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Human Rights

What Image Has Opened Your Eyes to Human Rights?

Witness is an international non-profit organization that uses video and online technologies to shine a light on human rights abuses around the world. For the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Witness staff discuss some of the videos and images that have touched them over the past few years.

At the end of the video, viewers are asked what image has opened our eyes to human rights. For me, this picture is one of the most enduring symbols of how the demand for human rights can inspire extraordinary courage in ordinary people.


What images most symbolize human rights to you? Send an email to undispatch AT and we will update this post with your response. Please indicate if you would like to keep your response anonymous.

UPDATE: See some reader responses below the fold. READ MORE

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Happy 60th Anniversary, Human Rights!

Sure, they existed before 1948, but it was only then that they were codified into the remarkable document known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This cool video from Amnesty International gives a fun tour through some of the Declaration’s stunning 30 articles of the freedoms, rights, and liberties that every human being possesses.


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Fighting the Good Fight Against Racism

Two recent opinion pieces take aim squarely at what looms as an early decision for President Barack Obama — the Durban Review Conference, a successor to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism. The purpose of the upcoming conference, as Claudia Rosett — no fan of the United Nations by any stretch — notes rather dismissively in her Forbes column:

As in 2001, the U.N. pretext is to end racism. Or, in U.N. lingo–take a deep breath — the aim is “the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”


The thing is, this is not a “pretext,” nor is it a program of “the U.N.” cum organization. Though it is widely reported a “a U.N. event,” the Conference is in fact a gathering of countries from around the world, all of which, yes, are UN Member States, and each of which, yes, have their own sub-agendas within the broad goal of combating racism and intolerance.

Rosett then makes the rather obvious point that — no surprise here — there are a number of “bad actors” on the international stage. These voices — including some countries, but, as in 2001, even more NGOs, whose outbursts in a side conference should be more proscribed this time around — who will likely seek to twist the conference’s laudable purpose toward certain individual complaints and unacceptable digressions, including, as the standard arguments against the conference are right to denounce, some inexcusable anti-Semitic statements. Unfortunately, plugging our ears to this kind of dreck neither makes it any less likely to occur, nor deprives it of a forum. The only way to counter speech we don’t like, as the constitutional adage goes, is with more speech. READ MORE

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RIP, Odetta

American civil rights icon, the blues singer Odetta Holmes died yesterday. She was 77. Here she is singing a cover of one of my all-time favorite songs, Midnight Special.

Shakesville has more. READ MORE

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$100 for an Iraqi Woman’s Life

Last week I posted an item titled “100,000 Pakistani Rupees to Burn a Schoolgirl” about acid attacks on Afghan schoolgirls:

The police in Kandahar have arrested 10 Taliban militants they said were involved in an attack earlier this month on a group of Afghan schoolgirls whose faces were doused with acid, officials in Kandahar said Tuesday.

The officials said that the militants, who were Afghan citizens, had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the schoolgirls and their teachers on Nov. 12 and that a high-ranking member of the Taliban had paid the militants 100,000 Pakistani rupees for each of the girls they managed to burn. [emphasis added]

The girls were assaulted Nov. 12 by two men on a motorcycle who were apparently irate that the girls dared to attend high school. The men drove up beside them and splashed their faces with what appeared to be battery acid.

The Guardian provides another example of the devaluing of women’s lives:

Authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have admitted they are powerless to prevent ‘honour killings’ in the city following a 70 per cent increase in religious murders during the past year.

There has been no improvement in conviction rates for these killings. So far this year, 81 women in the city have been murdered for allegedly bringing shame on their families. Only five people have been convicted.

During 2007 the Basra security committee recorded 47 ‘honour killings’ and three convictions. One lawyer in the city described how police were actively protecting perpetrators and said that a woman in Basra could now be murdered by hired hitmen for as little as $100 (£65).

Here’s a video illustrating the brutality of so-called “honor killings.”


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On the First Day of Human Rights Blogging…

Philosopher A.C. Grayling has launched a daily blogging campaign, celebrating the ten days leading up to the 60th year anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights on December 10. In his first installment, Grayling marvels at what truly was one of the most impressive accomplishments of this past century.

On December 10 1948, the member states of the United Nations, assembled at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, did a truly remarkable thing: they adopted without dissent a declaration stating that because human rights constitute the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, all peoples and nations should strive to observe them and promote respect for them. And then, in 30 unequivocal paragraphs, the declaration listed what those human rights are [emphasis mine].


And while implementation of these human rights worldwide has only been achieved in fits and starts, these trials and tribulations should do nothing to diminish the significance of the Declaration — or dissuade anyone of its potential in the future.

Keep checking back at The Guardian‘s Comment is Free site for the upcoming installments of Grayling’s daily human rights blogging. And don’t cross your fingers for that partridge in a pear tree.

(image of just one of the Declaration’s thirty enumerated rights, from flickr user Jordan Lewin under a Creative Commons license) READ MORE

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