cities, including Baghdad, after the rise to power of Islamist parties. “They introduced extremist religious ideas based on hatred for women and viewing them as sexual and reproductive tools,” added the human rights defender…Despite intimidations and accusations of promoting secularism and encouraging women to go against their families, OWFI, which provides shelters for women who survive domestic violence, has been expanding since it was established in 2003.

Activist Hana Addour, president of Al-Amal organisation, said entrenched tribal values are still largely applied although Iraq has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates freedoms of expression, movement, opinion and the right to choose a partner without force or intimidation……She refuted as “baseless” accusations that activists were provoking women against social traditions. “We did not import our ideas and we do not contest customs or religious texts,” Addour said. “We only seek to implement the constitution by rejecting forced and early marriages and many other matters that we cannot accept under any pretext.”

Women at the frontline for human rights in 2018

December 18, 2018

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Women Human Rights Defenders in Georgia honored with national award

December 4, 2018

On the 30 November, the Kato Mikeladze Awards were held in Georgia to celebrate women’s rights activists in Georgia.

It is not just in Kenya that national human rights award play a role [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/human-rights-defenders-in-kenya-honored-with-national-awards/]. In Georgia the Kato Mikeladze Awards recognize women human rights defenders. The Kato Mikeladze award celebrates a young generation of human rights defenders who work to advance gender equality. Nominees included 14 young civic leaders, journalists, researchers and entrepreneurs who advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality in education, the elimination of gender-based violence and the rights of migrants and minority groups.

Ida Bakhturidze, civic activist and one of the founders of the platform Women from Georgia, received the award in recognition of her achievements in supporting women’s rights and gender equality.

We salute our award winners and nominees for their courage in standing up for equal rights,” stated Louisa Vinton, head of the UN system in Georgia. Stressing the importance for young champions for women’s rights, Nana Pantsulaia, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund in Georgia stated “Georgian women are becoming more vocal across all spheres of life. They make their voice heard in politics, economic activities, education and human rights protection.” Nonetheless, there is still a large deficit of female representation in parliament and many areas of public life in Georgia.

http://georgiatoday.ge/news/13533/Kato-Mikeladze-Awards-Recognizes-Women’s-Rights-Activists-