5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Real Afghanistan

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a 'Peace Concert' in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a ‘Peace Concert’ in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

By Maya Pastakia, Afghanistan Campaigner at Amnesty International

It is one of the most dangerous places in the world, following more than three decades of war.

Terrorist groups remain a force to be reckoned with, and its human rights record and abuses against women and girls are renowned.

But the stories you’ve heard about Afghanistan won’t prepare you for what the country is really like.

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My Fiancé Will Spend His 30th Birthday in a Vietnamese Prison

huong blog 1By Huong Nguyen

5 years,
your voice I couldn’t hear
your smile I couldn’t see
My heart filled with memories
and the shared moonlight, only…

I write these words with extreme sadness, as of September 5, I know my fiancé, Nguyen Tien Trung, a prisoner of conscience in Viet Nam, is not being released as part of the amnesty issued by the Vietnamese government to mark National Day (September 2nd). Only 5 “national security” prisoners were released on this occasion, and only one of them is a well-known dissident – blogger Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anhba SG) of the Freelance Journalist Club – whose term of imprisonment would end in one month anyway.

Trung’s parents visited him on September 5 for a short 30 minutes, during which Trung only had time to list the books he wanted his parents to send him. As if he had no anticipation of an early release. Yet, September 16, his birthday, is approaching. And it is still difficult for me to think of Trung having to spend his 30th birthday in prison.

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Why Executing the New Delhi Rapists Won’t Help the Women of India

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

By Tara Rao, Director of Amnesty International India

Today, a New Delhi court found four Indian men guilty of a December 2012 gang-rape and murder and sentenced them to death. A 17-year old convicted in the same case was sentenced to three years detention in a juvenile home on August 31. Another accused was found dead in his prison cell in March.

The rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi last year was a horrific crime and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s family. Those responsible must be punished, but the death penalty is never the answer.

Far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India.

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WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

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5 Things You Should Know About Enforced Disappearances

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Every year in dozens of countries around the world, thousands of men, women and children are detained by state authorities for no reason, never to be seen again. They are the “disappeared.” In 2012 alone, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries.

Here are five facts you should know on August 30, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

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“Please…I Beg You…Find My Son”: Mother of ‘Disappeared’ Man


 

Four years ago, Ratnam Ratnaraja, a 24-year-old Sri Lankan man, went missing. His parents still don’t know what happened to him. We think the Sri Lankan government does.

In June 2009, Ratnam had been visiting his family in northern Sri Lanka during his usual 10-day holiday before returning to resume his engineering studies at a university in the south of the country. He said goodbye to his family on June 21 to make his way back to the university by the next day. But he never arrived. His parents have been desperately searching for him ever since.

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Demanding Justice: How An Indian Court Took on a U.S. Chemical Giant – And Won

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

Two young girls stand outside the remains of the infamous Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed during the plant’s 1984 gas leak and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments ranging from blindness to gynaecological disorders caused by the accident and subsequent pollution (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

The survivors of 1984′s Bhopal gas disaster have won a significant step toward justice.

An Indian court ruled this week that Dow Chemical must explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” for over 20,000 deaths.

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What You Need to Know About Vietnam’s Human Rights Record

President Truong Tan Sang is only the second Vietnamese president invited to the White House since the normalization of ties between the former war foes (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

President Truong Tan Sang is only the second Vietnamese president invited to the White House since the normalization of ties between the former war foes (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam visited the United States this week to meet with President Obama. At lunch Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, he expressed his desire that Hanoi and Washington deepen their economic and security ties.

The United States and Vietnam have come a long way since the end of the Vietnam War, but President Sang should realize that absent significant progress on human rights, his hopes for building a closer relationship with Washington may be dashed. Popular and congressional support in the United States for forging a strategic partnership with Vietnam will hinge, in large measure, on whether the Vietnamese government demonstrates a deeper commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and justice.

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Indonesia: Democracy Slip Slidin’ Away?

Indonesian workers shout slogans during a protest in front of Parliament building in Jakarta as lawmakers attend the plenary session to pass the mass organization bill. The workers unions vowed to appeal the controversial restriction to Indonesia's freedom of assembly laws in the Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

Indonesian workers shout slogans during a protest in front of Parliament building in Jakarta as lawmakers attend the plenary session to pass the mass organization bill. The workers unions vowed to appeal the controversial restriction to Indonesia’s freedom of assembly laws in the Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

I worry about Indonesia. I worry that the democratic progress of the past few years is just slip slidin’ away. While Egypt and Turkey’s passionate and public debates on reform reach the front pages of our newspapers, Indonesia appears calm to the world. But, it looks like the government is worried.

Particularly alarming is a new law on Mass Organizations, passed on July 2, 2013.  Suddenly, organizations operating in Indonesia are limited to eight purposes including maintaining the value of religion and belief in God; preserving the norms, values, morals, ethics and culture; and establishing, maintaining and strengthening the unity of the nation.  Foreign organizations are required to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and must operate under new rules that include not disrupting the “stability and oneness” of Indonesia.

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