Congress is debating whether to authorize the President to use force in response to allegations that Syria used chemical weapons against opponents of the government.
Although Amnesty International has not taken – and is not likely to take – a position on the appropriateness of armed intervention, we believe the debate in Congress is inadequate, as it does not address many of the pressing issues of the Syrian crisis.
By Maha Abu Shama, Syria Campaigner at Amnesty International
“We have no women for marriage” is Khawlah’s usual response when Jordanian or other foreign men ask about marrying her 14-year-old daughter when they come looking for a bride.
Like other Syrian women refugees I met during a recent visit to Jordan, Khawlah complained how Jordanian men constantly bombard her with marriage proposals or requests to arrange marriages with refugee girls.
“I do not have work for you, but could marry you if you like,” is what ‘Aisha was told when she went looking for work. A 22-year-old student of English Literature, she complained that one of the reasons her job search in the Jordanian capital of Amman has been futile so far is that she often receives marriage proposals instead of paid work.
A child looks on next to a woman at a Syrian refugee camp 5 km from Diyarbakir after a snowfall. This past winter, refugees faced further misery due to increasing shortages of supplies, low temperatures and snowfall (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).
On a recent visit to a camp near Atmeh, just inside Syria near the Turkish border, some 21,000 people were sheltering amid hellish conditions.
Heavy rain leaked into the tents and had turned the clay soil into thick slippery mud; raw sewage flowed between the tents. There wasn’t enough food and little medical aid.
A Syrian family walk amid tents at the Za’atari refugee camp (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images).
By Neil Sammonds, Syria Researcher at Amnesty International
Seven-and-a-half miles south of the border with Syria lies the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan. Over 130,000 refugees, who have fled the conflict in Syria, live here in a 4.3 mile-wide stretch on this otherwise lifeless desert plain, in a mix of makeshift emergency tents and mobile homes or “caravans.”
In the blinding sunlight, a young woman wearing a black abaya squeezes herself and a baby into a half-meter strip of shade beside a white wall. Dust clouds, kicked up by the wind or passing lorries, sweep across the barren landscape.
Most of the refugees have brought little more than what they could carry and the memories of the oppression and armed conflict in Syria. Some show us the battered and broken shoes and sandals in which they made the arduous trek to Jordan.
S. 744 as introduced by the “Gang of Eight” had its problems – such as bolstering flawed immigration enforcement, detention and deportation programs – but there were also many provisions which took concrete steps towards addressing human rights violations.
Explore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in Eritrea.
As the 20 year anniversary of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia approaches, the euphoria and – one may speculate – hope, that characterized celebrations on May 24, 1993 could hardly be more incongruent with the bleak reality faced by the Eritrean people today.
The scope of repression in Eritrea is truly striking. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have disappeared into a vast and secret system of detention, many never to be heard from again. This system of abuse is used to silent all dissent and punish anyone who refuses to comply, including suspected critics of the government, journalists, pastors and other members of “unregistered” religious groups, those who have been caught attempting to flee the country and those forcibly returned to Eritrea from other countries.
By Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher
When Siham Abou Sitte fell in love with Ghassan al-Shihabi, she was drawn by his determination to keep the memory of old Palestine alive, his passion for reading and writing and his commitment to his work.
They were both Palestinian refugees living in Syria’s Yarmouk neighbourhood in Damascus.
When he proposed, Ghassan promised to cherish Siham’s two children from a previous marriage, Carmen (then 12) and Yamen (then 15), and treat them as his own.
Six years after they got married, Siham says Ghassan never disappointed her.
Siham recalls the day her mother passed away, Carmen was upset by her grandmother’s death and ran to Ghassan who held her in his arms even though her own father was sitting there.
At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.
As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.
Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The UN is expecting up to one million Syrian refugees by mid 2013. Click to explore full map.
Faced with shelling and shortages of food, water and fuel, civilians have fled their homes, becoming refugees in neighboring countries or finding themselves internally displaced. Towns and villages across Latakia, Idlib, Hama and Dara’a governorates have been effectively emptied of their populations. Entire neighbourhoods in southern and eastern Damascus, Deir al-Zour and Aleppo have been razed. The downtown of Homs city has been devastated.
—Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. December 20, 2012.
The impact of Syria’s spiraling conflict can be increasingly seen in neighboring countries, as indiscriminate attacks are sending hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from their homes across borders in search of safety and shelter. According to the latest update from the Independent International inquiry on Syria—released just hours ago—entire towns and villages have been emptied of their populations. The intensified fighting around Damascus and the mounting atrocities across the country are accompanied by increasing reports of sectarian violence. While we can’t predict the outcome of the conflict, one thing seems certain: the cycle of violence and displacement of civilians will go on for months. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.