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Posts Tagged ‘China’

I would like to thank Ashley Judd for being gracious enough to say a few words about the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). She was a panelist at “Slavery and Human Rights” earlier this month with journalist and abolitionist, Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves.

The bill was introduced in the House as H.R.4594 by Rep. Bill Delahunt (MA-D) and it is currently co-sponsored by 71 representatives.  On the Senate side, S. 2982, has been introduced by Sen. John Kerry (MA-D), and this bill currently has 28 co-sponsors.

Violence against women takes many forms.  Rape is often used as a weapon in military conflicts such as the former states of Yugoslavia and in the Congo where the BBC has reported gang rapes are on the rise.

Another form of violence left Manzour, a mother of two from Pakistan, scarred for life after her in-laws threw acid at her causing her chin to fuse to her chest in a report found by the BBC.  The video contains disturbing images.

A reporter from The Economist recently reported the visit of Xinran Xue, a Chinese writer, who witnessed a birth in Shandong province and wrote about it in her book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.

Xinran writes, “when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door. . .The cries from the inner room grew louder- and abruptly stopped.  There was a low sob, and then a man’s gruff voice said accusingly:’Useless thing!’  The writer saw in horror a tiny foot poking from a slops pail after the baby girl was discarded by the midwife.  She tried to save the baby but was restrained by two policeman who told her, ‘Don’t move, you can’t save it, it’s too late.’  An older woman explained the rationale to the writer saying, “It’s a girl baby, and we can’t keep it.  Around these parts, you can’t get by without a son.  Girl babies don’t count.'”

This is an outrage, but you can do something about it.  You can help these women break free by asking your US Senator and US Representative to support IVAWA in an e-mail.  Writing personal letters are extremely effective.  One state politician revealed that they pay attention to an issue if they receive five letters on the same topic.  This is an achievable goal.

IVAWA would lend support to non-government organizations that would develop a strategy unique to the area as they work their way towards preventing violence against women.  It could be as simple as funding the education for girls or providing a micro-finance loan that would allow women to be economic independent.   Amnesty International’s website offers a range of actions that you can take to support this bill.

During the panel discussion, Ashley Judd talked about finding your outrage.  Once you found your outrage, your passion will rise up and empower you to make a difference.  My outrage is human trafficking,  a problem which has touched my own city, Quincy, where a Chinese brothel was recently discovered.

Activist and historian Howard Zinn, who passed away earlier this year, wrote, “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change.  Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Change starts with you.  Be the change.

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Children like this young girl are prized in the carpet industry for their small, fast fingers. Defenseless, they do what they're told, toiling in cramped, dark, airless village huts from sunrise until well into the night. Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department

Monday January 11 is International Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  President Obama has also declared that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month culminating on National Freedom Day on February 1, the day the 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification.

You can raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking by letting your friends and family know about the problem in your facebook status.

For example you can post:

“is raising awareness about the problem of human trafficking on human trafficking awareness day (Jan. 11). Human trafficking is another name for slavery. The US State Department estimates that 17, 500 people are trafficked into the US annually. They can be maids or tomato pickers
in Florida. Copy and paste this message and update your facebook
status to raise awareness about this issue.”

You can clean up the wording to make it work for you.  You can include other actions like contacting your US representative or senator to ask them to join the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus.  You can suggest to buy fair trade chocolate for your loved one for Valentine’s Day because it is slave free.  Kristin Branson, a graduate student at UC San Diego, compiled a comprehensive list of slave free chocolate that you can use as a guide while shopping for your loved one.

You can comment to your own status update and post links with more information about human trafficking with the homepages for Free the Slaves, Not for Sale, or the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. You can also post the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons’ 2009 report on Human Trafficking or the 2009 report put together by the United Nations.

You can also read survivors’ stories at the Polairs website.  You can read about a 15 year old Catholic girl from a Detroit suburb who was enslaved for two years by “Daniel”.  His cousins had photographed her being raped by Daniel and the pious girl didn’t want others to know about her rape so she did anything that they asked.  They drugged her and had her service their friends.

In other human trafficking news, the BBC recently reported that forced prostitution and human trafficking has become rampant in China as a result of the one child policy there.  Researcher Wang Guangzhou found that in some provinces, there are 130 boys born for every 100 girls.  Females are aborted because of the cultural preference for males and the belief that a male would be more likely to take care of a farm than a female.

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Last week, I was able to attend a panel with a Kennedy School professor, a member of Physicians for Human Rights, and a photojournalist who worked in the Darfur region.  Here are some of the things that I picked up at the event.

Photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale was in the region from in the region from 2003 until 2008. He traveled there about 12 times in that period to Chad, Darfur and Central African Republic.  He documented the plight of villagers as they tried to escape the janjaweed for refugee camps within Darfur and in Chad. He was kind enough to allow me to post a few of his pictures from that time on this blog.

He mentioned how at the sound of airfare or helicopters, entire villages would cluster around huge trees so that it would shield them from the bombs.  This was happening to hundreds of villages in Darfur while they were moving from their homes to the camps. It is hard to fathom until you see some of the pictures he has taken.

Sudanese displaced take refuge under a tree in Disa, Northern Darfur out of the heat of the day and out of view of the Antanov responsible for the bombing, there are estimated to be 2,000,000 displaced in Darfur who are trapped on the east, west and south by government troops and in the north by the desert wasteland which will certainly claim the lives of their livestock and weaker members of their family.  Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

Sudanese displaced take refuge under a tree in Disa, Northern Darfur out of the heat of the day and out of view of the Antanov responsible for the bombing, there are estimated to be 2,000,000 displaced in Darfur who are trapped on the east, west and south by government troops and in the north by the desert wasteland which will certainly claim the lives of their livestock and weaker members of their family. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

There is reason for them to hide as the Sudanese army/ janjaweed was throwing phosphorous bombs from the back of helicopters and planes.  The results are horrific, and I’ll let Marcus’s photo do the talking.

Abakar Tidjani 17 years old lies in bed in Abeche suffering from 3rd degree burns to 80% of his body. He was playing with a grenade when it exploded. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

Abakar Tidjani 17 years old lies in bed in Abeche suffering from 3rd degree burns to 80% of his body. He was playing with a grenade when it exploded. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

What seemed to outrage Marcus the most is that the refugees could live in make shift shelters waiting months for assistance outside the camps without any hope of assistance.  He asks, “how can the international community allow this to happen?” No human should have to feel like animals stripped of dignity.

Sudanese Refugees in Eastern Chad wait to register in the Tulum refugee camp. Supplies of food and water are sporadic and moving into the rainy season the supply route will get worse.  Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

Sudanese Refugees in Eastern Chad wait to register in the Tulum refugee camp. Supplies of food and water are sporadic and moving into the rainy season the supply route will get worse. Photo by Marcus Bleasdale

There are currently 3 million internally displaced people (IDP’s) in the region.  At the camps, families make the conscious decision to send the women to fetch for firewood even though they are raped by militia/ janjaweed, and even men from the camps during their journey because the alternative would be death for the men.

It is nearly impossible to prosecute any man of rape under current Sudanese law.  For a successful prosecution, the victim would need 4 male eyewitnesses to support your claim or 8 female eyewitnesses.  There is tremendous stigma associated with rape, so the women do not talk about it.  They fear that they will be accused of adultery or so defiled that they are not worth marrying.

Even though the Bush administration declared Darfur a genocide, the government was slow to act because Sudan was helping with US intelligence in the Middle East.  The Obama administration has been preoccupied with other issues like health care, the economy, and Afghanistan/ Pakistan.

Thirteen international non-government organizations were kicked out, and 3 Sudanese aid groups were shut down after the International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrant for president Omar Bashir.  This has left a tremendous void for the people.

The only way forward is to put pressure on China to cancel their contracts for  Sudanese oil and for Chinese weapons that Omar Bashir is providing the janjaweed.  This would be economically difficult for America to ask of China.

Ideally, the international community would force China’s hand using the ICC’s decision as its basis.  Money talks, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) could put pressure on China by forcing it to pay tax on key exports for dealing with a criminal.  China has an unfair economic advantage because other countries are not willing to deal with a human rights violator for its oil.

China should pay the consequences for its economic activity because their business is abetting a genocide.  Unfortunately, this will continue as it has made deals with the Guinean dictator despite soldiers involved in mass rape and killings during a protest earlier this year.

This can only be stopped if China is punished.  The question is, “Does the international community have the political will to make this happen?”  Unfortunately, we may already know that answer.

Special Thanks to Marcus Bleasdale for his work and for allowing me to post some of his pictures on our blog.  I encourage you to check out his website and take 10 minutes to watch a piece he did on the conflict in the Congo.

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Imagine living on only $2.00 a day
Imagine living on only $2.00 a day

I was listening to a podcast from NPR’s Planet Money and they were doing a report on living on $2.00 a day. According to the World Bank, 2.5 billion people live on $2.00 a day, or roughly 40% of the global population.  That is an astonishing number, especially when you probably spend about $2.00 a day on coffee alone, nevermind spending it on dinner, water, or for shelter.  Not only do they make only $2.00 a day, but this is a figure averaged out over time so that they may go weeks without pay forcing them to depend on high interest loans/ credit.

The World Bank uses Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) which they define as an international dollar having the same purchasing power over Gross National Income (GNI) as a U.S. dollar has in the United States.  Economists at the World Bank figure out the cost of living and impact of inflation in the given country to determine the value of PPP.

Meanwhile in China, the worst riots since Tiananmen Square occured at the start of the week in Xinjiang province.  The BBC reported that there were 184 deaths: 137 are Han Chinese and 46 were from the indigenous Uighur community according to officials in China.  The riots were triggered by a brawl at a toy factory in Guangdong Province on June 25 where Han Chinese killed two Uighurs who were falsely accused of raping a local girl. Here’s is a timeline of the riots.

The Uighurs staged a protest on July 5 in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, and they began violently venting their frustration on Han Chinese living in the city. Scores of innocent Han Chinese were killed or beaten.  According to the Economist, one girl’s leg was sawed off and Uighurs were smashing heads of Han Chinese into the ground with rocks.

The following day, Han Chinese gathered on their own and began retaliating with make shift clubs with spikes and screwdrivers attached to them as shown in the Globe’s Big Picture.

A Han Chinese man carries a spiked steel bar while using his cell phone to take photos as he joins a mob of Han Chinese men attacking Uighur properties in Urumqi on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

There are incredible images from the riots and a number of gruesome ones of the violence.

The police seem to allow the Han Chinese to take justice in their own hands.  Here are a few quotes from the latest Economist issue:  “This is no longer an issue for the government,” said one man with a club in his hand. “This is now an ethnic struggle between Uighur and Han.  It will not end soon.” Packs of 20-200 Han Chinese roamed the streets shouting “Kill Uighurs!”, “Smash Uighurs!”, and “Don’t smash things, smash Uighurs!”

The Economist also reports that the government fearful of what happened in Iran with Twitter, turned off internet access across Xinjiang within hours of the riots.  “International telephone calls were blocked. Within 48 hours text-messaging services were also suspended.”

The anger seems to come from the Uighur’s frustrated by their lack of economic opportunity and the sense of being looked down upon by the Han Chinese.  Hmmm, poverty and economic injustice seem like common ingredients in riots.

A Han Chinese man carries a spiked steel bar while using his cell phone to take photos as he joins a mob of Han Chinese men attacking Uighur properties in Urumqi on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Lastly, the BBC has reported that the International Red Cross  has been asked by the Sri Lankan government to leave.  This is worrying news as they are an independent NGO who would be able to report any human rights violations in the Tamil refugee camps.  The Red Cross are like the parents of the area and the bullies won’t be able to have their way if the parent’s eyes are fixated on the camps.

Keep the faith folks.  I know it can be discouraging, but we do make a difference.

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Here’s a nice short audio slideshow done for Human Rights Day by the BBC.  They interviewed Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.  The organization has recently called for president elect Obama to undo damage caused by the policies of the Bush Administration in their war on terror.  Human Rights Watch also said that China broke promises to Olympic organizers.  The full report can be found here. Video from the press conference can also be found on their website.

In somewhat related news, on Human Rights Day, Chinese scholars signed Charter 08 which calls for a radical overhaul of China’s political system by introducing elections, a new constitution and an independent judiciary according to the BBC.  Ever since they signed the document, they have been detained by the police, questioned, and monitored by authorities.  China seems to want silence any reforms.

In the article, journalist Li Datong justifies signing the document despite knowing the consequences of his actions by saying, “Change requires ordinary citizens, particularly intellectuals, to speak out. This will slowly influence the government.”  This statement applies to all of us.  Hopefully, we will learn from Li and stand up for what we believe in.

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