Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself

You've probably heard about Nelson Mandela's new book - Conversations with Myself - that was launched on 12 October 2010. If you've not read it and shelved it in your personal library yet, make sure you do. Nelson Mandela, former South African President, no doubt, has such an incredible life story that would never fail to inspire you, your children and your children's children to seek progress by promoting social justice and equality for all.

Many people have already read or listened to Nelson Mandela's incredible life story uncountable times from a variety of sources, but a recent report by Bob Simon, contributor for "60 Minutes", about Madiba and the new book is worth watching. The report captures the life of  [arguably] "the most admired human being alive." WATCH...

The new book offers "unique access" to the life and thoughts of the freedom fighter. It reveals the "private man behind the public figure," and guess what - the foreword is written by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself is available on It's highly recommended.

Read more about the book on the official website of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Remove racist graffiti in Finnish town of Mikkeli

This morning the title of an article, "The tale of two racist spray paintings in an eastern Finnish city" published on Migrant Tales (a blog I read religiously) caught my attention. As the title of the article reveals, it tells the story of racist graffiti in Mikkeli, a town in eastern Finland.

The racist graffiti were reportedly sprayed on walls in a school and a pedestrian tunnel in the small town of about 34, 000 people.

With the intervention of Kansainvälinen Mikkeli Ry (International Mikkeli), a new organization that fosters cooperation between immigrants and all residents of Mikkeli, the graffiti on the wall of the school was removed after a call to the principal. It is worth mentioning that the graffiti had been on the wall for months.

The Mikkeli municipality on its part has failed, as of today, to remove a more disturbing racist graffiti on the wall of a pedestrian tunnel, even though the authorities have reportedly been notified.

The local authorities of Mikkeli should remove the racist graffiti on the wall of the pedestrian tunnel. Inaction on their part sends across a wrong message - that racism is tolerated in Mikkeli and a certain group of people are not welcomed.

I won't post photos of the racist graffiti on this blog because they are offensive, provocative, and violate house rules and regulations.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Numerous bloggers detained in violation of freedom of expression

Bloggers are increasingly being arrested and thrown behind bars in many countries, arguably in an attempt to silence them and deter the growing number of critical independent bloggers who provide uncensored news from individual perspectives. In violation of the right to freedom of expression, many bloggers have been detained on "vaguely worded" charges directly related to information published on their blogs in countries like Ivory coast, Egypt, Iran, just to name a few.

An article published on CNN on 10 October 2010 highlights the growing threat to freedom of expression and the right to hold and express opinions that are not in line with the views of the authorities. The article showcases photos of detained bloggers, including the following:

1) Pham Minh Hoang: Blogger and mathematics teacher detained in Vietnam. He reportedly blogs about democracy and social justice in Vietnam, and was arrested in August 2010.

2) Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman: Law student, blogger and free speech advocate jailed in Egypt since February 2007.

3) Tal al-Mallohi: 19 year-old student and blogger detained in Syria without charge since December 1999.

4) Ali Abdulemam: Blogger and contributor for Global Voices Advocacy, arrested and detained in Bahrain in September 2010 for "spreading false news" online.

5) Hossein Derakhshan: The "blogfather" of Iran, sentenced to 19.5 years behind bars in Iran on 28 September 2010.

It is worth mentioning that this list is not exhaustive. There are detained bloggers who have not been mentioned. Regardless of their different stories, the numerous detained bloggers share something in common - they're paying a price for expressing opinions online; opinions that "authorities have no wish to see or hear."

The detention of bloggers signals a dwindling right to hold and express opinions online. Freedom of expression is a basic human right and cornerstone of a democratic society. No one should be jailed for peacefully expressing opinions that challenge a regime.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stop plans to split Cameroon Bar Association

An article posted on Facebook yesterday highlighted the level of control, power and authority wielded by the government of Cameroon over the country's Bar Council Association - an association of learned barristers, lawyers and trainee advocates. The article, originally published on The Post on 18 October 2010, sheds light on the Cameroon government's plan to split the Bar Association. 

According to The Post, a draft bill is to be tabled in Parliament, which if voted into law, would split the Bar Association into regions - perhaps into 10 since Cameroon is made up of 10 regions (provinces).

Lawyers in Cameroon, under the leadership of Barrister Eta-Besong Junior, President of the Cameroon Bar Council Association, have rightfully condemned the government's plan to "weaken" the association.

Commonsense tells me that a split would effectively weaken the Bar Association; an otherwise powerful association which is currently in diapers and under the spell of a 27-year-old (almost 28 years old) regime. A unified Bar Association is obviously stronger, and to an extent, promotes proper legal representation.

In a nutshell, the government should stop plans to split the Bar Association for obvious reasons: A split would greatly undermine the power of the Cameroon Bar Association and put into question the government's intentions for the many people in Cameroon who are in desperate need of quality legal representation.

It is worthy to note that the government of Cameroon has already greatly limited the Bar Association by tightly controlling the organization of Bar entrance examinations.

Let me end by quoting Barrister Henry Kemende: "...we are not going to accept the Balkanization of the Bar."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

President Obama urged to help arrest Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony. Source: Voices [Education Project].
This weekend's THE WEEK IN RIGHTS, a weekly email from Human Rights Watch to all its supporters, contained many human rights-related articles including a compelling article by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, urging President Obama to "get tough on human rights" and help arrest Joseph Kony.

Joseph Kony is the rebel leader and commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a ruthless rebel group that has committed well-documented carnage and untold atrocities in the DR Congo, Uganda, Sudan and Central African Republic.

In Congo, the LRA perpetrates atrocities such as mass rape and rape as a weapon of war - making the country arguably the worst place to be a woman. For decades, the rebels, under the leadership of Joseph Kony, have mutilated, slaughtered, kidnapped and raped civilians with impunity.

In 2005, arrest warrants were issued by the International Criminal Court for Joseph  Kony and four other LRA commanders. They are wanted at the Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Efforts have been made to bring the rebels to justice but they remain at large either due to inadequate resources or lack of political will to track them down.

Over the years, the United States has used force on "humanitarian grounds" in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, but it remains to be seen whether the super power will intervene and take action against the LRA -  a rebel group that is responsible for one of the world's greatest humanitarian crisis. An intervention to help arrest Kony and protect civilians in the region would be justifiable on humanitarian grounds.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Human Rights Watch honors Cameroonian activist

In November 2010, Human Rights Watch, an independent international organization dedicated to protecting human rights around the world, will honor six human rights activists, including a Cameroonian - Steave Nemande.

Steave Nemande is a medical doctor and President of Alternatives-Cameroon, a non-profit organisation promoting equality, tolerance and respect for "socially excluded" individuals in Cameroon, especially members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. It is worth mentioning that under the leadership of Steave Nemande, Alternatives-Cameroun, in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, recently urged the government of Cameroon to decriminalize homosexuality.

Nemande is a courageous medical doctor who defies the odds and promotes the rights of members of LGBT people in a region where homosexuality is widely criminalized, and where very few people stand up for the rights of others (thoughtless of homosexuals). Dr. Steave Nemande deserves this honor by an accredited international human rights organization like Human Rights Watch. Perhaps, this gesture would encourage other young Africans to step up to the plate.

The other human rights activists honored are:
  • Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nebel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Sussan Tahmasebi, women's rights activist from Iran 
  • Yoseph Mulugeta, former secretary general of Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) 
  • Elena Milashina, an investigative journalist exposing human rights violations in Russia 
  • Hossam Bahgat, founder of Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Human Rights Watch notes that all six activists have courageously defended, and continue to defend human rights, in defiance of "substantial threats of violence or imprisonment."

All six will be awarded the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism - an award that "celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line protecting the dignity and rights of others."
*Photo: Elisabeth Rull. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sweden Democrats walk out of church over racism sermon

Stockholm Cathedral. Photo by Jürgen Howaldt.
It is no secret that on 19 September 2010, Sweden Democrats, a hard line extreme right political party was voted into parliament for the first time since it was founded in 1988. You would agree that the results of this historic parliamentary election clearly indicated that an increasing number of Swedes share the polarising ideology of the Sweden Democrats. Meanwhile in Sweden, dust is yet to settle after the extreme right electoral gains as Sweden Democrats have been on the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The most recent drama staged by the party was a walkout of church on 5 October 2010 over a sermon about racism and xenophobia.

During a church service in Stockholm's Cathedral (Storkyrkan) preceding the opening of parliament (Riksdag), the bishop of the diocese of Stockholm delivered a sermon about the ills of racism and xenophobia. Here is what the bishop reportedly said, among other things:
“Yesterday evening thousands of people gathered in Stockholm and in various parts of the country to make their voices heard. To call out their disgust at that which divides people. The racism that says that you don’t have as much worth as I do; that you shouldn’t have the same rights as me; aren’t worthy of living in freedom..."
Sweden Democrats' parliamentary delegation considered the sermon to be an attack against them, hence walked out of church in protest.

The party has tried over the years to distance itself from racism and xenophobia, but its manifesto suggest otherwise.

While it is true that this walk out in protest against a racism sermon could be attributed to an attempt by Sweden Democrats to score political points, it is also true that racism and xenophobia have no place in a free society and should be unequivocally denounced wherever "two or three" lawmakers are gathered.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The new Arthur Koenig Fellowship by Human Rights Watch

Good news! Human Rights Watch has rolled out a new fellowship - the Arthur Koenig Fellowship. This fellowship is largely similar to the other fellowships organised by the leading human rights organisation, but there's a twist.

The new Arthur Koenig Fellowship is designed to help people from "disadvantaged economic backgrounds" join the human rights movement. In other words, [only] people from disadvantaged economic backgrounds are eligible to apply for the Arthur Koenig Fellowship.

This is good news for the uncountable number of economically disadvantage people of conscience looking for a chance to join the international human rights movement.

You are encouraged to read more about eligibility and application procedure for the Arthur Koenig Fellowship on the official website of Human Rights Watch, and perhaps apply. The deadline for applications is 18 October 2010.

Good luck!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Syria: Stop child abuse and torture by school teachers

A story on France 24 reminded me about the so-called "school corporal punishment" - institutionalized abuse and brutalisation suffered by pupils and school children in the hands of abusive teachers in many parts of the world. The story puts 2 abusive teachers in Syria in the spotlight, and resounds the urgent need to stop child abuse and torture by school teachers in Syria and beyond.

Two female teachers in Syria were caught on video - brutalising pupils entrusted to their care. As you'd expect in this age of information technology, the dramatic video was posted on the  internet and puts the Syria's educational system into question. WATCH...

Incidentally, tomorrow - 5 October - is World's Teacher's Day. Should this calibre of teachers be honored on this symbolic day?

Make no mistake - child abuse and torture by teachers is not only a Syrian problem. The ordeal prevails in many other countries. 

I'm no stranger to school corporal punishment. As a matter of fact, in high school, I was asked to participate in a debate. I vividly remember the debate question: "Should corporal punishment be allowed in boarding schools?" It's worth mentioning that at the time, there were people - students and teachers - who had very strong opinions both for and against corporal punishment.

Widespread occurrence by no means justifies child abuse by school teachers.

The Syrian Arab Republic is party to the Convention of the Rights of the child, which it ratified on 15 July 1993. The State therefore has a legal obligation under international law to protect children from all forms of "physical or mental" violence, including abuse and torture by school teachers. The 2 teachers caught in the above video should, by all means, be identified and brought to justice. Impunity in this widely publicized case would send across a wrong message.

*Photo of school kids in Syria: Gibbz Cadiz.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hossein Derakhshan: Blogger jailed in Iran

Hossein Derakhshan. Source: Daniel Lubetzky's Journal.
The sentencing of an acclaimed blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, is yet another reminder of the dwindling right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and the right to hold opinions in Iran.

Hossein Derakhshan, 35, is a prominent Iranian-Canadian blogger, who is credited with pioneering blogging in Iran. "The Blogfather" as he is fondly called, was arrested 2008, detained for almost 2 years and sentenced to 19.5 years in jail on 28 September 2010 by Iran's Revolutionary Court.

What's his crime?

In 2006, Hossein Derakhshan made a controversial visit to Israel in an attempt to "humanize Israel for Iranians." While in Israel, he sought to show thousands of Iranians who read his blog what life is like in Israel. He explained his trip to Israel in the following words:
"This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want. I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist. As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians. I'm going to challenge that image. As a peace activist, I'm going to show the Israelis that the vast majority of Iranians do not identify with Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, despite what it looks like from the outside. I'm going to tell them how any kind of violent action against Iran would only harm the young people who are gradually reforming the system and how the radicals would benefit from such situation."
Hossein Derakhshan's visit to Israel was highly publicized and it arguably didn't sit well with Iranian authorities. It is against this background that in November 2008, he was arrested in Tehran on accusation of spying for Israel.

Amnesty International notes that Hossein Derakhshan was convicted for:
  • "Cooperating with hostile states" 
  • "Propaganda against the system" 
  • "Propaganda in favor of counter revolutionary groups" 
  • "Insults to the holy sanctities", and...
  • "the setup and management of vulgar and obscene websites."
 The questionable circumstances surrounding the arrest, detention and conviction of Hossein Derakhshan cannot be overlooked. Everyone has the right to freely express views and opinions without State interference. But as stated by the Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, Iranian authorities are good at bringing "vaguely worded charges... against those who peacefully express dissent."

In a related story, the fate of 43-year-old Iranian mother of 2, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani - sentenced to death by stoning remains unknown.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Egypt: Don't forget Khaled Mohammed Said

Photo: We're all Khaled Said Facebook page.
A 28-year-old Egyptian - Khaled Mohammed Said, allegedly brutalised to death by Egyptian police in June is yet to be forgotten.

The death of Khaled Mohammed Said, on 6 June 2010, sparked widespread protests in Egypt, with thousands of Egyptians demanding justice for Khaled Said, and an end to police brutality. Surprisingly (because there's reportedly a culture of impunity for police brutality in Egypt), two police officers were arrested and charged in relation to Khaled Said's death. This, no doubt, is good news. The arrests were celebrated as a milestone in Egypt and abroad.

The bad news is that a postponed trial of the policemen in question, originally scheduled for 25 September 2010, was further postponed to 23 October 2010.

Despite the postponement and delays, rights activists and police brutality protesters are undeterred. Many have urged rights advocates worldwide not to forget Khaled Mohammed Said (even if the trial is postponed for a few years) because justice for Said would mean a great blow to what has been described as "systematic torture" in Egypt.

Amnesty International recently released a video demanding justice for Khaled Mohammed Said, as well as an end to torture in Egypt. WATCH...

According to Human Rights Now, the 25 September trial was marred by protests and police intimidation.

Khaled Mohammed Said is clearly not forgotten. People of conscience in Egypt and abroad have fought a good fight so far, and continue to fight to secure justice for Khaled, and end police brutality in Egypt.

It remains to be seen whether justice would be served.

Search this Blog

Related Posts with Thumbnails