Category Archives: Human Rights Violations

Not just a story

Our world is under a constant change. That is a given. Those who try to stop change or stand in the way of progress are slowly being rooted out.
That is certainly being seen across the Middle East as they continue to fight for their freedom of speech, equalities and the ability to finally be out from under the unspeakable acts of cowardly dictators that have ruled over them for decades.

As each day passes, bravery becomes more evident because to share the turmoil going on in places such as Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it literally means risking arrest or even one’s life. Making a phone call, sending a picture, a tweet, updating a blog or even carrying on a conversation on the street or anywhere in public can cost a person their life on the spot or have them detained, tortured, or kidnapped leaving their family to wonder whatever became of them. This is not something that is exaggerated or made up. This is life for the people of these countries and has been for decades.

Most reporters sent in are there under government watch and only go places with government permission, in government convoys and to places the governments wants them to see. Example of this is in Tripoli’s famous Rixos Hotel where a large group of reporters have stayed and covered Libya’s conflict for an ongoing amount of time. This is where Iman Al Obaidi ran in to share her story of what happened while she was held by Gaddafi’s soldiers. Her story became internationally known once it was shared by worldwide news organizations and across social media websites. This became possible only because she risked her life to go into that hotel in the first place.

Other reporters have been thrown out of Libya and other countries for sharing too much of the truth as well as having been detained, beaten, raped or are still missing or or have been killed.

To name just a few, Chris Hondros, Tim Hetherington, Mohammed Al-Nabbous, Anton Hammerl were killed just recently. These are just a few and are just naming ones killed in Libya.

Why do “outsiders” risk their lives to share these “stories”?

I’ll answer this question very directly so as to be very clear.

These aren’t just stories, this is life. Just because I am an American writing about people that are living all the way around the world, doesn’t make this any less relevant than if I were writing about something locally, not to me.

You see, these people in many ways are just like me. They have hopes, dreams, families, loved ones, and friends.

Rebel fighters at the Wazin Border Crossing(Tunisia and Nafusa Mountains) May11th
Photo Courtesy of: @ShababLibya

A mother losing her child or a child losing their parents somewhere else in the world is just as upsetting as if that happened here, or to me. A friend watching their friend die is no less painful because it is further away or because it is in a time of war. Many of those fighting in these current revolutions are students, lawyers, doctors or young kids. Most are not soldiers and had never held a weapon before in their life. They are protecting their homes, businesses, families and their lives. They didn’t want to fight. They don’t want to fight. They want to be free which is the opposite of fighting.

As an American, I want our government to be able to help, of course.

I also know that many times, U.S. involvement comes with a cost and although at first glance and in a time of crisis, it seems great and the right thing to do when making arrangements but the long term effects, due to diplomatic arrangements made to reach that original agreement, often far outweigh the long term benefit. Doesn’t sound right, does it?

Let me explain. Iraq and Afghanistan.

The need for help is there and the desire to help is there but the actual response and outcome is often so jumbled up in politics, the RSVP would have been better to have been lost in the mail.

Some situations are so clear, up front, one would think there wouldn’t be any issues. One would think.

In Libya, Gaddafi was making it abundantly clear that he had no problem with taking as many lives each day as he could without any given reason. He also made it clear he wasn’t listening to reason. Once the UN came to an agreement and NATO started its response against Gaddafi’s crimes against his own people, it wasn’t as quick of a process as it would have once been thought.

At this point, it seems communication on the ground (what little there is) doesn’t get heard by the right people, quickly enough. I personally think if it were, Gaddafi would have been cut off much quicker.

Syria has tried to hide what is going on in their country but they haven’t been able to do this, not completely. The government says one thing and does another. It seems they want to act like Iran, dress like Iran but not be treated like Iran. When do threats from the U.S. end? Syria’s government has clearly chosen its path.

In Yemen today, President Saleh refused to sign the exit deal to hopefully bring an end to the political crises. Saleh has ruled for 32 years.
For months now, Yemen has been filled with protests for him to step down. Hundreds have been killed and he has refused to sign a deal at least twice before.

Saleh is demanding the opposition be present at the signing. The opposition refuses saying it will send the wrong message to the revolution leaders in Sanaa, making Saleh look victorious.

The opposition signed their part of the agreement on Saturday, May 21st with the understanding Saleh would sign his on Sunday.
About Saudi Arabia…this is a country with a great deal of oppression toward women.

I am a woman. I drive. Recently Manal Al Sharif was arrested for doing exactly the same thing in the eastern town of Khobar, Saudi Arabia which defies a long standing ban on women’s driving. Yeh, that’s right.

Manal Al Sharif 32 year old Saudi Arabian woman detained for driving in Saudi Arabia

It’s said that about two-thirds of a woman’s salary goes toward their transportation. They can’t walk on the street or drive so they must pay a taxi or private driver. There’s no public transportation.

On June 17th, there’s a campaign #Women2Drive which is growing in numbers on their Facebook page. The idea is for those women, with foreign licenses, to go out in the Kingdom of Saudi and drive that day. Some are even offering to teach others how to drive. Manal Al Sharif remains detained at this moment but in an interview to Gulf news she said, “Every lady has something to do in the city, she’ll just drive, do her business and come back. So it’s as simple as that. People can’t call it a demonstration, we’re not going against the law, we’re not going against anyone, we’re not even demonstrating.”

I was going to divide this article into two parts but I think it’s important to keep it as one.

You see, as a nation, we have an enormous amount of freedoms. I am writing this article which I will shortly post because I have the freedom to do so. I have the ability to share the information which I freely read about on the Internet or via links that were sent to me. Information is golden.

Education is priceless. The ability to have those available to us should never be taken for granted.

In many parts of our world, these freedoms or abilities do not exist. Our freedoms were fought for by very brave people before us and to take anything at all for granted, to me, just seems wrong. It also seems wrong to take lightly why others would want these same freedoms as well as the loss of lives they are experiencing while fighting for their freedom.

Many have chosen to come here, to the U.S., seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Around the world, America has been known as the “Land of the Free”, but is it? Do we truly know where these people are coming from, why they are seeking freedom and can they still find it here? In coming here, they have often made many sacrifices leaving behind the only homes they have ever known and family members to still live under dictators and the very life they are running from.

It’s been a while since I have written. I’ve been following much of what has been going on around the world, devastating natural disasters, revolutions and our own nation and its many ups and downs.

I hadn’t planned to write quite yet until I read a comment about the woman in Saudi, Manal, who had been arrested for, driving. The comment was basically along the lines of the fact the reader would never live in a place that wouldn’t allow a woman to drive!

My question: What if you were born there?

America is more than a country Pt. 1

In reading over the GOP’s “A Pledge to America” agenda, although it seems so much is spelled out, there is really a lot left out or unsaid.

This is taken directly from the pledge.gop.gov website.

“America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.”

Is that what America is today? Is that what outsiders see when they look at America? More importantly, do people living right here in America feel that is what America is about?

These aren’t new words the GOP just came up with. These words are taken from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The Declaration of Independence was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson as a formal explanation of why congress voted on July 2nd to become independent of Great Britain.

The U.S. Constitution was put together by 12 delegates of the 13 states. It is the supreme law of the United States and it lays out the frame work for the organization of the federal government, including its legal authority, its relationship with the states, the citizens and everyone else in the country.

Today, an outsider might see America as the best opportunity to start their own business or realize their dreams for their family. Another person may seek out America for medical treatments to save their loved one’s life or to prolong it with quality care. Someone hoping to become an actor or actress may see Hollywood, California as their dream destination. For whatever reason, over many years, there have been plenty of people to seek out their hopes and dreams here in America just as those who wrote the Declaration of Independence back in 1776.

America is a land of many people from all over the world. It’s such a diverse nation and rich with every culture and civilization. Every language is represented with each religion. These are great attributes and strengths that can only be found here in America.

America is also home to the United States Military who has endured missions all over the world in times of war and in times of peace. Wars have been fought here on our own land and our troops have also been called on during invasions of other countries to defend and protect the freedoms of others because one man’s freedom is another man’s freedom. Our troops have been called on to assist during natural disasters when help was needed from all over the world. During peace time, war times, any time, our troops have always stepped up and done what America has asked of them. They have always made America proud.

Many countries have ongoing human rights violations and their civilians endure endless fear, torture, rapes, killings and being on the run just to survive another day. Fleeing from one day to the next is brutal but necessary in Eastern Congo.

In Vietnam, police brutality is being looked at as people are dying while in police custody according to the Human Rights Watch. The HRW has documented 19 cases. According to Phil Robertson, their deputy Asia director, “Police brutality is being reported at an alarming rate in every region of Vietnam, raising serious concerns that these abuses are both systemic and widespread.”

In Thailand, five months after clashes between a group of anti-government protestors and security forces, the Human Rights Watch states the Thai government still uses the state of emergency that was declared on April 7, 2010.

This is allowing the security forces to hold detainees without charges up to 30 days, using unofficial detention facilities which does not give the detainees protection from abuse while being held but does give the guards immunity from prosecution for most acts they could commit.

Many have heard about Darfur in North Africa but may not realize this tragic situation is still ongoing. Millions of innocent people have been affected by this, over 200,000 have died and the numbers are continuing to add up.

What do these situations abroad have to do with America or individuals in America, our local community?

One of the biggest crimes against humanity is discrimination. By seeing another person as being less than one’s self due to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, economic status, disability or for a variety of reasons is discrimination.

Along with discrimination comes disrespect. If a person truly had respect for another, they could not discriminate against them. Therefore to have respect for humanity, other cultures, religions, to be understanding of different races, showing respect for those that are different in any way, would be the first step to eradicate discrimination. Discrimination is most often an act of fear and/or a lack of knowledge and can grow into hate.

Although, America went through the Civil Rights movement in hopes to end discrimination, it still continues. Discrimination is not something controlled by government or laws, it is controlled by each individual and laws are merely in place to uphold the rights of people.

Please see parts 2 & 3 of this article.