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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

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.
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Libyans condemn and urge for an end of war during a protest at the Algeria Square July 26, 2014 in Tripoli, Libya. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

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.
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An Iraqi family fleeing violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, arrive at the Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on July 1, 2014. Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq to be disbursed through the United Nations to those in need regardless of sect or ethnicity, state media reported. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian (C) during clashes following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014. Israeli security forces are on heightened alert after a Palestinian man was shot dead during a huge protest in the West Bank against Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Palestinian factions in the West Bank declared a 'Day of Rage' after the previous night's clashes around the West Bank and in some sectors of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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Bangladeshi activists and relatives of the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse take part in a protest marking the first anniversary of the disaster at the site where the building once stood in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24, 2014. The Rana Plaza building collapsed on April 24, 2013, killing 1138 workers in the world's worst garment factory disaster. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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Civil Defense workers evacuate the body of a little girl killed during the ongoing Israeli military offensive on the Shejaiya neighborhood between Gaza City and the Israeli border, which has left more than 50 people dead in a blistering bombardment which began overnight, medics said on July 20, 2014. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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A resident of Syria's Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, pushes a trolley loaded with a box of goods distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on July 17, 2014. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been laying siege to Yarmuk since last year. (RAMI AL-SAYED/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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US government funding another anti-Castro social network in Cuba

ZunZuneo, the so-called 'Cuban Twitter,' was reported in April but actually closed in 2012. Now meet Piramideo, a mobile network aimed at young people.
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A Cuban boy uses his mobile phone next to a poster of Cuban former President Fidel Castro in June 2010 in Havana. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

HAVANA, Cuba — The US government is using a sophisticated cell phone program in a failed effort to spark anti-Castro demonstrations on the island, according to Cuban officials and a US expert.

The US Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) sponsors a cell phone service called "Piramideo" (roughly translated as Pyramid), which spreads propaganda through text messages, according to Nestor Garcia, a former Cuban diplomat who now teaches at the Institute for International Relations in Havana.

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In India, village elders sanction ‘retaliatory rape’

Despite new laws, a harsh patriarchal system continues to punish women for the crimes of men.
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Indian activists from the Social Unity Center of India (SUCI) shout slogans against the state government in protest against the gang-rape and murder of two girls in the district of Badaun in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and recent rapes in the eastern state of West Bengal, in Kolkata on June 7, 2014. The protests came amid a growing uproar over the killings in Uttar Pradesh, with the United Nations saying violence against women should be regarded as a matter of basic human rights. The two cousins, aged 14 and 12, were found hanging from a mango tree in their impoverished village, with subsequent tests showing they had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults. (Dibyangshu Sarkar /AFP/Getty Images)

In another shocking display of sexual violence in India, a 14-year-old girl was dragged through a forest and raped Monday last week as punishment for her brother’s alleged sexual assault of a neighbor’s wife.

The woman’s husband, Nakabandi Pasi, carried out the “retaliatory rape” with the consent of a village elder who was also Nakabandi’s father-in-law. No one dared intervene, villagers told The Indian Express.

The assault – which occurred in a village in Bokaro in the eastern state of Jharkhand that is home to people from India’s lowest caste – was the second time this year that local leaders used rape as punishment. In January, a 20-year-old woman from West Bengal was gang raped on the orders of her village council because she fell in love with a man from another town.

These crimes reflect the strict patriarchal system still dominant in rural India. Women’s bodies are viewed as repositories of their family’s honor, and any risk or damage to that honor – whether it’s falling victim to sexual assault or daring to wear jeans – requires retribution. That could mean an “honor killing,” as in a case last year when a couple planning an elopement were brutally murdered by the man’s family.

Or it could mean rape as punishment.

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