Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law features one of the bravest lawyers in Africa — Beatrice Mtetwa in Zimbabwe. In spite of beatings by police, she has courageously defended in court those jailed by the Mugabe government—peace activists, journalists, opposition candidates, farmers that had their land confiscated, ordinary citizens that had the courage to speak up.
Through interviews with Beatrice Mtetwa and some of her defendants, the film tells the story of what happens when rulers place themselves above the law and why defense of the rule of law is a crucial step in the building of a civil society. Although Beatrice Mtetwa’s arena is Zimbabwe, her message and bravery are universal.
As Zimbabwe faces a presidential election in 2013, the filmmakers hope that Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law will spark dialogue and change in the country and throughout Africa, while also bringing the story of this inspiring woman to the attention of the rest of the world.
Elisa Massimino Testifies at Guantanamo Bay hearing July 24, 2013
Witnesses testified on the implications of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.* Among the issues they addressed were hunger strikes by several detainees and the force-feeding policy adopted by officials at the facility, removal of those detainees cleared for release, and arguments for and against the eventual closing of the detention center.
People still gather outside the now-empty plot where the Rana Plaza stood. Many are relatives of victims: an adolescent charged by a desperate grandmother with getting the form or signature that would bring compensation for his dead father; a small child who insists on being brought every day because he has been told his mother may yet be found.
Any westerner is mistaken for a representative of one of the major brands and immediately surrounded by supplicants.
A woman kneels in the dirt, clinging to the yellow barriers barring access to the site. Sobbing, she gasps in the thick, humid air, then howls the name of her daughter again and again.
Attention Teachers and Educators!
We have put together a 40-minute lesson plan for teachers to use in their classrooms to teach their students about the conflict occurring in Syria today.
We are off to a great start but we are looking for 5 classrooms to participate in a focus group on the Teach Syria materials at the end of May.
All that is required is to teach the curriculum found here, by the end of May and participate in a 30-minuted phone conversation about your experience with the materials.
If anyone is interested in participating, please email Kristin at: email@example.com
And make sure you check out the websites for additional information!
If you have any issues with the links please message me!
Let the judiciary commitee members who are voting to decide if this bill gets to go on any further that they should VOTE YES ON AB5!
♦Bob Wieckowski, Chair (D, Alameda, Santa Clara) phone: 916-319-2025. fax: 916 319-2125. firstname.lastname@example.org
♦ Donald P. Wagner – Vice Chair (R, Orange) phone: 916-319-2068. fax: 916-319-2168. email@example.com
♦ Luis A. Alejo (D, Monterey, Santa Clara) phone: 916-319-2039. fax: 916-319-2130. firstname.lastname@example.org
♦ Ed Chau(D, LA) phone: 916-319-2049. fax: 916-319-2149. email@example.com
♦ Roger Dickinson (D, Sacramento, Yolo) phone: 916-319-2007. fax: 916-319-2109. firstname.lastname@example.org
♦ Cristina Garcia(D, LA) phone: 916-319-2058. fax: 916-319-2158. email@example.com
♦ Jeff Gorell, (R, Ventura County, LA County) phone: 916-319-2044. fax: 916-319-2144. firstname.lastname@example.org
♦ Brian Maienschein (R, San Diego) phone: 916-319-2077. fax: 916-319-2177. email@example.com
♦ Al Muratsuchi (D, LA) phone: 916-319-2066. fax: 916-319-2166. firstname.lastname@example.org
♦ Mark Stone (D, Santa Cruz, Monterey) phone: 916-319-2029. fax: 916-319-2129. email@example.com
For any other information or inquiries about The Homeless Bill of Rights AB5 please check out: http://wraphome.org/ or check out their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Western-Regional-Advocacy-Project/167378429021?ref=ts&fref=ts
Thank you. Let’s get this Bill passed!
A U.N. Appeal to Save Syria
By VALERIE AMOS, ERTHARIN COUSIN, ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, ANTHONY LAKE and MARGARET CHAN
Published in the New York Times: April 15, 2013
After more than two years of conflict and more than 70,000 deaths, including thousands of children. … After more than five million people have been forced to leave their homes, including over a million refugees living in severely stressed neighboring countries … After so many families torn apart and communities razed, schools and hospitals wrecked and water systems ruined … After all this, there still seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency among the governments and parties that could put a stop to the cruelty and carnage in Syria.
We, leaders of U.N. agencies charged with dealing with the human costs of this tragedy, appeal to political leaders involved to meet their responsibility to the people of Syria and to the future of the region.
We ask that they use their collective influence to insist on a political solution to this horrendous crisis before hundreds of thousands more people lose their homes and lives and futures — in a region already at the tipping point.
Our agencies and humanitarian partners have been doing all we can. With the support of many governments and people, we have helped shelter more than a million refugees. We have helped provide access to food and other basic necessities for millions displaced by the conflict, to water and sanitation to over 5.5 million affected people in Syria and in neighboring countries, and to basic health services for millions of Syrians, including vaccinations to over 1.5 million children against measles and polio.
But it has not nearly been enough. The needs are growing while our capacity to do more is diminishing, due to security and other practical limitations within Syria as well as funding constraints. We are precariously close, perhaps within weeks, to suspending some humanitarian support.
Our appeal today is not for more resources, needed as they are. We are appealing for something more important than funds. To all involved in this brutal conflict and to all governments that can influence them:
In the name of all those who have so suffered, and the many more whose futures hang in the balance: Enough! Summon and use your influence, now, to save the Syrian people and save the region from disaster.
Valerie Amos is U.N. under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs. Ertharin Cousin is executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. António Guterres is U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Anthony Lake is executive director of the U.N. Children’s Fund. Margaret Chan is director general of the World Health Organization.
Learn more: http://www.unicef.org/
TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE
All across the war-torn country, regime soldiers are said to be sexually violating women and men from the opposition, destroying families and, in some cases, taking lives.
By Lauren Wolfe
April 3, 2013
One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him.
The 18-year-old had been an FSA soldier for less than a month when he was picked up. Crying uncontrollably as he recounted his torture while in detention to a psychiatrist named Yassar Kanawati, he said he suffers from a spinal injury inflicted by his captors. The other men detained with him were all raped, he told the doctor. When Kanawati asked if he, too, was raped, he went silent.
Although most coverage of the Syrian civil war tends to focus on the fighting between the two sides, this war, like most, has a more insidious dimension: rape has been reportedly used widely as a tool of control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict. And its effects, while not always fatal, are creating a nation of traumatized survivors — everyone from the direct victims of the attacks to their children, who may have witnessed or been otherwise affected by what has been perpetrated on their relatives.
In September 2012, I was at the United Nations when Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide shook up a fluorescent-lit room of bored-looking bureaucrats by saying that what happened during the Bosnian war is “repeating itself right now in Syria.” He was referring to the rape of tens of thousands of women in that country in the 1990s.
“With every war and major conflict, as an international community we say ‘never again’ to mass rape,” said Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who is co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. [Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory committee of the campaign.]”Yet, in Syria, as countless women are again finding the war waged on their bodies—we are again standing by and wringing our hands.”
We said after the Holocaust we’d never forget; we said it after Darfur. We probably said it after the mass rapes of Bosnia and Rwanda, but maybe that was more of a “we shouldn’t forget,” since there was so much global guilt that we just sort of sat back and let similar tragedies occur since and only came to the realization later — we forgot.
Could we have forgotten that the unfolding human catastrophe in Syria exists before it’s even over?
Using a crowd-sourced map for the last year, our team at the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project, together with Columbia University epidemiologists, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and Syrian activists and journalists, has documented and collected data to figure out where and how women and men are being violated in Syria’s war. And, perhaps most important, by whom.
We’ve broken down the 162 stories we’ve gathered from the onset of the conflict in March 2011 through March 2013 into 226 separate pieces of data. All our reports are currently marked “unverified” (even those that come from well-known sources like Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and news outlet such as the BBC) because we have not yet been able to independently confirm them. Eighty percent of our reports include female victims, with ages ranging from 7 to 46. Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent include sexual assault without penetration; and 10 percent include detention that appears to have been for the purposes of sexualized violence or enslavement for a period of longer than 24 hours. (We generally use this category when we hear soldiers describe being ordered to detain women to rape them; we’re not guessing at intent.) Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.
In mid-March, I was in Michigan, surrounded by Syrians who live here but are helping out their fellow citizens in refugee camps and health centers. Kanawati, the psychologist, told me that day that she had visited with a refugee family in Jordan and listened to one of three sisters describe how a group of Syrian army soldiers had come to their house in Homs, tied up their father and brother, and raped the three women in front of them. The woman cried as she went on to describe how after raping them the soldiers opened their legs and burned their vaginas with cigarettes. They allegedly told the women during this: “You want freedom? This is your freedom.”
The psychiatrist asked one of the three sisters, who was holding a baby, “Is that baby from the rape?” The woman changed the subject.
All the women are having nightmares, Kanawati said; all have PTSD. Now, she said, the two sisters are employed in Amman, but the mother, who does not work, is “consumed by the baby.” The brother will not speak.
This family is quietly living with trauma that reaches across generations.
Men are more than just witnesses to sexualized violence in Syria; they are experiencing it directly as well. Forty-three of the reports on our map - about 20 percent — involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56. Nearly half of the reports about men involve rape, while a quarter detail sexualized violence without penetration, such as shocks to the genitals. Sixteen percent of the men who have been raped in our reports were allegedly violated by multiple attackers.
Government perpetrators have allegedly committed the majority of the attacks we’ve been able to track: 60 percent of the attacks against men and women are reportedly by government forces, with another 17 percent carried out by government and shabiha (plainclothes militia) forces together. When it comes to the rape of women, government forces have allegedly carried out 54 percent these attacks; shabiha have allegedly perpetrated 20 percent; government andshabiha working together 6 percent.
Overall, the FSA has allegedly carried out less than 1 percent of the sexualized attacks in our total reports. About 15 percent of the attacks have unknown or other perpetrators.
When it comes to men, more than 90 percent of the reports of sexualized violence have been allegedly perpetrated by government forces, which can perhaps be explained by the fact that most of these attacks occurred in detention facilities. Long used as a weapon against prisoners in Syria as in much of the world, rape appears to be utilized during this conflict in horrifyingly soul-crushing, creative ways. Beyond simply raping detainees,shabiha members or Syrian army soldiers have reportedly carried out the rapes of family members or other women front of prisoners.
Atrocities are inevitably muted when victims die, and perpetrators worldwide know this. Part of the reason we’ve chosen to live-track sexualized violence in Syria is because so much evidence is lost in war. Consider that 18 percent of the women in our reports were allegedly witnessed killed or found dead after sexualized violence. Look at this report from Beirut-based news site Ya Libnan, which describes a confession from a defected Syrian Army soldier who said he was ordered “to rape teenage girls in Homs at the end of last year.”
“The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished,” the soldier said. “They wanted it to be known in the neighborhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn’t want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later.”
Because there is a deleterious and under-documented personal aftermath of sexualized violence, we are also tracking its mental and physical health fallout. Ten percent of the women in our reports appear to suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychological trauma, and that’s clearly a low estimate considering the acts described. Three percent of the women have reportedly become pregnant from rape, and 2 percent suffer from a chronic physical disease as a result of the violence.
When I asked Kanawati how many women she’s spoken to and treated who have survived rape, she said it’s impossible to know. She has interviewed dozens of refugees who may have been raped or otherwise sexually tortured, mostly in Homs. Originally from Damascus, she is currently the medical director of Family Intervention Specialists in the Atlanta area and has been working with Syrian refugees in Amman with the support of the Syrian-American Medical Society.
“Syrian families are very conservative and I always tell them: ‘ Rape is a way to break the family. The easiest way,’” Kanawati said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t let this break you—this is what they’re trying to do.’ When I tell that to the women, however, they say, ‘Tell that to our husbands.’”
She described how women have repeatedly told her that their neighbors were raped, usually by more than one man, and how each time the extraordinary detail the women give and the trauma they exhibit tells her that the story isn’t actually about a “neighbor,” but the woman herself. More than that, the storytellers usually go on to describe how the “neighbor’s” husband then left this woman.
Sex outside of marriage, let alone the violation of a woman in an act of rape, said Kanawati, is “completely taboo.”
Erin Gallagher, a former investigator of sexual and gender-based violence for the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria (and before that on Libya), spent months speaking with Syrian women and men in camps in Jordan and Turkey. She said it’s very difficult to get an accurate idea at this point of the scope of sexualized crimes in Syria and that “there are more victims out there than what we are finding.” Getting a true idea of the scope, she said, “is going to take time, trust building, and a broader, holistic approach.”
Kanawati said her sister, an ob-gyn who lives in Damascus, has carefully told her (for fear of eavesdropping), “You would not believe how much rape there is.” Her sister has treated women who say they have been raped by soldiers orshabiha militia members in the rural areas around the city.
Gallagher explained why so few victims of sexualized violence in Syria are coming forward publicly.
“The reality is that they have much to lose and little to gain by doing so at this point in time, for many reasons,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage and strength for a victim to speak up and they may be on their own with little support as they do it. In addition to the shame and isolation a victim may feel, they now are in an insecure environment due to the war. They may now be living in a large refugee camp with no privacy, surrounded by people they don’t know or trust.”
With no clear future for Syria in sight, refugees are understandably cautious about who they speak to and trust with sensitive and personal information. “If they tell someone, to whom and where does that information go?” Gallagher said. It may be hard to put their trust in a stranger when, time and again, there has been little justice for victims of wartime rape.
Add to all that the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma that victims are suffering from the war and displacement, and “it’s not surprising that victims are reluctant to come forward,” she said.
Hearing this I can’t help but think of the preface to Night, in which Elie Wiesel writes:”For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living… .To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive.”
“The security forces and the shabiha took whole families outside after destroying their homes,” a woman named Amal told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat in June 2012. “They stripped my girls from their clothes, raped them then killed them with knives. They were shouting: ‘You want freedom? This is the best brand of freedom.’”
It’s nearly word-for-word the sentences spoken in the story above about the women raped and then burned with cigarettes.
Coincidence? Maybe. But repeated phrasing is exactly the kind of thing that helps build international cases for human rights violations. Language can indicate whether mass rape has been coordinated and systematic. Recently, a U.S.-based group called AIDS-Free World successfully petitioned to have South Africa investigate mass rape allegedly carried out by the ruling ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe against opposition supporters in 2008. Part of their case was built on the fact that they heard that similar phrases were being uttered during rapes across the country—women were called “traitors to Zimbabwe” or told they were being “sent a message,” according to Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World.
Gallagher, who also investigated rape in Libya, said she’s heard about such phrases being used during rape in both countries.
“I don’t think it necessarily means it was an order,” she said of Libya, “but certainly a common belief among the soldiers. They knew they had free reign. I can’t conclude if [Bashar al-] Assad and his command ordered it or have just given his men free reign. What is clear is that he and his commanders are doing nothing to stop their soldiers from committing such crimes.”
For a year, I’ve sat in circles of high-level advisors from the International Criminal Court and elsewhere debating what might tip Russia’s hand and prevent it from vetoing a vote to send Syria’s human rights crimes to the court. But now with the success of AIDS-Free World’s use of a concept called universal jurisdiction, which crosses borders to try crimes that are so heinous that they call for a sense of greater justice, perhaps it is time to consider alternatives to the ICC. Jody Williams, known for rousing the slumbering world when it came to banning landmines, has some ideas.
“We don’t need more research or more proof, we need a plan,” said Williams. “And the plan should be to ensure that there is coordinated international action to ensure survivors get help, justice is served against those perpetrating the sexualized violence, and we are all working together to prevent further rape. This will take men, women, communities, national governments, and the international community—everyone.”
Personally, I’m hoping this is the last report I’ll have to write parsing data from a map that shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. Somehow, though, I don’t think that will be the case.