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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Afghanistan's 'coming out' for LGBT rights can pave the road to peace

Commentary: The country's national election is heading for a runoff amidst recent commotion over the 'outing' of pious politicians, and the growing LGBT movement wonders who will do more for their rights.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK CITY — A year ago gays didn’t exist in Afghanistan. They were simply invisible — never mentioned in the national discourse — until I applied liberal constructivist theory from international relations when I spearheaded an ongoing queer narrative that eventually gained traction and cemented a gay Afghan identity.

As the election in Afghanistan came into full swing this year, gay identity politics gravitated into the mainstream. In an unprecedented move, the Afghan media has started outing closeted politicians; notably, accusing Wahid Omar, also spelled Waheed Omer, the former spokesperson to President Hamid Karzai, for engaging in extramarital homosexuality despite his persona as a pious family man.

As the gay commotion sizzles in Afghanistan, the full preliminary election results released on Sunday have narrowed the field to a runoff between the two leading presidential candidates. Many still wonder whether Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani is more gay-friendly and who is better suited to lead Afghanistan.

Six months ago, I endorsed Dr. Ghani while the LGBTIQ community of Afghanistan mobilized their underground network (which includes atheists, feminists and humanists) to vote en masse for the former academic. It remains to be seen if the rainbow coalition’s preferred candidate will win the election and what enduring momentum the gay bloc will have on Afghan politics.


Demystifying Turkey’s Vote: How Erdoğan took the election

Commentary: In the wake of the March 30 election, many have called the results corrupt. But could it be that Erdoğan is just the lesser of two evils?
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Supporters of Turkey's ruling AK party (AKP) cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara, on March 30, 2014. The party of Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a strong early lead in local elections, despite turbulent months marked by mass protests, corruption scandals and Internet blocks. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Whether out of lack of contact with ordinary Turks, an attempted self-fulfilling prophecy, or just pure wishful thinking, many both inside and outside Turkey had predicted a large drop in the vote for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the local elections.

Even the AK Party had lowered its threshold of success to 38 percent, a slump from its last general election figure of 46 percent. So when the party managed to snatch 45 percent and declare a resounding victory, many asked themselves the question: how could our guesses have been so wrong?


Guatemala's growing mining sector brings violence against indigenous communities with it

The industry has grown seven-fold since 2006 and the president granted more than 100 mining licenses in the first 18 months of his term, as violent attacks target opposing rural and indigenous communities.
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A Guatemalan soldier frisks a driver at a checkpoint on a road in Mataquescuintla municipality, Jalapa departament, 125 km southeast of Guatemala City on May 2, 2013. President Otto Perez Molina ordered a state of siege for 30 days in four municipalities in southeastern Guatemala just days after security forces clashed with opponents of a Canadian-owned gold and silver mine project who had taken 23 officers hostage. (JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN RAFAEL LAS FLORES, Guatemala — Late on Sunday April 13, Edwin Alex Reynoso and his daughter Merilyn Topacio Reynoso were attacked by gunmen on their way home from a community meeting.

Topacio was killed, her father seriously wounded. Both were active members of the resistance movement against the Canadian-owned Escobal silver mine in San Rafael las Flores, a couple of miles away from where the attack took place. The violence occurred just barely one week after six members of another indigenous community, who are fighting a hydroelectric project, were shot.


Egypt is just one example of how the West is not ready for a true Arab democracy

Panelists at USC-Annenberg called out US policymakers for failing to respect political Islamist groups that do not adhere to American liberal ideals.
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Egyptian men, one wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes, set fire to a US flag as protesters and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood take part in a march against the military in the capital Cairo on January 22, 2014. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — The Arab Awakening offered the United States an opportunity to change its relationship with the Muslim world by allying with democratic movements instead of dictatorial regimes in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.

But as several experts at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School argued Friday at a conference called “Religion, Democracy and the Arab Awakening,” the Obama administration couldn’t get comfortable with an essential element of Arab democracy: the reemergence of Islamist political organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.


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.