Amnesty International are currently working to raise awareness of Chechnya’s abduction and killing of LGBT people. ‘According to independent daily newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, up to 100 men suspected of being gay have been abducted as part of a coordinated government campaign.’ It has been in the news for the last month about human rights abuses being meted out to the LGBT community in Chechnya simply because of their sexuality. Time magazine showed it on their YouTube channel, as did CNN and Sky News.
Dozens of gay men from Chechnya who’ve been trying to flee the region in fear for their lives are hopeful that a country will act as a safe haven for them and issue them a visa. Nine men have already been granted visas. Two of them went to Lithuania, which has announced its involvement. “It’s very important to act, because they are suffering,” Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the BBC. He would not name the other countries involved but described them as “allies”. His country’s decision was an “implicit message” to Russia, he said, because “we are taking care of Russian citizens… [whose] rights were abused”.
If you are thinking, ‘where is Chechnya?’ or ‘why have I heard of this place before?’ then maybe a read of the Washington Post’s9 questions about Chechnya and Dagestan you were too embarrassed to ask might be worth a read!
Stephen Daldry, a famous director, has announced he’s working on a film about Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini.
Mardini who was already a promising swimmer before she left the civil war in Syria travelled with her sister to Lebanon, then on to the Turkish port of Izmir, before getting onto an overcrowded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos. But less than half an hour into their journey the motor stopped and the boat threatened to capsize: out of the 20 people aboard, only three knew how to swim: Yusra being one of them. For more than three hours, they did what had to be done, swimming alongside the dinghy, pushing, pulling and cajoling it until they reached land.
“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer,” Yusra recalls
She eventually settled in Germany, joined a swim team in Berlin and within months she was in Brazil, one of the 43 stateless athletes competing in Rio as the first ever refugee team. The film of her life is going to be both interesting in how it shows the escape from a war torn country as well as the determination of a young athlete aiming for swimming glory.
In class this week when discussing with Year 8 students what their human rights are we’ve mentioned Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
We’re lucky to have an Amnesty International Youth Group at school where students on Wednesdays after school in Room 8 can meet, discuss, learn and take decisive action on Human Rights issues happening all around the world.
If you’re feeling that world events are spiralling in to a dangerous position of racism, discrimination and intolerance, perhaps a visit to the Amnesty group might allow you a place to safely voice your fears and learn how to take action.
In recent days and I imagine in the weeks and months to come this organisation will appear increasingly in the news, or it certainly needs to. It will respond to world events concerning refugees and discrimination against Muslims, because that was what it was designed to do.
Today news reports say that the German Chancellor (Germany’s equivalent of Prime Minister) had to explain to the US President Donald Trump what the UN Geneva Refugee Convention means. Since 1951 the Refugee Convention has defined exactly what a refugee is and agreed that refugees should never be sent back to place where they face serious threats to the life and freedom. The UNHCFR, United Nations Refugee Agency, has some interested stories to tell of how British people have welcomed refugees. Sir Mo Farah the Olympic long distance runner who was a refugee from Somalia and settled in Britain as a child, has spoken out against the US President’s actions in recent days where certain nationalities (people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) have been banned from travelling to the US for 90 days, all of them Muslim majority countries.
A spokesperson for Angela Merkel said: “The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries. She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”
This news story isn’t all that new. The Christian woman who is facing her final hearing to decide whether she’ll receive the death penalty in Pakistan for blaspheming (in this case speaking against the Prophet Muhammad) has been waiting since that eventful day in 2009 to discover her final fate. It was in the summer of 2015 that Pakistan’s Supreme Court suspended her execution.
What actually happened in 2009? It was five days after the incident in June 2009, where several local Muslim women refused to drink water from the same bowl as an “unclean” Christian, a local imam – who was not present during the original argument – accused Ms Bibi of defaming the Prophet. It was this blasphemy which has left Ms Asia Bibi on death row.
Amnesty International have been raising awareness of the case with their UK Director general saying: “This is the latest blasphemy outrage to come out of Pakistan. It seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and it’s very likely the result of a squabble which escalated out of all proportion. Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas. Asia Bibi and Mohammad Asghar are both languishing on death row for crimes which shouldn’t even be criminalised. They should both be released immediately. Pakistan should get rid of these poisonous blasphemy laws.”