Information and stories about human rights.

Human Rights in Afghanistan
Human rights have long been a concern in the country of Afghanistan. The country suffers from extreme poverty that terrorist forces bringing destruction and violence intensify. As a result of these dire conditions, many Afghan citizens do not receive basic rights. While these conditions are extremely bleak, there are a few endeavors working on improving human rights in Afghanistan.

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

In 2019, Afghanistan saw an excessive amount of violence. From the beginning of January through September, there were over 8,000 civilian casualties. The Taliban specifically targeted some of these attacks on women and health care providers.

One organization, The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), has devoted itself to eliminating the harsh conditions of typical Afghan life. UNAMA is using its research, reporting, advocacy and engagement to tackle this endeavor.

Specifically, UNAMA aims to protect civilians from armed conflict, defend against the violation of child rights, eliminate violence against women, halt arbitrary detention and prevent torture during detention. So many civilians, women and children, in particular, experience great suffrage as a result of the violence in Afghanistan.

Despite the bleakness of 2019, UNAMA has made progress. Large-scale suicide attacks decreased by 79 percent in 2019 when compared to 2018. Torture in conflict-related detainees decreased by 7 percent as well. Maintaining the mission and engaging in strategic partnerships are key aspects to improving the living conditions of the public and at-risk Afghans. By continuing the impactful research, reporting, advocacy and strategic relationships, UNAMA is improving human rights in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Defenders

For a long while, human rights defenders have been victims of violence and intimidation within Afghanistan. Specifically, in 2019, escalated tensions surrounded human rights workers where there were specific activities of attacks and/or kidnapping. During that escalation in violence, the Taliban announced that there would be an attack on all media outlets responsible for criticizing Taliban fighters. These defenders are vital to aiding the protection of people’s human rights in Afghanistan. In turn, these defenders must also receive protection. 

Response to Rising Tensions

In January 2020, at an Amnesty International event, the authorities publicly committed to protecting the defenders of human rights in Afghanistan. Other organizations that support human rights throughout the nation attended the event. All of these groups designed a strategy outlining the actions they should take to protect human rights defenders.

This support launches initiatives that will investigate attacks, respond to incidents and/or threats of attacks, offer relief to human rights defenders and enable human rights defenders to continue work without the fear of retaliation. Helping these human rights defenders is vital to changing the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. If these defenders are unable to safely complete the work, then the human rights of Afghans will never improve.

Currently, human rights in Afghanistan are in need of remarkable improvements. Organizations are aiming to develop response mechanisms and preventative strategies toward improving human rights in Afghanistan. UNAMA is aiming to utilize research, reporting, advocacy, strategic partnerships and the protection of human rights defenders to help the Afghan population.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Wikipedia

Five Ted Talks About Human TraffickingTED talks about human trafficking help to shine a spotlight on the issues from how to spot examples of trafficking to how to end it. These talks can be a powerful educational tool not only for individuals but also in settings like the classroom and the workplace. Here are five TED Talks about human trafficking.

5 TED Talks about Human Trafficking

  1. “Human Trafficking is All Around You. This is How it Works.” In this talk, Noy Thrupkaew discusses the behind-the-scenes world of human trafficking and its prevalence in ordinary places of business such as nail salons. She shows the human faces behind the exploited labor that feeds global consumerism and breaks down how human trafficking works all around the world.
  2. “Escaping the Pain of Human Trafficking.” Markie Dell is a human trafficking survivor who shares her experience as well as her road to recovery. Dell also talks about the unusual advice from a friend that helped her to heal and reclaim her life.
  3. “Three Ways Businesses Can Fight Sex Trafficking.” Attorney Nikki Clifton points out three ways businesses can fight sex trafficking. She reveals to the audience how sex trafficking happens in the open more than people think. It can occur online, in the middle of the workday or while using company equipment and resources. As she says, this puts companies in a powerful position to mobilize employees and educate them to stop sex trafficking. Hiring sex trafficking survivors and setting clear policies are just some of the ways she says businesses can stop sex trafficking.
  4. “The Fight Against Sex Slavery.” Sunitha Krishnan spends her time leading powerful discussions surrounding the multi-million dollar global sex slavery industry. A longtime ally of sex traffickers, she tells the stories of children of slaves and advocates for a more humane reform to helping survivors rebuild their lives.
  5. “I Was Human Trafficked for 10 Years. We Can Do More to Stop It.” Barbara Amaya courageously tells her story of being human trafficked when she was 12 years old. After running away from home to escape her abusive family, Amaya was “rescued” by a family that locked her into human trafficking for 10 years. Since escaping in 2012, she has raised awareness about the sexual exploitation of children and domestic sex trafficking. Amaya is an anti-trafficking advocate, speaker, trainer, author and survivor leader in the movement to end sex and human trafficking.

By taking just a few minutes to watch these TED talks about human trafficking, people can do something today to prevent human trafficking. Sharing their talks on social media is also a great way to continue the movement of ending human trafficking through education.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Rights in Central America
Central America, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, has a history of human rights violations. The three northern countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are considered the most dangerous countries in the region for vulnerable communities. The United Nations defines human rights as rights thought to be inherent no matter any status. Violations of these rights include violence, discrimination and injustices.

Vulnerable Communities

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community, women and children are the most prone to violence and discrimination in Central America. Violence against LGBTQ people is severe and spread far throughout the region. In northern Central America between 2014 to 2019, 243 LGBTQ people were murdered.

The northern region is also the most dangerous for women. This is because El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-motivated killing in the world. Guatemala follows closely behind at third-highest while Honduras is sixth. In 2017, 2,559 cases of gender-motivated murders were reported in Latin America and the Caribbean with Central American nations making up a majority of the countries with the highest risk for women. El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua are included within the top 10.

Another highly vulnerable group is children. Children suffer from gangs, sexual violence and poverty. Many are forced to flee from Central America to the United States in the hopes of living safer lives, but this journey is often dangerous due to the drug-trafficking gangs. In addition to violence, poverty is also a significant driving force for children and families fleeing Central America. More than two-thirds of children live in poverty throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In El Salvador alone, 86.8 percent of children live under the poverty line. However, families who do make it to the U.S. border are detained and often separated.

Human Rights Defenders

There is constant work to expand existing organizations and encourage a public environment that allows human rights defenders, local civil society groups and individuals to carry out their vital work without fear of violence. The people on the ground doing research, providing aid and services and protesting injustice are the foundation of the cause.

OutRight Action International, founded in 1990, works to improve the lives and protect LGBTQ people in Central America. In Guatemala, OutRight hosted a security training for LGBTQ activists in 2016. They document abuse and work towards creating a more tolerant society.

Journalists and activists that carry out such work are often detained or arrested for speaking out against the violation of human rights. 87 human rights activists were murdered or died in detention in Central America in 2016. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) recognizes the importance of activists in the fight for human rights and has launched many campaigns advocating for laws protecting human rights defenders. In many cases, the violence and crime against activists are ignored by law officials and in response, human rights organizations have implemented devices, such as contact buttons and emergency plans, to keep people from being punished for speaking out.

Furthermore, the Pan American Development Foundation, based in Washington D.C., is currently 4 years into a 5-year plan to strengthen human rights in Central America. The project began in 2016 and has provided help to at-risk communities and has established protection systems for civil society groups and human rights defenders.

Moving Forward

Human rights in Central America are challenged every day. These rights are often abused due to the ineffectiveness of government intervention efforts and gang-related violence. Central America has a long way to go in providing a safe and enriching society for its citizens, but with the continued efforts of activists and community groups, there is a possibility for improved safety and livelihoods.

Taylor Pittman

Photo: Flickr

Chinese Re-education Camps
Currently, China is holding Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. China is holding them captive in its re-education camps without trial, with the excuse that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight Islamic extremism. However, police forces hold power over these places, making it impossible for the Uyghur people to leave by choice. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are. This article covers information about the discovery of the Chinese re-education camps and how nations and people are taking action.

The China Cables Leak

Currently, estimates state that China is holding somewhere between one and three million Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. This number would equate to around 10 percent of the Uyghur Muslim population in China, which is about 10 million. The government is claiming that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight extremism. However, after the leak of the China Cables, China had a difficult time sustaining this narrative.

The China Cables refer to the leak of the operating manual for the Chinese re-education camps, which people formally knew as the Xinjian re-education camps. Prisoners only obtain weekly phone calls and a monthly video call with relatives. Other than that, any other contact can result in their suspension. The Chinese camps have high security and prisoners are under constant surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible for them to contact the outside without someone catching them.

One can mostly trace the documents back to 2017, and they explicitly reveal the government’s plans to use these facilities to forcibly teach manners and ideologies to the prisoners. Even though the government says the people can leave the camps and are there voluntarily, the China Cables state that the camps would only release the students after a year and only after achieving a minimum point score. Despite the evidence, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said: “What we established are vocational training centers — they are not concentration camps as called by some people.”

The World’s Action

The world has been noticeably quiet about this issue. However, some U.S. representatives have provided comments and critiques about the camps. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, has called the treatment of the Uyghurs “the stain of the century.” Deputy John Sullivan called it a “horrific campaign of repression.”

Even though it took some time, the U.S. government finally took concrete action. The administration blocked Chinese officials who carry out the repression from gaining visas to the U.S. The Commerce Department sanctioned Xinjiang’s Public Security Bureau, its subsidiaries and eight companies for their involvement in the persecution, detention and surveillance of the Chinese camps. China has used the camps as a testing ground for intrusive surveillance of the Uyghur.

Outside of the U.S., other nations are taking action. The United Kingdom has urged China to give U.N. observers access to detention camps. Belgium stated that it would continue raising the issue of human rights violations in these centers. Finally, 22 countries at the U.N. issued a joint statement directed to China to end the detentions and human rights violations of Muslims. The U.K., Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that signed.

Opensource Research

Any of these things would not be possible if it were not for the power of the people, beginning with the leak of the China Cables and opensource research. Opensource research is the type of research that includes sources available to everyone on the internet. German academic Adrian Zenz followed this type of research by using a Chinese search engine, Baidu, to discover documents that proved the existence of these camps.

Shawn Zhang is another significant contributor, who is a law student that used satellite imagery to investigate the location and size of the camps. Both of their research has supplied evidence and images to news outlets. It has also helped disprove the Chinese government’s denial of the camps. One should never underestimate the importance of the power of the people. Zhang says: “During my research, I have felt a lot of pressure from the Chinese government (…) [but] I think it is worth it because there are so many Uighur people held there. They just totally vanished, they disappear, like going into a black hole. They’ve lost contact with their families. At least my research can help international society to pressure the Chinese government so there can be a better chance of a peaceful solution.”

The Save Uighur Campaign

There has also been an increase in coverage of this issue, particularly in social media, through the hashtag #SaveUyghur. It is essential to keep talking about this, so more people become aware, and those in power feel pressured to exercise change. Finally, there are also nonprofits such as The Save Uighur Campaign, where people can donate and contact Congress. This NGO’s mission is to help the Uyghur Muslims suffering from the Chinese re-education camps. In its own words, “The project is a concerted effort to tie media exposure, public relations, and government action together into a single strategy aimed at the liberation of the Uighurs from the oppression they face at the hands of the Chinese government.” It is prompting people to protest and giving them the resources to do so as well.

A popular way of protesting, which Save Uighur also promotes, is Fast From China. China bans Muslims from fasting, which is part of their religion. As a way of protest and an act of solidarity, people stop eating Chinese products during the month of Ramadan. There is even a hashtag for this, #FastFromChina.

The Save Uighur NGO does something fundamental by encouraging people to contact Congress, as this is where one can see the most tangible progress when fighting for this issue. Congress is considering two bills that support Uighur Muslims. The Senate has already passed one, while the House of Representatives is yet to pass the other one. One can find the tools to support it and contact leaders on the Save Uighur website.

Atrocities are happening in China, but people are doing some things about them. People can start taking action and changing the circumstances by informing themselves and contacting their leaders. Some fantastic ideas are already in motion to fight against these Chinese re-education camps, both from the government and the people. From discovering the China Cables to a hashtag, everything counts in this battle. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Human Rights in Eritrea

Eritrea is known by some as the “North Korea of Africa.” In 1993, after a 30-year long war of independence, Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia. In the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, Eritrea received a tier-three rating, signifying that the Eritrean government has not engaged in any significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the country. Keep reading to learn the top nine facts about human rights in Eritrea.

9 Facts about Human Rights in Eritrea

  1. The Eritrean government is one of the last remaining dictatorships in the world. Since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993, President Isaias Afewerki has served as the country’s leader. Forced labor, repression of free speech and restriction on the freedom of religion are common under the current regime.
  2. Human trafficking in Eritrea has its roots in the national service program. The program requires men ages 18 to 54 and women ages 18 to 47 to serve 18-months in the military and non-military service. However, there are records of people serving more than 10 years because they were threatened with detention, torture or harm to their families.
  3. Many Eritreans have fled their country to find better living conditions. In 2013, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were fleeing Eritrea every month to escape the country’s human rights abuses. Overall, the U.N. refugee agency has expressed concern that more than 300,000 Eritreans have fled over the past decade.
  4. Security forces in Eritrea torture and beat civilians or suspected criminals. Among the people tortured and beaten are army deserters, draft evaders, people living near mining camps and people attempting to flee the country. For Eritreans who are trying to flee the country, the Eritrean government issued a shoot-to-kill policy.
  5. Children and young people are vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking in Eritrea. All 12th-grade students are required to complete their final year of secondary education at the Sawa military and training academy. If the students refuse, they do not receive high school diplomas and are unable to attend universities or attain employment. Although the Eritrean law bans conscription of minors (younger than 18) into military service, many students sent to the academy are not of age.
  6. Many Eritrean refugees are facing repatriation. Repatriated refugees often face arrest and indefinite detention, which involves inhumane conditions and treatments. Eritrea’s inhumane treatment of its citizens is extensive, evidenced through Osman Ahmed Nur’s suicide in 2018. Ahmed Nur, who escaped to the U.K. after suffering torture, committed suicide in fear of repatriation after getting stopped and searched by the police.
  7. Many international organizations are coming together to give aid to Eritrea. In 2009, the EU, the U.S. and the African Union worked together to provide development aid for Eritrea. The EU provided 122 million euros in assistance to Eritrea despite “concerns that development projects in Eritrea are carried out by conscript or prison labor in violation of international law.”
  8. The Ethiopian soldiers and government give favorable support to the Eritrean refugees. This may surprise an outsider observer, given the history of conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In interviews conducted in 2017, Eritrean refugees stated they did not experience hostility from Ethiopian soldiers. While there are concerns about the living conditions in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, the U.N. Refugee Agency’s statistics highlight the refugees’ access to electricity and reuniting of over 1,600 children with their families in Ethiopia.
  9. Assistance is also provided to Eritreans living outside of the refugee camps. They receive help to formally register births, marriages and deaths which helps increase access to financial services such as bank accounts. Statistics show that 623 Eritreans living in urban centers benefit from the OCP. There are also 13,000 Eritrean refugees who benefit elsewhere in the country.

Above all, the Eritrean government’s treatment of its citizens paints a bleak picture. Repression of free speech, limiting the freedom of religion, the lack of due process and accounts of torture make up the grim narratives told by the Eritrean refugees. However, Eritrea’s recent peace agreement with Ethiopia is more hopeful. These nine facts about human rights in Eritrea tell us that, with the help of the international community and humanitarian assistance given by the Ethiopian government, a better future awaits the people of Eritrea.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Argentina
Political corruption has long plagued Argentina’s government, dating all the way back to the 1800s. In the country’s modern history, there has rarely been a decade where some sort of political scandal has not occurred. However, the country has been steadily improving over the past decade. Here are 10 facts about political corruption in Argentina.

10 Facts About Corruption in Argentina

  1. Corruption Index Rating: The country had a Corruption Index rating of 40 in 2018, which was its best rating since 1995. This rating is based on the level of perceived corruption in a country’s public sector. The rating reached its lowest in the early 2000s during the tenure of former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua but has steadily risen in the following years, reaching higher numbers in the late 2010s. Its 2018 corruption index of 40 is fairly high if one compares it to other Latin American countries, although it is well below more developed countries.
  2. Police Corruption: Several Argentine businesses have reported that the police are among the most corrupt government agencies in the country and that Argentinians cannot rely on the police force to enforce the law. The Economist reported in 2014 that the police were reforming their systems, however. This started with giving policemen a higher salary, which is still increasing to this day, to reduce the risk of metropolitan police officers accepting bribes in exchange for their silence. While many issues remain with high ranking federal officials, Argentina is taking more action to reduce the amount of crime happening on the streets.
  3. Political Corruption: Political corruption often plagues businesses in Argentina due to excessive taxes and expensive, difficult customs process, with much of this revenue going to Argentina’s elite. In 2018, Forbes reported that people siphoned nearly $36 billion and put it into the pockets of wealthy businessmen in a corrupt public-private ring. Reports have determined that legislators have also taken bribes, leading to a messy lawmaking and enforcement process.
  4. Human Rights: The constitution of Argentina guarantees freedom of the press and speech, although journalists do receive threats. Because the government lacks federal legislation pertaining to access to information for the public, the government is able to manipulate economic statistics. There remain some problems pertaining to the safety of the press, but the government highly respects freedom of speech and it has taken reports of human rights violations very seriously. Argentina is also the first country in Latin America to pass laws protecting LGBT rights.
  5. The Justice 2020 Initiative: According to Anti-Corruption Digest, in response to issues revolving around legal loopholes and lack of criminal convictions, Argentine President Mauricio Macri enacted the Justice 2020 Initiative. This plan seriously overhauled Argentina’s court systems, which are in need of legal upgrades, along with fixing several legal loopholes. ACD cites that the changes from this act have doubled the court system’s productivity and helped clear the prior backlog of people waiting for prosecution.
  6. Prison Conditions: Prison conditions in Argentina are very poor. Prisons in the country tend to suffer overcrowding and violence between inmates; police abuse and bad upkeep of prison facilities are also very common. Under the Justice 2020 Initiative, President Macri made a commitment to prevent these abuses from happening further, and in 2011, members of the police made a commitment that it would only use force when absolutely necessary.
  7. Judicial Corruption: High ranking officials in Argentina are among the largest problems in regards to corruption in Argentina, with many of them accepting or demanding bribes for political favors such as pardoning crimes. High court judges are especially at risk of corruption; since 2003, with the approval of the senate, the president can handpick people for the courts, leading to poor separation of power between the executive and judicial branches. There are a president, vice president and three justices that currently preside over Argentina’s supreme court, making the policing of high ranking officials challenging to do. The federal court system is small, understaffed and underutilized, making the trial and removal of high ranking officials a long and difficult process.
  8. Quality of Life: Despite government corruption in Argentina, it remains one of the best countries in Latin America in terms of education. Nearly everyone in the country also has access to a reliable source of water and sanitation, with only around 1 percent not having access to water and less than 4 percent not having sanitation. Part of this could be due to Argentina’s abundant natural resources and booming economy, but one should also credit the country’s increasing focus on human rights enforcement.
  9. Abortion: While Argentina is a Latin American pioneer when it comes to human rights, women’s rights still remain an issue in the country. Abortion is illegal in Argentina unless the pregnancy is a danger to the mother’s health. The Catholic Church, which is the faith of the vast majority in Argentina, condemns abortion. Women’s rights groups have lobbied for legal abortion, including in 2018 when the country held a vote on the status of it.
  10. The Fundacion Banco de Alimentos: There are many nonprofits in Argentina that dedicate themselves to helping improve the quality of life for those who live in poverty. In the wake of severe socio-economic issues, the Fundacion Banco de Alimentos, a nonprofit food bank that emerged in 2000, acts as a channel for citizens to give food to Argentina’s most impoverished inhabitants. The vast majority of donors are local companies, farmers and supermarkets that donate food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Considering the country’s most recent economic issues, this is a great way for businesses to give back to the less fortunate in Argentina and reduce poverty without going through the government; over 1,000 communities participate, and people have donated over 5,000,000 food products with the food bank reaching over 143,000 people.

Political corruption in Argentina has plagued the country for centuries and one can trace much of this corruption back to issues with federal officials. There is not enough separation between the executive and judicial branches, which has led to the country’s continual issues with properly handling crime and enforcing justice. More citizen lobbying and human rights groups will be necessary to end government corruption and further push for the protection of human rights in Argentina’s near future.

– Andrew Lueker
Photo: Flickr

examples of human rights violations
A human rights violation is the disallowance of the freedom of thought and movement to which all humans legally have a right. While individuals can violate these rights, the leadership or government of civilization most often belittles marginalized persons. This, in turn, places these people in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Individuals who approach life with the attitude that not all human lives are of equal value then perpetuate this cycle. This article will explore examples of human rights violations, and what people can do about this phenomenon.

A Brief History

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged in 1948. Of the 56 members of the United Nations at that time, eight of them did not vote in favor of equal human rights. Since then, international human rights have made monumental progress. This does not mean, however, that some do not violate these rights every single day.

The development of human rights advocacy is not a linear process; the last two decades have shown that human rights advancements have remained stagnant or declined in some parts of the world. Socially disadvantaged groups of society are especially susceptible to discrimination. This includes women, children, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, refugees, indigenous peoples and people living in poverty.

Discrimination

The ramifications of human rights violations disproportionately affect those living in developing nations due to compounding factors and difficulties. The marginalization of groups based on gender identity and sexual orientation has become a prevalent issue of the 21st century. Although there are exceptionally progressive parts of the world that have made advances toward the inclusion of the LGBTQIAPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual/polyamorous, kink) community, stigmatization remains a dilemma that lacks a clear resolution. Other stigmatized cases include persons living with HIV/AIDS and victims of rape or other forms of gender-based violence.

Abuse of the Death Penalty

There are countless examples of human rights violations. One example that is especially heartbreaking is the Islamic Republic’s execution of children. The United Nations special investigator of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehmen, stated in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2019 that the use of the death penalty continues to be at the top of global charts. This is despite significant progress in the two years prior.

Iran has a long way to go. This is considering that religious and ethnic minorities still face high levels of discrimination. Rehmen described the recent maltreatment of human rights activists: “[they] have been intimidated, harassed, arrested and detained.” Rehmen goes on to inform the assembly that between the months of September 2018 and July 2019, eight well-respected human rights defense attorneys were arrested and sentenced to an extended time in prison.

New Wave of Human Rights Violations

Those living in the least developed nations experience some of the worst human rights violations. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986 to address this issue specifically. The declaration is radical in the sense that it acknowledges development as a right for all humans. This is something that people clearly do not enforce, although it is a legal right. This provides an understanding that development is a crucial component in reaching equality and protecting human rights.

Prisoners of war and torture victims are also examples of human rights violations. The War on Terror sparked a new influx of human rights abuse acts that has continued over the last two decades and supported the destabilization of international human rights. In order to recover this lost sense of humanity, a common understanding of the rights of human beings is essential.

The western mindset, which takes these rights and freedoms for granted, contributes to this issue as a whole. The question is how can leaders with limited resources enforce the protection of the people’s rights?

The Solutions

Achieving a sustainable, practical and effective method of protecting human rights around the globe that also allows local values and culture to remain intact is a difficult ambition. Humans must recognize the beauty of individual differences and attempt to understand each other before a change can happen. Starting with the smaller steps, like understanding victims of rape, violence and discrimination instead of perpetuating a victim-blaming culture, might be more influential than viewing the situation through such an expansive lens. Only then will these examples of human rights violations turn into examples of human kindness.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

China's Human Rights Violations
The Chinese government is committing atrocities and human rights violations against the Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province of China. Chinese authorities detained at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Muslims since 2017; mainly Uyghurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group, along with other ethnic Muslim minorities.

China’s Motives

Riots broke out in Xinjiang in 2009 due to Uyghur mass protests against cultural and economic discrimination and state-incentivized migration of Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China. Since then, the Chinese government worries that Uyghurs hold separatist, religious extremist ideas. Therefore, it justifies its repressive actions as necessary measures in response to threats of terrorism.

Chinese officials launched a Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism in 2014 in Xinjiang, but the repression escalated significantly when Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary, became the leader of Xinjiang in 2016. Prior to this, Chen Quanguo ruled Tibet from 2011 to 2016, where he implemented a dual strategy to restore and secure national security and social stability. He used aggressive policies to reduce ethnic differences and assimilate Tibetans to Han Chinese, such as re-education programs and intermarriage initiatives. Aside from these ethnic policies, Chen established dense security systems to reinforce this cultural transformation, including militarized surveillance systems. After ruling Tibet, people got to know Chen for restoring stability through the enforcement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and for his innovative ethnic policies, which he expanded in Xinjiang, targeting the Uyghur population.

Xinjiang is of particular strategic and economic importance for Beijing as it has the country’s largest natural gas and coal reserves with 40 percent of the national total. Xinjiang is a key area for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global trade project, as it connects China to the rest of Asia and Europe. Therefore, Beijing may be repressing the Uyghur in Xinjiang for economic reasons to protect its Belt and Road Initiative project in which China invested between $1 to 8 trillion.

China’s Human Rights Violations and Abuses

The autonomous region of Xinjiang changed its legislation to allow local governments to set up re-education camps to intern Muslims, where they must renounce aspects of their religion, learn Mandarin Chinese and praise the CCP, in order to combat extremism. As stated by the Chinese Communist Youth League in March 2017, “the training has only one purpose: to eradicate from the mind thoughts about religious extremism and violent terrorism, and to cure ideological diseases.”

Former detainees reported the use of stress positions, beatings, sleep and food deprivation by authorities, as well as the mistreatment and torture in some mass internment facilities as punishment for resisting or failing to learn the lessons taught.

The 11 million Uyghur living in Xinjiang outside of the camps also endure the tightening repressive policies of Chinese authorities who subject people to pervasive surveillance. Authorities use cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, big data and phone spyware. The CCP leader Chen Quanguo installed a grid-management system in Xinjiang, which divides the cities into squares of 500 people. A police station monitors each square that is in charge of regularly checking IDs, fingerprints and searching phones.

Global Response to China’s Human Rights Violations

The E.U. issued a statement in 2018 demanding China to respect the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, as well as change its policies in Xinjiang. In July 2019, over 20 countries collectively signed a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter urges China to allow U.N. experts access to the camps. However, no Muslim-majority country co-signed the joint statement. Instead, Saudi Arabia alongside 36 other countries signed their own letter in which they praised China’s achievements and argue that “human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.”

Most human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations also condemned China’s detention of Uyghurs. This was demonstrated in a joint letter that a coalition of five human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and more) issued to the U.N. Secretary-General, urging the U.N. to take action.

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations, both government agencies and top surveillance companies. This marked the U.S.’s first concrete action in response to China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, along with the imposed visa restrictions on the Chinese government and communist party officials.

Conclusion

China still dismisses all allegations of human rights violations and uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block human rights issues discussions. Immediate investigations on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs must transpire and the U.N. should access detention camps. The situation in Xinjiang conveys the level of vulnerability ethnic minorities face, and the urgency for the international community to take concrete action.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China
Most people know China for its immense production capacity, sky-rocketing population, and of course its incredible cuisine. The human trafficking at the source of the nation’s production capacity, however, often remains unknown outside the country. While China’s aggressive censorship policies create a difficult barrier for the flow of information, here are 10 facts about human trafficking in China.

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China

  1. The Government Prosecutes Some Cases: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reported investigating 1,004 cases of human trafficking and arresting 2,036 suspects in 2016. China convicted 435 individuals for sex trafficking, 19 individuals for labor trafficking and 1,302 individuals in other cases slavery.
  2. Apple and Sony Offer “Internships”: Foxconn, a Chinese electronics manufacturer that produces parts for Apple’s iPhone, reportedly utilizes exploitative working conditions. The company forces students to work in the manufacturing sector by threatening to fail them and limit their ability to graduate. While job postings often list these as internships, they usually are just production line jobs in dangerous factories. Similar cases of forced labor have occurred in electronics factories supplying major brands such as Apple, Acer, HP, and even Sony, according to The Wallstreet Journal.
  3. China’s Imports Support Human Trafficking: In 2015, China imported a total value of $1.6 billion of electronic products from Malaysia, which employs forced labor to produce electronic goods. China also participates in coal trade with North Korea—importing $954 million worth of coal in 2016—which allegedly uses state-imposed forced labor to sustain many of its economic sectors, including the coal industry.
  4. Some Chinese Buy Myanmar Women for Babies: Most know about China’s one-child policy, meant to slow its burgeoning population. The black market for babies, however, remains relatively unknown outside the nation. Traffickers usually sell women, originating from Myanmar’s northern Kachin and Shan States, for some amount between $3,000 to $13,000 after luring them across the border by promising good jobs. Traffickers lock up and rape many of the victims, and force them to bear the children.
  5. China has 61 Million Left-Behind Children: With China’s booming urban economy, many people in rural areas migrate for work, often leaving behind their families and children completely. While previous estimates documented 61 million of these left-behind children in rural areas, the Chinese authorities officially altered the definition of left-behind children, resulting in a significant decrease in their numbers to 9 million in 2016. These children are prime victims for different traffickers for uses such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and others.
  6. China is One of the Largest Human Smuggling Victims: In 2011, more than 40.3 million Chinese resided overseas in 148 countries. Human smuggling syndicates, like the Snakeheads, leverage its criminal connections to transport Chinese people to other nations. Fees for transnational smuggling vary from $1,000 to $70,000 (average of $50,000) per person. Oftentimes these migrants end up dead or the gangs who smuggled them extort for more money.
  7. It Affects the U.S.: Traffickers lure many Chinese women to the U.S. with promises of “$10,000 per month, board and lodging, and opportunities to travel around.” Garden of Hope, an NGO in New York has helped 1,528 women and 420 youths escape human trafficking since its inception 13 years ago, said Yuanfen Chi, executive director of the organization. Starting in September 2013, criminal courts in New York viewed workers at illegal massage salons (where people offered sexual) not as normal criminals, but as potential human trafficking victims. Liu stated that these victims can remain and work in the U.S. if traffickers forced them to perform sexual acts or work by fraud or force as defined in The Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
  8. North Korean Refugees Face Trafficking in China: The smuggling of North Korean refugees into China constitutes part of a multi-million-dollar criminal industry, operated by a vast network of brokers in both countries. These brokers arrange for guards in both countries to allow for safe passage, often costing refugees around $8,000. This price will only increase as crackdowns on border security intensify in both countries. Once these refugees arrive in China, they become extremely vulnerable to trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, cyber pornography and forced marriage.
  9. China Attempts to Crack Down on Marriage Trafficking: The Supreme People’s Court issued a new judicial interpretation on trafficking of women and children that entered into effect on January 1, 2017. It defines illegal trafficking as “matchmaking that involves subtle coercive measures such as withholding of passports, restriction of freedom of movement, and taking advantage of vulnerabilities such as language barriers, or unfamiliarity with the destination in order to sell the victims against their will.”
  10. Child Forced Labor is Not Overexaggerated: In 2016, police found cases of forced child labor in a garment factory in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, where managers forced underage workers to work overtime, beating them if they refused. The factory took the workers’ phones and passport if they tried to escape. The new judicial interpretation mentioned in point 9 of these 10 facts about human trafficking in China should help stop some of these cases of child trafficking and forced labor.

While China’s significant activity in human trafficking remains unknown in many aspects, these 10 facts about human trafficking in China shed some light on modern-day slavery in one of the largest and most censored nations in the world.

– Raleigh Dewan
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela
People have long associated the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with the autocratic governance of late President Nicolás Maduro and decades of socioeconomic downfall. Gross political corruption persists in Venezuela that constitutional violations show. These began in 2017 and have barred acting president Juan Guaidó from assuming the duties of his office. In September 2019, The UN Human Rights Council dispatched a team to the country to investigate alleged human rights abuses, including state-sanctioned killings, forced disappearances and torture. With this information in mind, here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela

  1. The Situation: Deteriorating social and economic conditions in Venezuela have incited a refugee crisis in the country. Since 2014, more than four million Venezuelans have fled (a figure which excludes unregistered migrants). Displaced by violence and corruption, Venezuelan migrants struggle to obtain legal residence, food security, education and health care resources in the nations they flee to. These bureaucratic hurdles and unstable living situations force many to return home.
  2. Maduro and Corruption: The dismantling of Venezuela’s National Assembly in March 2017 was the Maduro Administration’s first attempt of many to silence political opposition. The move stripped the opposition-led parliament of its legislating powers and immunity—important checks against potential exploits by the executive branch. Research from Amnesty International confirms that Maduro’s government used torture, unhinged homicides and extrajudicial executions to maintain support in the years following this constitutional scandal.
  3. Protests and Arrests: Nationwide protests and demonstrations began in 2014 in response to human rights violations and a buckling economy. According to the Penal Forum, authorities have arrested more than 12,500 people between the years 2014 and 2018 in connection with protests. Security personnel and government-backed militias often use excessive force—tear gas, firearms, asphyxiation, severe beatings and electroshock, etc.—against protesters and detainees in order to quell resistance efforts.
  4. Censorship: Maduro’s regime has used censorship of mainstream media to control Venezuelan civilians and eliminate its critics. A pervasive fear of reprisal effectively denies Venezuelans their freedom of expression and speech.  During times of global scrutiny, the government has blocked online news broadcasts, VPN access and streaming services to curb bad press and anti-government organizing. The government staged an information blackout in February 2019 in response to a clash between the military and aid convoys at the Colombian border.
  5. Political Bribery: The Venezuelan government has used political bribery to keep Venezuelans compliant. The government has used its monopoly on resources to withhold food and other basic goods from dissenters and reward supporters with the same incentives. In 2016, Maduro launched the government-subsidized food program, Local Food Production and Provision Committees (CLAPS). Through this insidious program, Venezuelans received monthly (oftentimes late or empty) food shares in exchange for having their voting activity tracked.
  6. Human Rights Crisis Denial: In February 2019 Maduro denied claims to the BBC that the country was undergoing a human rights crisis. He has repeatedly used the same rhetoric to reject foreign aid and unassailable evidence of health and welfare shortages in the country, by equating the acceptance of aid with the fall of his regime. That same month, there were disputes over $20 million in U.S. and European aid shipments at the Colombia-Venezuela border.
  7. Venezuela’s Inflation Rate: The International Monetary Fund forecasts Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019. Food scarcity and hyperinflation have led to millions of cases of malnutrition and premature death, especially amongst children.
  8. Doctors and Hospitals: Twenty thousand registered doctors have left Venezuela between 2012 and 2017 due to poor working conditions and growing infant mortality rates. Hospitals are unhygienic and understaffed, lacking the medicine and medical equipment to accommodate the excess number of patients. Tentative water sources and power outages make most cases inoperable, presenting a liability to doctors and causing untreated patients to become violent.
  9. Death Squads: In June 2019, the UN reported that government-backed death squads killed nearly 7,000 people from 2018 to May 2019. Maduro attempted to legitimize the killings by using the Venezuelan Special Police Force (FAES) to conduct the raids, which he staged through family separation techniques and the illegal planting of contraband and narcotics. Again, Maduro devised this strategy to threaten political opponents and people critical of the Maduro government.
  10. Human Trafficking: A 2016 report conducted by the U.S. Department of State condemned Venezuela’s handling of human trafficking in the country, in both regards to sex trafficking and internal forced labor. Venezuela lacks the infrastructure to properly identify and assist trafficking victims due to governmental corruption and rampant gain violence which facilitates human trafficking and forgoes accountability. Traffickers often trick or coerce Venezuelan migrants into the sex trade. In fact, 10 percent of 1,700 recorded trafficking victims in Peru between 2017 and 2018 were Venezuelan.

The top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela should read as a call to action. Global aid agencies and national governments are currently working to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and the growing Venezuelan migrant community. While the current political climate complicates internal relief efforts, spreading awareness about the state of human rights in Venezuela is the first step in addressing the crisis.

Cuarto Por Venezuela Foundation is a nonprofit organization conceived in 2016 by four Venezuelan women living in the United States eager to alleviate the situation at home. The Foundation works to create programs and partnerships to deliver comprehensive aid to Venezuelans in need. In 2018, the organization shipped over 63,000 lbs. of medicine, food and school supplies to Venezuela (four times the number of supplies shipped the previous year). Additionally, its health program has served nearly 40,000 patients to date through vaccination and disease prevention services.

– Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr