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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Turkey’s role as refugee host under pressure as requests for asylum increase

Commentary: UN and Western nations are pressed to collaborate in relocating refugees from Syria and other countries.
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A Syrian refugee woman walks among tents at Karkamis' refugee camp on January 16, 2014 near the town of Gaziantep, south of Turkey. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Turkey is host to an increasing number of refugees from Syria, fast approaching one million. By the end of this year, their numbers are expected to approach 1.5 million.

But although world attention has focused on the vast numbers of Syrians seeking protection in Turkey, Syrians are not the only refugees in the country, and its other refugees deserve protection too.


Beyond the rubble: One year after Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh is still reeling

The shadow of the building collapse looms large over the country, its people and its garment industry.

Editor's Note: This is the first piece in a three-part series that goes inside Bangladesh's garment industry to explore how the Rana Plaza collapse served as a wake-up call to an entire global supply chain and how Bangladesh is working furiously to reform itself before another tragedy strikes.


Root of the CAR conflict is a legacy of poverty, not religious warfare

Commentary: The UN peacekeeping force is seen as the best hope for ending killing and providing aid to the Central African Republic, but even they have been complicit in exacerbating the problem.
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Peolpe of the Pulaar ethnicity wait in line in the Begoua district, northeast of Bangui, to receive humanitarian and medical aid on April 9, 2014. The Security Council of the UN has just adopted authorizing the deployment to Central African Republic in September of about 12,000 peacekeepers. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The UN Security Council has voted to send almost 12,000 peacekeeping troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) to stop a two-year-old conflict that the United Nations fears could become a genocide. The UN force would supplement French and African Union troops already on the ground.

Peacekeeping may be the key to ending the violence, but advocates such as Human Rights Watch and the Enough Project acknowledge that a UN effort offers no guarantees for peace – or for building long-term stability in the troubled country.

Pessimism centers on the volatility of the Central African Republic’s post-independence history and the sheer complexity of the current conflict. The country, rich in precious minerals, has survived three military coups and a series of failed revolutions since it gained independence from France in 1960.

The latest conflict began in 2012, when the Séléka, an alliance of domestic rebel militia and mercenaries from Chad and Sudan, invaded parts of the country, claiming to fight against the corruption and abuses of President François Bozizé’s government. A year ago, the rebels ousted Bozizé’s forces and installed Séléka leader Michel Djotodia of CAR as the country’s first Muslim president.


Finding relief in the hip-hop underground of Tunisia's poorest neighborhoods

Four years after the Tunisian uprising, poor youth still live in the shadow of unemployment, poverty and police violence, using political rap as a means to be heard.

TUNIS, Tunisia — A diehard hip-hopper sporting dreadlocks, piercings and an African continent pendant on a necklace, Nakazaki Dali stands out among the crowd of Tunisian men in dark leather jackets and gelled-back hair.

Though 21-year-old Nakazaki doesn’t fit in to this business-as-usual crowd, he’s not alone. The young Tunisian rapper is just one in a generation of young counter-culturists rocking the political boat in Tunisia.

The 2010 uprising that erupted against the regime of former president Ben Ali was also an eruption in Tunisia’s hip-hop scene, and it changed everything for artists.


Lebanon's Syrian refugees: 'An entire generation is growing up with PTSD'

Commentary: The region cannot sustain an endless war in Syria.
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Syrian refugees queue up at a UNHCR registration center, one of many across Lebanon, in the northern port city of Tripoli on April 3, 2014. More than one million Syrians have registered as refugees in Lebanon. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

BERUIT — Refugees are everywhere on the streets of downtown Beirut.

Women and children in filthy clothes beg for money on nearly every street corner. Countless young boys tote shoeshine kits, persistently following foreigners and wealthy Lebanese who pass by. "Min Sooriya" they say, meaning “from Syria.”

As if there was any doubt.


The Sicilian mosque helping desperate Syrian boat migrants

Tens of thousands of Syrians have inundated Italy since the beginning of 2013.
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Inside the Mosque of Mercy in Catania, Italy with director Ismail Bouchanafa (R). (Yermi Brenner/GlobalPost)

CATANIA, Italy — On a sunny afternoon in Sicily, tourists flocked to iconic Catholic attractions like the Cattedrale di Sant'Agata, the Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena and the San Benedetto church, all of which were built hundreds of years ago.

A few blocks away, a Muslim house of worship expanded last year was also full of people who had just arrived in Italy. None of them were tourists.


Workers hold tight to Kenya's bygone 'Lunatic Express' railroad

VIDEO: With the railroad's Chinese-backed replacement in the works, employees share stories of their tough jobs.

MOMBASA, Kenya – In its heyday, the Nairobi railway employed some 24,000 people. Day and night, they worked to keep freight and passenger trains running between what is now Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, and the Indian Ocean at the port of Mombasa.

Nicknamed the "Lunatic Line” and the "Lunatic Express" the railway itself has changed little in more than a century since it was built by the Britishimperial power. Trains still bobble up and down, side to side as they roll along outdated, narrow tracks. Train traffic, derailment and other delays strand cars for hours in the middle of a national park.

But the railway’s workforce has shrunken immensely: Today, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium employs only 3,000 people. They include the usual conductors, engineers, janitors and ticketing booth clerks like Roselyn Mwende.


By invading Crimea, Putin united Ukraine instead of Russia

Commentary: Putin has brought out an unparalleled strength against corruption within the Ukrainian nation. Ironically, the very same national strength he desperately seeks to foster within Russia.
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A Ukrainian student shouts slogans during a nationalist and pro-unity rally in the eastern city of Lugansk on April 17, 2014. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today announced a deal had been reached with Ukraine, the US and the EU to "de-escalate" dangerously high tensions in the former Soviet republic. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Vladimir Putin has been described as many things: tyrant, autocrat, villain, gangster. Few would call him a unifier. But by annexing Crimea that is exactly the role he has played in Ukraine.

Putin invaded Ukraine in part to embolden Russian national sentiment. The Russian president has suppressed any remnants of an independent press, revved up the state-sponsored PR machine, which churns out vicious propaganda in support of increasingly irredentist foreign policy.

He has justified the forced annexation of Crimea as a move to protect ethnic Russians, portraying the Euromaidan, the wave of demonstrations, civil unrest and revolution in Ukraine, as radical fascists sponsored by the United States government. But rather than expose the duplicity of Kyiv, his lies have revealed the truth about Ukraine.


US court rules corporate First Amendment rights trump child miners

Opinion: This week's ruling against the Securities and Exchange Commission's conflict minerals disclosure rules confirms that a corporation's rights have priority over protections for child miners.
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Children wash copper on July 9, 2010 at an open-air mine in Kamatanda in the rich mining province of Katanga, southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Some 400 children from Kamatanda and surrounding villages, who have dropped out of school, help miners transport, sort or wash the mineral. (GWENN DUBOURTHOUMIEU/AFP/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — While many victims of human rights violations were waiting for the implementation of the conflict minerals provision, set to take place in six weeks, the United States Appeals Court of the District of Columbia overturned the measure, on the basis that it violates the First Amendment rights of those corporations that benefit directly or indirectly from human rights abuses in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s mines.

In response to the Congo civil war, where over five million people were killed, the US Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010.

Within this legislation was Section 1502, also known as the conflict minerals provision, requiring American companies to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission by May 31, 2014, whether their products contain conflict-minerals or ‘human rights violation’ minerals — such as minerals attained through child labor practices. Yet, in support of corporate arguments, the appeals court determined on April 14 that the disclosure rules are unconstitutional, as companies should not be forced to reveal such practices because it forces speech that stigmatizes the company’s own products.

This ruling confirms that the freedom of speech is a paramount right and value, having priority over the right not to be subjected to labor exploitation or inhumane treatment.


Gay rights are playing a major role in India's national election for the first time

The Indian Supreme Court's decision to recriminalize gay sex acts has mobilized many in the LGBT community, and leading political parties are taking notice.
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An Indian LGBT activist holds a placard during a demonstration against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of Section 377, which bans gay sex in a law dating from India's colonial era, in Bangalore on January 28, 2014. (MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

MUMBAI — When the Indian Supreme Court reinstated a 153-year-old ban on gay sex, reversing a lower court’s decision that it was unconstitutional, something stirred in the stillness around equal rights activist Pallav Patankar.

“It occurred to me that all these years we had worked on a narrow path of judicial reform against Section 377,” he said, referring to the part of the Indian Penal Code drafted in 1850 by British lawmakers to outlaw homosexual acts. “But now, we could no longer afford to be apolitical. I had voted as a student, a professional, as someone who defended women’s rights, but I hadn’t asked what would happen if I looked at myself as a political entity through a queer lens.”

In the first Indian election where the rights of sexual minorities are a political issue, two national parties, the ruling Indian National Congress and the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have included the reading down of Section 377 in their political manifestos.