Tuesday, September 7, 2010

7 September, 2010

China = If you are not already following it, there is a great weekly briefing on human rights in China, available online here. This week's update includes stories on the detention of protesters in a village outside of Beijing and the release from a detention center of Fujian activist Fan Yanqiong. (CHRD)

• In Pakistan, the logistics of getting aid to flood victims is still a massive challenge. (

• United States =
A new social media and public education campaign (as a reaction to or a corollary of the American Apparel's Legalize Gay campaign), Legalize Trans, has launched with the goal of drawing increased attention to transgender people and their issues. (ADV)
• Florida, United States = Why?? In a move likely never to be approved by Jesus, a Florida church allegedly led a "Burn a Koran Day." Not only does this engender hatred (a concept never promoted by religion), it also endangers US troops and citizens abroad. In fact, General David Petraeus, the top Commander in Afghanistan, said that the "Burn a Koran Day" puts our troops in danger and fuels extremist violence. (HRF)

Next week (14 September, 2010) the Managing Global Insecurity Project at the Brookings Institute will host a conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and their relationship with human rights, featuring remarks by Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International; Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Professor Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown Law School. (BRK)
• I've been sayin' it for years: development is all about the ladies. Recent data now supports this knowledge: investments in women are the key behind progress on the Millennium Development Goals. (Change)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

24 August 2010

Tanzania = women’s sexuality is being targeted, in the name of preventing the spread of HIV. A 21 year old woman was forced to strip naked in a public market and then was beaten up by a group of men for “dressing inappropriately” and therefore trying to spread the HIV. Community elders (male elders) are also using HIV as an excuse to “return to ancient cultural values” where women dressed “decently” and therefore did not entice men into sex, which spreads HIV. (IRIN)
o Thankfully community educators are challenging these ideas that HIV is not a personal responsibility and that the way women dress negates a man’s free will. In fact, Mkinga’s HIV/AIDS Committee has been facilitating educational workshops to educate community members about the legal consequences of perpetuating violence against women. (IRIN)
South Africa = the currently proposed legislation, the Protection of Information Bill would severely restrict the independent press corps from reporting on governmental activity, as officials and state agencies would be given broad discretion to classify data as secret. The ANC is also proposing a special Media Appeals Tribunal to address complaints against the press. (CPJ)

Pakistan = The effects of the massive flooding are obviously still being felt. For a Westerner’s take on what the past week has been like, click here to view UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole’s day-by-day diary. (UNICEF)
Afghanistan = couple stoned to death (CNN, HRW)
Bangladesh = Yay! In a move that supports the human right to freedom of religion and the practice thereof, a Bangladesh court has ruled that the wearing of religious clothing is a “personal choice” which may not be legally imposed upon anyone. (BBC)

United States = Birthright Citizenship debates are the new racism (CAP)

Italy = Racism against people of the Roma and Sinti ethnicties has escalated again. Roberto Maroni, Italy’s interior minister, is continuing his lobbying efforts to be able to expel from Italy EU citizens who do not meet minimum income and housing requirements, despite the European Commission’s concerns about this racist plan. (AJ)
o France = Claiming that the repatriation was voluntary, France sent over 200 people of the Roma minority to Romania this week. (AJ, WP)

• A new musical compilation is out, entitled Yes We Can! Songs About Leaving Africa … it includes titles by K’Naan and Daara J Family among others.
o What do you think of this message? Its reference to Obama’s campaign?

• The UN’s World Youth Conference is being held in Mexico this week and UNIFEM has organized a Young Women’s Forum for 24 August 2010 which will include a live webcast. Check it out here! (UNIFEM)
• Human Rights Watch and 95 other groups called upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to cancel the “Obiang Prize” to be rewarded in October because President Teodoro Obiang, for whom the prize is named and who donated $3million toward the prize, is widely criticized for his highly repressive regime, including his violation of the rights of his people to freedom of expression—one of the core rights recognized by UNESCO (HRW)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kryrgyzstan Genocide of the Uzbeks

If you have the time TODAY to contact your congressperson regarding this immediate human rights need, I urge you to do so.

Below is an email from a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan. It is terrifying and real and happening TODAY .... and is currently grossly under-reported in the US.


an email i received from a rpcv friend who is friends with this current pcv in osh...

please read thru the end

its really scary in the south of k-stan right now
- Hide quoted text -

Hi all,

Before I explain anything, let me just say that I am completely safe. I and the other peace corps volunteers (except for 3 village volunteers in Osh who will be moved tomorrow but are safe right now) have been moved to the American military base outside of the Kyrgyz capitol of Bishkek. I totally and completely safe right now, and I will definitely never be returning to Osh.

I don't know if you have been following the news. Mostly just NPR and Al Jazeera have reported, but they know very little as the conflict is so bad no one can get in.

I just had the most terrifying experience of my life. I'm going to let you know so you can get a small picture of what it is like where I live. And I am only letting you know because I am now out of the conflict.

It was Friday at 1am and I was awoken by a phone call from another friend in the Peace Corps who lives in my neighborhood in Osh. He was wondering if I heard any strange noises on the streets. I didn't at that point, but I got up and looked out my balcony (it must be noted that I am the only volunteer in Osh who lives on the main street with my windows facing it as well, so they wanted me to look for them. I am on the 2nd floor). What I saw was horrifying. I looked to my right and saw a fire burning in the street about a block away and men screaming loudly around it. I thought they were just screaming to put out the fire. I waited a bit and noticed the fire growning and growing. It cast a red glow across the whole street I lived on. I then turned to the left and saw a hundred or more local men walking down towards my building carrying axes and shotguns. They were yelling cheers and shooting into the air. They began to set fire to more buildings around me, while breaking the glass and doors of the stores on the first floor of my building and the buildings around me. I was scared and had no idea what to do so I called our safety officer at Peace Corps and she had no idea what was going on (I woke her up). More and more men gathered in the red glow of the burning buildings around me (at least 300 by now), and they began to throw rocks at buildings. I was walking towards the bathroom to seek cover (as this is the only room in my apartment that doesn't have a window facing the street), and a large rock smashed through my window and flew right by my head. I was lucky to have missed it as it was a fist sized stone. I spent the rest of the night hiding in my bathroom, staying on the phone with peace corps, and sneaking peeks to see if my building was on fire. Luckily just as my building was going to get caught by the flames, the fire department came, dispersed the crowd and put out the fire (which I am surprised they put out so much because we don't have fire hydrants here).

I can't even properly describe the terror I felt. I have never felt so trapped in my life. I didn't know what to do if my building caught on fire because if I ran outside I would have surely been killed. I am so grateful that the fire stopped when it did. It was also incredibly terrifying because this incident was about 2 hours long. I spent the rest of the night packing my emergency bag and trying to rest in the bathtub, but I was unsuccessful as I was so nervous about men climbing onto my balcony or my apartment being set ablaze. I can't get the image out of my head of all those mens and guns shadows destroying my neighborhood.

I spent the whole time praying for dawn because I thought it would get better with light. Well, it didn't. 5 o'clock hit and Kyrgyz men came with crowbars and started smashing up the stores right across the street from my building. This continued until a crowd of Uzbek men came and chased them away with rocks. Yes, if you didn't know, this whole conflict is about the ethnic tension between the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, possibly started by a third party for political reasons.

Hundreds of Uzbeks gathered again on my street, but soon scattered into the distant neighborhoods because of police. I was then called by Peace Corps and told to move about a block away to another Peace Corps volunteers house, where many of us would gather to be safe. I did so, and it was relatively safe. 6 of us spent the rest of that first day trying to rest, conserve our energy (I didnt get to eat for 2 days because the gas and electricity were shut off and no stores were open), and hope for the best. We just heard distant fighting and shots the rest of that day and then that night military tanks were roaming the city firing into crowds to disperse them.

The next day (Saturday), we all woke up and got the 4 other PC volunteers in the city to join us (thats 10 now). We were told by PC that we were leaving to the airport to catch a flight to the capital, but the roads were blocked and shooting was heavy on the way. We then had to wait for a new plan. In the mean time, some local Kyrgyz threw a bottle and rock into our window and smashed it. We had to create an emergency plan because we heard that molotov cocktails were being thrown into windows, so we needed to do fire prevention. We positioned the bed and cushions against all the windows, hoping that a molotov would bounce off back into the street. Luckily this was never tested. We spent the rest of the afternoon in complete silence (all phones were off except for mine to conserve our batteries. I kept mine on for communication with PC), and getting many different changing plans from PC.

Finally, at about 6pm we were picked up by 5 kyrgyz men (trusted and hired by PC) who had masks on and guns. They were to escort us to a bus that would take us to helicoptor. We left with them, but the bus got lost so we were exposed on the main street for 20 minutes. It was so eery as all the streets were empty, except for when random cars would drive by with dozens of men and guns in them. One of the cars was stopped on the way by a group of Kyrgyz who pointed their guns at the volunteers in it and screamed, "If any of you are Uzbeks we will kill you all." Luckily our drivers were Kyrgyz and we were somewhat "safer" because we were in Kyrgyz territory. They went away and we spent the next 20 minutes trying to get the bus to come to us while watching troops of Kyrgyz driving past us with guns. We were so scared of being shot at this point. Luckily, we got to the bus that was controlled by the Kyrgyzstan border control, who was to take us to a helicoptor in the city. We got in and after driving a certain way we were blocked by a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of Kyrgyz men who were demanding the guns from the military tank escorting us. The military refused and started firing guns into the air. We all ducked down, but I saw that more gunshots were being fired around us by the local kyrgyz and then rocks and sticks were being smashed against our car windows. We were in this position for about 5 minutes and we were all in control, but I truly felt for the first time in my life that I could have died at that moment. So many men screaming, so many shots in my direction, so much anger. I just could truly see myself not surviving that moment. Again, i can't describe how that danger feels. It is beyond numbing.

Luckily the tank eventually decided to plow through the crowd and we followed. We made it to the heli base and were lifted to the Osh airport where we got a charter flight to Bishkek. We are now safe at the base while our homes and friends burn in the fires of ethnic conflict.

While we feel grateful to be alive and gone, I personally feel guilty because I am so privileged to have the ability to be lifted out of the danger like that while my local friends and coworkers hide for their lives. It is a horrible feeling to have left them to die. Hundreds are dead already, thousands are injured. 150,000 Uzbeks have fled to the Uzbek border; women are handing their babies off to Uzbekistan soldiers at the border so that at least they survive.

Whats worse is that the Uzbeks are not only blamed for this whole thing (as the ethic and hated minority), but they are being targeted not only by Kyrgyz, but also the military. We hear from our Uzbek friends that police are openly killing defenseless Uzbeks on the street. Entire Uzbek neighborhoods are destroyed in Osh. I will never forget the last image I had, flying away in a heli over the city, seeing entire blocks of houses scorched to the ground, with smoke and fire covering the whole city. It will haunt me forever.

Whats worse is that the Kyrgyz government is only providing humanitarian assistance to the Kyrgyz, and leaving the Uzbek out. Please urge your congressperson to push the american government to urge the Kyrgyz government to provide equal aid to all ethnicities. PLEASE. These are my friends and neighbors that are being murdered. Just take a few minutes and call/email. It is an emergency situation, no time to lose. Please leave my name out of your message though.

If you want to see the most accurate news please check out Al Jazeeras Central Asia section.

Email me if you have questions. I have good internet at the base. The rest of the country is completely stable as Uzbeks are mainly just in the south, so don't worry about me being in the north now.

I love you all and I am think I will be home in America soon.

Help the victims of Kyrgyzstans latest violence.