Connect to share and comment

A blog about human rights in their many forms.

For US and African leaders at summit, a time to invest in next generation of girls

Commentary: Education, ending child marriages are key to unlocking potential of African girls.

NAIROBi, Kenya — “I really want to go back to school so that I can get a job and live a better life,” Changamile told us from her home in rural Malawi. But Changamile married at 16, and she has too much housework and no support from her family to return to school.

More

The end of Ramadan brings no pardon for poets

Throughout the Muslim world, Ramadan is a time when dispensations are handed out for convicts of nonviolent crimes, but this year, amnesties were not given to writers.

Eid — the end of Ramadan — has come and gone. Traditional pardons have been handed out. In Qatar, poet Mohammed al Ajami (Al-Dheeb), was not among them. He continues to live in a prison in the desert, serving a 15-year sentence for two poems, one praising the Arab Spring and the other critical of the Emir.

He and his poems “encouraged an attempt to overthrow the regime,” according to the charges.

More

Sending ammunition to Israeli military, US shows a legal loophole

Despite war crimes accusations against Israel for killing more than 900 civilians in Gaza, the US has transferred tank ammunition and grenades to its military.

The United States has transferred tank ammunition and grenades to the Israeli military in order to refill stocks being depleted in Operation Protective Edge, according to recent reports.

More

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.”

More

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.

More

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.

More

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.

More

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.

More

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.”

More

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.

More