Who is going to help the Roingyans? For the last couple of years more than 92.000 Rohingyans are fighting for survival against Myanmar’s military and police forces and fleeing to neighboring countries. The UN accuses Myanmar of ethnic cleaning and the local people are demanding justice to condemn the genocide of the Rohingyans.

Who is going to help the Roingyans?

For the last couple of years more than 92.000 Rohingyans are fighting for survival against Myanmar’s military and police forces and fleeing to neighboring countries. The UN accuses Myanmar of ethnic cleaning and the local people are demanding justice to condemn the genocide of the Rohingyans.

Burmese government forces committed rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 during security operations in northern Rakhine State in late 2016” said Human Rights Watch.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority with a population of some two million people. Most of them live in Myanmar (approximately 800.000 remain in Myanmar) specifically in the Rakhine region in the north of the country. The rest are spread over other countries of Southeast Asia. About 200,000 in Bangladesh and 50,000 in Malaysia.

Although the situation is now critical, the Rohingyas have been persecuted by the government and the Myanmar authorities during the last decade. Between 1991 and 1992 they suffered a massive exodus to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. This is one of the burning examples of religion discriminations in the world. Myanmar is killing the Muslim minorities just because Myanmar is a Buddhist country. According to BBC, Myanmar claims that the Rohingyans are not from Myanmar, they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh. For survival they were forced to leave their country and go to neighboring Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.

According to the CFR Backgrounders, After attacks by Rohingya militants on border police posts on October 9, 2016, the Burmese military undertook a series of “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State. Security forces summarily executed men, women, and children; looted property; and burned down at least 1,500 homes and other buildings. More than 69,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while another 23,000 have become internally displaced in Maungdaw district. There have always been differences between the Muslim minority and the rest of the population, mostly Buddhist. The government asserts that they are not Burmese citizens, because they speak another language, the color of their skin is different and their religion is different. But hatred was revived on May 28, 2012 when the corpse of a Burmese woman of Buddhist religion was found raped  and three Muslims were charged of it. Six days later, a crowd of Buddhists stopped a bus in which, they said, the culprits were traveling and killed ten Muslims. Groups of Muslims and Buddhists clashed in various locations in Rakhine to this day in which the figures of displaced people exceed 200,000 people in the last months alone. Moreover, now Bangladesh says that the Rohingyans are unwelcome, because already there are over 160 million people there and they can’t afford to serve more refugees.

The UN has already accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing as it violates the international law ‘Jus cogens’.

The United Nations Organization and the governments of neighboring countries denounce and pressure Myanmar to solve the problem as soon as possible and end the murders and displacement. A difficult task if we have statements such as the following which came out of the mouth of a senior Burmese diplomat based in Hong Kong : “Actually, the Rohingya are not people from Burma, they are not from the same ethnic group. His complexion is dark brown and our complexion is soft, we are handsome too. They are ugly as orcs”


Mombasa High Court: Kenya to declare anal examinations unconstitutional

Two men who were subjected to anal examinations to see if they had been involved in gay sex, have launched a case before the Mombasa High Court, calling for such tests to be declared unconstitutional.

Allegedly, following their arrest by Kenyan police in February 2015, the two men were also forced to take HIV and hepatitis tests on suspicion of homosexual activity. Like many African nations, homosexual activity is illegal in Kenya and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, although violations are rarely prosecuted.

The two men stated that they  had been inserted with a tube-like object, yet the doctors claim they only had “their private parts observed” while lying down. Neela Ghoshal a senior LGBT researcher spoke of her view of the treatment saying that;

“Anal examinations prove nothing, and they accomplish nothing, other than humiliating and demeaning people who are considered moral outcasts.”

The Independent supports such views, reporting that ,the use of anal examinations to uncover homosexual activity is medically useless.  Moreover, The Human Rights Watch addressed the issue by condemning the treatment as not only degrading, but that it could also amount to torture under international law.

A UN special rapporteur stated in a report this year that “In States where homosexuality is criminalized, men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment.”

In accordance with international law, the Human Rights Watch report that such treatment violates Human Rights under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Un Convention Against Torture as well as  African Convention on Human and People’s rights. All in which are signed and adopted by the state of Kenya.

Nevertheless, many other Sub-Saharan countries, like Kenya, have also implemented strict policies. For many countries in this region homosexuality is more than just a subject of taboo. In fact, it  is illegal in 37 African countries (see map at the end of the article).

Last year Gambian president Yahya Jammeh declared: “We will fight these vermis called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” Whilst in 2013, Uganda’s Parliament even passed an anti-homosexuality bill.

This topic seems to touch the entire African continent. Indeed, just last March, The Human Rights Watch claimed that Tunisia had prosecuted seven men for consensual same-sex intercourse and forcing some to undergo anal examinations

One of the seven students confessed: “ I felt like I was an animal, because I felt like I didn’t have any respect. I felt like they were violating me. I feel that even now. It’s very hard for me”.Human Rights Watch have called on the Tunisian parliament to cease using anal examinations as forensic evidence and to urgently decriminalize homosexuality.

Thus , to conclude,  the condemning of such acts  by many officials including the Human Rights Watch, despite the underlying issue of homophobic legislation throughout large parts of Africa, provides a strong case for the Mombasa High Court to declare such acts unconstitutional.

Skjermbilde 2016-05-09 kl. 15.04.45

Image retrieved from Washington Post


Defending Human Rights is a global issue

IMG_5785Brazilian journalist Ávany França. Credits: Ávany França’s personal file

Journalist, photographer and blogger, Ávany França also holds a master’s degree in Intercultural Relations and is currently working at the NGO Alianza Por Solidaridad, in the volunteering department dealing with themes such as migration. The international organization has a strong work in the Middle East when it comes to defend human and women rights in this conflictive areas, giving civilians support, aid and support in the struggle for a dignity life during war times.

The Middle East has been worldwide news due to civil wars and revolutions. The Arab Spring combined with Western invasions in Arab countries have created violent extremist groups in the region. These extremist groups constantly bomb civilian areas killing people every day, and the local governments seem not to be strong enough to lead with them. As a result of these conflicts, a lot of people end up leaving their home countries in order to find safety somewhere else. “The most common routes are Western Balkan, Eastern Mediterranean route and Central Mediterranean route. Those routes have been used for refugees for many and many years,” said Ávany, who also explained how the refugees leave their countries. “The sea is the mainly mean used. It is unsafe and the number of people that dies trying to cross the ocean is also high.” A Syrian boy who was found dead in Turkey cost because his boat had drowned on the way to Europe has shocked the world recently.

As a Brazilian citizen, she also said that even though Brazil is open to receive refugees, it doesn’t provide them a social integration, only assistencialism. A problem that refugees not only find in Brazil, but also in other countries that receive them. According to her, “there is very little effort to integrate the refugees in the sense of being part of the new society.” She also explains the consequences of not fully integrate the refugees: “As a result, the society does not accept them fully, the refugees do not find a place in the new country and discrimination, and separation become a reality. With no real integration practice, the possibilities for those people feel as part of the new society and raise their voices is very limited.”

Although the refugee movement is getting more and more space on the media, still a lot of people have some sort of prejudice about them. Ávany explained that this prejudice is not only an issue in Europe but global, and it comes from the fear of the unknown. She adds: “Who are those people, what are their values, how kind of attitude can we expect from them? Those questions normally are not clarified and from the citizen’s point of view can be seen as a threat.” Ávany says that people’s reactions to the unknown are usually negative so that’s why migration policies programs should work in order to inform and to educate not only the local population, but also the refugees.

In conflictive areas the ones who suffer the most are the children. Ávany says that unfortunately education cannot be provided to them during war times since the priorities are others such as providing them food, security and dignity. She also adds: “What we need as a society, and I am saying that in a global sense, is to work very hard to avoid calamities like that keep happening in the world. Ávany says that it’s our responsibility “to fight for less social differences, for human rights and so on.”

When it comes to defend women’s rights, the NGO Alianza Por La Soridaridad have had a strong impact in the Middle East. The NGO works along with local partners in order to rise up women’s voices through creation of protocols, improvement of the care of victims, promotion of networking and support of women’s organizations. In this region, “women essential needs have been neglected wisely”, said Ávany who also explained that many women in the Middle East have been facing extreme difficulties and no rights respect due to the fact that they have no economic power or autonomy. She also complements: “Many women suffer social abuses, such as not to be able to decide on their sexual relationships, marriage, motherhood, and number of children.”

Although feminism movement as women fight for economic, social and political equality of sexes is getting bigger every day, this reality is significantly slower in the Middle East since women from this region also face religious and traditional barriers. Ávany explains that equality is an issue that will be sorted out in 118 years-time and also adds: “Unfortunately, we as a society are very far away to promote equality [of gender]. However, the positive point is that people in general can get more and more information about this gender issue and about how important this is everywhere.” She even uses Africans communities as an example of women’s struggles, “where women have suffered the powerful of tradition over their rights as human beings to the salary inequality between male and female professionals in developing countries.”

Written by Maria Beatriz Esperidião

Inés Díez de Frutos: “Who looks after refugees in Europe?”

Inés Díez de Frutos is a modern heroine who fights for the basic rights of migrants and refugees that arrive to Europe. She fights for the their Human Rights.

MADRID – Inés Díez de Frutos is an active member of Amnesty International since 2004, date she joined the organisation. When it comes to explain her actual role in Amnesty International, Inés explains how lucky she is to dedicate herself to work on something that motivates her. “I fight for the defence of Human Rights”, she responds being proud of herself. Inés is actually a member staff of the State Secretariat of Amnesty lnternational section in Spain whose actions are focussed on  refugees and immigration issues. Amnesty International has decades working with refugees and migrants. It has helped to prevent the return of refugees to countries where they may face persecution and protect the most vulnerable migrants from exploitation and abuse by their employers and those engaged in trafficking and smuggling.

Refugees from Syria and Libya and also migrants from North Africa are trying to reach Europe in hope of a better life. In 2013, EU received 225.000 asylum applications and only 14 per cent of the migrants that applied for asylum  have been relocated throughout the continent. Moreover, 10 million people are stateless, that means no country recognises them as citizens. This figure however does not take into account illegal migration. Inés distinguishes between refugees and migration. She assures that the number of asylum applications do not match with the total number of individuals that get in Europe. Asylum seekers and refugees are people who have been forced to leave their countries because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees are individuals persecuted for any of the reasons listed in the Geneva Convention and not just for political reasons. Regarding the refugees who are seeking asylum in Europe, EU holds exclusive competences on asylum and  refuge. So, the European Institutions set the political agenda of this matter. Inés thinks: “I do not think that European policies are aimed to help refugees, their efforts are focussed on the prevention of refugees to get in Europe”. Inés, speaking out on behalf of Amnesty International, demands Europe for the compliance with International treaties which were signed and ratified. Those International Treaties allow refugees to reach European territory and apply for asylum. Therefore, “We call EU for the creation of a humanitarian visa as well as for the creation of a Resettlement Migrants Plan”, Inés suggests.

As she pointed out during the interview: “Migrants and refugees leave their home because instability or bad living standards. They reach Europe being full of hope. However, they still being poor and most of them get job offers under exploitation conditions. Who looks after refugees in Europe? Amnesty International does. We fight for the provision of human rights for those do not have” Inés says.

Inés stressed the indifference of Westerns when it comes to solve problem that are not directly related to them. Al, the department of Amnesty International where Inés is working at, is an advocacy organisation. Inés through Al works on getting governmental support for implementing policies that have positive impacts on refugees’ human rights. “We are following the guidelines provided by plan formulated to international level. At the moment, we are running a campaign named SOS Europe”, Inés confirms. She explains that ‘SOS Europe campaign’ provides assistance and rescue for individuals that try to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Child refugees  are easily adaptable to new cultures. However, adult refugees posses different values and cultures compared to Europe. Inés believes that the creation of ghettos in European cities or the rise of racist movements are not related to great amount of refugees and migrants that arrived to Europe for the last years. As she expressed: “I do not think that insecurity could be attributed to migrants, refugees or both of them”. She also mentions that media and politicians usually named migrants as “intruders” who take advantage of the generosity of host countries. This artificial image of migrants leads to racism and discrimination. Despite common Knowledge, migration cause positive impact on refugees origin States. Amnesty International does not provide refugees with the education or training needed to get a job because the organisation is not a NGO. Inés pointed out Amnesty International requires EU policies to respect the Human Rights of refugees to be them protected from racist movements, xenophobia, exploitation at workplace. Inés affirms: “None should be repatriated to their home country where they are at risk of human rights abuses.

Interviewee: Inés Díez de Frutos.

Interviewee: Inés Díez de Frutos.

Interviewer: Isabel Berga Romero

Interviewer: Isabel Berga Romero

Note: This interview has been translated originally from Spanish.

Ana Salado: “Women are Africa’s greatest engine”

Ana Salado talks women, development and cooperation. Speaking of morally-rewarding jobs, here is hers.

Madrid – Ana Salado does not have a regular job. As the Communication Manager of the non-profit Mujeres por África, her tasks go beyond having to keep up with the reporting of projects, receiving visitors, updating social media or covering news regularly. She is also a loyal brand ambassadress of the organization; using an expressive language as she speaks, full of hope and passion. “It all starts with awareness, then there comes the knowledge. Whenever you open a window, you realize there is a whole new world behind it yet to be discovered”, she says to describe the foundations of MXA.

The Madrid headquarters of this NGO tell stories through its tribal decorations. Their main goal is to be a transparent organization, keeping in constant touch with people, both in Spain and in African countries. “We are an organization for development, not a NGO dedicated to help. We promote development in Africa through women with medium and long-term projects”, she explains. The majority of them are implemented in Africa, monitored by a coordinator who travels to the region where the project is being implemented and who reports to Ana and the rest of the team. “We also have a few projects that only take place in Spain, as Africanas en España, providing coverage and support for those nearly 500,000 African women established in Spain and Ellas investigan, an initiative aimed at bringing scientist African women to Spain for a gap year”. This was launched in 2014 and works in association with six Spanish research institutes, being one of them Severo Ochoa.

The president and founder of MXA, former vice president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, also plays a key role in the communication of these projects. Ana recalls her once saying, “African women have become my great cause to fight for”, and that is how it all started three years ago. “Most of her time is taken up by Mujeres por África”, explains Ana, “she also is State Advisor for the government but manages to remain active and involved. Most of her head and heart are put into our projects”.

Every single project MXA is engaged in is different, but they all share a common goal: empowering women. In order to achieve this, the collaboration of national governments and their knowledge about the implementation of projects is essential. Women have a leading role in Africa as peace agents, and MXA as well as national governments are well aware of it. They are instructed to include women into peace agreements. “Women have starred many peace movements,” says Ana, “their inclusion into governments for these arbitration purposes is slowly developing. Achieving peace is the beginning of everything when there is an armed conflict”. For the most of the Sub Saharan countries, there has been at least one armed conflict in the past 50 years, being women and children the main victims. As Ana tells, “in the case of women, they are used as war weapons by combatants as a strategy to consume the enemy. We must not forget that during war times, women are the only support the civil society has since men are for the most part incorporated into the battlefields.”

Women carry the weight of the household, and that is why they benefit from social services designed specifically for them. Some countries have ministries dedicated to women, which have ratified the Maputo Protocol for Women’s Rights. Ana believes those campaigns help to raise awareness within society. “It is admirable how women are conscious of their rights and capabilities of evolving and contributing to the economy.” Despite common knowledge, women in the African society are extremely aware of their rights, and they know they have to fight for their empowerment. The drawbacks of culture and traditions have a big effect on the evolution of mentality, but Ana is convinced that happens in every culture. “There are some amazing movements for women’s rights, such as the ones in Ghana or Kenya”. She explains that the one in Kenya unifies all women associations of the country, summing up to thirty thousand female activists. “Their influence is so high that it has led to constitutional changes in some occasions.”

Even though Mujeres por África does an outstanding job, there is a lot of work to be done, especially in terms of awareness. “The main thing people can do from home about our women is becoming interested in Africa.” Ana is convinced in Spain we have lived for many years turning our heads against the huge unknown that Africa is, so now it is time to approach them, stop the prejudices, and react. “Sometimes we forget some of our every day life needs are fulfilled by resources from this continent. If people want to help from home, Mujeres por África has a supporting branch called Amigos de la Fundación. Their role is merely as supporters, it does not imply contributing economically. “It is good feedback for us to know there are some people who support the cause, at no cost.”

DSC01563bInterviewee Ana Salado with interviewer Marta Parra, in the Mujeres por África head office in Madrid.

Note: This interview has been translated originally from Spanish.

25 years after Tiananmen – Is China afraid?

Today, (the 4th of July) the Chinese Government has an eye on the Tiananmen Square protests due to the 25th anniversary that has taken place in Beijing in 1989.

China deployed huge security measures in order to prevent any possible commemoration of the Beijing massacre, and recently the Chinese authorities have detained dozens of activist in order to prevent the diffusion of the past historical event that is being celebrated. China has defined the Tiananmen’s protest movement as “counter-revolutionary” to the principles of communist ideas. Several governments, such as the United States, urge China to account for what happened on June 4th, 1989. Even the Nobel Peace Prize winner and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader – the Dalai Lama – puts pressure on Chinese authorities to embrace democracy.

Retrieved from: http://goo.gl/cqJMeA

Illustration – Tank Man. Retrieved from: http://goo.gl/cqJMeA

Everything started with the death of the Chinese dictator Mao Zedong. His successor Deng Xiaoping implanted new and more open policies in terms of worldwide economic relations as well as in national education.

In 1987, the ‘’more liberal’’ official of the communist party Hu Yaobang was ceased by others more extremist members of the party, and he died later by a heart attack on April 8th, 1989. His death generated a big reaction in Chinese society: first, few students were accused of demonstrating illegally against the regime, and almost one month later, more than 200.000 people – especially students – took the streets claiming for more rights and freedoms.

On May 14th, protesters begun with a hunger strike. After a few days of protests in the Square – occupied by mainly students – on the 20th of May, the government declared the martial law, but the military forces were unable to enter the city due to the large numbers of students and citizens. On the 3th of June, the troops received orders to reclaim the Tiananmen Square at all costs. At night, soldiers opened fire on the people that have been occupying the square, causing lots of victims.

Obviously, the major part of the population was terrified with the happening of the massacre in the square, and tanks were a nightmare for all passers-by in the street. In this context, a photo taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, became very famous on an international level. His photo shows an unknown man called the ‘Tank Man’ (see Illustration), who stood fearless and angry in front of a column of tanks.

Nobody knows if this man continues alive, but the consequences of that photo produced a huge pressure, exerted by institutions and foreign governments, towards China in order to promote Human Rights & peace in the region. Therefore, the Chinese government has to face the consequences such as a damaged reputation towards the international community.

After more than a half-century of the Chinese People’s Republic in power, the Human Rights are still a huge pending issue in the region. While most young Chinese are unaware of the Tiananmen event, others suffer repression more strongly with long prison punishments, exile or even executions under completely unfair trials that are all kept silence, favoring the government.

The most recent trials have been convicted activists such as Gu Yimin, Cao Shunli, Chen Wei, Chen Xi and Tan Zuoren who were convicted for publishing poems as well as papers related to the democratic reform in China. Even today, the total number of victims and detainees are still unknown – but these strangleholds do not prevent victims to be remembered worldwide.

North Korea Under UN Investigation for Alleged Human Rights Violations

Michael Kirby, head commissioner in UN investigation of North Korean human rights violations.  (from Voice of America)

Michael Kirby, head commissioner in UN investigation of North Korean human rights violations. (from Voice of America)

North Korea has been scrutinized for their human rights practices for years now.  This past March marked the start of a United Nations investigation of North Korea after many defectors were brave enough to commit to testifying.  It is  believed that North Korea’s practices are in violations of the United Nations international human rights law.  According to the United Nations website, “International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect… States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.”  The head of the UN review of North Korea’s practices, Michael Kirby, says that the nation is “engaged in large-scale human rights abuses.”  According to NHK World, Kirby has been unsuccessful in getting North Korea to cooperate in the investigation, but that “North Korea has maintained that the inquiry is a political plot launched by its enemies and should not be believed.”

In addition to great speculation of these violations in the past and many proposed resolutions, this summer, the United Nations began this review in Seoul, South Korea.  There, the panel heard testimony from defectors of the North about the horrible situations they faced after being deported back to North Korea from the nations to which they fled.  Similar stories were heard later in the summer in Tokyo and most recently in London this past week.  Park Ji-hyun was one of the brave nearly 200 testifiers against the nation for the alleged “torture, sexual violence, denial of food, arbitrary detention, abduction of foreigners, [and] the return of refugees to certain imprisonment” (Voice of America).  In her testimony, she recounted her escape to China in 1998, where she was forced to marry a Chinese gambler with whom she had a son.  When she was later arrested and forced to return to North Korea, she had to leave her son behind (Arirang, Korea).

Arirang:  UN Coverage of North Korean Human Rights Hearing [YouTube]

Independent estimates have reported that 150,000-200,000 people are detained in North Korean prison camps (Reuters).  Many ex-prisoners of these camps shared their experiences that were similar to, and some even far more gruesome than that of Park Ji-hyun’s.  Jee Heon-a, an ex-prisoner told of her experience in a North Korean prison camp:  “Everyone’s eyes were sunken. They all looked like animals.”  She told of the salted frogs that were the only source of food for herself and the other prisoners, and she told of a mother who was forced to murder her newborn child  (Reuters).

CNN Coverage of North Korean Violations Hearing & Imprisonment Story [YouTube]

The investigation is expected to continue this week in Washington DC, where further testimonies will be heard from witnesses, including Joe Bermudez, an expert on North Korean defense and intelligence affairs, David Hawk, a long-time human rights advocate, and more.  In a press release, Michael Kirby stated “Although we do not have direct access to the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)], we are still able to gather vital information from individuals who have bravely come forward to tell their stories” (Yonhap, South Korea).  Recommendations from the commission that are due in March will be passed on to the United Nations for review, when the UN will make a decision on what should be done (WXPI, Pittsburgh).