Game On for Saudi Women

Saudi woman driver

Scores of brave Saudi Arabian women have been defying a long-standing ban on them driving. © Private

Saudi women just took one step closer to the finish line — as the 2012 Olympics are set to begin in London today, Saudi women will be competing for the first time. But there is still a long way to go for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, a country where women can now carry the Olympic flag, but not the keys to the car.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, a judo competitor, and 800 meters runner Sarah Attar will be the first Saudi women ever to participate in the Olympics. Just two weeks before the start of the games, Saudi officials finally ended their long resistance and joined Qatar and Brunei in sending female athletes to compete in the games for the first time.

With Saudi’s last minute decision, the 2012 Olympics in London mark the first Olympics where every country will have at least one female athlete competing. A country where girls’ sports and gyms are officially banned in public schools, Saudi Arabia will now cheer for their first female athletes representing the Kingdom. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Battle for the Future of India

Jagatsinghpur district in the eastern Indian state of Orissa is a poor rural place. But it is at the crucible of a battle for the future of India.

In 2005, state and national governments approved a massive steel plant here, and the South Korean steel company POSCO prepared to sink $12 billion into the project. Yet from the beginning, local residents objected to this top-down development, which would push them from their farmland and fishing spots, depriving them of their homes, land, and livelihoods (if history is any guide, they were likely to end up in distant urban slums).

After hundreds of villagers were forcibly evicted last summer opposition stiffened locally, across India and around the world. By late 2011, the Orissa government began resorting to jailing peaceful protest leaders on false charges. First it was Abhay Sahoo – who had also been jailed for 10 months in 2008-9. Then, it was Narayan Reddy.


Exploitation of Nepal’s Migrant Workers

Nepal migrant workers

Families of migrant workers in Morang district, Nepal, 2011, who were interviewed by Amnesty International.

 “Migrant workers from Nepal and other countries are like cattle in Kuwait.  Actually, cattle are probably more expensive than migrant workers there.  No one cares whether we die or are killed. Our lives have no value.” –N.R., domestic worker from Ilam district, Nepal

Anyone who has waited for a flight at Kathmandu, Nepal’s international airport has seen the large groups of men and women quietly lining up to board flights for Qatar or Malaysia, many appearing nervous, clutching only their papers or a small bag of belongings.

But the men and women boarding these flights have reason to be nervous. While some Nepalese migrant workers arrive in the destination country and earn decent wages, others end up in forced labor or exploitative conditions.

These are some of the estimated 25,000 people a month who leave Nepal for work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families in Nepal.


4 Ways to Join Global Activists in Shaming Shell

shell own up pay up clean up niger delta

Make this image your profile pic!

Shell has reaped billions from its oil extractions in the Niger Delta.  Meanwhile, multiple oil spills there have scarred local communities.

It’s so bad that the fish local people catch and the water they drink are foully contaminated by oil pollution – destroying lives and livelihoods.

Despite this devastation, Shell has yet to take full responsibly of its spills and fully compensate victims.  When Shell holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this May, Amnesty activists will have delivered thousands of petitions in an unsparing public message to CEO Peter Voser and Shell shareholders.

In preparation for this delivery, we’re launching a week of action around Earth Day to remind Shell of their responsibility to own up, pay up and clean up the Niger Delta.  Help us publicly Shame shell into cleaning up their mess:


Punishing "Moral Crimes" in Afghanistan

afghan women protest

Afghan Young Women for Change (YWC) activists, holding placards which read "where is justice?", take part in a protest denouncing violence against women in Afghanistan in Kabul on April 14, 2012.

Despite enormous improvements to women’s livelihoods in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, much action is needed by the Afghan government and the international community.

For example, women in Afghanistan face some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, more than half of all girls in the country do not attend school, and many women are forced into marriage shortly after puberty.

To make matter worse, women can face the prospect of being jailed for reporting violence perpetrated against them as reported in Human Rights Watch’s new report, detailing the detention of 400 women and girls imprisoned in the country for “moral crimes”.


London Olympics Further Tainted by Dow Chemical

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster demonstrate. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Since we last told you about Dow Chemical’s controversial Olympic sponsorship, things seem to have only gotten worse for Dow Chemical – from a public relations perspective anyway. Along with Dow Chemical’s horribly insensitive comments, the increased media attention has only revealed additional ethically troubling business practices.

The International Olympic Committee and games’ organizers continue (for now) solidly and uncritically back Dow as a sponsor, despite harsh criticism from Amnesty and others. But if Dow Chemical was hoping that it might benefit from the benevolent glow of the Olympic spirit of international goodwill, the past few weeks have not been kind.


Corporate Accountability Comes Before the U.S. Supreme Court

By Erica Razook, Amnesty’s Business and Human Rights Group

Members of the Ogoni community outside of the Supreme Court, February 28, 2012. Esther Kiobel, center.

Esther Kiobel is a person.

The bright sunlight that washed the steps of the US Supreme Court on Tuesday did not compete with her radiance, the resolve of a widow, a survivor. Outside the court, her eyes searched unquestionably and steadfastly for justice.

In January 1995, when she visited her husband Barinem in a Nigerian prison to bring him some food, she was stripped, beaten and thrown into a cell herself. In November that year, Barinem was executed alongside eight other activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria, provoking widespread international condemnation of the country’s military rulers.


Vedanta Corp: Creating Happiness or Creating Misery?

vedanta ad india

By Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed, used by permission

Vedanta, a UK-based corporation that mostly operates in India, has a big PR problem of its own making. For example, it has been implicated in creating a toxic red mud pond that threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of tribal people in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

You would think that Vedanta should do what’s right and take steps to ensure that the environment and livelihood of the neighboring villages are protected. Vedanta might have taken steps to apologize, compensate and clean up the mess that they’ve already made in those communities.


Nothing About Us Without Us: Women’s Voices Must Be Heard!

Earlier this month we wrote about the right to universal access to health care in the context of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Yet again this month, women’s health rights are being used as a political football.

The reversal of the Komen Foundation’s decision, in response to public outcry, only amplifies our newest concerns: the voices of affected people must play a role in all policy decisions.

I’m sure you’ve seen the now-infamous photo of an all-male witness panel at the February 17 hearing on contraception and religious freedom, held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Democratic minority nominated a woman for this panel—an average woman with experience of the implications of insurance companies denying coverage of birth control. She was denied as a witness by the majority GOP, apparently because she was deemed unqualified to speak to the issue. Two women were witnesses on the second panel, one a female physician.