Category Archives: Human Rights

Muslims face a harsh new reality after the Christchurch shootings

Now that the first of the victims have been buried Khadija Laghari explores what the Christchurch mosque shootings mean for Muslims … 

Friday, the 15th of March has been described as “One of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Indeed, Friday is also the holiest of the days during the week as Muslims offer Jumma prayers. The Mosques of Christchurch were full as the residents were looking forward to offer their afternoon prayers until they experienced what they had never imagined in the wildest of their thoughts; it was within a span of seconds that the men’s prayer room was attacked following the women’s prayer room, with a heavily armed shooter, shooting all over the Mosque. The first shooting took place at the Al Noor Mosque following a second shooting at the Linwood Mosque. There were several explosive devices attached to the vehicle of the shooter, who is under custody and has been charged. The city has been placed on a lockdown with all schools and offices shut. A climate change protest, which included young children, was taking place nearby. The Bangladesh Cricket team were extremely lucky to escape with their lives. The chilling attack was live-streamed. 

The shooter identified himself as a white man in his late 20s, born in Australia who was motivated to defend ‘our lands’ from ‘invaders’ and wanted to ‘directly reduce immigration rates’. Quebec, Canada also experienced a mass shooting two years ago killing six people at a Mosque. The end of 2017 experienced a rise in hate crimes targeting the Muslims in Quebec City. This could be described as a fear, hatred and hostility toward Islam, perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political and civic life. However, this type of discrimination has been long rooted in the New Zealand immigration policy from the late 1980s. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Immigration, Islamophobia, New Zealand, Politics, Racism, Women

ISIS brides and the creation of second class citizenship in the UK

It is hard to attach the word ‘great’ with Britain because the citizenship of Reema Iqbal, Zara Iqbal and Shamima Begum has been revoked for national security reasons. But it is equally arguable that the UK has two classes for citizenship: one kind for the whites and another for children of immigrants. The two sisters left UK in 2013 and Shamima left in 2015 with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana and all of them married Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists. The most likely reason of the cancellation of their nationality is their Asian descent which is common in all the surviving three women. Had they been of white British origin the Home Secretary Sajid Javid would have taken a different line but he did not hesitate to make these misguided/confused women stateless. Significantly, these Asian British women were not directly involved in crimes against Britain’s national security. Overall, these were not even isolated cases of people travelling to join ISIS or becoming jihadi brides.

According to the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, UK’s national security is hampered by cyber crimes, espionage for other states, terrorism, organized crimes and spreading weapons of mass destruction. And of course as many as 350 jihadis have already returned to the UK after fighting in Syria. Are Reema, Zara and Shamima bigger threats than them? Shamima Begum was a minor when she left for Syria, therefore should she be held accountable for her actions? Albeit, we also heard Shamima justifying the Manchester bombing but that was a naïve statement by her. Those angry people who are supporting the UK government’s deprivation of her citizenship must know that Sajid Javid did not order the cancellation of the citizenship of white British jihadis supporting the terrorism and suicide bombing in the UK. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Statelessness, UK, Women

Is Venezuela No More?

One should not be wonderstruck if many Venezuelans crave to live elsewhere because the economic, political, and overall human rights situation in Venezuela is nothing short of a disaster. What used to be a robust economy not more than a decade ago, has slipped into grave peril inasmuch food has become a source of conflict among the poor families, and women are selling their ‘hairs’ in order to satisfy their families’ appetite. Indeed, the basic provisions, such as toothpaste, milk, or bread, which we all take for granted are what Venezuelans yearn for and beg for. Many people are spending hours just to try to find something to eat from the ‘food waste’. In its heyday, given the colossal oil reserves, Venezuela had reaped a lot of benefits and was able to export 100,000 barrels of oil, per day to Cuba only. Due to relying specifically and excessively on oil, the latter accounted for 95 per cent of the Venezuela’s export.

Hugo Chavez, the former president, with a desire to make the most out of the country’s oil production, sweepingly nationalized the private companies which as an attempt went into a tailspin after the oil prices started to tumble. Hence, the corruption and mismanagement became rampant and the hyperinflation inevitably followed. Worst, all the money was spent, and no money for further production was left. Now the situation at its best is chaotic, and some say, at its worst, worse than the great depression of the United Sates. However, the experience of this economic downfall in practice is more frightening. A cup of tea costs 7000,000 bolivars in Venezuela and people prefer to exchange goods instead of paying or receiving cash. Since this crippling economy and the grave humanitarian crisis are the upshot of political dysfunction and mismanagement of the institutions, many experts believe it is ‘socialism’ at its end in Venezuela. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, United States, Venezuela

On Brazil’s Choice of Extreme Right

The success of Brazilian populist leader Bolsonaro is termed as a classic case of ‘protest vote’ by the disillusioned middle classes with the leader ‘playing grievance politics’ … 

Brazil’s evangelical Christians have emerged as an increasingly powerful political force, as confirmed in the highly polarised presidential and congressional elections held on 28 October. Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and former army captain, is Brazil’s next president, with 55.7 percent of votes. Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro’s closest opponent and the large leftist Workers’ Party’s (PT) replacement for Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, failed to secure majority. Although Haddad promised to restore the economy to its former state of health under Lula’s presidency from 2003 to 2010, most of the Brazilians have little faith left in the country’s political class after numerous high-level corruption scandals surfaced since 2014 as part of the Lava Jato, or Car Wash, anti-graft probe and other interlocking investigations, which also involved Lula who is now serving 12 years in jail and was barred from running in this election.

While Bolsonaro’s victory has been referred to as a political earthquake, a disaster for the Amazon and global climate change and a blow to antifascist activists, the Brazilians have clearly made their choice for the extreme right. Significantly, about 147 million Brazilians headed to polls against a backdrop of widespread dissatisfaction prompted by a stuttering economy, worsening violent crime rates and several recent high-profile corruption scandals. While it is South America’s largest economy, a regional powerhouse and is part of the so-called five-member ‘BRICS’ group of major emerging economies alongside Russia, India, China and South Africa, Brazil is nevertheless battling several threatening challenges amidst increased unrest and widening polarisation among the country’s citizens. Beginning in mid-2014, a more than two-year deep recession rocked the country and stagnated growth. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Brazil, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Immigration, Pakistan Horizon, Police, United States

A Silent Witness to Rohingya ‘Genocide’

There has been clear and ample evidence of the grave atrocities committed against the Muslim Rohingya by Myanmar military forces.

On 2 October 2018, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, became the first person to have her honorary Canadian citizenship revoked. Although Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her fight for democracy in Myanmar, she has failed to be a champion of change and human rights after the horrors of Rohingya genocide surfaced. According to a United Nations fact-finding mission, Myanmar’s military has systematically killed thousands of Rohingya civilians, burned hundreds of their villages, and engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass gang rape while the Myanmar’s leader has allegedly denied the atrocities, restricted access to international investigators and journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for the Rohingya. While Canada sends a powerful message against the violators of human rights, would anyone come to the rescue of one million Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, described as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority’?

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has a population of around 51 million people which consists of more than 135 ethnic groups. One group, the Muslim Rohingya with a population of 1.1 million living mainly in Rakhine State in the north of the country, are not recognised as an ethnic nationality of Myanmar and suffer from arguably the worst discrimination and human rights abuses of all. As noted before, the Rohingya are stateless and they have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless and while most of them still live in extremely poor conditions in Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as well as Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, over the course of many decades. Myanmar’s government does not consider the Rohingya its nationals and claim that they are Bengali labourers who immigrated to Myanmar during the more than 100 years of British rule (1824-1948), from today’s India and Bangladesh. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Criminal law, Discussion, Ethnic cleansing, Genocide, Human Rights, Islam, Islamophobia, Myanmar, Pakistan Horizon, Rohingya, Statelessness

The Impact of Soviet Labour Camps on Society: The Legacy of the Gulag

The Gulag played an important role throughout Soviet Russia and is a major point that is brought up when discussing the history of Russia from 1919 to 1960. To this date when one talks about Russia or its most infamous Soviet era leader Joseph Stalin, one recalls the Gulag even if one has only the basic knowledge about it. The system is renowned because through it, various individuals inflicted harm on millions of people. The Gulag was a part of the Soviet Russian System of governance and touched every person who lived in that era. Even today, in modern day Russia people recall the Gulag and its perpetrators with dread and horror. The Nazi concentration camp system and various other concentration camps that were similar mainly existed to exterminate their prisoners and had a brief lifespan. The Gulag however, lasted over decades and played a huge role in the industrialisation brought in by Stalin. It was a system that embedded itself in the penal system and the culture and society of the people in Russia and its effects can be seen to this day. 

It is a vital exponent of Russian history that cannot be ignored if one wants to understand the culture, society and politics of that nation. GULAG is the Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies of the Soviet Secret Police and has come to signify and represent the soviet slave labour in all forms and varieties as well as the repressive system and tyranny of the Stalin Era. The system was first established under Vladimir Lenin as an alternative to prison during the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it functioned from 1919 to 1960, the Gulag generally denoted the entire penal labour system in the USSR. It served as the Soviet Union’s main penal system for robbers, rapists, murderers, and thieves. Vast numbers of camps of all forms and varieties (labour camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women’s camps, children’s camps, transit camps) were located mainly in the remote regions of Siberia and the Far North. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Genocide, Human Rights, Russia, Women

Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Term Limit

The Nineteenth Amendment has once again become the subject of controversy, and its current focus concerns the provision in the Nineteenth Amendment that disqualifies the same person from being elected as President for more than two terms. The two-term limit is not an innovation of the Nineteenth Amendment. A provision imposing a term limit was in the Constitution as it was originally enacted in 1978 but it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment enacted during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as President. It was re-introduced by section 3 of the Nineteenth Amendment which inserted the following new paragraph as Article 31(2) of the Constitution: “No person who has been twice elected to the office of President by the People, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the People.” (emphasis added). This prohibition was reinforced by section 21 of the Nineteenth Amendment which added Article 92(c) of the Constitution which disqualified a person who “has been twice elected to the office of President by the People” from being elected to the office of President thereafter.  This is identical to the paragraph that existed as Article 92 (c) of the 1978 Constitution before it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment. 

It has been argued, nevertheless, by some, including Professor G.L. Peiris and ex-Chief Justice Sarath Silva, that these provisions do not disqualify Mahinda Rajapaksa from seeking a third term. Mahinda Rajapaksa has already served two terms as President but if this argument holds, then he would be eligible not only to run for a third term but also a fourth. It has been contended that according to the Constitution as amended by the Eighteenth Amendment there was no provision imposing a term limit, and as the Nineteenth Amendment does not expressly state that Article 31(2) is to apply retrospectively, it should not apply to Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, in ex CJ Sarath Silva’s rather infelicitous oxymoronic phrase, is ‘a previously elected incumbent in office’.  (Sunday Observer 19 August 2018, Mahinda ineligible to contest 2019 prez poll – Jayampathy). Mahinda Rajapaksa is not currently holding office to be called an incumbent. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Sri Lanka