Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for January, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Gabriel,

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King is widely regarded as one of the world’s great human rights leaders.

Today and every day, Amnesty members stand together to defend the full body of human rights that Dr. King so bravely and eloquently espoused.

As we gear up for our Death Penalty Action Weeks (Feb. 27-March 11), we are inspired by Dr. King’s vision of a day without the death penalty. A day when revenge is not offered as justice and society turns to humane and constructive ways of dealing with violent crime.

Dr. King deeply opposed the death penalty, calling it “society’s final assertion that it will not forgive.” His widow, human rights activist Coretta Scott King, agreed. “Morality is never upheld by legalized murder,” she said.

Work with Amnesty to abolish the death penalty and defend basic human rights by becoming a Partner of Conscience monthly donor today.

We are moving closer to abolition in the United States. 2011 saw amazing victories: Illinois passed a law ending the death penalty, Oregon’s governor put a moratorium on executions and death sentences, and executions across the country were at an all-time low. However, it was also the year that the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, who came to symbolize all that is wrong with the death penalty.

As you read this message, eight more men are scheduled for execution in the next 60 days. More killing is not the answer.

Dr. King described violence as, “a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

Stand with Amnesty. Defend human dignity with your monthly gift to Amnesty today.

Dr. King lived his life in service to others, speaking out against suffering, inequality and injustice. In his memory, with his words, we march together toward the end of the death penalty in the United States.

In peace,

Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Muslims Protecting Christians

Protest: Muslim Youths Guard Churches
From Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
Niger, 10 January 2012

Some youths, mainly Muslim faithful, organised themselves into groups yesterday to guard worshippers in some churches in parts of Minna, Niger State capital, as part of a solidarity gesture against the removal of oil subsidy.

LEADERSHIP observed in Kpakungu area of Minna that some of the youths earlier dispersed by the Police on Friday from protesting at the Polo Field, Minna, had regrouped to protect some of the churches.

It was observed that the youths mounted the gates of the churches as their Christian counterparts were worshipping, and conducted themselves peacefully in order not to cause any apprehensions.

The youths, under the umbrella of Concerned Minna Residents, were last Friday dispersed by the police for lack of identity, with the Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Mohammed Maishanu, saying they could not be granted a permit to hold protest.

The leader of the group, Awaal Gata, told LEADERSHIP in an interview at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Kpakungu, said, “we are protecting our fellow Christian brothers and sisters to show the people that our leaders cannot use religion to divide us.

“In this struggle, we are determined to make sure that the removal of fuel subsidy will not stay; we want to send a signal – by coming here to protect our Christians friends and to show that we are one and our Christian brothers will do same on Friday,” he added.

Asked whether they got police permit to do what they were doing, he said: “We are peaceful; we are here to protect ourselves and to emphasize that security is not only in the hands of the police – security is the responsibility of every citizen.”

Arrest the Torturers

From Avaaz.org

Arrest the Torturers

Dear Friends,

This is hard to report, but Avaaz’s own members are being tortured by Syria’s monstrous regime. Manhal* reports that he was held in a secret prison where they pulled out his fingernails and toenails and electrocuted his body parts. “I have seen death, and I’ve been tortured nearly to death,” he’s told us. But if we act now, we can make Manhal’s sacrifice the last straw that turns the whole world against the Assad regime.

The Arab League’s observers have failed to stop the brutal crackdown, but pressure on Assad is mounting. Avaaz has just released a terrifying report revealing the scale of Syria’s detention facilities, including what they did to Manhal. If we build a massive global outcry now, we can force key governments to confront the horrors in this report and accelerate the end of Assad.

Sign the petition right now, and when we reach 500,000 signatures we’ll deliver it along with Avaaz’s report to the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council, demanding they refer Assad to the International Criminal Court to be tried for crimes against humanity:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arrest_syrias_torturers_/?vl

The UN has already stated that there have been crimes against humanity in Syria. Now the regime is being dealt its next critical blow — a harrowing report compiled by Avaaz’s brave Syrian activists making the final link that those crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime. No other report has detailed high-level links to regime torture to this extent — it could be our best chance to get the world to act.

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement. But reports like the one Avaaz is releasing put the lie to this corrupt and atrocious regime. Now we just need the world to witness the horrors it contains.

The time could be up for Assad if we raise a deafening wave of public pressure to tip the scales. Let’s unite the world to demand that the UN Security Council refer the brutal Syrian regime to the International Criminal Court to be tried for crimes against humanity. Sign now and tell everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/arrest_syrias_torturers_/?vl

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs. Let’s not let Manhal’s suffering for freedom be in vain. Let’s demand the UN take action now.

With hope and determination,

Luis, Ian, Maria Paz, Ricken, Emma, Stephanie, Wissam, Heather and the whole Avaaz team

* – “Manhal’s” name has been changed to protect his identity.

End Indefinite Detention

Dear Gabriel,

Osama bid Laden may be dead, but the War on Terror is still being used as an excuse to sacrifice our values and our rights.

On New Year’s Eve, President Obama signed a bill into law that gives him and future presidents the power to use the U.S. military to pick up and indefinitely detain civilians accused of supporting terrorism — including American citizens — anywhere in the world without charges and without a trial.

This represents a further entrenchment of the Guantanamo mindset that jettisons our most cherished values and our constitutional rights all in the name of national security.

Tell President Obama and Congress: Close Guantanamo and end indefinite detention. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The president and all members of Congress need to see that Americans are outraged by the support in all three branches of government for this outrageous attack on our constitutional rights.

Even if your representative or your senators voted against the bill that allows indefinite detention, they need to hear from you.1

What’s more, they need to see a groundswell of support behind a renewed effort to shut down the shameful American gulag at Guantanamo.

Guantanamo is a black mark on our national conscience that started under George W. Bush in the wake of 9-11. But it has only continued, despite promises to the contrary, under President Obama.

Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It’s long past time we shut it down.

Tell President Obama and Congress: Close Guantanamo and end indefinite detention. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Indefinite detention without charges or trial is fundamentally contrary to the democratic values that our system of government rests upon.

For that reason alone, President Obama could have and should have vetoed legislation that prevented the closure of Guantanamo and allowed for the indefinite military detention of American citizens.

But Congress also must shoulder much of the blame.

There is a disturbing degree of elite consensus that the War on Terror justifies rolling back our civil liberties and our obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

While there are many elected officials who to their credit have spoken out against this, the recent defense bill that allows for the indefinite military detention of Americans passed with large, bi-partisan majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The worst thing we can do in the face of this is remain silent.

We need to speak up and make sure that our elected officials know we are watching, and we must demand that they live up to the best of our nation’s values.

Tell President Obama and Congress: Close Guantanamo and end indefinite detention. Click below to automatically sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=366370&id=33280-266627-ENbk89x&t=10

Thank you for speaking out.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Turkey’s Turn-around

From Nation of Change
by Mohammed Ayoob
9 January 2012

Turkey’s Balancing Act

Turkey has over the past few weeks become the spearhead of a joint Western-Arab-Turkish policy aimed at forcing President Bashar al-Assad to cede power in Syria. This is quite a turnaround in Turkish policy, because over the past two years the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had gone out of its way to cultivate good relations with neighboring Syria, with whom it shares a long land border.

This change of course on Syria has also cost Turkey a great deal in terms of its relations with Iran, the principal supporter of Assad’s regime, which Turkey had also cultivated as part of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy.

Given these new strains, it is worth recalling that a only few months ago many American leaders were livid at what they perceived to be Turkey’s betrayal. In their view, Turkey had re-oriented its foreign policy toward the Muslim Middle East and away from the West – a shift supposedly reflected in the country’s deteriorating relations with Israel and improving ties with Iran and Syria.

Many American policymakers and publicists, unable or unwilling to distinguish Turkish-Israeli relations from Turkish-American relations, interpreted Erdoğan’s condemnation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a bid to cozy up to his Arab neighbors at the expense of Turkey’s relations with not only Israel but with the West in general. Turkey’s attempt to mediate between the major Western powers and Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s uranium stockpile went unappreciated in the West; indeed, the United States scuttled the effort just as it seemed to be bearing fruit. And Turkey’s subsequent vote in the United Nations Security Council against imposing additional sanctions on Iran seemed to offer further proof that Turkey had adopted an “Islamic” foreign policy.

America’s anxiety assumed that it is a contradiction for Turkey to seek good relations with both the West and the Muslim Middle East, and that Ankara’s decision to improve its relations with its Muslim neighbors was motivated primarily by religious and ideological concerns considered important by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey’s recent tense relations with Iran demonstrate this assumption’s basic fallacy, and point to a non-ideological foreign policy that caters to Turkish national interests as defined by the country’s political elite – including the post-Islamists in power today.

Disagreement between Turkey and Iran initially centered on their conflicting approaches to the internal rebellion against Assad’s dictatorship. Iran has been heavily invested in the Assad regime, its lone Arab ally and the main conduit for delivering material support to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Turkey, on the other hand, after some initial hesitation, has thrown its weight fully behind Assad’s opponents, including by providing refuge to them, as well as to defectors from Syria’s army. Indeed, Turkey has gone further by helping the divided Syrian opposition to come together on its territory to establish a joint front against the Assad regime and provide a credible alternative to it.

Read entire column at Nation of Change.

Powerful Roots

From Nation of Change
by Bryan Farrell
7 January 2012

Embracing Tree Huggers: The Powerful Roots of (Un) Armed Environmental Protection

Show the slightest bit of concern for the environment and you get labeled a tree hugger. That’s what poor Newt Gingrich has been dealing with recently, as the other presidential candidates attack his conservative credentials for having once appeared in an adwith Nancy Pelosi in support of renewable energy. Never mind that he has since called the ad the “biggest mistake” of his political career and talked about making Sarah Palin energy secretary. Gingrich will be haunted by the tree hugger label the rest of his life. He might as well grow his hair out, stop showering and start walking around barefoot.

But is that what a tree hugger really is? Just some dazed hippie who goes around giving hugs to trees as way to connect with nature. You might be shocked to learn the real origin of the term.

The first tree huggers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into the raw material for building a palace. They literally clung to the trees, while being slaughtered by the foresters. But their action led to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees in any Bishnoi village. And now those villages are virtual wooded oases amidst an otherwise desert landscape. Not only that, the Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement (which means “to cling”) that started in the 1970s, when a group of peasant women in Northeast India threw their arms around trees designated to be cut down. Within a few years, this tactic, also known as tree satyagraha, had spread across India, ultimately forcing reforms in forestry and a moratorium on tree felling in Himalayan regions.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Photographing Iran

From The Globalist

Recording the Truth in Iran
Photographs by Kaveh Goldestan
Reviewed by Ruchi Shukla

While on assignment for the BBC in the Northern Iraqi town of Kifri in 2003, Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan died after stepping on a land mine.

Since before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, he was the only Iranian photojournalist who had a continuing presence in the country until his death in 2003.

Variety of images

In his book “Recording the Truth in Iran,” some of his most famous images from different collections have been selected so as to give a historical explanation for the present situation in Iran.

The collections vary in their timeframe as well as their subjects. Although he was primarily a war photographer, Golestan also covered such subjects as the prostitutes in Tehran, children in a mental asylum, the laborers of Tehran — and the Qaderi Dervishes of Kurdistan.

Besides his war-time images, these photographs give us a glimpse into the life of Iran.

History of Iran

Kaveh Golestan has covered all the major political upheavals in his country. His photographs tell the stories of the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the current war in Iraq.

In 1988, Kaveh Golestan was one of the only photographers who captured the nerve gas attacks outside of the village of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Recording the truth

While most Western media did not cover the attacks because they were compliant towards Saddam Hussein — who at that time was still a U.S. ally — Golestan was furious when his images did not make it into any major media besides Time Magazine.

Even while working in London, Golestan made several trips every year to Tehran to photograph and chronicle the happenings in the country.

He was there in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini came back to power — and captured his funeral in 1989. His pictures told the story of the people behind the war lines.

Read entire review and see photos at The Globalist.

Threat of Indefinite Detention

From Nation of Change
by Jane Olzen
5 January 2012

Speak Out: The Rising Threat of Indefinite Detention

The irony of it all is way more telling than the State of the Union address that we will hear in a few weeks. A constitutional lawyer who was freely elected president signs into law an act that betrays the very principles that the nation he represents was founded on. While the more cautious of us might shy away from the word fascism to describe a nation’s military having the right to detain citizens without trial, it is certainly not hyperbole. There has already been an onslaught of criticism regarding the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Congress legislated and President Obama signed into law on January 1, 2012.

Historically, the NDAA was a spending bill that set the annual budget for the US military. Recently, the guaranteed passage of the NDAA has been used by legislators—in spite of vehement rhetorical opposition by progressive and GOP legislators, the bill still passed, unsurprisingly, with overwhelming support (86-13 with one abstaining in the Senate; 322-96 with eleven abstaining in the House)—to craft the policies and politics of the war on terror.

The same day President Obama signed the NDAA, activists with Witness Against Torture (WAT) began preparing for a January 3, 2012 trial to defend themselves against charges stemming from a June 2011 protest when they interrupted House of Representative deliberations on a Defense Appropriations Bill—a precursor to the final NDAA.

The reason for WAT’s protest was not the provision that allows the president to indefinitely detain anyone, anywhere, which was not included in the early drafts of the 2012 military spending bill. Rather WAT was protesting the provisions in the bill—which did make it into the NDAA—that establish the prison in Guantanamo Bay as a permanent fixture in U.S. foreign policy and seriously question America’s commitment to human and civil rights. Journalist Andy Worthington describes the provisions that make it near impossible to transfer detainees for trial in civilian courts or release them to foreign countries.

The uproar regarding the NDAA’s potential treatment of U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants,” without rights to counsel or trial, in the war on terror is simply the realization of a misguided, immoral, and ineffective domestic and foreign response to terrorism. The chickens are coming home to roost. The American legacy of the 2000s is one of torture, illegal domestic spying, the flouting of international law, and unconscionable detention practices. Meanwhile, nonviolent alternatives for effectively dealing with terrorists—such as a long-stalled potential rehabilitation center for Guantanamo detainees or peer-group centers that challenge and shift the narratives of Islamist terrorism (such as Abdul Haqq Baker and the STREET center that WNV favorite Tina Rosenberg has reported on)—are not given much official consideration.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Guantanamo Closing

Dear Gabriel,

January 11, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of “war on terror” detainees at Guantanamo. We’re not going to let this day pass quietly.

Sign Amnesty’s global petition urging President Obama to finally follow through on his promise to close Guantanamo. Help us meet our goal of 100,000 signatures worldwide — signatures we plan to deliver straight to the White House door.

We haven’t forgotten President Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo, one of his first acts as president. Nearly three years later, the President has failed to keep his end of the bargain.

Even worse, President Obama has yet again relented to extremists in Congress. On New Year’s Eve, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, along with its appalling detention provisions.

We lost that fight, but there’s reason for hope. The battle over the NDAA united activists across the ideological divide, who put differences aside and came together to oppose the NDAA.

January 11th isn’t just any anniversary. This year, it’s a critical moment to rise up against a shameful decade of human rights abuses perpetrated in our name. We can’t let the recent outrage against the NDAA simply ebb away — help us channel this passion into a movement rededicated to closing Guantanamo!

Guantanamo is a costly human rights catastrophe. Military and intelligence experts have repeatedly asserted that Guantanamo and the violations it stands for are immoral, illegal and counterproductive to US national security.

There is a simple solution to closing Guantanamo — either charge detainees and give them a fair trial in US federal court, or release them.

Sign our petition to tell President Obama that we are tired of his excuses. Guantanamo must be closed.

For many, the New Year holiday embodies humanity’s hopes for the future. Here’s to 2012 — and with your help, this could be Guantanamo’s final year.

Sincerely,

Zeke Johnson
Director, Security with Human Rights Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. It’s not too late to join us in Washington, DC on January 11th for a National Day of Action Against Guantanamo. Lend a hand to our human chain!

Costly Guantanamo Cell Block

From Nation of Change and McClatchy
by Carol rosenberg
4 January 2012

Secret Guantanamo Cellblock Cost About $700,000.

A once-secret Guantánamo cellblock now used to punish captives was built in November 2007 for $690,000 from a crude, then 5-year-old temporary prison camp design.

Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese confirmed the existence of the block earlier in December, and released a photo of one steel-walled cell after detainee defenders called conditions inhumane. It’s called Camp Five-Echo, and “serves as a disciplinary block for those non-compliant detainees in Camps 5 and 6,” Reese said in an email Friday that for the first time revealed the cost of the 4-year-old prison camps construction project.

Fewer than 150 of Guantánamo’s 171 captives are kept in Camps 5 and 6, which are steel and cement penitentiary-style copies of U.S. prisons. Former CIA prisoners are held elsewhere at a secret site at the remote Navy base, Camp 7, a jail whose price tag the Pentagon won’t reveal.

As for Five-Echo, it’s a separate 24-unit boxcar-style cellblock on the grounds of Camp 5. Its design comes from the detention center’s earliest days, 2002, when contract laborers welded cellblocks from old shipping containers. But there’s a key difference: In the original design, the cells had a see-through metal mesh that allowed captives to communicate with and see others. For “the disciplinary block,” the military had workers weld in steel walls, sealing off each cell from the other.

The punishment block is pointedly left off the guided tour the U.S. military gives reporters. Reese, the prison camps spokeswoman, said it was first built in November 2007 and is used as a place where captives who don’t cooperate with their captors lose “privileges, and not by use of isolation or solitary confinement.”

Saudi-born Shaker Aamer, 45, a British resident, has been held there more than 100 days, said attorney Ramzi Kassem said Saturday, characterizing his client’s detention circumstances “reminiscent of Guantánamo circa 2003.”

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Tag Cloud