August 11th, 2009
02:42 PM ET

Girl, 9, details rape to Congo photogpraher

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/08/11/congo.rape/art.congo1.sq.jpg" caption="The young girl on the right says she was raped by Congolese soldiers. She was just 9 when it happened."]

Wayne Drash

The young girl whispered in a hushed tone. She looked down as she spoke, only glancing up from her dark round eyes every now and then. She wanted to tell more, but she was too ashamed. She was just 9 years old when, she says, Congolese soldiers gang-raped her on her way to school.

"These two soldiers nabbed her, put a bag over her head and pulled her into the bushes. She explains it as, 'They got me,' " says Sherrlyn Borkgren, who spent a month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo late last year.

Borkgren, a wedding photographer and freelance journalist, traveled to the war-torn region of eastern Congo after being awarded the ShootQ Grant, a $10,000 award to free photographers from everyday life to pursue a project that raises awareness of an important global issue.

Borkgren pauses when she speaks of meeting the girl. "She was obviously very traumatized to repeat this out loud, and I don't think she had repeated it to anyone." The young girl lied to her about her age when they first spoke.

Keep reading...

August 11th, 2009
01:44 PM ET

Clinton offers aid to victims of Africa's longest conflict

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/08/11/clinton.congo/art.hillary.clinton.cape.town.afp.gi.jpg" caption="After Congo, the secretary of state will travel to Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde."]


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought an offer of help Tuesday for victims, especially victims of sexual violence, of Africa's longest war, a regional conflict that's dragged on for more than a decade.

Clinton on Monday delivered a blunt message to Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito of the Democratic Republic of Congo when he hosted a dinner in her honor.

"There must be an end to widespread financial corruption and abuses of human rights and women's rights," she said. "There must be an improvement in governance and the respect for the rule of law."

She also called for "changes in the business climate, changes in the rules and regulations that involve contracts and the protection of property" to promote foreign investment.

Keep reading...

August 10th, 2009
03:50 PM ET

The fight to end global slavery

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/02/16/un.trafficking/art.streetscene.cnn.jpg"%5D

E. Benjamin Skinner
World Policy Journal

Human trafficking may be just the latest topic du jour among U.S. foreign policy elites and UN humanitarian types, but mention the underlying crime—slavery—to foreign officials and the reaction is often
confused and explosive.

“For God’s sake, don’t go talking about brutal slavery here,” says Jay Kumar, the Social Secretary of Araria, one of the poorest districts in Bihar, the poorest state in India. Waving his finger, speaking from his one-room office building, Kumar, whose position required him to respond to allegations of child labor, is instead categorically denying that the two dozen recently freed child slaves that I had met in his district were ever in bondage. Kumar explains: “You see, poor people are not rational, so I compare them to monkeys.”

He then told me a story. On a sweltering day, a mother monkey left her baby on the hot earth in order to climb a tree and keep from scalding her own feet. This, he said, is why parents give their children to human traffickers.

Since 2001, when I began investigating modern-day slavery worldwide, I found that while public officials always condemned slavery as an abomination, few acknowledged that it actually existed in their jurisdictions.

Instead, “traditional caste relationships” were omnipresent, as were “intertribal abductions,” “underage sex workers,” mere “child laborers” or “backward poor people.” But slavery, universally-recognized as a crime against humanity, was a chimera, a relic of a bygone era.


Visit the World Policy Institute online to read more on issues like this one.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Human Rights
July 30th, 2009
04:55 PM ET

Neda lives on ... forty days later

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/07/30/neda.iran.memorial.protests/art.neda.file.jpg caption="Neda Agha-Soltan was gunned down on a Tehran street on June 20."]

Octavia Nasr | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Editor, Mideast Affairs

Support and solidarity for Iran's opposition continues to be expressed in many ways and forms around the world. In cities such as New York, Stockholm, Istanbul, Vancouver and Rome, supporters of the Iranian opposition movement have been organizing concerts, demonstrations and hunger strikes.

Iranian enthusiasts have been turning street corners of the world’s major cities into activism centers where people gather and show support for Iranians who continue to dispute results of their presidential elections.

In Tehran today, Iranian police cracked down and dispersed thousands of protesters as they tried to commemorate the 40th day of mourning the death of Iran's icon, Neda Agha Sultan. Neda captured the world when her last moment of life and her death were recorded on a mobile phone camera. For Shiite Islam, the 40th day after death marks the final day of mourning.

Outside Iran, in Los Angeles, around the U.S. and across the world, people followed the news on anti-government radio stations where callers shared their eyewitness accounts of today's developments.


July 30th, 2009
11:19 AM ET

Hey Sarkozy: Why not ban bikinis too?

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/06/30/france.burkas.al.qaeda/art.burka.france.afp.gi.jpg" caption="A woman wears traditionnal Muslim dress in Venissieux, near Lyon, France."]

Arsalan Iftikhar
Founder, TheMuslimGuy.com

First of all, I am no fan of the burqa…

Secondly, I am no fan of French President Nicholas Sarkozy…

I love France…Sarkozy, not so much…

Third (and most importantly), as an international human rights lawyer, I am no fan of any government in the world (whether it is France or Afghanistan) mandating what a person can (or cannot) wear as a free member of their society.

According to a media report in Reuters, a recent French study found that only 367 women in the entire nation of France wear Islamic veils (better known as a burqa) that completely cover their faces and bodies. This report severely undermines the position of right-wing politicians who are pushing for a ban on the garments.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has stopped short of backing a ban, but has recently said the veils were “not welcome” in France. The influential French newspaper Le Monde said that in light of the tiny number of women concerned, the idea of a ban should be dropped.

Read more…

Filed under: Arsalan Iftikhar • Human Rights • Women's Rights
July 29th, 2009
12:30 PM ET

Iran's postelection crackdown scrutinized for crimes against humanity

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/20/iran.election/art.bikes.gi.jpg" caption="Human rights groups say Iranian authorities violated international human rights law."]

Golnaz Esfandiari
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

24-year-old Amir Javadifar was detained during a July 9 peaceful protest in Tehran. About two weeks later, the Iranian authorities informed Amir's family about his death.

A friend who saw Amir's body told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that he had been tortured: "He had a fractured skull, one of his eyes was almost crushed, all the nails on his toes had been extracted, and all of his body was bruised.”

Amir’s friend added that some of his teeth and jaw were also broken.

Amir's death in custody is one example of the many cases of violence committed in Iran in recent weeks, which some legal experts have said are violations under international law.

Payam Akhavan, a former UN war crimes prosecutor and cofounder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, says his rights center has been inundated with videos, images, and documents from Iran via encrypted e-mail.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Human Rights • Iran
July 16th, 2009
06:02 PM ET

If China had drawn some stupid cartoons instead…

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/13/china.uyghur.deaths/art.police.afp.jpg" caption="Police brutality in China killed two ethnic Uighurs earlier this week."]

Arsalan Iftikhar | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Founder, TheMuslimGuy.com

The recent violence in China’s western Xinjiang province has been called the ““worst civil turmoil since 1989.” This human rights catastrophe has led to the deaths of nearly 200 Uighur ethnic Muslims in the region.

But what if rather than cracking down on the Uighurs, China had drawn sophomorically offensive cartoons (a la Danish newspapers circa December 2005) instead? This different approach probably (and sadly) may have inspired a more global outcry from the greater Muslim world.

Not since the now infamous Tiananmen Square tragedy of 1989 has the world seen such civil turmoil inside China. The tension revolves around the fulcrum of ethnic identity, societal discrimination and flat-out racism between the predominant ethnic majority Han Chinese (from the eastern parts of China) and minority ethnic Uighur Muslim populations indigenous to Xinjiang province along China’s western frontier.

Xinjiang is a massive western region that accounts for nearly one-sixth of China’s total land area. And it is home to the majority of the Uighurs in China. At its height in the 9th century, the Uighur empire stretched from the Caspian Sea into eastern China. The Uighurs also managed to establish independent republics twice during the 20th century before being annexed by the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Since then, the Chinese government has actively promoted the migration of the dominant Han Chinese to Xinjiang, and since the 1950’s the region's ethnic Han community has grown from 5 to 40 percent of the region's total population.

Although the region has seen enormous economic growth in recent years, local Uighurs have become increasingly resentful of Beijing’s political and economic control. After an Uighur uprising in 1990, for example, the Communist Party took steps to accelerate the integration of Xinjiang into China by stepping up migration into the area and increasing the security presence of baton-wielding police forces. It took control over freedom of religion in the region as well.

According to BBC World News,, Chinese authorities say more than 140 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in riots in the mainly Muslim region since protests erupted last month. According to a recent article in Newsweek magazine in June, a resentful laborer spread rumors that Uighurs had raped two Han Chinese women, leading a vengeful Han mob to attack Uighur workers. When authorities were slow to the arrest the attackers, Uighurs in Xinjiang took to the streets in protest.

Moises Naim recently noted in Foreign Policy, that “…In different countries, mullahs, imams, and assorted [Muslim] clerics have found the time to issue fatwas [religious decrees] condemning among other practices, Pokémon cartoons, total nudity during sex for married couples, and the use of vaccines against polio, not to mention Salman Rushdie. They have yet to find the time to say anything about China's practices toward Uighurs…”

Prominent Uighur Muslims like Rebiya Kadeer (who was once celebrated by the Chinese government as the richest woman in China) have been vocal against the Chinese government’s policies of what they consider to be discrimination for years, saying that its policies “keep many Uighurs poor and badly educated.”

Outside of China’s borders, however, there has been scant coverage of the violence. And the greater Muslim world has been largely silent on the human-rights abuses taking place in the region.

One reason for this large silence may be that most people have never heard of Uighurs before. Since they are not Arab, it is not surprising that their plight is not within the current zeitgeist radar of the greater Muslim and Arab world.

Furthermore, an even more sobering thought occurs when one thinks that perhaps if the Uighurs were not Muslim we may have seen more media coverage of their situation. What would the American evangelical Republican apparatchik do if the Uighurs were Christians? We can assume that they might be indignant towards China and their continued human-rights abuses against the Uighurs.

Either way, sadly, if the Chinese government had drawn some moronic newspaper cartoons instead, we might have heard some more global condemnations (from all sides of the global political velvet rope) on these blatant human-rights violations occurring on our global watch today in China.

Editor’s Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, contributor for True/Slant, founder of www.TheMuslimGuy.com and contributing editor for Islamica Magazine in Washington.

Filed under: Arsalan Iftikhar • China • Human Rights
June 19th, 2009
03:30 PM ET
June 17th, 2009
02:31 PM ET

Partnering against trafficking

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/16/human.trafficking.report/art.hillary.clinton.gi.jpg caption="Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report aims 'to shine the light brightly on ... modern slavery.'"]

Hillary Rodham Clinton
For the Washington Post

Twenty-year-old Oxana Rantchev left her home in Russia in 2001 for what she believed was a job as a translator in Cyprus. A few days later, she was found dead after attempting to escape the traffickers who tried to force her into prostitution.

Oxana's story is the story of modern slavery. Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under threat of violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets. Women, men and children of all ages are often held far from home with no money, no connections and no way to ask for help. They discover too late that they've entered a trap of forced labor, sexual exploitation and brutal violence. The United Nations estimates that at least 12 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking. Because they often live and work out of sight, that number is almost certainly too low. More than half of all victims of forced labor are women and girls, compelled into servitude as domestics or sweatshop workers or, like Oxana, forced into prostitution. They face not only the loss of their freedom but also sexual assaults and physical abuses.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Human Rights
June 17th, 2009
08:45 AM ET
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