The New “Cash Cow” for Assad in Syria: Human Rights Abuses

The Syrian economy is collapsing, and the Syrian people are suffering. But the Assad regime has found a new “cash cow” that is reaping great profit for the government: enforced disappearances.


“Simple, honest, kind”: My Wife, the Jailed Student Activist


By Lin Htet Naing, husband of activist & prisoner of conscience Phyoe Phyoe Aung

In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.

Belarus: Political Prisoners Released, but Authorities Need to Do More for Human Rights


By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik

On August 22, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka issued an order “based on the principle of humanism” to release six political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich and Yury Rubtsov, recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Mikalai Statkevich was one of six opposition presidential candidates who were imprisoned in connection with a largely peaceful demonstration that took place on December 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against unfair elections. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but when a violent incident broke out at the doors of Government House, riot police moved in to disperse the crowds. Over 700 people were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom had been peaceful participants and bystanders. Most of the detained were charged with administrative offences and sentenced to 10 to 15 days in prison. Many who were sentenced for participating in the demonstrations were released after they agreed to sign a confession for organizing or taking part in “mass disorder.” Mikalai was sentenced to six years. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Human Rights Victory! Swaziland Prisoners of Conscience Freed!

Thulani Maseko, appears in court in the traditional animal skin garb of a Zulu warrior, in Mbabane, Swaziland.  Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system in a trial that has focused fresh attention on human rights issues in a country who's authoritarian system gets little scrutiny in international forums because of the country's small size and strategic insignificance.

Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.


The First Day of Spring Should Not Be Spent Behind Bars in Iran

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

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

Ghoncheh Ghavami released but Iran must drop all charges against her

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami

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

Not a Laughing Matter: Famed Comedian Supports Call for Release of Iranian Physicist

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.48.38 AM

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

28 Distinguished Nobel Physics Laureates Support Imprisoned Colleague in Iran

Omid Kokabee

Omid Kokabee

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

Dear Baku: Stop beating activist. Release her. Drop treason charge!

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Arresting its loudest critic and charging her with “treason” doesn’t seem enough for Azerbaijani officials. Last week, peace activist and human rights defender

was beaten by Kurdakhany detention facility administration staff.

An April 2014 video shows Leyla Yunus confronting officials (in Russian) about not having been allowed to use the toilet during an unlawful detention for interrogation. Although officials eventually allowed her to use a toilet (with a male guard watching her), Leyla says she was not informed of charges against her.

Less than half a year later after the detention, Leyla (and soon her husband Arif Yunus) were arrested and given ridiculous charges of treason and tax evasion. Amnesty International considers both Prisoners of Conscience and calls on Baku to release them immediately and unconditionally (add your voice to our appeal).


No Bigger Fish to Fry? Why Iran is Imprisoning a Sports Fan

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