By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA
It’s rare Amnesty activists get a moment to stop and take a breath. But with the start of a new year comes the opportunity to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the successes we helped accomplish in 2013. There’s still much to be done, but we hope the list below will help inspire all of us in the year to come:
Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).
1. In 52 years, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of Prisoners of Conscience around the world. In 2013, we continued that trend. Human rights activists freed this year included Yorm Bopha in Cambodia, Kartam Joga in India, Filipino poet Ericson Acosta, Yemeni journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.
By Neil Sammonds, Syria Researcher at Amnesty International
Sitting on a thin mattress inside a ramshackle structure on a muddy hilltop, elderly Abu Fares told me how he came to live in poverty in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.
For the past 11 months, he and his wife – along with around 200 families – have been eking out a living in makeshift shelters on the outskirts of the overcrowded Domiz refugee camp near the city of Dohuk.
Lieutenant Islam Bibi Helmand’s top female police officer (R) talking to a colleague on March 8, 2013. Known as the most senior female police officer in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Bibi was shot dead on July 4, 2013 by unknown gunmen while being driven to work. The attack is seen as part of a series violence against top women officials (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).
Elsie De Laere, our Afghanistan country specialist, co-authored this piece.
The situation is unfortunately not unfamiliar yet it deteriorates with each passing day: Afghan women working to protect and advance their rights continue to face growing threats to their lives and safety.
Well-documented threats to female Members of Parliament and government, women’s human rights defenders, and female police officers occur on a daily basis, all set against the terrifying backdrop of an uncertain future currently being shaped by attempts to revoke provisions of the country’s Elimination of Violence Against Women law and potential peace negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups that threaten to rollback gains for women’s human rights.
Amnesty International researchers spoke with a mother and her 4-year-old daughter who were the victims of a machete attack (Photo Credit: Susanna Flood/Amnesty International).
By Susanna Flood, Director of Media at Amnesty International
Her voice began to choke and then the tears began to flow down her face as she calmly and steadily recounted the long list of names of all the women and children killed in her village when the anti-balaka struck a week ago.
Sitting in a darkened hospital ward at the Hôpital Communautaire, she gracefully removed her headscarf and revealed the stitches laced across her scalp where the machete had struck. Alongside her was her four-year-old daughter with a matching wound on her head, also the victim of machete attacks.
Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).
By Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA Co-Chair, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group
It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers. On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.
“They tortured me. They repeatedly put wet cloth over my face and poured water over it so I couldn’t breathe. They gave me electric shocks,” she explained.
On December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).
By Joe Westby, Corporate Campaigner at Amnesty International Online
This week marked the 29th anniversary of one of the world’s worst-ever industrial disasters: the infamous gas leak from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that, on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killed thousands. Many more have been left to suffer since then, given the abject failure by both the Indian government and the companies involved to provide survivors and their families with an adequate remedy and justice.
Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).
By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group
You probably are aware of the news reports in the last twelve months regarding the horrific sweatshop fires and building collapses in Bangladesh that killed and injured over a thousand, mainly women, laborers.
Or maybe you read recently about U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling out Bangladesh for the injustice and violation of international law in the recent verdict of death sentences for 152 border guards accused of murder.
But chances are you have not heard of Kalpana Chakma and the 17-year miscarriage of justice in waiting for a proper investigation into her disappearance.
A ten-year-old girl who was raped twice in ten days surrounded by other raped victims and a counselor (Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images).
By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group with the Democratic Republic of Congo Country Specialists
For almost two decades, armed conflict has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this time, civilians have faced persistent human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, rape, and sexual violence.
An October 2013 report by the Ministry of Gender stressed the high rates of sexual violence in areas of armed conflict – citing approximately 7,000 cases of sexual violence in North Kivu province in 2011 alone. As sexual violence is usually largely under-reported, the actual number is likely even higher.
To get to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women and girls had to face a gauntlet of deadly violence including extortion, trafficking and abuse. Once in the camps, they expected to find safety.
A majority of the 2.9 million Syrian refugees are women and children. Having fled violence, and often surviving a treacherous journey across the Syrian desert, these refugees sought safety and shelter in the camps. More than 120,000 of them made their way to the Za’atri camp, making it the largest refugee camp in Jordan.
There are more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, with about half from Indonesia (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
I had no time to myself – I worked long hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with no rest day. My employers didn’t allow me to leave the house without someone accompanying me. When it was bed time, I had to wait for everyone to sleep because I slept in the family bathroom.
This 30-year-old woman from Tulungagung told Amnesty International her story in 2012.
In an extensive new report, filled with heartbreaking testimony about exploitative recruitment, physical and sexual violence, lack of food, excessive hours and restrictions on religious practices, Amnesty International examines the experiences of Indonesian domestic migrant workers trafficked to Hong Kong.