When Fear Stopped me from Fighting Xenophobia

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A Syrian refugee girl sits in a classroom at a Lebanese public school where only Syrian students attend classes. Education for refugee children is a pressing global issue that needs long-term solutions. United Nations conventions have fallen short of meeting the needs of displaced populations, even the most vulnerable ones. AP/Hussein Malla, File

A Syrian refugee girl sits in a classroom at a Lebanese public school where only Syrian students attend classes.  AP/Hussein Malla, File

By Allyson Fritz, member of the Amnesty International’s East Bay chapter

Since the moment I handed over the keys of my Toyota Celica to its new owner, I’ve replayed the conversation I had with the buyer over and over in my head. He had responded to my Craigslist ad and we met to negotiate the price. During our small talk he took me completely by surprise when he revealed some of his views on immigration. This included his belief that “Mexicans only come to the U.S. to take advantage of our welfare system.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Poland: It’s Time to Take Hate Crimes Seriously

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In January 2014, a 24-year-old Polish gay man was murdered shortly after leaving a club in Szczecin. His body was found on a nearby construction site, his face covered in bruises and his pants pulled down. Medical examiners found that he had drowned, as his face had been pushed into a puddle repeatedly. Authorities ignored the possibility that homophobia motivated the murder, and the court treated this attack as a common crime when it convicted the two men responsible.

Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community faces widespread and ingrained discrimination. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Southern Africa Year in Review 2009

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Waiting in line to vote. Amnesty International.

Waiting in line to vote. ©Amnesty International

As 2009 winds down, here’s a wrap up of the year’s highlights from the southern Africa region. From elections, to assassinations, to elections, to awards ,to elections, to boycotts, to elections, to what was all in all a fairly smooth year compared to what might have been, here are a few notes about human rights conditions in the 12 countries we monitor for Amnesty International USA.

Angola was supposed to hold presidential elections this year but didn’t. Current (and for the last 30 years) president, dos Santos, said constitutional reform must come first and this will take another two years.  Constitutional reform=good. Using it as an excuse to delay democratic elections=bad.

Forced evictions continued in 2009 in Angola. Amnesty International continues to call for an end to illegal evictions and for just compensation for forcibly displaced persons in Angola.

On a positive note, Prisoner of Conscience Fernando Lelo was released this year. Lelo is a journalist imprisoned for criticizing above noted president. However, those who were tried and convicted with him remain incarcerated. Lelo directly credited Amnesty activists for their efforts on his behalf. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done!

Botswana held elections this year. Khama was elected to a new term, after finishing out the term of his predecessor. Major concerns in Botswana continue to be media restrictions, repression of labor unions, displacement of indigenous persons and high HIV infection rates. But Khama does his fair share of criticizing regional leaders and tweaking the nose of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe. He mailed a congratulatory letter to the ladies of Women of Zimbabwe Arise following their win of the RFK Human Rights Award this year.

Guinea Bissau

Angola and DRC Shoving Match Leaves Citizens With Bruises

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So it basically goes like this: Angola starts to kick out Congolese citizens living in Angola, almost 18,000 since July. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) says “for reals?” and shows a bunch of Angolan citizens to the door, well, border when it launches its own repatriation operation. So then Angola says “oh, yeah?” and increases the pace of expulsions of Congolese. The DRC says, “yeah,” and sends more Angolans over the border, approximately 28,000 since August. Angola says…well, you get the point.

Angola and the DRC have a long history of porous borders with refugees crossing back and forth escaping internal conflict, citizens looking for employment and best of all, politicians dabbling in each others internal conflicts. But the violence and disregard for the lives of those involved in this latest tit for tat is seriously uncool.

Angolan police, immigration officers, citizens and soldiers have been accused of beatings, sexual assaults and stealing the possessions of the Congolese they are expelling. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST