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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

A corporate warning to El Salvador: Give up your gold or pay $315 million

As Salvadorans debate a mining ban due to pollution concerns, a large mining company has filed suit against the government.

SAN SEBASTIAN, El Salvador — Vasita Escobar is certain that chemicals from the abandoned gold mine upriver from her house are slowly killing her family.

“This company that has destroyed life, wanted to keep going,” said Escobar, in reference to Commerce Group Corp., a Wisconsin-based outfit that stopped mining for gold in San Sebastian in 2006 after permit difficulties. “My kids never get better—they’re always skinny. They always breathe the river water, they play in there. When I see my kids suffering, I know others’ are too.”

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Looking at Argentina's Catholic women of worship

In Pope Francis' former spiritual home, women hold a paradoxical role.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Sitting in the first pew before the altar at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires — the former church of Pope Francis, then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio — I waited for noon Mass to begin.

The Catholic Church had been at the center of many of our interviews and exchanges over coffee, and it seemed like we’d spent most of our time in this cathedral. But this was the first time on the trip — for me, the first time in maybe 20 years — that we’d sat for Mass. Our first interview had confirmed that, in Argentina, you could not look at the issue of abortion without also looking at the church, and the paradoxical relationship women have within it.

“The Catholic Church is a very patriarchal institution that, historically, has been opposed to women’s rights,” Victoria Tesoriero, a member of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, or Catholics for the Right to Decide, had said in that first interview. “It has bound women to subaltern or domestic roles that are lower in rank — in the hierarchy. This is a place of inequality.”

And yet the Virgin Mary holds great power in the Latin American church.

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A constitutional monarchy may be a realistic option for stability in Libya

Commentary: The US ideal of democracy is fading as rival warlords and rogue militias wreak havoc across the Libya.

BRUSSELS — It has been over three years since the NATO-led military intervention that overturned what was left of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The optimism of that moment of political transformation in Libya and across the Arab world now feels decades away. Such is the disenchantment with what was expectantly heralded as the Arab Spring in 2011.

Egypt seems to have substituted one military strongman for another with the election of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In Syria, there seems to be no end in sight for the bloodbath the revolution has become, and Libya is perched on the edge of a precipice, one move from anarchy.

One has to look no further than Libya’s recent parliamentary elections to understand how bleak the situation has become. With voter turnout hovering around 18.5 percent — only 44 percent of eligible Libyans registered to vote — little hope exists that any of the country’s new “representatives” can gain much legitimacy. Fathi al-Gabasi from the Eastern community of Aoudjila, for example, was elected to parliament with only three votes.

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In Bethlehem, no one is in the mood to celebrate Eid

Commentary: Death and body counts coming out of Gaza have become a part of the daily rhythm in the West Bank. It’s as if Eid is intruding upon this catastrophe, not the other way around.

BETHLEHEM, Palestine — It is the last day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Monday, the first day of a three-day celebration to end Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down, was marked by eerie silence and glum faces in Bethlehem. There were no fireworks illuminating the evening sky as is the custom during the end of Ramadan. The only light that came during Eid was from the candles that Palestinians lit in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp in memory of the some 200 children that were killed by the Israeli army in Gaza during the now 23-day onslaught.

On Tuesday, the second day of Eid, I walked into a fruit market in BeitSahour, a suburb of Bethlehem, expecting to see people buying fruits and vegetables by the armload for the second day of feasting. Three people lingered, haphazardly picking vegetables, their eyes glued to the television set on the wall above them.

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Too many humanitarian crises, not enough global resources

Commentary: An overwhelming number of crises means the international community cannot respond well.

WASHINGTON — Humanitarian crises in the world today — Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan and now Gaza — all demand immediate and massive humanitarian response.

The crises are not only large-scale, affecting millions, but the conflicts also are complex, each with unique political realities and on-the-ground difficulties.

They are not alone among crises competing for our attention. They are simply the biggest, pushing off the front pages other crises where human needs remain urgent: Darfur, Central America, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia.

It’s not only the number and the scale that challenge the humanitarian community, but the proliferation of humanitarian actors, the politicization of humanitarian responses and the insecurity that confronts humanitarian workers.

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Why justice can't be a precondition for Israel-Palestine peace

Analysis: The rage and indignation on both sides of the conflict — many of us not directly involved — is largely missing a rational understanding of the situation.

The days of the Gaza operation drag on. The emotion on social networks is undiminished. Friends’ consciences on both sides of the conflict are boiling and they must share. The world must know!

The opening stanza from the poem, “Could Have,” by Poland’s Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska, speaks to the situation:

“It could have happened.

It had to happen.

It happened earlier. Later.

Nearer. Farther off.

It happened, but not to you.”

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In Bangladesh, still a long way to go for safer workplaces

But progress is being made as Bangladesh's thriving garment industry reforms.

In its first annual progress report released this week, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety cited success in its efforts to improve labor conditions in the South Asian nation’s booming garment industry. At the same time, the Alliance acknowledged the challenges of carrying out its five-year program in a country notorious for tolerating workplace hazards and worker abuse.

A collaboration among North American apparel companies, the Alliance has spent the last 12 months creating guidelines for building safety standards, inspecting garment factories to make sure they were up to par and empowering workers to stand up for their rights. But group officials also estimate that it could take about 18 months and at least $150 million more to complete the projects they began a year ago.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Ian Spaulding, a senior advisor to the Alliance.

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Red Cross worker in Gaza: 'The psychological wounds are many'

Q&A: Maria Cecilia Goin describes the mounting difficulties in providing aid to civilians in Gaza.

More than 600 people have died in Gaza since a wave of new violence between Palestinians and Israelis erupted two weeks ago. The United Nations estimates that over three quarters of those dead in Gaza are civilians, with at least a hundred of them children. A hospital that was hit by Israeli shells on Monday, Al-Aqsa Hospital, claimed five more lives, and injured over 70 people.

The fighting in the region during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has robbed people of basic utilities like water and electricity, and made many others homeless. Aid workers in Gaza told GlobalPost that more than 90,000 people are currently without any water supply, and 18-hour power cuts have become the norm. The bombing intensifies during night, according to one aid worker, terrifying locals who can barely sleep until there is a relative lull after sunrise. And hundreds of people have taken shelter in basements, schools and hospitals.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been working in Gaza since the recent fighting began, providing medical and infrastructural support to local aid workers. GlobalPost spoke with ICRC’s spokesperson Maria Cecilia Goin, who is in Gaza, to learn more about the organization’s efforts.

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UN Security Council dawdles while Syrians die far from the front lines

Commentary: Barrel bombs are a new signature of government’s military campaign against Aleppo.

BEIRUIT — The United Nations Security Council finally adopted a resolution authorizing UN agencies and their implementing partners to deliver aid across the Syrian border without requiring the government’s consent. The government had completely ignored a February resolution calling for it to let aid reach all parts of Syria, including areas controlled by armed groups.

That’s a step in the right direction, if aid finally starts flowing. But it shouldn’t distract attention from another crucial demand the Security Council made back in February: for the warring parties to end indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

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Underage Moroccan girls married off with judges' consent

The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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