Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Aisyah Tajuddin – Hudud Isi Periuk Nasi?

April 3, 2015
A video poking fun at an Islamic party went viral in Malaysia - but the journalist who made it is facing threats and a police investigation

A video poking fun at an Islamic party went viral in Malaysia – but the journalist who made it is facing threats and a police investigation

Journalist Aisyah Tajuddin posted a video poking fun at Muslim fundamentalists.

It went viral.

Now she faces the inevitable backlash, rape threats, death threats, and even a police investigation for blasphemy.

She made the video as a response to proposals for implementing ‘hudud’ laws on Muslims in Kelantan, a rural state in the northeast of Malaysia. The laws would prohibit adultery, apostasy, robbery and theft, which would become punishable by public beatings, stoning, amputation and public execution.

The video shows her crossing an imaginary border into Kelantan, whereby a headscarf suddenly appears on her head. She then finds a rock instead of rice in a packet of food, which she throws away, accompanied by the comment: “Oh well, we have hudud, don’t we?”

Aisyah Tajuddin is a journalist with BFM, an independent radio station.

Typical of the threats is one posted on facebook: “Those who insult the laws of Allah, their blood is halal for killing.”

Islamists complain of Islamaphobia. And apologists for fundamentalists bleat in unison. No, the problem is their bastardisation of women.

Campaigner Michelle Yesudas was questioned after confronting police about the case

Campaigner Michelle Yesudas was questioned after confronting police about the case

Aisyah wasn’t the only person to get caught up in the controversy. The issue touched off a row online between lawyer and activist Michelle Yesudas and the country’s top policeman, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar.

In a series of messages, Yesudas demanded to know what Khalid would do about the threats against Aisyah. “Because I am positively terrified that these crazy, rape-frenzied people are actually the majority in my country,” she wrote.

Khalid’s response was to pull Yesudas into police headquarters for questioning under Malaysia’s colonial-era Sedition Act.

No Woman, No Drive

October 26, 2013

Full support to brave women in Saudi Arabia who today decided to take on the repressive, corrupt regime of the House of Saud.

And what did the brave women do? They drove their cars in a public display of defiance.

Muslim fundamentalists have attacked the women saying, the Koran forbids woman to drive a car.

Yeah right, and The Prophet drove around in a Mercedes.

Muslim fundamentalists call it a conspiracy by women.

It is not only the bastardisation of women in Saudi Arabia. The corrupt House of Saud are propping up the repressive regime in Bahrain, are responsible for much of the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Malala opens a library and gifts The Alchemist

September 8, 2013
Malala opening library

Malala opening library

Even God, chose the medium of a book to send a message to his people. — Malala

Last week Malala (the Pakistani girl the Taliban shot and left for dead) opened a library in Birmingham. She gifted to the library her personal copy of The Alchemist.

Schoolgirl Malala was shot in the head and left for dead by the Taliban, because she campaigned for the right of girls to have an education.

The content of a book holds the power of education and it is with this power that we can shape our future and change lives.

There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word.

It is my dream that one day, great buildings like this one will exist in every corner of the world so every child can grow up with the opportunity to succeed.

When Paulo Coelho learnt Malala had gifted to the library her personal copy of The Alchemist, he was very moved.

We do not defeat terrorists and religious fundamentalists with guns, we defeat them with books, with ideas.

Today, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has notched up two hundred and sixty-eight consectutive weeks in the New York Times best-seller list. Not bad for a book that was first published twenty-five years ago.

Back to the (Soviet) Future

December 14, 2012
Russia clampdown on dissent

Russia clampdown on dissent

“So, let them put me in jail. I’m not afraid at all. I won’t last more than a few days, and frankly at my age I’m likely to die before they manage to throw me behind the bars,” 85-year-old Ludmilla Alexeeva told me nonchalantly in November. Widely referred to as the grandma of the Russian human rights movement, she leads the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the oldest active civil society organization in Russia, founded along with several other Soviet dissenters back in the 1970s.

“I lived in a real totalitarian state and that was scary,” she said. “But now the country is different, people are different — you just cannot compare. Back in 1976, MHG was the only independent group in the USSR. Now things just aren’t the same.”

Things sure aren’t the same, but Alexeeva seems be faced with the very same dilemma she confronted all those decades ago: stop your work or pay a high price. During the Soviet period, she was fortunate enough to be offered exile as an alternative to imprisonment (she lived in the United States for almost 20 years before returning to Moscow after the fall of the USSR). Now she counts herself lucky because her old age won’t allow for prolonged imprisonment.

While today’s Russia cannot be compared to the Soviet Union, it is certainly moving in that direction. In fact, during the first seven months of Vladimir Putin’s new presidency, the echo of the old times has become alarmingly strong. So strong, in fact, that the most prominent human rights defender in the country is seriously contemplating the prospect of soon landing in jail. This is especially poignant since just a year ago, when mass public protests erupted in Moscow following the December parliamentary vote, Alexeeva and other human rights defenders were rejoicing about the awakening of Russian society and hoping for positive change.

Such hopes were apparently premature. In 20 years of on-the-ground human rights monitoring in post-Soviet Russia, Human Rights Watch has not seen a political crackdown as sweeping as the one we are witnessing today. The crackdown was foreshadowed in the lead-up to Putin’s May 7 presidential inauguration, when authorities in some cities repeatedly used beatings, threats from state officials, arbitrary lawsuits and detention, and other forms of harassment to intimidate political and civic activists and interfere with news outlets that are critical of the government. State-controlled media, including pro-government websites, did their best to discredit the Kremlin’s critics by subjecting them to venomous and often depraved smear campaigns.

The Kremlin tightened the screws as soon as Putin returned to power, possibly in response to the humiliation and threat posed by the growing protest movement. The government, it seems aspires to go back to the end of 2007, when Putin was finishing his second presidential term and the Kremlin utterly dominated public and political life.

Parliament has proven to be a particularly useful tool in Putin’s campaign to reinstate strong authoritarian rule. Since May, it has rammed through a raft of laws that set out broad new restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, and provide powerful mechanisms for putting pressure on civil society activists. One such piece of legislation, commonly referred to as the “foreign agents law,” requires non-governmental advocacy organizations that accept foreign funding to register with the Justice Ministry and identify themselves publicly as “foreign agents,” which of course demonizes them in the public eye as foreign spies. Groups are expected to register voluntarily and can have their work suspended or be taken to court if they don’t. If an NGO refuses to register, the head of the organization may face criminal sanctions and go to prison for up to two years. Meanwhile, if the institution registers as a “foreign agent,” the organization must deliver biannual reports on its activities and carry out an annual financial audit. It must also publicize details about the “agent” receiving the funds and the “principal” who’s providing them in a manner that sends a clear message: If you accept foreign funds, your donors are your master.

It’s not for fear of more cumbersome bureaucracy that leading human rights groups are refusing to embrace these requirements. It’s a matter of principle. As they work in the interests of Russian citizens and represent Russian civil society, they simply cannot register as something they clearly are not. Groups that work on controversial issues and do not receive adequate domestic funding are now forced to make an intolerable choice: face criminal sanctions, debase themselves as “foreign agents,” or severely reduce their work. Since the law came into force on Nov. 21, most prominent human rights defenders in the country — including Ludmilla Alexeeva and MHG — have asserted that their groups will not brand themselves “foreign agents,” no matter the consequences. It’s this stand that has Alexeeva anticipating criminal prosecution and the possibility of ending her days behind bars. So far, these actions have not provoked an official response.

The foreign agents law also appears designed to make human rights defenders reconsider a standard aspect of human rights work anywhere: seeking improvements through advocacy. That’s especially true if the foreign agents law is coupled with another dramatic legal novelty — the new law on treason, which conveniently came into force one week before the NGO legislation.

The country’s newly expanded definition of treason now includes “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization … directed at harming Russia’s security.” The overly broad and vague definition seems deliberately designed to make activists think twice before doing international human rights advocacy — and to make lay people think twice before approaching international human rights organizations. In Russia’s current political climate, there is little doubt that the authorities’ threshold for interpreting what “harming Russia’s security” means will be quite low. Those charged with treason face a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years.

When it introduced the treason law as a draft, the Federal Security Service (FSB, the KGB’s successor) issued an explanatory memorandum that justified the amendments by referring to the “active use by foreign secret services” of foreign organizations — governmental and non-governmental — to harm Russia’s security. The FSB contends that “claims about a possible twist of spy mania in connection with the law’s passage are ungrounded and based exclusively on emotions.” At the same time, law enforcement and security services will clearly be able to use the law to justify close surveillance of activists and non-governmental groups in the name of an inquiry, or to open a criminal case for alleged treason as a way of paralyzing a critic or political adversary.

In writing about the treason law and its destructive potential, I cannot help but think that the briefings on the status of Russian human rights defenders that I gave Council of Europe officials in Strasbourg, France in mid-October can now be viewed by Russian authorities as criminally liable. Likewise, the submission to the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women I co-authored in early November or my testimony before the U.S. Congress during the Tom Lantos Commission’s “Human Rights in Russia” hearings on Nov. 15 could trigger criminal persecution if someone at the Kremlin were to conclude that the public exposure of the problems I described was “directed at harming Russia’s security.”

More to the point, my very job description could put me behind bars. As a researcher with Human Rights Watch, my mission is precisely to provide “assistance to an “international organization” — and the issues I focus on could be deemed sensitive from the perspective of national security since they pertain, for example, to abuses by law enforcement and security agencies during counterinsurgency operations in the North Caucasus. What was it again? Twelve to 20 years in prison? A very appealing prospect indeed. And unlike Alexeeva, I don’t have the benefit of old age to help come to terms with that possibility.

True, it’s not yet clear how, or whether, the treason law will be enforced. But that may be beside the point. Belarus, after all, adopted a very similar treason law last year and has to use it against anyone. But the legislation hangs like a sword of Damocles over human rights activists whom the government continues to hound using other tools.

In Russia, the effects of the new political atmosphere are clear and highly damaging. Several weeks before the treason law officially took effect, for instance, the European Union organized an academic conference in Brussels. Human Rights Watch has learned that a prominent social scientist from one of Russia’s regions planned to present a paper there, only to receive a phone call a few days before departure from the rector at his university, who candidly explained that the social scientist should not be traveling to the event if she valued her job or wanted to travel abroad again. Soon, the professor learned that a colleague from another university also decided to skip the conference under similar circumstances. In both cases, the rectors referred to “high-profile warnings” from Moscow and a “tense political climate.”

The foreign agents law is also having a tangible impact on the country — one I experienced firsthand back in August during a research trip to a remote Russian province, where I interviewed medical professionals about a health-care access issue that even the most vigilant official would have a hard time branding “politicized.” Just two days into the trip, local officials confronted me with questions: “Who invited you here?” “Who pays your travel costs?” “Where are your headquarters?” “Who funds your organization?” “Who is the local person arranging your meetings for you?” “Where is your authorization [for the visit] from the federal authorities?” “Where is the proof that you work in Russia legitimately?” They also contacted local health-care workers and cautioned them to stay away from Human Rights Watch and to exercise special caution vis-à-vis “foreign” actors.

Baffled by the experience, I returned to Moscow, only to discover a fascinating internal document from another province circulating on social networks. The letter was dated Aug. 9, 2012, printed on the letterhead of the administration chief for the Mari El Republic in Russia’s Volga region, and addressed to heads of local government agencies and services. It cited growing concern about the “activization of foreign and domestic non-profit organizations,” and called on the officials to make sure that their staff at all levels “minimize participation in programs and socio-political events funded by foreign and Russian non-profit groups.” The message, in other words, was to stop cooperating with these groups altogether.

Later, when the foreign agents law came into force on Nov. 21, activists from the human rights groups Memorial and Russia’s Movement for Human Rights came to work to discover that “Foreign agents! Love USA!” had been spray-painted on the walls of their office buildings. Stickers with the inscription “Foreign agent” were also found on the walls of the building housing the Moscow Helsinki Group.

I learned about the Moscow Helsinki Group and the history of Soviet dissenters in the mid-1990s, when I came to work for the Andrei Sakharov Archives as a graduate student at a university in Boston. Several years later, just before Putin came to power, that line on my CV landed me a job at the revived Moscow Helsinki Group led by Alexeeva. Working alongside some of the people — truly heroic figures — whose dossiers I used to handle in the archives was a heady feeling indeed.

But if someone had asked me back then, in late 1998, whether I thought that one day I could be faced with a choice similar to those Soviet dissidents, I would have laughed. “No way, that’s in the past,” I would have responded. “The Soviet Union is no more, and no matter how challenging human rights work in Russia is, it cannot put you in jail.”

I only wish I could say that now, just seven months into Putin’s third term in office.

— Tanya Lokshina

Originally published in Foreign Policy.

Tanya Lokshina is senior researcher and deputy Moscow office director at Human Rights Watch

Martha Payne Human Rights Young Person of the Year

November 19, 2012
Martha Liberty Award

Martha Liberty Award

Too young to watch Sherlock but not too young for a photo at Liberty Awards!

Too young to watch Sherlock but not too young for a photo at Liberty Awards!

Martha Payne wins for standing up for free expression with her NeverSeconds blog-she also raised £100,000 for Mary’s Meals. — Liberty

Martha was awarded the Human Rights Young Person of the Year Award by Rowan Atkinson, or to her, Mr Bean! Martha starstruck on stage. — David Payne, father of Martha

Brilliant Liberty Awards at South Bank Centre Martha Payne NeverSeconds justly carried off award for Human Rights Young Person of the Year. — Diane Abbott MP

I asked Martha why she thought she had won and she said everyone should have won. Can’t argue with that! — David Payne, father of Martha

Shared a few copies of our book with like minded folk and Martha collected some lovely comments in her copy. — David Payne, father of Martha

Inspiring and moving evening at the Liberty Awards 2012. Back on sleeper homeward bound trying to take it all in. — David Payne, father of Martha

This evening, at an award ceremony in London, Martha Payne was awarded by Liberty Human Rights Young Person of the Year for defending free expression when she stood up to her local council after they banned her publishing pictures of school meals on her blog NeverSeconds.

The citation read:

For defending free expression when she stood up to her local council after they banned her publishing pictures of school meals on her blog, NeverSeconds. Reports of the ban caused widespread national and international outcry and, as a result, the council backed down. Since then, her website has been visited by over 6 million people and has raised over £100,000 for Mary’s Meals, a charity which helps feed children in the developing world.

Martha writes a food blog NeverSeconds. Bullyboys at her local council tried to close her down. But with worldwide support, she stood her ground and refused to be intimidated.

NeverSeconds is her and her father David’s account of her blog, how it came to be written, a trip to Malawi to inaugurate a kitchen to feed schoolchildren for which Martha raised over £120,000.

NeverSeconds was published last week. Shame on Waterstone’s who not only do not have NeverSeconds on display, it is not in stock, not on order and when asked, the staff have not a clue what you are talking about.

Free Pussy Riot: Free the two remaining in prison

October 12, 2012
Yekaterina Samutsevich following her release

Yekaterina Samutsevich following her release

It was excellent news that one jailed member of Pussy Riot was freed earlier this week.

But that still leaves two members in prison following a show trial earlier this year.

They should never have been sentenced to two years in prison. At worst, if found guilty, a misdemeanor that attracts a small fine.

Yekaterina Samutsevich has been freed. Nadya and Masha face imminent transfer to two different penal colonies, where they will not have each other for support, where they will be imprisoned hundreds of miles away from their families in notoriously dangerous conditions. The Russian media has been running a hate campaign against them which puts them at risk of abuse from fellow inmates.

In her live interview with CNN on being released, Yekaterina Samutsevich made it clear that they were not inciting religious hatred against the Church. They were not even attacking President Vladimir Putin. What they were attacking was an authoritarian state, the abuse of power by the state and the abuse of power by church authorities.

Please sign the Amnesty International petition calling for immediate release of Nadya and Masha.

Please forward to all your friends and colleagues.

Arrested for bearing gifts

October 7, 2012
free pussy riot gifts arrested

free pussy riot gifts arrested

Свинтили за то, что она показывала журналистам подарки, которые она собиралась подарить Светозарному.

Arrested for showing reporters gifts destined for Vladimir Putin.

Free Pussy Riot!

August 20, 2012
Pussy Riot v Vladimir Putin

Pussy Riot v Vladimir Putin

Free Pussy Riot supporter in Barcelona

Free Pussy Riot supporter in Barcelona

A man dies from a tumour, so how can a country survive with growths like labour camps and exiles? — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The outrage across the world has been nothing short of phenomenal!

On Friday, three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced in a Stalin-era show trial to two years in prison for staging a peaceful protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin inside an Orthodox church. A judge rejected the argument their act was a form of political protest, instead ruling it was motivated by religious hatred. As the verdict came down Friday, solidarity protests took place in more than 60 cities around the world marking Global Pussy Riot Day.

The Pussy Riot case was seen as a key test of how far Putin would go to crackdown on dissidents during his third stint as president.

What message does it send to the world when the three young women are held in chains, in a cage with bars, then a glass cage, in court for 12 hours a day, not allowed breaks to go to the toilet or to eat, back to prison for five hours, but not to sleep as the only time to prepare their case.

Two years in a penal colony, a slave labour camp, for singing a protest song.

Imprisoned and persecuted writers have PEN, we now need something similar for musicians.

Has nothing changed in Russia since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote Cancer Ward and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?

Is the Kremlin so corrupt and rotten that Pussy Riot brings it crumbling to the ground?

Russia has a collapsing economy. It needed oil at $40 a barrel, it now needs oil at $150 a barrel. Investors will avoid Russia like the plague.

Reagan bankrupted the Soviet Union by forcing an arms race it could not afford and dragging into a war in Afghanistan it could not sustain. Vladimir Putin is now bankrupting Russia by making promises he cannot honour and presiding of a kleptocracy that is robbing the country.

Vladimir Putin is turning Russia into a pariah state. He has backed Assad in the slaughter of the Syrian people, now he is persecuting Pussy Riot for singing a protest song.

Please sign the global petitions in support of Pussy Riot:

We are all Pussy Riot. You cannot kill an idea.

Garry Kasparov beaten by police outside Pussy Riot trial

August 19, 2012
Garry Kasparov beaten by police outside Pussy Riot trial

Garry Kasparov beaten by police outside Pussy Riot trial

Garry Kasparov beaten by police outside Pussy Riot trial

Garry Kasparov beaten by police outside Pussy Riot trial

Garry Kasparov was speaking to reporters outside the Moscow courthouse where the sentencing of the band Pussy Riot was taking place. Suddenly he was violently seized by police and forced onto a bus. Later he was beaten by a group of police. The police department has announced they are investigating whether Kasparov bit and injured an officer. The officer in question is highlighted in this video striking Kasparov with his fist. At no time during or after beating Kasparov does the officer show any sign of injury. The officer stays at the scene after Kasparov is forced onto the bus for the second time and the officer uses both of his hands to adjust his vest.

It is a dark day for Russia.

Three members of Pussy Riot get put on a show trial which bring echoes back to the dark days of Stalin.

Supporters of Pussy Riot outside the court get beaten and dragged away by the police, including former world chess chess champion Garry Kasparov who was in the process of giving a media interview.

We are one Clit! Free Pussy Riot!

August 18, 2012
Pussy Riot in court

Pussy Riot in court

Too long cunts have been kept quiet

The world unites to say it

Come lets free our Pussy Riot

Chainsaw the crucifixes

Remember what they did to witches

Boys branding us as bitches

Keep us kettled in kitchens

Feed us fraudulent fictions

I weep when my sisters are whipped

We feel the force, we’ve flipped

We know every lady is legit

Lets start a Pussy Riot

Cause they fear our pussy power

Now cometh the hour

When we won’t wear their powder

But don balaclava cover

Cause we are one clit

Lets start a Pussy Riot

They can’t cut off our speakers

Cause we have no leaders

We’re all worthy, we’re all one

We put a megaphone in your gun

We want liberation from Putin

And every version of him

We’ve got our flag, we’ll fly it

Until we free our Pussy Riot

— Catherine Brogan

Posted by Catherine Brogan on her blog.

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