From Animal Cartoons to Opposition to the Death Penalty: Just About Anything Can Land You in Prison in Iran

Artist Atena Farghadani

Artist Atena Farghadani

It seems that not one single thing escapes the attention of hardliners in Iran, bent on using the extraordinary powers they hold to suppress every effort by Iranians to exercise their right to freedom of expression. They have even decreed that men should refrain from sporting various hairdos and—yes I am not kidding—from plucking their eyebrows, because those are considered to be indications of “devil worshipping” and homosexuality.

Although such preoccupations may seem risible to some, the people who are caught up in this dragnet are suffering very real and harsh consequences. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The State of LGBT Human Rights Worldwide

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

LGBT activists take part in a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 June 2013. (EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV)

Across the globe, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) continue to face endemic violence, legal discrimination, and other human rights violations on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As we move from International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia this week to Pride month in the United States, Amnesty International stands with everyone working to guarantee the fundamental human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 things you should know about Bahrain ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix

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This weekend, Bahrain will host the Formula One Grand Prix. But behind the shiny fast cars and super-sized champagne bottles lies a government that is willing to stop at nothing to punish those who dare to speak out about the tragic human rights situation in the country.

Here are five facts you should know about the Gulf Kingdom ahead of one of the most glamorous events in the sporting calendar. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

1,000 Days in Prison: How Mohammed Al-Roken Is Sacrificing His Freedom for Human Rights in the UAE

Dr Mohammed al-Roken

By Mansoureh Mills, Amnesty International campaigns on UAE, Iran and Kuwait

Sunday 12 April 2015 marks 1,000 days since Dr Mohammed al-Roken was locked up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following a massive crackdown on political and human rights activists. Across the world, Amnesty campaigners are doing all they can to fight for his release.

“You taught me the importance of trying to change things that look unjust,” Christian, Canada.

For the past two weeks, I’ve read and counted around 4,000 beautiful cards and letters for human rights lawyer and law professor Dr Mohammed al-Roken. He was sentenced to 10 years’ prison in the UAE after a deeply unfair mass trial of 94 government critics and activists, and has spent much of the last 1,000 days in a high security prison in the Abu Dhabi desert. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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