“My Heart Is Exhausted”: A Mother’s Story of Death Row in Saudi Arabia

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Ali al-Nimr was just 17 when he was arrested on 14 February 2012 a few months after taking part in anti-government rallies. He was sentenced to death, despite being a minor when he was arrested and following a deeply unfair trial based on “confessions” he says were obtained through torture. He now awaits his execution. His mother, Nassra al-Ahmed, tells their story:

When I first heard the verdict to execute my little boy, I felt as if a thunderbolt was hitting my head. It rendered me bereaved and rid of the most cherished and beautiful things I have.

His absence has exhausted my heart. My eyes shed tears automatically, yearning for him. I am overtaken by missing his angelic features. His smile never leaves my mind and memories prompt me to weep each time I see one of his pictures. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Waterboarding Is Torture: 3 Things You Need to Know

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For years, Amnesty International has witnessed public figures repeating misconceptions and inaccuracies about waterboarding.  This American debate on torture has mostly got it wrong – here are three realities you need to know:

  1. Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation

People who take the time to learn about Waterboarding see how horrific it is.

But many people don’t. Media and public figures often describe waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation”—a euphemism that rationalizes and sanitizes torture. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Muhammed, What Were You Thinking About When You Accepted the Reality of Your Death?

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Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster.  Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Muhammed -What were you thinking about when you accepted the reality of your own death?

What thoughts and images went through your mind when you realized you were willing to risk permanent physical damage or even death to gain your freedom?

Were you thinking about the softness of your babies’ cheeks? How they smelled so fresh and their skin felt so soft after bath time?

Muhammed al Qiq, a Palestinian journalist and father of two small children, has been on hunger strike for over seventy-five days – refusing everything but water, to protest the torture and other ill-treatment to which he says he was subjected to in Israeli custody, and to demand his release from detention he believes is motivated by his work as a journalist. He was placed under administrative detention, unable to see the evidence against him and unable to challenge the ‘evidence’ or his accusers in a fair judicial setting. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Dominican Republic’s Absurd Laws Shatters Star Boxer’s Promising Career

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Adonis was born in the Dominican Republic in 1994 to Haitians parents. His birth was never registered because his parents lack of documents. This results in statelessness. The lack of identity documents for Adonis means that he faces many obstacles to work and enjoy his passions in life. For example, Adonis had to stop practicing baseball for lacking ID card. Now he practices boxing, but is under pressure to secure ID card.

Adonis was born in the Dominican Republic in 1994 to Haitians parents. His birth was never registered because his parents lack of documents. This results in statelessness.

By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International

When Adonis Peguero Louis won the pre-selection test to join the Dominican Republic’s national boxing team, the young man’s future played before him.

As if watching a film, he saw himself headlining fights across the country, traveling to arenas in cities he had only visited through the small TV screen that rests in the corner of his crammed living room, coming face-to-face with his childhood heroes. He vividly imagined becoming a hero himself — the kind that starts life with empty pockets but then manages to save all those around him from poverty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

This is Why Obama’s Speech on American Muslims Matters

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US President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I never thought it would happen, and it may never happen again. On Wednesday, President Obama visited a U.S. mosque for the first time in his presidency. He quoted from the Islamic holy book, the Quran. And he unequivocally denounced anti-Muslim hate.

This may sound uneventful, but it was actually bold. Muslims, Islam and the Quran are nearly dirty words in the U.S. political mainstream right now. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What El Salvador’s Total Abortion Ban Means for Women and Girls

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Portrait of Teodora Vasquez at her prison in El Salvador. She had been sentenced for 30 years after having an stillbirth out of suspicions of having had an abortion. In 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a still-birth at work. Teodora, mother of an 11-year-old boy, was expecting a new baby when she started experiencing increasingly severe pain. She called the emergency services but her waters broke soon afterwards. She went into labour, and was unconscious when she gave birth. When she came round, bleeding profusely, her baby was dead. Police at the scene handcuffed her and arrested her on suspicion of murder. Only then did they take her to hospital where she could get the urgent treatment she needed. In El Salvador, women who miscarry or suffer a still-birth during pregnancy are routinely suspected of having had an “abortion”. Abortion under any circumstance is a crime, even in cases of rape, incest, or where a woman’s life is at risk. This makes women afraid to seek help with pregnancy-related problems, leading inevitably to more preventable deaths.

Portrait of Teodora Vasquez at her prison in El Salvador. She had been sentenced for 30 years after having an stillbirth out of suspicions of having had an abortion.

By Linda Veazey, AIUSA Board Member 

In 1998, El Salvador outlawed abortion under any circumstances, including cases where the life or health of the woman is at risk; where pregnancies are the result of rape or incest; and in cases of severe fetal abnormalities. El Salvador’s total ban violates the human rights of thousands of women and girls.

In cases like Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, some women have even been sentenced to several decades in prison even though they did not have an abortion!  In 2008, Teodora was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a still-birth at work.  Amnesty found that Teodora was presumed guilty after she received an unfair trial in which her family could not afford effective legal representation. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Life is Disposable: Muslim Bodies as Precarious in the War on Terror

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(Photo: Justin Norman)

By Dr. Maha Hilal, Executive Director at National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

“[W]hat counts as a livable life and a grievable death?”

(Judith Butler, 2004, p. xv)

The Muslim body in the so-called War on Terror has been treated as if it is without value and inconsequential. Muslim bodies have been detained, extradited, tortured, and unlawfully killed. Muslim lives have been drowned in a sea of policy and rhetoric that justifies the loss of lives as “collateral damage” in the name of protecting U.S. security.  Methods which would otherwise be considered brutal and inconsistent with the U.S. government claims to uphold democracy and human rights position Muslims as less than human, and in this way their lives and their deaths are treated as inconsequential. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Guantanamo Has Been Open Longer Under President Obama Than President Bush

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As of January 30th, 2016, Guantanamo will be open under President Obama longer than it was open under President Bush. Here is one detainee’s story—and he is not alone:

“When I used to go for interrogations, I was unable to walk because of the restraints on my legs and tightness on my feet. I would fall down to the ground and scream that I cannot walk. They would pick me up from the ground and I would walk with them while they are hitting me on the way to the interrogation until I would bleed from my feet. When I would fall to the ground, they would drag me while I am on the ground. … Sometimes they would put a weapon on my head threatening to kill me….”

This is how Guantánamo detainee Toffiq al-Bihani described the treatment he suffered at the hands of the CIA before coming to Guantánamo. Starting in early 2002 the U.S. government detained and interrogated Toffiq for about a year. After being subjected to the infamous CIA torture program, he was transferred to Guantánamo in early 2003. That’s where he remains to this day.

As of January 30, 2016, the detention camp has been open under President Obama longer than it was open under President Bush. Despite multiple promises to close Guantánamo, President Obama oversees the continued detention of 91 individuals including Toffiq. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A letter from Mahienour El-Massry on the Fifth Anniversary of the Revolution

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By Mahienour El-Massry, Prisoner of Conscience in Egypt

This is the fifth year of the Revolution… I almost cannot believe that five years have passed since the chants of “the people want to bring down the system” and “Bread… Freedom… Social Justice… Human Dignity” … Maybe this is because even in my cell I am filled with dreams of freedom and with hope.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What do you know about your batteries?

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By Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Director, Human Rights in Business Program, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law 

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They are in your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras, and even power electric cars. But did you know that cobalt is a key component of those batteries? Where does cobalt come from? More than half of the world’s cobalt is supplied by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC and conflict minerals probably rings a bell. It’s well-known that the global trade in the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum) and gold has financed abusive armed groups in the DRC and fueled conflict. While cobalt is not a conflict mineral, artisanal miners mine cobalt in the southern part of the country under extremely dangerous and abusive work conditions, which are similar to the conditions in eastern DRC where conflict minerals are extracted. A new Amnesty report, This is What We Die For, traces the cobalt supply chain from the artisanal miners to the big brands selling electronic devices, and exposes all the governments and companies along the way that have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations suffered by the miners. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST