Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and women’s right advocate Shirin Ebadi released a statement on December 29th declaring: ”my sister Dr. Noushin Ebadi who is a Medical lecturer at Azad University of Tehran was detained by four officers from the counter-intelligence agency of Islamic Republic of Iran.” Dr. Noushin Ebadi is not politically active nor is she a member of any human rights organizations. Her only crime seems to be that she is Shirin Ebadi’s sister. This attempt to silence an internationally-known human rights activist by targeting an innocent family member comes amidst violent crackdowns on protesters and opposition figures in Iran. Several hundred people were arrested following protests during last Sunday’s holy day of Ashura, and at least eight killed. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Reporters Without Borders have up to date information about the systematic clampdown on human rights activists and journalists in Iran. The Feminist School highlights the targeted harassment and arrest of women’s rights activists.
Archive for December, 2009
Earlier today, two men exchanged rings at a civil ceremony in Ushuaia, Argentina, and became the first gay couple to be joined in marriage in Latin America. In an article published by the Associated Press, the governor of the state Tierra del Fuego said in a statement that gay marriage “is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion…” Tierra del Fuego authorized the wedding based on interpretation of the Argentine Constitution and its human rights obligations under international treaties.
In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 55/93 to recognize International Migrants Day, a day which celebrates the UN’s adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (Migrant Worker Convention) on December 18, 1990. The Migrant Worker Convention guarantees migrant workers and their families fundamental rights including: freedom from discrimination based on national or ethnic origin, race, sex, religion (or any other status) in all aspects of work; equality before the law regardless of a migrant’s legal status; and freedom from arbitrary expulsion of migrants from their country of employment.
Despite America’s rich social history of immigration, certain migrant communities, especially those of color, have faced discrimination and exclusion from basic human rights protections. “From the Chinese guest workers who built the U.S. railroad system and the Braceros, Mexican guest farm workers from 1942 to 1964, who worked under unjust and slave-like conditions, to the present day farm workers, nannies, and hotel workers, many of whom continue to endure slave-like conditions, exploitative hours, racist attitudes, and precarious conditions, the struggle for justice continues,” states Janvieve Williams Comrie in a press release by the Latin American and Caribbean Community Center.
An article in The Independent sheds light on human rights education projects that seek to highlight the injustice and struggles that Central American migrants face.
In Manila, Philippines, women march with the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees against modern-day slavery.
Tomorrow morning, December 16, 2009, the newly established Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law will hold its inaugural hearing regarding the domestic implementation of U.S. human rights treaty obligations. A full article on this hearing, which highlights the specific content of the hearing as well as the human rights treaties to which the United States is a party, is available on the Restore Fairness blog.
Last night, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University, outlining a renewed U.S. commitment to universal human rights standards. Statements by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International are supportive of the content and intent of the speech, but emphasize the need for the Obama administration to follow through with tangible policy commitments that will transform rhetoric into reality. You can read articles on the speech by Reuters and the New York Times.
“International Human Rights Day reminds us of persisting human rights problems in our communities and in the world, and of the enormous efforts still required to make human rights a reality for all.”
- Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
Today, millions of people around the globe are celebrating the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amidst the celebrations, however, Human Rights Day also requires us to critically reflect upon our past successes and failures, and to refocus our efforts in addressing the human rights challenges that lie ahead. Kofi Annan’s quote subtly highlights an important component of what our collective efforts must address- the “human rights problems in our communities.” In other words, if human rights are to become a reality on a global scale, people must first work to secure human rights in their local communities where accountability and cultural competency are the greatest. In Atlanta, for instance, thousands of people live without a home or basic healthcare. Instead of regarding these as misfortunes, Atlantans must understand them as violations of a human being’s right to adequate housing and health in order to construct policy solutions that meet the basic tenets and ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What human rights are not realized in your small corner of the world- in your home, in your school, in your workplace, or around your neighborhood? How will you recognize Human Rights Day, both locally and globally?
For some ideas, check out Amnesty International’s Global Write-A-Thon for prisoners of conscience, and read this blog posting by Britt Bravo, which includes a more comprehensive list of Human Rights Day celebrations.
Human Rights Day is coming in just a couple days. The day commemorates the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Declaration was written partially as a response to the atrocities of genocide and war that took place during the Second World War. I think it stands as an amazing testament to the best of human intentions. We are all born free and equal. But this is not yet realized in the current state of world affairs.
Take a moment and read the Universal Declaration. Find a way to mark Human Rights Day in action, not just in thought. Because ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’
On Monday, the United Nations called on wealthy nations to provide a collective total of $7.1 billion to help fund humanitarian assistance in 2010 for nearly 50 million people in 25 countries. These funds would assist people whose lives have been torn by natural disasters and conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Kenya, the occupied Palestinian territories, Sudan, and Somalia. However, many wealthy nations are claiming that financial pressures on their domestic fronts have significantly restrained their budget for international assistance. In the 2008 fiscal year, to give an example, the United States had $623 billion in military expenditures, while countries in the rest of the world had a combined total of $500 billion. What does such spending reveal about our global priorities? If the world can muster $1.1 trillion for military purposes, and can not find $7 billion to aid the people directly affected by political conflict, what are our chances of securing the universal human right to a social and international order that ensures that other rights, such as education, democratic participation, and health, can be fully realized?