Saudi women wait for their drivers outside a shopping mall in Riyadh. © AFP/Getty Images
Having recently won the right to vote, Saudi women activists now are driving to end discrimination and demand all of their human rights.
Saudi women are responding positively to a royal decree granting them the right to vote, but they insist that they will not settle for partial rights. One of their most pressing targets is a continuing ban on their right to drive. “[Winning the vote] is a good sign, and we have to take advantage of it, but we still need more rights,” stated Maha al-Qahtani, one of the women who recently defied the ban on driving.
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The Shaheed Minar in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, commemorates the Language Movement
The United Nations International Mother Language Day is celebrated every February 21 on the anniversary of the Language Movement in Bangladesh. It is a time when we remember the power of language—to tell us where we came from, to share our story, to debate, to educate, and to preserve our cultures.
In 1947, India was partitioned, creating Pakistan. Although sharing the same religion, Pakistan was split geographically, culturally and linguistically. In the western part of Pakistan, they spoke Urdu or Punjabi, while in the eastern part of the country they spoke Bengali. In 1948, the Pakistani government declared Urdu the national language naturally creating an uproar in the east. The protests culminated on February 21, 1952 when protesters at the University of Dhaka were fired upon by the police, leaving dozens dead. This sparked an uprising that eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Why is this worth reading about? Articles 19, 22, 26, and 27 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would be a good start. The right to be able to express oneself is a cultural value that is part of the full spectrum of human rights that everyone on the planet enjoys.
So, enjoy your ভাষা আন্দোলন দিবস (bhhasha andolan dibosh) no matter what language you speak!
Since July 8, Ilham Tohti, editor of the Web site Uighur Online and a professor at Central Nationalities University in Beijing, has been held incommunicado by Chinese authorities. He was interrogated after posting articles on the site and his personal blog about a clash between members of China’s majority ethnic Han group and Uighurs in Guangdong Province on June 26.
The Uighurs are a Muslim minority group in China most of whom live in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwestern China. For two decades now Chinese authoirities have been pursuing a campaign in the area against “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism,” in the process have diluting the Uighur population and severely restricting the civil and cultural rights of Uighurs. Ilham Tohti’s case is in no way isolated. Although authorities in XUAR set up a media center for foreign journalists in Urumqi during the recent violence, reporters have been prevented – by police, other security forces or even just people on the street – from reporting freely in the XUAR. One New York Times reporter described tour guides in Kashgar who refused to lead him around the city and translators who feared repercussions if they were to translate certain conversations. Clearly Chinese authorities fear what the people of Kashgar might say to journalists, but what’s even worse is that they’re causing residents in the XUAR to fear expressing their opinions.
All this repression suggests the unliklihood of an independent inquiry into the events last month in Xinjiang as well as open, fair trials for those who have been detained. Take action now for Ilham Tohti!