How This Week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Can Help End Violence Against Women in Morocco

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While Morocco has amended a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims if they are younger than 18, there are still numerous legal and procedural ways in which it actively discriminates against women and girls (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

This blog posting is part of a series Amnesty International USA is publishing to coincide with the U.S.-Africa Summit occurring August 4-6th, 2014. We are utilizing the series to highlight human rights concerns on the continent we feel critically need to be addressed during the summit discussions.

Contributed by Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This week, President Obama will welcome nearly every African head of state to Washington, D.C. for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. As one of America’s oldest and most strategically important allies, Morocco is expected to participate in the conference.

Morocco’s continuous efforts to appear as one of the region’s most stable and progressive countries provide human rights activists and U.S. government officials a unique opportunity to successfully pressure Morocco to end violence against women.

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‘We Are All Gaza’ – Palestinian Anger in the West Bank

Palestinians in Ramallah gather to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza on July 25,2014 as fatalities continue to rise everyday.

Palestinians in Ramallah gather to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza on July 25,2014. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have died since the war began on July 7, according to the New York Times (Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

By Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Across the city of Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) hang billboards and banners showing images of bloodshed and destruction alongside the words: “Here now, we are all Gaza.”

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Searching for Sombath: What is Laos Hiding?

Sombath Somphone's wife, Ng Shui Meng, handles a 'missing person' poster of her husband at Saoban, a store selling Lao Village handicrafts that she established with her husband. (Photo credit: Gilles Sabrie/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Sombath Somphone’s wife, Ng Shui Meng, handles a ‘missing person’ poster of her husband at Saoban, a store selling Lao Village handicrafts that she established with her husband. (Photo credit: Gilles Sabrie/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

It’s always in the eyes. When we meet with the families of the disappeared there are a range of messages in the eyes – from fear to loss to sorrow – but also an occasional flicker of hope. Dr. Ng Shui-Meng came to Washington, D.C. recently and expressed all these feelings plus one other – determination.

Ng Shui-Meng is demanding an explanation for the December 15, 2012, disappearance of her husband Sombath Somphone from a police checkpoint in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

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UPDATE: Detroit Pledges to Stop Water Shutoffs to Those Who Can’t Pay

Demonstrators protest against the Detroit Water and Sewer Department July 18, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit:Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Demonstrators protest against the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department July 18, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan (Photo credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images).

After months of residents decrying water shutoffs to customers unable to pay their bills, there is tentatively good news from Detroit!

Mayor Mike Duggan has promised a plan to help customers keep their water while the city develops payment plans and financial assistance for those who need it most. 

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Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

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‘Nowhere in Gaza is Safe’: Fieldworker Tells of Life Under Bombs

An Israeli army Merkava tank is positioned along the border in front of buildings in the Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014. (Photo credit: David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

An Israeli army Merkava tank is positioned along the border in front of buildings in the Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014 (Photo credit: David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images).

Interview with a human rights fieldworker in Gaza

This morning as I brushed my teeth I could hear the familiar buzzing of a drone circling above our building. I ignored the sound. Drones circle overhead all the timeyou never know whether it’s just for surveillance or an impending missile launch.

The uncertainty makes you feel helpless. What can anyone do?

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What You Need to Know About the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo while going home on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. Tens of thousands of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo in Mission, Texas. Tens of thousands of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis (Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Amnesty International welcomes the positive step of President Obama’s recent meeting with his counterparts from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala regarding the increasing number of children fleeing violence in those countries – with or without their parents.

It is extremely troubling, however, that President Obama continues to assert that his government will return the overwhelming majority of these children to the extreme violence that has driven them to make the dangerous journey to the United States. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

VICTORY: Meriam Released Thanks to Your Help!

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By Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA Deputy Executive Director of Campaigns and Programs

Great news! After constant campaigning and unwavering support on the part of more than a million Amnesty activists like you, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death because of her religious beliefs, is free and arrived in Italy with her family yesterday.

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