Graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo, Egypt, depicting a woman fighting against sexual harassment. (c) Amnesty International
Ahmed Ezz, a mechanical engineer, talks about his voluntary work with Operation Anti-Sexual Harrassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), an activist organization based in Cairo, Egypt, known for intervening in sexual assaults by mobs in Tahrir Square.
When people find out that a woman has been sexually harassed and assaulted, their first reaction is “what was she wearing?”. They always lay the blame on the women themselves. I’ve witnessed this so many times.
It is not safe at all in Cairo for women and girls. Their freedom of movement is constantly constrained. Some avoid using the metro, and spend more money on taking taxis or multiple buses, simply to minimize the risk of harassment and assault. If women and girls complain about sexual harassment, people around them just try to calm them down, belittle their concerns or accuse them of unjustly pointing the fingers at harassers.
The author of this commentary brings up a few examples of things such as abolition of slavery, racial equality and women’s suffrage that at one point in the past were all technically extremist positions. Yet today any support for things like slavery, segregation or not allowing someone to vote based on their gender would be regarded as morally abhorrent by the overwhelming majority of people in our society.
By Michael Kazin - October 30, 2013
American politics is a famously contentious theater, especially today. But the vast majority of liberals, conservatives, and Washington journalists all seem to agree that “extremism” is appalling and should be eradicated.
Yet the meaning of the term is as prey to ideological dispute as are such holy words in our political lexicon as “freedom” and “rights.” Conservatives call Bill de Blasio, who is about to be elected mayor of the nation’s largest city, a “left-wing extremist,” while liberals counter that anyone with ties to the Tea Party is an “extreme right-winger.” “Extremist” is the description of choice for fundamentalists of any religion, unless, of course, you belong to one of the faiths being gored. In that case, it’s only traditionalists from the other religions who are “extreme.” “Community,” the literary critic Raymond Williams once observed, “seems never to be used unfavorably.” But no one has a kind word to say for extremism or extremists.
Well, let me be the first. Sometimes, those who take an inflexible, radical position hasten a purpose that years later is widely hailed as legitimate and just. Extremism is the coin of conviction, whether virtuous or malign. It forces middle-roaders to crush the disrupter or adapt.
I was originally alerted to this commentary here
In addition to what Kazin wrote, Ed Brayton asks an important question, I think we should all think about after reading the commentary.
So when is extremism good and when is it bad?
Saudi Arabia has failed to act on recommendations by a UN body to improve human rights and instead “ratcheted up” repression, Amnesty International says.
Promises the Gulf Kingdom made to the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 were “nothing but hot air”, a report claims.
The authorities continue to crack down on activists through “arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment”, it adds.
A Saudi spokesman insisted “tangible progress” had been made.
On Friday, Riyadh refused to take up a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, accusing the body of failing in its duties towards Syria, as well as in other conflicts.
‘Failure to act’
In its report published on Monday, Amnesty said the kingdom had failed to implement any of the main recommendations from its last Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council.
“Four years ago, Saudi Arabian diplomats came to Geneva and accepted a string of recommendations to improve human rights in the country. Since then, not only have the authorities failed to act, but they have ratcheted up the repression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
“For all the peaceful activists that have been arbitrary detained, tortured or imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since, the international community has a duty to hold the authorities to account.”
Amnesty’s report documents what it describes as a “new wave of repression against civil society” that has taken place since 2011.
Human rights activists and supporters of political reform in the country face repressive measures that included arbitrary arrest, detention without charge or trial, unfair trials and travel bans, it says.
In March, two founders of the prominent Saudi Civil and Political Rights Organisation (ACPRA), Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years respectively.
The men, who used Twitter to promote human rights, were found guilty by a court of “breaking allegiance and disobeying the ruler”, “undermining unity”, “questioning the integrity of officials”, “seeking to disrupt security” and “inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations”.
“These men are prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally. Their peaceful activism against human rights violations deserves praise not punishment. The only guilty party here is the government,” Mr Luther said.
Torture and other ill-treatment during detention is rife and carried out with impunity, the report says. The heavy reliance by the courts on “confessions” often extracted under torture, duress or deception has entrenched such abuses, it claims.
It documents other alleged violations, including “systemic discrimination of women in both law and practice” and “abuse of migrant workers”.
I know people here consider human rights essential for a just society and I regard these women as courageous free speech and feminist advocates. This is a terrible development and one would hope the tyrant Putin would show mercy but he is not merciful.
MOSCOW — A member of the punk rock group Pussy Riot went on a hunger strike Monday to protest what she said were unbearable conditions at a Russian prison camp.
“I demand that human rights be observed in the [prison] colony; I demand that this camp … abide by the law,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote in an open letter distributed by her husband. “I demand that we be treated as humans and not as slaves.”
In late 2012, Tolokonnikova, 24, and two other members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were each sentenced to two years of imprisonment for inciting religious hatred.
The three were arrested in February of that year after they staged what they called a “punk prayer” against Russian President Vladimir Putin at Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow. The incident occurred at the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, which Putin went on to win.
Bahrain human rights activist Maryam Al-Khawaja says the government there is escalating its crackdown on protests in advance of a major opposition rally, and says that the regime continues to torture detainees. Al-Khawaja, President of The Bahrain Center For Human Rights, appeared on HuffPost Live Wednesday to discuss the Bahraini government’s ban on protests as well as the cases of a photojournalist and blogger who were arrested and abused by police with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.
King Hamad’s royal decree last week banned protests in the country’s capital, Manama, and heightened “punishments” for those citizens who do not abide by the decree. The decree comes just two weeks before a major opposition rally planned for August 14, the celebration of Bahrain’s independence from the United Kingdom. While the Bahraini government has framed the decree as an amendment to the 2006 Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism, the United Nations has expressed concern over what exactly this entails. In addition to the revocation of citizenship for anyone found guilty of terrorism and an increased detention period, it also bans sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings in the capital.
Al-Khawaja told HuffPost Live that the decree merely legalizes practices that have been in place for years, and the government has begun increasing its crackdown on protestors in recent weeks.
“Basically they’re in a sense legalizing things that they’ve already been doing. Whether we’re talking about the revoking of citizenship, or the forbidding of protests within Manama — this all something that’s been in practice for a while now,” she said. “What we’ve been seeing in the past couple weeks since the announcing of the planned protest on the 14th of August … [is] a very severe escalation in the crackdown. Usually what we see is house raids and arrests during the night. But in the past couple weeks we’ve been seeing them throughout the day. We haven’t even been able to keep up with the numbers on the amount of people being arrested and the amount of homes being raided on a daily basis.”
A Saudi court has sentenced a activist to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for violating the nation’s anti-cybercrime law, Human Rights Watch reported Wednesday.
A Jeddah Criminal Court found Raif Badawi, who has been in prison since June 2012, guilty this week of insulting Islam through his website and in television comments.
“This incredibly harsh sentence for a peaceful blogger makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia’s claims that it supports reform and religious dialogue,” said Nadim Houry, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “A man who wanted to discuss religion has already been locked up for a year and now faces 600 lashes and seven
years in prison.”
His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, told Human Rights Watch that Judge al-Harbi read the verdict Monday. The court is expected to send him a written notification by August 6. They’ll have 30 days to appeal.
Case separates family
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, said she’s devastated by the news.
“I don’t know what to do,” Haidar said Wednesday. “Raif did nothing wrong.”
Haidar and the couple’s three children now live in Lebanon.
Estranged from her family, Haidar said it would be impossible to take her children back to Saudi Arabia. The stigma is too strong there.
“You feel like everybody’s accusing you,” she said, close to tears, in an April interview. “Like everybody’s against you, at war with you.”
CNN has made several attempts to reach the Saudi Arabia government for comment but received no response.
The only good news is that the court dropped the charge of apostasy, which carries the death sentece.
In a message on Twitter, Iman al-Qahtani said she had been stopped from flying to Istanbul. Only then, she said, was she told of her travel ban.
Ms Qahtani has been outspoken in her support for fellow human rights campaigners in the Arabian kingdom.
Saudi officials were said to have been unhappy with her reporting. In April, she said she would stop tweeting to protect her family from reprisals.
In a brief, dramatic tweet, she told her followers she was doing it for her mother’s sake.
There were reports Ms Qahtani had been coming under pressure from the security services over her reporting of the trials of two leading Saudi human rights activists, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid.
The two men founded the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). They were tried on a variety of charges including breaking their allegiance to the king and setting up an unlicensed organisation.
Iman Qahtani was among a group of activists and journalists who live-tweeted the hearings, posting pictures from inside the court. This allowed a rare transparency for the legal process in Saudi Arabia.
One of the judges originally ordered Ms Qahtani’s arrest for providing false information, although this charge was later dropped.
The British and US spy programmes that allow intelligence agencies to gather, store and share data on millions of people have been challenged in a legal claim brought by privacy campaigners.
Papers filed on Monday call for an immediate suspension of Britain’s use of material from the Prism programme, which is run by America’s National Security Agency.
They also demand a temporary injunction to the Tempora programme, which allows Britain’s spy centre GCHQ to harvest millions of emails, phone calls and Skype conversations from the undersea cables that carry internet traffic in and out of the country.
Lawyers acting for the UK charity Privacy International say the programme is not necessary or proportionate. They say the laws being used to justify mass data trawling are being abused by intelligence officials and ministers, and need to be urgently reviewed.
The group was prompted into legal action by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden and the leak of top secret papers he gave to the Guardian. This led to a series of stories about the extent of modern-day surveillance and the disclosure of activities that have provoked a worldwide debate about the behaviour of western intelligence agencies.
Campaigners fear Britain is circumventing its own rules to make it easier to get intelligence, and that the emails and calls of Britons are almost certainly being swept up by the NSA.
“The contents of an individual’s phone calls and emails and the websites they visit can be information of a obviously private nature,” the claim says.
“If UK authorities are to be permitted to access such information in relation to those located in the UK in secret and without their knowledge or consent, the European convention on human rights (ECHR) requires there to be a legal regime in place which contains sufficient safeguards against abuse of power and arbitrary use. There is no such regime.”
In modern communications, emails and phone calls made in the UK pass electronically through the US and can be intercepted by the NSA.
“Through their access to the US programme, UK authorities are able to obtain private information about UK citizens without having to comply with any requirements of Ripa,” the claim argues.
The NSA spies on UK Citizens and then the NSA give the UK authorities access to that data, thus circumventing the need for the British Domestic spying agencies to comply with their own laws - nice.
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — The Obama administration Monday lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding the status of the detainees at Guantánamo, for the first time publicly naming the four dozen captives it defined as indefinite detainees — men too dangerous to transfer but who cannot be tried in a court of law.
The names had been a closely held secret since a multi-agency task force sifted through the files of the Guantánamo detainees in 2009 trying to achieve President Barack Obama’s executive order to close the detention center. In January 2010, the task force revealed that it classified 48 Guantánamo captives as dangerous but ineligible for trial because of a lack of evidence, or because the evidence was too tainted.
They became so-called “indefinite detainees,” a form of war prisoner held under Congress’ 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force.”
The Defense Department released the list to The Miami Herald, which, with the assistance of Yale Law School students, had sued for it in federal court in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon also sent the list to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday, a Defense Department official said.
According to the list, the men designated for indefinite detention are 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, 3 Saudis, 2 Kuwaitis, 2 Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.
Human rights groups denounced the existence of such a list.
Amnesty International’s Zeke Johnson called “fundamentally flawed” the notion of classifying captives as indefinite detainees. “Under international human rights law,” he said, “all of the detainees should either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or released.”
Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn hailed release of the list through the Freedom of Information Act: “It is fundamental to democracy that the public know the identities of the people our nation is depriving of liberty and why they are being detained.”
Some of the men on the list are among the prisoners currently on hunger strike and being force-fed at the prison, for example, Kuwaitis Fawzi al Odah, 36, and Fayez al Kandari, 35, and Yemeni Abdal Malik al Wahab, about 43, who in March, according to his lawyer David Remes, vowed to fast until he got out of the prison “either dead or alive.”
I honestly think this should be a bigger scandal than NSA Prism. The US government has decided that it can hold people indefinitely without trial. It might not want too, but it is. It’s also incredibly hypocritical for US government to criticize country, while they themselves are holding people without trial.