US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post
Last week, President Obama put a much-needed spotlight on the vicious cycle of mass incarceration. In the past three decades, the prison population in the U.S. has ballooned due to a number of factors that have created a system rife with discrimination and other abuses. And the burden falls disproportionately on low-income people and people of color.
The President made a historic visit on July 16 to a federal prison — the first sitting president to do so. His visit spotlighted the massive overcrowding problem — he was shown one 9-by-10-foot cell that sometimes holds three prisoners — that is the result of a broken criminal justice system.
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Artist Atena Farghadani
It seems that not one single thing escapes the attention of hardliners in Iran, bent on using the extraordinary powers they hold to suppress every effort by Iranians to exercise their right to freedom of expression. They have even decreed that men should refrain from sporting various hairdos and—yes I am not kidding—from plucking their eyebrows, because those are considered to be indications of “devil worshipping” and homosexuality.
Although such preoccupations may seem risible to some, the people who are caught up in this dragnet are suffering very real and harsh consequences. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action
Former Iranian prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari said “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.” The first day of spring is a particularly painful time for those incarcerated in Iran because it is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, an ancient holiday that is the occasion for joyous celebration with family and friends. That is why it is so important to remind prisoners of conscience that they are NOT forgotten at Nowruz time. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Leading up to our 2015 human rights conference in Brooklyn, NY, March 20-22, we are highlighting six Amnesty International USA staff members and moments in their life that have helped build their career in the human rights movement! Read all six in our “Meet me at the AGM” blog series.
NAME: Jasmine Heiss
I WORK FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA AS: Senior Campaigner, Individuals at Risk Program
IN THAT ROLE I:
- Strategize, power-map, and creatively deconstruct injustice
- Build project-plans, relationships and coalitions
- Influence private and public actors to defend and uphold human rights
- Work directly with my human rights heroes
HOW DID YOU GET THERE?
I grew up in Northern Michigan in a house run off of solar and wind with gravity-fed (COLD!) water, and intensely idealistic parents. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
former New York Times Iran correspondent Nazila
Journalists working in Iran face daunting challenges. They are constantly under threat of being suddenly arrested and detained for long periods of time, in inhumane conditions and without knowing the nature of the charges against them.
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has just earned the dubious distinction of being the longest-held foreign journalist in Iran. Detained in Evin Prison since his arrest in July, it was just announced that Jason Rezaian’s detention was extended another two months in November. This despite the fact that Iran’s top “human rights” official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said in early November that he anticipated that Mr. Rezaian would be released within one month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
When Ghoncheh Ghavami decided to take a stand this past June to protest Iran’s ban on women attending volleyball games, she likely did not figure she’d spend the rest of the summer and fall sitting in a miserable prison cell. Ms. Ghavami, who just turned 26, surely also did not predict that her call for equality would generate hundreds of thousands of supportive voices from around the world. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Maz Jobrani, the popular Iranian-American comedian, usually makes people laugh. But now he has set mirth aside to send a serious message to the Iranian authorities: they should release noted physicist and prisoner of conscience Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Iran’s Evin Prison. In his video message, Mr. Jobrani notes that Omid Kokabee was sentenced to his long prison term after a grossly unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
This week marks the announcement of the 2014 Nobel prizes, recognizing the lifetime accomplishments of some of the world’s most extraordinary people. Twenty-eight of these eminent individuals—winners of the Nobel Physics Prize in years between 1972 and 2013—have signed letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader calling for the release of a brilliant young physicist and prisoner of conscience, Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year sentence in one of Iran’s most miserable prisons. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Going to watch a volleyball game shouldn’t mean having to make a major political statement. It certainly shouldn’t mean arrest and indefinite detention in solitary confinement. But that is exactly what happened to dual British-Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old woman who went to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in June to watch a match during the International Federation of Volleyball World League games. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST