Tech and Human Rights: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As someone whose job it is to take advantage of technological progress for human rights research and advocacy, I am a strong proponent of using new tools and methods to advance Amnesty International’s goals. There is a proven track record of how technology can help human rights researchers and defenders in their daily work. However, any debate on this topic should not overlook the increasing challenges and threats that new technologies and digital networks pose for our profession. I am increasingly interested in exploring this undeniable tension, and I am fortunate enough to moderate a panel related to this topic Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting in Brooklyn this weekend (full details below). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The First Day of Spring Should Not Be Spent Behind Bars in Iran

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Former Iranian prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari said “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.”   The first day of spring is a particularly painful time for those incarcerated in Iran because it is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, an ancient holiday that is the occasion for joyous celebration with family and friends. That is why it is so important to remind prisoners of conscience that they are NOT forgotten at Nowruz time. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

An Iran Specialist Goes to Selma

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I spend much of my Amnesty International time working on Iran, but I just had to go to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary commemoration of “Bloody Sunday” March 7, 1965—the day that about 600 peaceful African-American protesters attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their campaign for voting rights were attacked and brutalized by state troopers and others.

I was privileged to be part of an Amnesty International delegation to the Selma Jubilee, headed by Executive Director Steve Hawkins, and including about 50 activists and staff from the Chicago area, St. Louis, Atlanta, New York and DC. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Saudi Arabia: 10 Brutal Facts Beyond Raif Badawi’s Case

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Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Four Questions for Prime Minister Netanyahu

(Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

(Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to give two major speeches in Washington, DC.  The first is Monday at the conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  The second is on Tuesday before the U.S. Congress.

Tuesday’s speech has been generating headlines, with more than 30 Members of Congress reportedly declaring that they will not attend.  But despite the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s invitation to speak before Congress, the policies of his government are what deserve real scrutiny.

Here are four key questions that Prime Minister Netanyahu should have to answer while he makes the rounds in Washington, DC: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Untold Stories of Syria’s Most Vulnerable Refugees

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What happens when a crisis so prolongs that the world tires of it? 

You get 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

You get stories like the one told by this woman living in a refugee camps. She has been in a Lebanese camp for three years with her two sons, one of whom is autistic. She has necessities, but little else; what she dreams of is that her children get an education. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Saudi Arabia: The Question on Everybody’s Mind

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. ©BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. ©BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

“What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

The answer is not simple. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Who will be silenced next?

MuradBy Alicia Koutsoulieris, Case Coordinator for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority

Freedom of speech has suffered a tragic start in 2015.

As the world calls for the release of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, there is another person who also deserves our support.  While you read this, Palestinian Murad Shtewi sits in an Israeli prison.  His “crime?”  Daring to protest the Israeli military occupation that his village lives under. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“He Was Silent but You Could Tell That He Was in Real Pain”

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Raif Badawi, founder of a website for political and social debate, has been held in a Saudi Arabian prison since 17 June 2012. ©Private

An eyewitness account of the flogging today of Raif Badawi an activist in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate. The witness has not been identified for security reasons.

“When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today. They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew.

No one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Throwing Stones from the Glass House: The View of U.S. Human Rights Violations from Iran

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Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham

Iranian state-controlled news media have been having an extended field day recently, gleefully reporting on the ever-unfolding news about human rights violations committed by agents of the U.S. government. These include of course the revelations in the recently released CIA torture report and the police killings of unarmed African-American men in Staten Island, Ferguson and elsewhere. Iran’s foreign ministry also recently deplored the United States “flagrant and systematic violation of the rights of its minorities.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST