Sunday, May 27, 2018
Saudi authorities have released two of the leading women’s rights activists, Aisha al-Manea on May 23 and Hessa al-Sheikh on May 24. Both were arrested the previous week but not named in the local state media campaign accusing those detained of treason. The conditions of their release have not been made public. Among those still detained are Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Mohammed al-Rabea, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh. Saudi activists have said that others arrested but not identified in government-aligned media include Madeha al-Ajroush and Walaa al-Shubbar. Saudi activists have told Human Rights Watch that the detainees are being held incommunicado.
(Beirut) – Saudi authorities have accused seven recently detained women’s rights activists and others associated with the women’s rights movement of serious crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. A statement issued by the Presidency of the State Security cited possible charges for “suspicious contact with foreign parties” and undermining the “security and stability” of the state that appear to be directly based on their activism.
The Presidency of the State Security was created by King Salman shortly after he named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, crown prince in June 2017, and reports directly to the king’s office. Within days of the activists’ arrests, pro-government newspapers and social media accounts launched an alarming and apparently coordinated campaign against them, branding them “traitors.” Saudi activists say at least four other women’s rights defenders have also been arrested since May 15, 2018, bringing the total suspected number of detainees to at least 11.
“The crown prince, who has styled himself as a reformer with Western allies and investors, should be thanking the activists for their contributions to the Saudi women’s rights movement,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the Saudi authorities appear to be punishing these women’s rights champions for promoting a goal bin Salman alleges to support – ending discrimination against women.”
Local state media outlets identified the long-time rights advocates Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Eman al-Nafjan, along with Mohammad al-Rabea, an activist, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, a human rights lawyer, among those arrested. It is not clear if the detained activists have been charged with the offenses the State Security cited.
Saudi activists told Human Rights Watch that the seriousness of the allegations and the viciousness of the deeply personalized media campaign are unprecedented and shocking. Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper reported that those arrested could face up to 20 years in prison. Al-Jazirah, a local daily newspaper, published a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef on its front page under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the state. A pro-government Twitter account posted images of those arrested with the word “traitor” splattered in red across their faces. Saudi Arabia does not permit any independent media to operate in the country.
Several of the detained activists are best known for campaigning against the ban on women driving and publicly advocating abolishing the male guardianship system, which gives men the authority to make a range of critical decisions on behalf of their female relatives. Their arrests come ahead of the anticipated lifting of a ban on women driving on June 24.
Saudi rights defenders said that in September 2017, the day the lifting of the ban was announced, officials working for the king’s office (also known as al-Diwan al-Malaki in Arabic) had phoned prominent activists, including some of those now detained, and warned them not to speak to the media.
Al-Yousef, 60, is a retired professor of computer science at King Saud University, and a leading activist in the longstanding campaign against the male guardianship system. Under this system, women need the permission of their male guardian – who may be their father, husband, brother, or even son – to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, or even leave prison.
Al-Nafjan, 39, is an assistant professor of linguistics at a university in Riyadh, and the author of a popular blog on Saudi society, culture, and women’s rights. She has written about women’s rights for numerous international media, including the New York Times and the Guardian. In 2013, al-Yousef and al-Nafjan protested the driving ban by filming as they drove by police stations in Riyadh and were both briefly detained.
Saudi authorities detained al-Hathloul, 28, in November 2014, as she attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates while live-streaming to bring international attention to the issue. She was held in a juvenile detention center for 73 days. She has built a significant social media following since then, with over 300,000 followers on Twitter, which has widespread popularity in Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad bin Salman has offered rhetorical support for women’s rights reforms, especially during his whirlwind public relations tour in the United States and Europe promoting business opportunities and promising “a return to moderate Islam.” During his interview with 60 Minutes on March 19, he said: “Saudi women still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don’t have. We have come a very long way and have a short way to go.”
Such reforms have so far been limited. In addition to planning to lift the driving ban, the authorities have allowed women to hold jobs previously closed to them, such as air traffic control, border control, and traffic police. However, the male guardianship system, the most serious impediment to women’s rights, remains largely intact.
Moreover, Mohammad bin Salman has overseen a widespread crackdown on prominent activists, lawyers, and human rights defenders, which has intensified since he began consolidating control over the country’s security institutions.
In mid-September 2017, Saudi authorities arrested dozens of people, including prominent clerics and intellectuals, in what appeared to be a coordinated crackdown on dissent. Other Saudi activists and dissidents are serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism, including Waleed Abu al-Khair, Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-Hamid, Fadhil al-Manasif, Sulaiman al-Rashoodi, Abdulkareem al-Khodr, Fowzan al-Harbi, Raif Badawi, Saleh al-Ashwan, Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Zuhair Kutbi, Alaa Brinji, and Nadhir al-Majed.
“Every government that believed that the Saudi crown prince is a reformer and a champion for women should demand the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights activists,” Whitson said. “It’s not real reform if it takes place in a dystopia where rights activists are imprisoned, and freedom of expression exists just for those who publicly malign them.”
In recent days, though, attention has been focused on a new crisis for immigrant children. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy in which families arriving at the border would be forcibly broken up, with children and parents separated from one another and detained separately. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes explored the practical ramifications of the policy: children as young as 1½, too young to form complete sentences, much less care for themselves, torn away from their parents and sent to government detention facilities.
It’s a policy specifically meant to serve as a deterrent to future immigrants, as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly made clear in an interview with NPR a few weeks ago. Sessions tried to argue that it was meant to prevent trafficking and abuse, but Kelly’s insistence that it was a deterrent matches reporting that indicates President Trump himself authorized the change to limit a recent increase in the number of families seeking entry to the United States.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the policy of ripping apart families was a law being supported by Democrats. That’s not true. It’s a policy he supported and implemented, apparently because of its “horrible” — his descriptor — deterrent effects. The organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has for a decade been supporting minors who are detained after entering the country. Its president, Wendy Young, spoke with The Washington Post by phone on Friday to explain how Trump’s policy shift affects young immigrants — and how it fits into his broader shift in how the country deals with immigrants. Her organization provides pro bono legal services to immigrants who arrive at the border without a parent — unaccompanied children, in the parlance — once they leave federal detention facilities to join family members already in the country. “This is the really sad and ironic and tragic part of this new policy of family separation,” Young said. “Obviously, from both a child welfare perspective and from the perspective of the U.S. immigration system in terms of its adjudication of cases when people arrive, it is much better to have a child arrive with a parent, because that’s a natural source of care and support for the child and that also means that the child’s case is attached to the parent’s case, and typically the parent is the one who has the information and the resources to inform the immigrant judge about what’s going on.”
“Now they’re making it a very formal policy to separate the child from the parent,” she said. “Because of that, the child is reclassified as unaccompanied.”
There are special protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that apply to unaccompanied children. After all, young people may lack the ability to advocate for themselves in the way that an adult might. KIND helps provide representation to between 50 and 60 percent of those young people — but Young fears the percentage will drop now that the pool of unaccompanied children is being deliberately expanded. “It has very serious consequences for the underlying case,” she said. “Because now you have a child — and this is being done with infants, even, babies — now you have a child with a much more challenging case detached from the parent. Very often they’re not being allowed to even communicate, and in some cases, the parent’s being deported and the child’s being left behind.” When the child is meeting with an attorney or appearing before a judge, their ability to explain why they are there and the reasons they might be seeking refuge are limited. There’s a parent who could potentially answer those questions — but that parent was moved by the Department of Homeland Security to another facility. The child, detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has probably had no contact with his or her parent.
It’s tricky for the attorneys to make contact, too.
“It can be extraordinarily challenging to figure out where that person went, to establish communication,” Young said. “If that parent is deported in the meantime, then you have the added challenge of trying to find the parent back in the home country.” “From humanitarian perspective, we’re quite concerned about this,” she added, “but also from a government efficiency perspective, it’s creating an additional case in a backlogged system and it’s making it more challenging for the immigration judge or the [Citizenship and Immigration Services] officer to sort out what’s going on in this child’s life.” Remember: Those legal complications begin only once the child is released from detention. That period in detention is problematic for its own reasons — and Young says that the amount of time children are spending in detention is increasing. Under Obama, children were held for about a month, Young said, while the government tried to find family members who could take them in. The law, she said, “is really grounded in the notion that children are better off cared for by their families than they are in a detention center by the federal government.” That month-long detention is getting longer. “We’re starting to see that creep up more into the 45- to 55-day range,” she added. “Which is also concerning to us because obviously locking children up is not a good thing.” In part because of the new policy of child separation, the government is exploring opening detention centers on military bases, housing hundreds or thousands of kids. But such mega detention centers already exist. “I actually was down at the border a few weeks ago,” Young said, “and saw a facility that opened in the past year or so, that’s actually a permanent facility, a converted Walmart with 1,200 beds.”
“Generally what we’re seeing there, through a whole lot of administrative changes, is they’re turning what were intended to be protection tools under the trafficking act into law enforcement tools,” Young said. She added, “The framework of protection is starting to really fragment.” KIND recently released a report documenting recent changes to immigration policy. She said that her organization had seen an increase in the number of children separated from their families. Asked if she thought it would at least be an effective deterrent for future immigrants, she said it wouldn’t.
“This is truly a refugee crisis,” Young said. “People become refugees when they’re desperate to escape violence. The violence is throughout Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the governments are too weak or too corrupt to control it. So people make the only choice they feel they have available, and they run. “You’re not going to be able to stop that,” she added, “until conditions in the home country improve.”
By Kara Fox
"It just means that women -- and the men who love the women of Ireland -- have spoken out and they've said times have to change. And they are going to change now," a tearful Mellet said at the Royal Dublin Society, where the count took place throughout the day.
A crisis pregnancy for Mellet in 2011 became an important step in the fight against Ireland's constitutional amendment that bans abortion in almost all circumstances. She was forced to choose between carrying a non-viable pregnancy to term, or travelling abroad for a termination. She chose the latter, and in June 2016, the UN's Human Rights Council ruled that the country's abortion regime subjected her to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," and called on the Irish government to reform its laws.
Now, voters in Ireland have had their say.
Under a blistering sun in Dublin Castle across town, thousands of people chanted "Yes" as they waited for the final results to be announced. They arrived to celebrate early because an exit poll released by Ireland's national broadcaster RTE signaled that a victory was in store for yes voters -- who had advocated to repeal the amendment -- defying earlier projections that the race would be tight.
Scores of other abortion rights activists gathered across Dublin throughout the day. Dr. Ruth Cullen, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion LoveBoth campaign, conceded defeat Saturday before the count had finished.
Clare Comran was at the count, where she watched as all Dublin constituencies were declared overwhelmingly in favor of repealing the amendment, including one area that voted yes at 78.5%.
Comran said she had always hoped Ireland would make the "leap forward" and had recently noticed a shift in national attitudes. The Irish people, she said, were "really ready to embrace progress and trust themselves."
"It feels really lovely to be trusted and to feel like a whole person in my country. I've never had that in my entire life as an Irish person," she said, adding that she was grateful for the groundwork that women's rights activists had done to arrive at this moment.
Ailbhe Smyth, a veteran campaigner and co-director of Together4Yes, the national pro-repeal group, is one of those women.
As she arrived to the count, she was greeted with roars of applause from supporters, who thanked her for her longstanding efforts.
Smyth told CNN that the road to get to this day had been a long and hard one, but the result marked a seismic shift for the country.
"Irish people are clearly standing up and saying of course the lives of women in Ireland matter. It's a great victory for equality for freedom for dignity for human rights, -- and not only for women," Smyth said.
A baby's murder opened a dark chapter in Ireland that still hasn't been closed
Mark Hickey, a no voter, observed the count with two other anti-abortion campaigners and was not celebrating.
"Truth is not established by popular consensus," he said. "We will look back at this moment in history at being a very grey one."
Lawmakers are expected to vote on legislation providing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy -- and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother's life or the fetus is not expected to survive by the end of the year.
Not far from the polling station, a more somber atmosphere was felt at the mural of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died in 2012 from a septic miscarriage in Galway after being denied an abortion.
John Howard, 28, brought a bouquet of flowers to the site.
"Her story was one that captured the realities of what the Eighth Amendment meant in a material, tangible way," he said. "It took the life of a woman. Her memory is a bit of an avatar for change — and for the direction that we'd like Ireland to take. Her story encapsulates what we'd like to never see again and hope that whatever changes can be made in her honor."
Others left notes. One read: "If I have a daughter, I will name her Savita, after you."
Brendan Lynch, 81, was standing between a group of young people drinking sparkling wine and a mother whose children had fallen asleep in their stroller.
He said he was happy Ireland had moved on from its past, one where the Church "controlled everything." He acknowledged that he was an outlier in his age group, nodding to RTE polls that demonstrated voters 65 and over were the group with a majority vote for no.
"I never thought I would see this day," he said. "I'm absolutely delighted, and I feel sorry for all the women who had to go to England to have abortions. But now those days are over."
Moments later, a chorus exchanged classic rock lyrics for feminist rhymes as a group of women dressed in angel costumes walked by.
As the final results trickled in, the skies briefly opened. An Irish mist sprinkled over the crowd, but the mood was not dampened.
The Friday turnout was 64.13% -- a record high. The country's Referendum Commission said 1,429,98 (66.4%) voted for the amendment and 723,632 (33.6%) voted against.
Emma Gallagher, 22, was crying with joy moments after the referendum passed.
"I feel safe now, I feel comfortable," she said. "It felt for a long time women didn't matter...now we know that we matter."
Next to her was Rene Wogan, a 66-year-old woman who said she didn't vote in the 1983 referendum -- which placed the abortion ban into the constitution -- for fear of speaking out against cultural norms of the time.
Wogan said this time was different and held Gallagher's hand in solidarity.
"It was all for justice," she told Gallagher. "You're forwarding the flag on for women."
Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a press conference that a "quiet revolution" had taken place.
In the square, a crowd of some 5,000 supporters roared, "We did it."
There were celebrations in the streets of Dublin as the conservative establishment in Ireland was dealt another heavy blow. The landslide vote to repeal the 8th amendment, which banned abortion in Ireland, follows the unexpected 'yes' result in the gay marriage referendum three years ago.
This is a decisive defeat for the catholic church and reaction in Ireland. The result, which gave 66.4 percent to yes, is exactly the opposite to what took place in 1983 when the 8th amendment was introduced to the Irish constitution, by a result of 67 to 33. This is a sea change in Irish politics.
The no side was hoping that the rural areas would rally to their cause, but, aside from Donegal, all constituencies voted yes with comfortable majorities. Roscommon-Galway, which was the only county to vote no in the gay marriage referendum, voted yes in this case, with 57 to 43. Dublin voted 75.5 percent for yes and in all the Dublin constituencies at least 70 percent voted yes. So, although the urban areas led the way, no was decisively defeated in almost all the rural areas as well.
Women and the youth, as expected, voted yes. According to the exit polls, 72 percent of women voted for repeal, and the 18-24 age group voted yes vote by a whopping 87.6 percent, while 25-34-year-olds voted yes by 84.6 percent. Only the over-65s voted no in majority, with 58 percent supporting the keeping of the 8th amendment.
This represents a decisive rejection of the Catholic Church and the conservative establishment. The bourgeois politicians, who for decades have defended the status quo, has been forced, begrudgingly, to attempt to put themselves at the head of the movement. This in order not to be dragged down along with the Catholic Church, which is widely discredited.
Even the no campaign attempted to avoid bringing the church into their campaign because of how badly it has been discredited. Priests were discouraged from using the pulpit for propagandising, and the campaign tried to avoid religion.
The government is now rapidly going to introduce legislation to make abortion up to 12 weeks legal, and beyond that under exceptional circumstances. This will bring Irish legislation up to the same level as most of Europe. Still, the campaign is far from over. The no side has promised to resist the introduction of medical services to offer abortion. In their statement today they wrote:
"What Irish voters did yesterday is a tragedy of historic proportions. However, a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."
"If and when abortion clinics are opened in Ireland, because of the inability of the Government to keep their promise about a GP led service, we will oppose that as well. Every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known."
This is an implicit threat to picket and terrorise both doctors and patients. The details of how provision will actually look, where it will be available etc. will still remain to be fought over. The vote also raises the question of the right to choose in the North, now the only part of the British Isles where abortion remains illegal. The result of the referendum will reverberate around the world and encourage pro-choice movements in other countries.
For Ireland, together with the gay marriage referendum, this is the beginning of a new epoch in politics.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Naeemul Haque are under fire for the latter’s actions on a talk show recently. Naeemul Haque lost his temper and slapped Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N), Daniyal Aziz. Verbal disagreements are a regular part of the Pakistani talk shows and sometimes politicians even take the liberty of abusing their counterparts in such scenarios. Same was the scenario in this case when Naeemul Haque lost his cool after Daniyal Aziz kept on accusing PTI Chairman Imran Khan of being a thief. Political accusations are a part and parcel of the political scene in Pakistan, however, getting physical is rightly looked down upon. If there is a disagreement, it must be resorted verbally rather than indulging in a physical fight.
PTI leader Naeemul Haque is rightfully being reprimanded by political leaders and the masses of the country. Such behaviour from the top leadership of a political party is bound to set the wrong precedents. This was not the first time Naeemul Haque lost his temper and disrespected his counterparts instead of verbally addressing their accusations. The behaviour of Murad Saeed in the parliament does not come as a shock because these are the examples the party has set. The usual justification for such incidents is that they are frustrated with the inaction of those in power, however, that does not allow anyone to get physical and take matters into their own hands in an illegal manner. This is the same behaviour which promotes incidents similar to what happened in Sialkot a few days ago.
At the same time, it is a shame that PTI Chairman Imran Khan lauded Naeemul Haque for the behaviour. Naeemul Haque’s statement for a local TV channel shows that he has no remorse for his actions, and that those around him are also very proud of his display of intolerance on national television. However, what is ironic is his tweet that followed. Even though he himself clearly stated that Imran Khan was pleased with his behaviour, he now claims that media is misquoting him by projecting that Imran Khan was pleased with the slap. He went ahead to clarify that Khan never supports violence and he was only pleased with the rebuttal of Aziz’ arguments. If that is the case, Naeemul Haque should have apologised for his actions.
Women Rights activists on Saturday said that 2.6 million women in Balochistan are deprived of right to vote and millions more will be unable to vote if necessary arrangements are not done for their registration.
Sana Durrani President Balochistan Women Network (BWN) and Mis Haleema Chairperson Health and Rural Development (HARD) and Gul Khan Nseer in a press conference at Quetta Press Club demanded NADRA to increase the number of mobile Registration Vans to register more women for provision of Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) from National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).
Sana Durrani asked for reduction in the fee charges of registering CNICs at minimum level in order to provide facilities to poor women and their family members for availing CNICs.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should work with political parties and Civil Society Organization (CSOs) to assist in voting registration in order to ensure women voting in upcoming general and local elections.” Mis Haleema demanded.
Mentioning the ECPs voters’ data Mr Gul Khan Naseer said: “The unregistered vote per women shows that Balochistan has the worst score as 27 out of 100 women are still not listed to cast their vote in the upcoming elections. Balochistan has the most unsatisfactory figures in unregistered vote per women.”
The women activists demanded ECP and NADRA for rapid response for successful political process and tangible actions against obstacles confronting women voters in Balochistan.
This has been stated by Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a statement after Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi announced enforcement of the Gilgit-Baltistan reforms package.
Referring to the 31st constitutional amendment, he said the parliament just passed a amendment bill taking away powers of the president on tribal areas to empower its people. “Just the same time the federal government has ambushed the people of GB by taking away their powers and vesting it to the prime minister,” he said.
According to the reforms package, the prime minister will not only make laws for GB but can also override any law passed by the Legislative Assembly, he said asking if there could be anything more provocative.
“The so called reforms package is a grave provocation and warned against the consequences of bulldozing it without taking the people and the GB Assembly into confidence,” he said.
Bilawal assured the people of GB that PPP will ensure that the right to legislate is vested in the GB Legislative Assembly, and the parliament and not the prime minister should make legislation as is the case for all provinces.
He said the PPP will not allow the bureaucracy or any individual to legislate for GB, not even the prime minister of Pakistan. “If the president can no longer legislate for the tribal areas why should the Prime minister legislate for the people of GB,” he asked.
Bilawal also questioned sweeping restrictions on the GB Assembly on issues of discussion calling it a grave violation of the fundamental rights of the people.
All coercive laws have been extended to GB but human rights-related laws are not, he said adding, such degrading treatment of people of GB must come to an end before it is too late.
Bilawal also questioned the definition of citizenship saying that it opened the door for exploitation of the local people by outsiders and called for its review.
Furthermore, the provision that only retired judges of the high courts and Supreme Court are eligible to become Chief Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of GB means that no citizen of GB can ever become the Chief Judge, he said.
Bilawal also demanded release of rights activists and a halt to the taking over of lands by the state.
چیئر مین پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی بلاول بھٹوزرداری نے وزیراعظم کے گلگت بلتستان پیکج کو مستردکردیا ہے ۔ان کا کہنا ہے کہ پارلیمنٹ نے31ویں آئینی ترمیم کے ذریعے فاٹا کے عوام کوآئینی حقوق دیے اور وزیراعظم نے پیکج کے ذریعے وہاں کے عوام کے حقوق پروارکیا -میڈیا سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے بلاول بھٹو کا کہنا تھا کہ ہم وزیراعظم کے گلگت بلتستان پیکج کو مسترد کرتے ہیں اس سے علاقے کے سیاسی استحکام پر منفی اثرات ہوں گے ۔قانون سازی کااختیارافسر شاہی کودیناگلگت کے عوام کے حقوق سے انکار ہے،وزیراعظم کے پیکج کو گلگت بلتستان کی اسمبلی نے بھی مسترد کر دیا ہے ۔ان کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ پارلیمنٹ نے31ویں آئینی ترمیم کے ذریعے فاٹا کے عوام کوآئینی حقوق دیے جبکہ گلگت بلتستان پیکج عوام کی توہین ہے،اور وزیراعظم نے پیکج کے ذریعے وہاں کے عوام کے حقوق پروارکیا ہے۔
The PPP chairman was addressing media about the performance of the Sindh government at the Chief Minister House.
He said that a lot of work has been done for the health department in Sindh.
Bilawal Bhutto said propaganda is being carried out about the situation in Thar and work is being carried out in the field of energy in the area.
Residents of Karachi have been protesting against water shortage and loadshedding in various areas of the metropolis.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari extends felicitations to the Pakistani cricket team on winning the Test Match at Lords against England
In a statement, the PPP Chairman praised the team-spirit of the national squad and eulogized the performance of both bowlers and batsmen of the team.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the way the Pakistani team members displayed professionalism, discipline and performance has once again proved that our players have great potential in the cricket world.