Peru Update: Steps Taken Toward Dialogue After Clashes

International pressure on the Peruvian authorities has brought some progress for Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon. An Amnesty International delegation will visit the country to assess the situation.

Since the violent incidents which took place in Bagua, in the Peruvian Amazon, on 5-6 June, the authorities have taken some steps to establish a dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and open investigations into the events which led to the death of at least 14 police officers and 10 demonstrators. However, concerns remain about allegations of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and insufficient legal assistance.

An Amnesty International delegation will visit Peru between 12 and 25 July in order to evaluate recent developments and the current situation. After the mission, new information and strategies for action will be circulated.

Many thanks to those who took action!

Ahmedinejad Blames West for Election Unrest

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

In his first public appearance in over a week, Mousavi’s comments suggested that the opposition will now be taking its fight off the streets and into the courtroom– and understandably so. Due to the large-scale crackdown and fear of the government’s seemingly indiscriminate arrests, protests numbered have begun dwindling.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from normal people, but we didn’t expect politicians to question this great epic.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

History in the Making in Iran

Iranian plain clothes policemen beat a demonstrator (c)AFP/Getty

Iranian plain clothes policemen beat a demonstrator (c)AFP/Getty

We are glued to news coming out of Iran, literally watching as history is unfolding. Commentators have been grasping for relevant comparisons; is this another Tiananmen Square? Another Prague Spring? Or is it even a Second Iranian Revolution? But no comparisons are appropriate for the phenomenal outpouring of people demanding that their rights be respected.

Why is this happening in Iran? We don’t see massive protests in other Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt when there have been allegations of electoral impropriety.

Adjectives such as fearless, indomitable and awe-inspiring come to mind as we see Iranians continually defying bans on opposition protests to pour into the streets by the hundreds of thousands. They constantly find ingenious ways to confound the authorities’ attempts to block communications; now that foreign journalists have been prevented from covering rallies, we rely on the videos, photos and eyewitness accounts provided by Iranian citizens to YouTube and their friends and relatives for up-to-the-minute information.

Iranians express their defiance in a variety of other ways: women have been risking their safety and even their lives to walk up to Basij (paramilitaries) and riot police on motorcycles and armed with truncheons to remind them that “we are all Iranians” and asking them to refrain from violence. Even members of Iran’s soccer team playing in a World Cup qualifying match in Seoul wore green armbands, the color of the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The yearning for freedom and human rights is a mighty force. Some have claimed that human rights is somehow a “western” concept, foisted on the rest of the world by paternalistic and arrogant Europeans and North Americans. Yet despite Iranian authorities’ attempts to portray the protests as being somehow the result of American “interference” it is clear that the impetus for the massive protests comes from the Iranian people themselves.

What will happen? Already the Supreme Leader has made an unprecedented announcement that there will be an investigation into the allegations of election fraud. Another massive rally by supporters of Mr. Mousavi has been called for tomorrow and there is no way to predict where events will lead.

The authorities have reacted to the unrest by use of force—sometimes lethal—as well as by mass arrests of opposition figures, journalists and human rights lawyers. We hope they will not unleash the full fury of the Revolutionary Guards against the demonstrators, which could result in unthinkable deaths and injuries. But we do know that there is no turning back. The Iranian authorities cannot count on the hope that things will just settle down and that the Iranian people will continue to accept the massive human rights violations perpetrated on them.

Act Now for Iran!

Iran has not seen a public demonstration of this size in 3 decades. After the results of Friday’s contested election, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets in an act of defiance.

According to reports, as many as five students at Tehran University were shot dead over the weekend and another person was wounded when security agents opened fire on a demonstration. Motorcycle-mounted riot police have severely beaten large numbers of protesters with clubs and night sticks.

Authorities have done all they can to make sure this story doesn’t get out including blocking cell phones, text messaging, email and Web sites.

Let Iran know that the global community is monitoring their every move

Take action now!

Roma persecution – Antiziganism – intensifies in Europe

Perhaps the most oppressed people in history, Roma – commonly referred to as Gypsies – have been persecuted since they arrived in Europe in 1300 C.E.

The New York Times reports that institutionalized and societal prejudice against Roma is enflaming violence in Europe:

[...]

Prejudice against Roma — widely known as Gypsies and long among Europe’s most oppressed minority groups — has swelled into a wave of violence. Over the past year, at least seven Roma have been killed in Hungary, and Roma leaders have counted some 30 Molotov cocktail attacks against Roma homes, often accompanied by sprays of gunfire.

[...]

In addition to Mr. Koka’s death, there were the slayings of a Roma man and woman, who were shot after their house was set ablaze last November in Nagycsecs, a town about an hour’s drive from Tiszalok in northeastern Hungary. And in February, a Roma man and his 4-year-old son were gunned down as they tried to escape from their home, which was set on fire in Tatarszentgyorgy, a small town south of Budapest.

[...]

Experts on Roma issues describe an ever more aggressive atmosphere toward Roma in Hungary and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, led by extreme right-wing parties, whose leaders are playing on old stereotypes of Roma as petty criminals and drains on social welfare systems at a time of rising economic and political turmoil. As unemployment rises, officials and Roma experts fear the attacks will only intensify.

[...]

Persecution against Roma, as detailed in just one Amnesty International press release from yesterday, is nothing new. Neither is the unwillingness of authorities to stop the oppression. In the Czech republic, for instance:

[...]

Roma… continue to suffer discrimination at the hands of both public officials and private individuals, including in the areas of housing, education, health care and employment.

Not only do they face forced evictions, segregation in education and racially motivated violence, but they have been denied justice when seeking redress for the abuses against them.

[...]

The history of Roma persecution goes back hundreds of years ago. Throughout 16-18th century, Roma were hanged without trial in Europe. In 1921, nonetheless, Czechoslovakia shortly recognized Roma as “nationality.” In 1933, Hitler ordered sterilization of Roma. Later, up to half a million Roma were killed in the Holocaust. In just one act, 4,000 Roma were gassed and cremated in Auschwitz on August 2, 1944. Unlike the Jewish victims, Roma victims of the Holocaust are rarely researched or commemorated.

With some activism in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, Roma still face institutional and social discrimination in Europe. In Italy, the government fingerprints them. In 2008, bodies of two drowned Roma children were left at the beach while Italians and tourists vacationed a few feet away.

As late as 1998, the state of New Jersey in the US had anti-Roma laws. Popular American TV star Judge Judy has used the word “Gypsy” at least once as a synonym for a “thief” on her show after 2005. While Judge Judy’s remark can be explained perhaps by her lack of knowledge of Roma issues, the same cannot be said about influential people in countries with large Roma populations. In one such state, Romania, the president called a journalist “dirty Gypsy” in 2007.

While many Roma have historically assimilated (accepted, for example, Islam in the Middle East and Christianity in Europe), scores of them choose to keep their ancestral, migratory way of life despite hundreds of years of slavery, universal persecution and genocide. Others have established enclaves in different countries where they demand integration and respect. Roma supposedly left India as a result of foreign invasion to avoid persecution. Their common name “Gypsy” is a misconception that Roma originated in Egypt.

Many of the unassimilated Roma demand freedom of travel and not be regulated.
A unique case of stateless people, Roma do not demand independence or even political autonomy. The Roma persecution has brought about little outrage throughout the world. The problem, in this case, is definitely the lack of awareness.

In my home country Armenia, for instance, the word “Bosha” is an insult – while it used to be the ethnic name for the Roma who have either entirely assimilated or prefer to be called Lom. Their language, Lomavren, a unique mixture with medieval Armenian, has long vanished.

It is time that the world stand up against Antiziganism. Perhaps Amnesty International should adopt the cause of fighting Antiziganism as one of its main goals?