Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”

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5 Points President Obama Should Make in Thursday’s National Security Speech

America shouldn't stand for GuantanamoThis Thursday at 1:30p.m. eastern, President Obama will deliver a widely anticipated speech at National Defense University that is expected to address closing Guantanamo, drones and US counterterrorism policy.

If President Obama is serious about ending human rights violations by the US government in the name national security, he should use the speech to announce, among other points, that:

1)  Forced feeding will stop and the transfer of detainees cleared to leave will resume.  There are dozens cleared by the administration to leave the detention facility. Even under current Congressional conditions on transfers, these men can and must be transferred out where there are  countries to take them that will respect their human rights.

One example is Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for transfer under the Bush and Obama administrations, and the British government says he should be free with his wife and children in London. Why has he not been transferred there? Instead of brutal force feeding of detainees, it’s time to fulfill human rights.

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Do You Know About Guantánamo Detainee Hussain Almerfedi?

Hussain Salem Mohammed AlmerfediFew people know about the plight of Guantánamo detainee Hussain Salem Mohammed Almerfedi, but they should. That’s why Amnesty International included his case in Write #4Rights,  a special period of global activism from December 5th to 16th  marking International Human Rights Day on December 10th.

Almerfedi is a Yemeni national who has been held in U.S. military custody at Guantánamo Bay for over nine years:

Eric Holder Unveils 'The Cake Doctrine'

Holder Discusses Obama Administration's Counterterrorism Efforts

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Discusses Obama Administration's Counterterrorism Efforts at Northwestern Law School March 5, 2012 (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)

Speaking yesterday at Northwestern University the Attorney-General Eric Holder set out the clearest intellectual framework so far for the Obama administration’s evolving counterterrorism doctrine.

All good doctrines need a name and so I am going to take this opportunity to propose one for President Obama’s approach: ‘The Cake Doctrine.’

As in wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

The Cake Doctrine is an advance on the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense in that President Obama has more faith in the courts and our system of justice than his predecessor did.

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Will UN Finally Act On Syria Atrocities?

© Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The situation in Syria further escalated over the weekend. Yesterday alone, more than 100 people were reportedly killed across the country and the death toll is feared to be increasing.

In a by now familiar pattern, Syrian authorities used tanks and snipers to attack civilians. We believe that the crimes committed in Syria constitute crimes against humanity.

I just learned that the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Syria later today and I urge you to sign our online petition to call on Brazil, India and South Africa to end their opposition to a Security Council resolution condemning the grave human rights violations.

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Obama's Alleged Link to Secret Prisons and Extraordinary Rendition

Following hard on the heels of the revelation that the Obama administration had held Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame in secret detention on a US naval vessel patrolling off the coast of Somalia for over two months, comes a startling new claim from The Nation magazine that the Obama administration is back in the extraordinary rendition business.

Writing in the latest edition of The Nation, journalist Jeremy Scahill alleges that since early 2009 the United States has maintained a secret prison located on a compound within the perimeter of Mogadishu Airport and that in July 2009 the United States was involved in the extraordinary rendition of Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan from Kenya to Somalia.

Without further independent investigation it is difficult to make a definitive judgment about Scahill’s claims but it is worth noting that he is the author of the well-regarded study “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” and has extensive contacts in the intelligence, special forces, and private military contractor communities.

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Obama and Egypt: The Window for Action Remains Open

Note: This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. EST)

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation in Egypt on Feburary 1, 2011. TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Hosni Mubarak’s stubborn pride and imperious manner made change in Egypt personal, but he was right in his speech Thursday when he said it was not about him.  It is about bringing about institutional and constitutional change that will embed and protect democratic and human rights for all of Egypt.

That means that after a day of celebrating Mubarak’s resignation, the protesters are cognizant enough that there is hard and important work to be done.  And that means President Obama still has one more chance to do what’s right for Egypt and for the United States.

Human rights activists and the Egyptian protesters have been rightly disappointed so far in his muddled and wavering message and policy.  His call for an “orderly transition” to democracy has been met by Mubarak with stinging rebukes and excuses for further delays.

If one is inclined to have some sympathy for the administration, you can point to this: For 30 years, every American president has known the day when payment for compliance with the region’s autocrats would come due.  Each has at best hoped that they could delay that day to the next president.

Obama is that next president and reversing that history and making it right requires change of our own. It is up to him to stand up to the Washington army of paid hacks and Mubarak retainers who whisper caution, to the other allies in the region who fear change and to the wise men, serious-thinking pundits and religious leaders who see Arab democracy as a phony front for a global caliphate.

Amnesty International’s Human Rights Agenda for Change provides a guide for what he needs to do.  He should make a clear statement that the window for delay has gone, and only specific and immediate action, not promises for down the road will be acceptable.

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President Obama and China's Human Rights: Real Change or Rehashed Rhetoric?

By T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director

The headlines are clear. President Obama exerted pressure on Chinese President Hu Jintao about China’s human rights record during this week’s summit.

While Amnesty International applauds President Obama for speaking publicly about human rights during the press conference, the question remains: will US policy in practice reflect President Obama’s rhetoric? The challenge for President Obama is to convert the overly positive publicity into real concrete action to bring improvements in China’s human rights.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo remains locked up in China.

The rhetoric at the press briefing should be matched by incorporating human rights into every aspect of U.S. policy, not only limited to the State Department’s human rights bureau and annual human rights dialogue.  Human rights should be part of the policy brief for all the U.S. departments that interact with the Chinese government. Importantly, human rights should play an equal and important part of the US – China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Prior to the state visit, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations urged President Obama to meet former political prisoners from China who are currently residing in the United States. President Bush met these political prisoners before his trip to China to attend the Olympics. President Obama ignored our request for reasons known only to him. By refusing to meet these political prisoners, the administration missed an opportunity to demonstrate the seriousness by which the United States views human rights in China. President Obama’s inaction also raises the question whether he is hesitant to be tough on human rights, in the absence of giving speeches.

The repartee between the Presidents was covered extensively; but the question looms: did President Obama get any commitment from the Chinese president for any tangible improvement in human rights? Did President Obama set any benchmarks or timelines? There are several areas to focus starting with re-education through labor camps, where Chinese authorities arbitrarily detain around 200,000 people, to the execution of political prisoners, and the continued imprisonment of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

President Hu Jintao acknowledged the human rights issues in response to reporters’ questions. Will President Obama do his part to translate his human rights rhetoric into practice?