Four Years into the Syrian Conflict

Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)

The lights are going out in Syria.

As the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens, the darkness is literally spreading.  More than 80 percent of lights have gone out across Syria since March 2011; in Aleppo, site of fighting for more than two years, 97 percent of lights are not working.

If you want to understand what that means, listen to this description from a Syrian surgeon in Aleppo:

Marwan was on the operating table when the lights blinked and fizzed out,” the doctor said. “The nurse pulled her mobile phone from her pocket – generating the only light in the pitch-black basement. Others followed suit, producing just enough light to allow me to finish repairing his broken little body.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#FreeRaif: US should press for release of Saudi blogger

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi

By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women Get the Short End of the Stick in Iran and Can’t Even Protest

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As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

FreeRaif

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