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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

To move forward, Jerusalem must steer its own fate

Analysis: Unless citizens of all faiths find a way to work together, weak leadership and old hatreds will keep the city from a potentially bright future.
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A Ferrari Formula One racing car in action during the 2014 edition of the Formula 1 Peace Road Show on Oct. 6 in Jerusalem, Israel. The two-day event returns for its second year, showcasing stunt performers and exotic vehicles, racing past historic monuments on the ancient city's streets. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM – Behold the new Jerusalem.

Here I was, stuck in ungodly traffic on the outskirts of the ancient walls of the Old City, that sacred quarry of stone that holds traditions dear to all three Abrahamic faiths. And through a crowd lined up along the ramparts and the sidewalks nearby, I suddenly heard the thunder of powerful engines and the screeching of tires.


David Cameron heading the wrong direction on human rights, experts say

Breaking with the European Convention could set the UK back 50 years in human rights progress and have negative global impact.
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Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he delivers his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference on Oct. 1, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Cameron addressed the conference for the final time before the general election in 2015. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

LONDON — An alarming new plan to scrap the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act and break with the European Convention could have sweeping, global ramifications, say human rights experts.

The eight-page document, put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling last week, outlined a course of action that the Council of Europe called “inconceivable.”


In British town, influx of migrants creates conflict

Analysis: The arrival of Eastern Europeans in a traditionally Pakistani area strains neighborly relations.
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HENDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13, 2013: Makeshift shelters constructed by homeless Romanians on the former site of Hendon Football Club. Britain is home to more than 190,000 Romanian migrants, one of the largest Roma populations in western Europe. (Oli Scarff /Getty Images)

SHEFFIELD, England — I take a stroll down Page Hall Road in Sheffield, a typical working class area of the industrial north. The houses are narrow, cramped, identically structured, all rusty red brick and battered front doors.

Children play in the streets, tagging each other and running to the shops to buy sweets and soda. It’s an unremarkable scene except that this one small area has lately become a major focus of immigration conflict in the United Kingdom.


Some of Islamic State’s worst crimes are against women, UN report says

On the militant group’s long list of human rights abuses and potential war crimes, its treatment of women is stark in its cruelty.
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Iraqi Kurdish protesters denounce the Islamic State threat to Yazidi women and girls during a demonstration outside the UN offices in the city of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, on August 24, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of people across northern Iraq have fled violence, which has seen members of minority groups face kidnapping and death, after the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group spearheaded a militant offensive that has overrun large areas of the country. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Beatings, forced marriage, imprisonment and rape – these are the fates of women at the hands of the Islamic State, according to an Oct. 2 report by the United Nations human rights office in Iraq.

The 26-page document, which details abuses committed by the Islamic State (IS) from July 6 to Sept. 10, reveals – amid a litany of human rights violations and possible war crimes – the targeting of women for capture and mass enslavement.

“[W]omen and children who refused to convert were being allotted to [IS] fighters or were being trafficked as slaves in markets in Mosul and to Raqqa in Syria,” according to the report, which relies partly on testimonies from survivors and from prisoners who managed to contact the UN.


The ferryman of Istanbul helps Syrian refugees

One man has made it his mission to help his Palestinian Syrian countrymen find safe harbor.
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300 Palestinian Syrians take shelter in an unregulated camp on the Syrian border. (Xanthe Ackerman/GlobalPost)

ISTANBUL — In ancient Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman who carried the dead from the land of the living into the underworld. In modern-day Istanbul, Nasir is a ferryman for Palestinian Syrians looking to escape violence in the Middle East and find refuge in Europe.

One of Nasir’s recent charges was his friend Ahmad, who in January 2014 left Syria with his wife, his twin daughters and a niece. For three months – while Ahmad called relatives abroad for financial support – Nasir hosted Ahmad and family at The Adar Center, an educational facility Nasir set up in Turkey. After Ahmad had gathered the funds he needed for travel, Nasir connected him to a smuggler who put Ahmad and his family on a ship to Athens.


Remembering why Sinead O'Connor tore up the pope's picture on national TV

Her tactics made her a target and a pariah. Today we know she was right.
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Irish singer Sinead O'Connor sings at a concert in aid of the Chernobyl Children's Project in The Tivoli Theatre on March 6, 2003 in Dublin, Ireland. (AFP/Getty Images)

Sinead O'Connor performed an a cappella cover of Bob Marley's "War" on Saturday Night Live on October 3, 1992, rewriting a few of the lyrics to address child abuse, in addition to the song's initial topics of racism and the horrors of war.

As she finished the song, she produced and tore to shreds a photograph of Pope John Paul II, shouting, "Fight the real enemy!"


Female artisans defy tradition to create Hindu goddesses

One of India's most joyful festivals, Durga Puja, is now in full swing.
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Mala Pal tries to reach out to a money lender over the phone, from her working shed in Kumortuli, Kolkata, India. The idol made for a German client stands to her right. (Priyanka Borpujari/GlobalPost)

KOLKATA, India — Fall in India brings with it the festivity of the goddess Durga among Hindus, who observe the triumph of goodness over evil. Several states in eastern India surrender to a 10-day frenzy, whereby large idols of the goddess are put up in mammoth tents. 


El Salvador’s ‘hidden war’ being waged against women’s rights

Commentary: Harsh laws criminalizing abortion result in imprisonment, death and disability.
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A woman participates in a march on the International Day of Action for the Decriminalization of Abortion, on September 28, 2012 in San Salvador. Salvadorean women marched to ask the government to legalize abortion as a right for women. (JOSE CABEZAS /AFP/Getty Images)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador’s troubled past was marked by 12 years of internal armed conflict from 1980 to 1992, during which many horrific human rights abuses were committed. 

For more than a decade now, the country has enjoyed an era of peace, and major progress has included human rights treaties promising to protect the rights of its people. 

During his inauguration in June, President Sanchez Ceren announced that he will govern "for all" with an "absolute commitment to social justice." 

But my recent visit to El Salvador as secretary general of Amnesty International has revealed how far the country is from a commitment to justice for all. 


Why Hong Kong’s demand for democracy is not just another Occupy

Amid tear gas fired by riot gear-clad police, demonstrators have stayed calm, collected and focused.
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HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 30: A protester covers her mouth with tape that says "democracy." Thousands of pro-democracy supporters continue to occupy the streets surrounding Hong Kong's financial district, calling for open elections and the resignation of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. (Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

LONDON – Heading into the fifth evening of city-wide protests in Hong Kong and solidarity actions across the globe like one planned here in London on Wednesday, it’s clear that the Occupy Central movement is just getting started and will continue through the week.

But while the images of protest may be familiar, this isn’t just another Occupy movement.

The sit-in began last week as a few thousand high school and college students boycotting classes in a show of support for the concept of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, a former British colony ruled by China since 1997. On Sunday, the demonstrations spiraled into an unprecedented movement that is now tens of thousands of people strong. Much of the city has been cleared of traffic for days, as groups of protesters have clogged main arteries of the island and havetaken to sleeping in the streets.


Spanish prime minister drops restrictive abortion bill after dissent

Reactions to the quashing of the bill are as divisive as the attempt to reform the law.
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Bare-breasted activists of feminist movement Femen protest, chained to a cross, against a reform of the country's abortion law at the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid on June 13, 2014. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week Spain’s prime minister abandoned an abortion reform bill that would have become one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, prompting cheers, jeers and the resignation of Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the bill’s architect.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday rejected the proposal, which was presented in December of last year and would have effectively overturned a 4-year-old law allowing women access to free abortions up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy. 

"As president of the government, I have taken the most sensible decision," Rajoy said in a press conference to reporters in Madrid.

Gallardón on the same evening announced the end of his political life, saying it is his “duty to [resign] given that I have not been able to turn the bill into law.”