Category Archives: Human Rights

Malala Yousafzadi’s Journey to the UN

Photo copied from the Internet - All rights reserved to its ownership.

Photo copied from the Internet – All rights reserved to its ownership.

— By Alexandra Kinias —

Malala Yousafzadi is a breath of fresh air in an environment polluted with gunpowder and radicalism. She is a spring blossom growing in a field of thorny bushes, only to be injured by their needles. In October 2012, on her way back from school, Malala’s school bus was ambushed by the Taliban. She was shot with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. The young girl was left to die, together with two of her friends who were also shot on site. She was fifteen years old.

Though Malala was not the first to be assaulted by this terrorist group, yet she was specifically targeted in this tragic attack that was condemned worldwide. Many other girls face the same fate together with their teachers in sporadic attacks around Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan where the Taliban influence dominates. The girls’ only crime was going to school.
Malala’s journey to recover from her brain injuries was remarkable, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The young girl has demonstrated, throughout her life, nothing but strength, resilience and courage.

Growing up in the Swat province in Pakistan, Malala had experienced the Taliban’s rule first hand. A smart young student, in 2009, at the age of 12, she wrote for a BBC blog under a pseudo name about her experience living under the Taliban during the battle of Swat. As the war intensified, her family was dispersed from their hometown and Malala ended up living in a refugee camp for few months. Later that year, after her family reunited at the end of the war, she returned back home only to find that the Taliban had closed the girls’ schools. Inspired by her father’s activism in political life, Malala committed herself to become a politician and an activist for girl’s rights. In the documentary for the NYTimes, Class Dismissed, she explained why she wanted to be involved in the political life, “I have a new dream … I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.”

By the end of 2009, she had received wide international exposure and began to publicly advocate for female education. She brought the world’s attention to the critical situation of girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In her speeches, she bravely condemned the rule of the Taliban and demanded the right of girls to go to school. After receiving the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, her name received wider recognition, but that came with a price: her life was on peril. At the age of only 12, Malala was receiving death threats from the Taliban. But in defiance to them, she didn’t deter from the active role and the course of life she had set for herself. As the death threats failed to silence her, the Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her, in a meeting they held in the summer of 2012.

The failed assassination attempt on Malala was justified by the Pakistani Taliban that she was the symbol of the infidels and obscenity, and if she would to survive, the group would target her again. They blamed her father whom they claimed had encouraged her to attack the Taliban in her speeches. According to the Taliban, Malala’s defending her right and the right of girls to go to school was propagation against Islam, but the truth of the matter is that the Taliban view women’s education as a direct threat to them and what they represent. Malala was shot in the head. They wanted to blow her brain out. That’s exactly what the Taliban want; to rob women their right and privilege to think. Taliban fear the education of women. With girl’s education they will lose their control and dominance over them, this control that only thrives with ignorance.

After the recovery from this reprehensible attack, Malala emerged stronger and more resilient than ever. On July 12, 2013, on her sixteenth birthday, she delivered a speech in the UN that was viewed by millions of people worldwide. On the event that was dubbed as Malala Day, she was draped with the shawl of the late Benazir Buhto, the Pakistani politician who was also assassinated by another radical group. Malala captivated the hearts with her speech and received multiple standing ovations as she delivered her powerful statement that incited peace, forgiveness, courage and strength. Her speech to the UN was not just a blow to the terrorists who wanted to silence her, but also a reminder on which side the world is standing. The battle between darkness and light is long and fierce. Even though the weapons of the darkness are more deadly, but as Malala said in her speech, “Pens are mightier than guns.”

The aspiring young woman is setting an example of hope and determination. She is a role model of defiance for all the girls who are battling to go to school under inhumane conditions, and bullets. Malala believes that education is the only hope for a better future and she is determined to fight for every child’s right for education.“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” Malala said.

For more on Malala Yousafzai:

Malal’s Speech at the UN:

Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights

Letter from Taliban to Malala Yousafzai: Why we shot you?

The text of Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the United Nations

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Egyptian teacher Demiana Abdelnour is the new victim of blasphemy case

DemianaAbdelnour

By: Alexandra Kinias —

Defamation of religion is a phenomenon that is practiced in societies where religious extremism is rooted. In such societies, zealots condemn, prosecute and kill those who speak out against their faith, while giving themselves the license to do and say the exact same against other religions.

With the rise of Islamists to power, Egypt is aggressively following in the footsteps of countries that have been labeled amongst the worse in human rights, freedom of expression and religion. The detention of 24-years old Coptic school teacher Demiana Abdelnour on May 8th is another reminder to where the country is heading. Abdelnour was arrested following complaints by the parents of three of her students at the primary school where she taught. The parents claimed that the social sciences teacher insulted religion and the Prophet Muhammad by saying that the late Pope Shenouda III performed more miracles than the Prophet. They also alleged that she placed her hand on her stomach to convey nausea when mentioning the Prophet. The accusations were entirely based on the testimony of the three students, all under the age of ten. Abdelnour denied all such allegations. And according to the school administration and the confessions of ten other students there was no truth to any of those allegations. [1]

The incident of Abdelnour is just another in the long strand of events that target the Coptic minorities and affirms that the religious intolerance is steadily increasing. It is only predictable that this phenomenon that has started growing roots in the society will eventually become a trait in the absence of the supervision of civil institutions. The ruling party is keeping closed eyes on the exploitation of the Copts, to threaten and control them. What more can prove that they are being targeted by the government than seeing the police forces standing aside while the Pope’s headquarters was  attacked by angry rioters? This incident was the first attack on the seat of Christianity in Egypt in more than 1,400 years. [2]

Amnesty International has called for the release of Abdelnour. “On numerous occasions, Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities not to prosecute individuals based on blasphemy laws, which criminalize criticism of or insult religious beliefs,” read a statement issued by the international organization. [3]

Unfortunately, there is a discrimination factor in cases of defaming religion because the majority of people accused are Coptic Christians, Bahá’ís or atheists and as labeled by Abdelnour’s lawyer; it is a one way street cases. [4]

Meanwhile Abdelnour was being held in custody based on testimonies of three 10-years old school children, the owner of the evangelical Islamic channel, Al-Omma TV, Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah, known as Abu Islam, and his son Islam, were also accused for the chargers of “insulting the Christian faith”. Abu Islam and his son tore up and set on fire a copy of the Bible during protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo against a US-made film mocking the Prophet Mohammed. None-the-less, both father and son were arrested, released on bail, but not convicted. The reason for his arrest might have been for the international media to affirm that the government doesn’t tolerate blasphemy from either side. But he was immediately released on bail and back to his show with intense aggression against the the Christians and the church.[5] [6]

His television show is the media where the notorious Abu Islam, (father of Islam) spreads his venom. He openly refers to Christens as infidels, feverishly insults the church, Jesus and Mary. His blasphemy is available on youtube for the world to watch. [7] [8] [9] In the spam of years, he was questioned a couple of times by the authorities only to return back with more aggression, disrespect and profanity against the Copts and Christianity. Abu Islam is still on  TV squirting his venom to his viewers and fueling the sectarian tension. [10]

The madness in his eyes and malignancy of his soul, the aggression in his voice and the hatred and intolerance in his words are alarming. But he is not alone. There are tens of Sheikhs like Abu Islam all over the television screens. The business is thriving.

With the high level of illiteracy in Egypt, the hegemony of the unqualified religious Sheikhs is causing the already decaying society to collapse. They preach intolerance through their malicious dialogue in mosques, schools, television, and anywhere they have an audience. They spread racism, fear, abuse, violence and ignorance. Their words are falling on suppressed psychologies where they give them false feelings of power and a delusion of supremacy as being God’s chosen.

It is quite an intriguing psychological relationship between these predators and their victims.  Religion is becoming a lucrative business. And the louder and more obnoxious these preachers are, the bigger contracts they get. The malignant control over the masses give them wealth, power and prestige. They manipulate their victims and control them like puppets. Suppressed in their own societies and feeling inferior, the Sheikhs throw them baits that give them a sense of superiority in an illusionary realm. They are promised a better life and are brainwashed to believe that following the rigorous doctrine of Islam would automatically transcend them into the vicinity of the powerful. It is not merely the fear of the other or the insecurities to defend their faith that create these chaotic behaviors. These dialogues also resonate more with the suppressed and abused who find in violence and abuse of the other a relief to their own maladies.

Abdel Nour will not be the last case of blasphemy Egypt will witness in the near future. And with no action taken to punish these Sheikhs or reform their dialogue, we should bid adieu to the country that was once a safe haven to all religions. A country that may leave its mark in the  twenty first century by reverting back to medieval times.  

* After going on a hunger strike, Abdel Nour was released on L.E. 20,000 bail. This amount is twenty times higher than what others have paid for similar chargers, except for Abu Islam’s. “This bail price is completely arbitrary. When you are forced to pay this much money it is not procedure, it is punishment.” Her lawyer said. [11]

References:

1. 4. Daily News : Coptic teacher remains in prison

2. Coptic Pope speaks out on Muslim Brotherhood

3. Amnesty International: Egypt releases teacher accused of blasphemy

5. Abu Islam burns Bible : youtube video with subtitles

6. Al Arabiya News: Detained Egyptian sheikh who said it is ‘halal’ to rape female protesters.

[7] Abu Islam Insults the Christians and the Church after his release. – youtube

[8] Abu Islam insults Jesus – youtube

[9] Abu Islam insults Mary – you tube

10. Egypt Independent: Abu Islam released on L.E. 20,000 bail, Feb 2013

11. Coptic teacher released on 20,000 bail

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Muslim Brotherhood against gender equality in Egypt

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Written by: Alexandra Kinias —

The rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to power exposed their misogynist and chauvinist faces, which they had concealed with masks of modernity for too long, to convince the west that they represent a moderate view of Islam. The fall of these masks left no doubt that the road to resurrect their Islamic empire is paved with the bodies of women, minorities and their opponents.

Their last episode of denouncing the UN’s declaration on women’s rights revealed the organization’s true beliefs and principles. Rejecting this declaration that focused on urging an end to violence against women and girls left the members of the Security Council and women organizations worldwide in disappointment and worry about the fate of the women in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood released a statement on its website, http://www.ikhwanweb.com, warned that this declaration will destroy the society, by allowing a woman to travel, work, use contraception without her husband’s approval, and letting her control family spending. They condemned that the declaration would give wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliges authorities to try and punish husbands with verdicts similar to rapists, sex offenders and sexual harassers, gives girls sexual freedom, legalizes abortion,provides teenagers with contraceptives, gives equality to women in marriage and requires men and women to share duties such as child care and chores, allows “equal rights to homosexuals, provides protection and respect for prostitutes and gives equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.

After eighty years since its formation, the underground cult of the Muslim Brotherhood is finally playing a role in the Egyptian political stage. Their voices that were silenced by the previous regimes are now loud, violent and disturbing. Motivated and driven by a desire to rule the world, and led by the Leader of the organization and their incompetent President, Mohammed Morsi, their fantasies of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate modeled after a thousand years old Empire are awaken.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a cult that one is either born into or joins as a child; to be easily manipulated and brainwashed. School children are their highest recruits. They look for them in mosques and youth centers. Inside the bubble where they were born, the members of the Muslim Brotherhood grew up to believe that they are God’s custodians of Islam. For eight decades, the walls of ignorance that insulated, sheltered and concealed them from the outside world also protected the masses from their distorted visions.

Within the confinement of these walls, time has stopped. Women are bred to obey their male guardians and men to follow their Leader. They have formed a sub-society within the societies they live in where tolerance to the outsiders is non-existent. They follow their own laws and rules. They have restrictions and reservations against marriage from outside their cult to reassure that kids are born within their “pure” society. Muslim Brotherhood members consider outsiders as roadblocks in their quest to rule the world. And while they are striving to achieve their goal, their misogynist, chauvinist and pervert leaders want to reverse the clock and bring back women to the dark ages.

In the first parliament after the January 2011 revolution, which the Islamists had won the majority of seats, the elected members had took initial steps to drop the age of marriage of girls to sixteen years old and to repeal the ban on FGM. Luckily the parliament was dissolved before these laws were passed. The sad news is that a female member of the parliament was the one who had proposed these changes. This doesn’t come as a surprise since the Muslim Brotherhood had brainwashed the ‘sisters’ within their cult that they are breeding machines and that the gates of heaven are opened to receive those who are obedient to their husbands.

Sheikhs on television and in mosques promote violence against women by advising husbands to punish their wives by beating them up. They also put the blame and burden on women for being raped or sexually harassed. They spread a culture of misogyny and encourage polygamy as a way to get women off the streets; for their own safety and protection, of course.

Theses custodians of virtue are obsessed with women’s control. The UN declaration for equality shook their core values in which a husband must have “guardianship” over his wife, not an equal “partnership” with her. While the IMF and European Union have both voted against the financial aid to Egypt, a country on the verge of economic collapse, these perverts didn’t spend their time discussing a how to pull the country out of the dark abyss, but they were quite vocal in denouncing the UN declarations. Such actions put in perspective the priorities of the ruling party of Egypt.

Egypt proposed an amendment to the UN that would allow countries to avoid implementing the declaration if it clashed with national laws, religious or cultural values. The suggestion was rejected as it would have undermined the entire declaration. In spite of the pressure she was subjected to, politician and diplomat Mervat Tallawy, President of the National Council for Women in Egypt and head of the Egyptian delegation, surprised and delighted the UN Council when she announced that Egypt would join the consensus and vote in favor of the declaration, defying the ruling party’s wishes.

“International solidarity is needed for women’s empowerment to preventing this regressive mood…. It is a global wave of conservatism and repression against women, and this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this wave….I believe in women’s cause. I don’t take money from the government. I work voluntarily. If they want to kick me out they can. But I will not change my belief in women. Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable, and particularly in our region.” Tallawy said.

References:

Muslim Brotherhood’s Statement on Women Stirs Liberals’ Fears

Egypt warns giving women some rights could destroy society

Nations approve historic UN blueprint to combat violence against women

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Execution of Rizana Nafeek: A Slap to Human Rights

The Execution of Rizana Nafeek

The Execution of Rizana Nafeek

By: Alexandra Kinias

Rizana Nafeek’s name might not have caught the attention of many people and unfortunately it will soon be forgotten by those who knew her story, but not by her loved ones who are still grieving her death. After being convicted of murdering her employer’s four months old son in Saudi Arabia, a crime she strongly denied, Nafeek was publicly executed and beheaded with a sword.

Driven by poverty, seventeen years old Nafeek, daughter of a woodcutter, left her small village in Sri-Lanka in 2005 after landing a job as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. She was among the millions of migrant workers who often end up working in non-humanitarian conditions in a land where the laws are still derived from medieval practices.

According to her family, Rizana’s birth certificate states that she was born in 1988 which made her 17 years old when she was arrested. In violation of Sri-Lankan and international laws of minor trafficking, her age in the passport was forged by the job agency to make her appear 23, a common practice in Sri-Lanka to overcome the hurdles of the government restrictions. On her second week on the job, the four months infant who was left in her care died. Inexperienced in child care, Nafeek said that the infant choked while she was bottle feeding him, but her employer accused her of strangling his son after an argument with his wife and took her to the police station where she was arrested.

According to a social worker who worked closely on the case, Nafeek was forced to sign a confession in a language she did not understand. And, Tamil, the language that she spoke was not the interpreter’s native language. Amnesty international Safeguards state that no one under the age of 18 at the time of the crime shall be put to death. And even though Nafeek’s birth certificate stated that she was a minor when the crime was committed, the Saudi officials would only recognized her passport as the only official document.

Her desperate family and loved ones’ anticipation for a miracle to grant Nafeek a pardon ended with the nightmare they had feared all along. She could have walked free if the family of the infant had pardoned her, which after seven years in incarceration; the family would still not forgive her. In one of the most unfriendly country for women and minorities, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is confined between the sand dunes of the Sahara, not only doesn’t comply with the international laws for human rights, but its natives are notorious about their abusive treatment to their labors. But with the efforts of various human rights organizations, news of abuse, mistreatment and often torture of the migrant workers can no longer be concealed. However, under the iron grip of this rigorous regime, and even with the monitor and intervention of such organizations, not much advancement was taken to improve the work environment of these workers.

The disgraceful record on the conditions of the migrant workers in Saudi Arabia was described as ‘near-slavery’ in the Human Rights Watch Report. Slavery that was common throughout the world for centuries was also practiced in Saudi Arabia. The lands of the Ottoman Empire were the last to abolish slavery. In 1857, under British pressure, the Ottomans banned the trafficking in slaves throughout the Empire, with the exception of the Hijaz that eventually became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Finally, the Saudi government abolished slavery in 1962, but the culture is still alive and practiced. The working contracts between the employer and the worker is nothing more than a modern time slave ownership document. As long as this culture of master and slave is still embedded in the minds of the Saudis, stories of abuse and aggression against the migrant works will keep flooding the news.

To read more about Rizana Naffek check these links:

A Maid’a Execution

Execution of Rizana Nafeek

Saudi Execution: Brutal, inhuman, illegal

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The Stolen Lives of Mauritania’s Slaves

Slave Camp – Mauritania. Photo: Associated Press

 

By: Alexandra Kinias

The news from Mauritania, the sub-Saharan country to the west of the African continent on the Atlantic coast, hardly catches anyone’s attention or interest, to say the least. With its vast deserts and small population, hidden among its sand dunes, and an economy that ranks among the poorest in the world, Mauritanians are living on the fringe of humanity. The forgotten nation was brought to the light when CNN made a special documentary that sheds the light on Mauritania’s slavery that is still practiced today.

All men are created equal theoretically applies in Mauritania. In 1981, the country was the last to abolish slavery, but owning slaves was not criminalized until 2007, and since then only one slave owner was prosecuted. The UN reports that within Mauritania’s population of 3 million people, 10% to 20% live in slavery today. These slaves have been born into slavery for generations and a vast number of them are not even aware that a life exists outside of slavery. Most slaves in Mauritania are darker skinned people whose ancestors were captured by lighter skin Arabs, centuries ago.

However, with all these facts in hand, the government of Mauritania denies the existence of slavery in front of the foreign media press. “I must tell you that in Mauritania there is total freedom, freedom of thought, equality between all ethnicities, all the men and women of Mauritania, equality between the genders. There is the phenomenon to which you are probably alluding; I have to be direct with you that [it] has existed in Mauritania and in other countries, which is slavery. And in all communities it has been abolished and it is criminalized today by our government. There is absolutely no problem of that in Mauritania.” Brahim Ould M’bareck, minister of rural development said to CNN.

Filming the documentary, CNN was able to meet with the four segments that constituent the Mauritanian society; slaves, slaves who escaped from their miserable fate, slave masters– who admitted owning slaves — and the abolitionists who have been fighting for years to end this barbaric practice, with minimum results achieved.

Moulkheir mint Yarba, and her daughter Selek’ha mint Hamani, escaped slavery. They told CNN the stories of violence and abuse they lived in. With the help of abolitionist groups, Moulkheir is trying to bring her case to court.

“The man who beat us made us herd a whole lot of cattle, goats, cows, camels. We would be tired and if we come back without some of the cattle he would beat us and fire a gun above our heads. Yes he was beating all of us. Beating us with sticks. He would have sex with us all. My children are actually their children. These are the children of my masters.” Moulkheir said to CNN.

Physical abuse and rape are common traits in treating the slaves, which they no longer question. They have been living in captivity for multi generations and the shackles are not only chaining their bodies, but their minds too. Most of them are not even aware that they are being exploited. However, the wakeup call came to Moulkheir when she returned one day from herding her master’s cattle to find that her young daughter, barely old enough to crawl, was left to die outside her tent. Moulkheir’s master who was also the father of the child wouldn’t allow her to take a break from work to bury her daughter. For him and other slaves masters the animals they own have more value than their slaves. “Her soul is a dog’s soul,” Moulkheir recalls him saying. She wants to prosecute him for killing her daughter.

The story of Molkheir’s daughter, sixteen years old Selek’ha, is not much different than her mother’s. She recalls her years in captivity with the family that had enslaved her. “I didn’t know anything about it [being a slave] when I was young. You know how I understand they were not my family? When they started beating me and not the other children… He [her master] raped me and I became pregnant. …You know how they killed the child? When the time came for me to give birth, they put me in a car and drove it hard until the baby came out of me and it was dead.”

Not all slaves are lucky enough to be reunited with their families like Moulkheir and her daughter. Most of the escaped slaves are forced to leave their families behind. Abolitionist groups are working under dangerous circumstances with meager resources to end slavery and help the escaped ones to integrate into the world of the free. Their efforts are fought by the government and members of abolitionist groups are targeted and arrested. They are unable to enforce the law that criminalizes slavery because all those who are in power and the decisions makers are slave masters. As much as the government hinders their efforts, the fact that the law was drafted is still a victory for the abolitionists, for it is an acknowledgment that slavery exits. The integration of the escaped slaves into society is a costly process. The centers built by abolitionist groups, where they learn new skills, have not enough funds to accommodate them all.

Many slaves who were born and lived in slavery for so long fail to make outside of slavery. With no skills to survive, and nowhere to go, it makes it very hard for them to break centuries old of slavery. Many sacrifice their freedom and dignity and return back to their masters for food. Having their lives stolen, the escaped slaves live with the emotional trauma and scars of their past. “I think about slavery. Yes I think about it because I can’t forget it all. Because my brother and sister are still there. Also a person like me can never forget about the torture he has suffered. I will not forget it.” Mtala Ould M’boirik, an escaped slave told CNN.

Without much to look for in the future, Moulkheir and her daughter are enjoying what freedom brought them, often as simple the pleasure as drinking a glass of tea. “It feels good to wake up whenever I want.”  Selek’ha said.

Full CNN report: Mauritania’s Slavery Last Stronghold

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