Tech and Human Rights at #SXSW

A cellphone can be both a powerful tool and a huge risk for human rights activists. Images and videos captured through mobile phones can reveal police brutality or even war crimes, as the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have shown.

However, information saved on activists’ cell phones can also expose dissident networks or other sensitive data. During the recent protests in Ukraine, police reportedly used locations revealed through cell phones to track protestors.

The “digital arms race” between activists and repressive governments is the main focus of our SXSW panel Caught in the Act: Mobile Tech and Human Rights on Tuesday, March 11.

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How to Tell Which Crisis Images Are Real – And Which Are Fake

During Hurricane Sandy, NPR posted this image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Though the outlet reported it was taken during the storm, it was actually taken several months before (Photo Credit: NPR).

During Hurricane Sandy, NPR posted this image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Though the outlet reported it was taken during the storm, it was actually taken several weeks before (Photo Credit: NPR).

A few days ago, the Afghan government published an investigation into an airstrike by international forces on January 15, 2014, that reportedly killed several Afghan civilians. The investigation relied heavily on photographs and a video showing the aftermath of the strike.

In the context of the Houla massacre in Syria in May 2012, the BBC published a distressing image, showing a child jumping over a row of dead bodies.

During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, NPR posted an image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery weathering the storm and guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers.

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11,000 Reasons For Real Action in Syria

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they're running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they’re running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. 

Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe. But it is hardly surprising.

The thousands of photographs, part of a report published on Tuesday, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

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Massive Syrian Refugee Crisis Visible From Space

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

The massive displacement crisis stemming from Syria’s ongoing conflict is increasingly visible from space. Satellite images on Google Earth reveal the growth of what in some cases looks like the emergence of whole new cities over the last two years.

A new project published today by one of our volunteers, Richard Cozzens, presents some of the most compelling images, providing a grim snapshot of the dire humanitarian situation in and around Syria. The satellite images show camps in the countries that are most affected by the influx of refugees, such as Turkey and Jordan. For example, what was an empty spot in the desert in September 2011 is now the huge refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan.

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The Quick Way You Can Take Action for Syrian Women Facing Gender Violence

16_days_logo_englishTo get to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women and girls had to face a gauntlet of deadly violence including extortion, trafficking and abuse. Once in the camps, they expected to find safety.

What they found, according to Amnesty International researchers, was more danger and the threat of gender violence.

A majority of the 2.9 million Syrian refugees are women and children. Having fled violence, and often surviving a treacherous journey across the Syrian desert, these refugees sought safety and shelter in the camps. More than 120,000 of them made their way to the Za’atri camp, making it the largest refugee camp in Jordan.

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Peace in the Home and Peace in the World: Help End Violence Against Women!

By Tarah Demant, Co-Chair of Amnesty International USA Women’s Rights Co-Group

A life free from violence is a fundamental human right, yet daily, women and girls are targeted specifically because of their sex or gender, and violence in communities often affects women disproportionately. Violence against women is a global epidemic; no country or community is immune.

Violence against women is used as a tool of discrimination, control, and intimidation, and it restricts women’s choices and increases their vulnerability to further injustices. 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or abused in her lifetime, yet violence against women affects us all. Consider the following cases:

  • In Sudan, women can be can be stopped by the police, arrested, jailed, and even sentenced to public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving her hair uncovered.
  • In Egypt, women protesters have faced harassment and assault while Egypt’s political leaders have remained silence about the rampant sexual violence and discrimination.
  • In Syria, more than 2 million people have fled the armed crisis, and now tens of thousands of women and girl refugees in Jordan risk further violence simply because they have no safe access to a toilet.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, often ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman, women human rights defenders provide grassroots assistance to civilians, yet they themselves face intimidation, attack, rape, and sexual violence for their efforts.
  • In Bangladesh, women human rights defenders work for the rights of indigenous people throughout the country, yet 17 years after the disappearance of a high-profile Pahari activist, her family and community still waits for justice.
  • In Honduras, women human rights defenders are threatened with sexual violence for championing human rights throughout the country.
  • In Mexico, Miriam López Vargas and hundreds of other women wait for justice after torture and rape by Mexican soldiers.

What these cases have in common is a global culture of discrimination and violence against women as well as impunity for those who commit gender-based violence. And this year’s theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women highlights the relationship between heightened militarism and communal and interpersonal violence.

Despite a culture of violence and discrimination women around the world are raising their voices against violence and discrimination, demanding their basic human rights, and standing against intimidation and fear. Today, what unites women internationally is their vulnerability to the denial and violation of their fundamental human rights, and their dedicated efforts to claim those rights.

You can join them this 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence as we join activists worldwide from Nov. 25 – Dec. 10 to help end violence against women. This year, we’re highlighting the seven cases above – in each instance, you can learn more, take action, and stand with women demanding their rights!

Imagine a world without violence against women. Join us this 16 Days to make that vision a reality.