Daily News Archives — CANVAS

A Small Spark of Hope for Democracy in the Indian Ocean

Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih participates in celebrations after winning the presidential elections on Sept. 29. (Ahmed Shurau/AFP/Getty Images) From the genocide of the Rohingya, to the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Nicaragua, to the surprising success of right-wing populism in Brazil, to the increasingly virulent strains of isolationist nationalism that have been taking root in eastern Europe, it’s a grim time for democracy around the world. But an unexpected source of hope has emerged from the Maldives, an island nation known for little more than its idyllic beaches and long history of authoritarian rule. Since 2013, the reign of President Abdulla Yameen brought mass abuses of human rights to the Maldives: the jailing or exiling of opposition leaders, increased control over state institutions, withdrawal from Commonwealth, and widespread corruption are only the tip of the iceberg for the small, tropical country. But on Sept. 23, over 90 percent of Maldivians voted in the first general elections since Yameen came to power five years ago—and voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party, who won after receiving 58 percent of the votes. But while a celebration is in order, it’s worth remembering that the Maldives has been here before. When two of us first came to work with Maldivians in 2006, we were impressed by the brave and committed Maldivian people, who acted time and time again with courage and talent to defend democracy within their country. And though both of us spent more than a decade with brave Serbian activists fighting the Slobodan Milosevic regime, and years after that training and educating democracy defenders from Kiev, Ukraine, and...

In Celebration and In Protest—Queer People’s Power in Turkey

An activist waves a rainbow flag in Istanbul, Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Despite Governor Vasip Sahin’s recent ban of the Istanbul Pride March, approximately 1000 people chose to participate in a rally on Sunday, both in celebration of their identities and in protest of the government ban. Police, dogs, and armored vehicles confronted the protestors, blocking off avenues and side streets, shooting rubber bullets, and attacking them with tear gas. However, protesters continued to march. Eleven people were detained and have yet to be released. Prior to Sunday’s march, the organizers of Istanbul Pride rightfully identified the government’s ban of the event as discriminatory and illegitimate. In fact, the ban violated fundamental human rights and freedoms of expression and assembly. It also marks the fourth consecutive year of a ban of the Istanbul Pride March. This time, the government cited security reasons and public “sensitivities” as its justification. Such violent government and police responses to the event may seem like a jarring regression from 2014, when the march had notable popularity, participation, and even some political support. However, starting in 2014, intolerance and oppression reemerged in the political foreground. Recently re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began repressing Pride marches in 2015 when he rose to national political power. In November of 2017, Ankara’s government banned all LGBTI-related activities, including the 2017 German gay film festival, “to ensure peace and security.” Furthermore, the 8th Trans Pride March was banned in 2017, although it did not deter activists from coming onto the streets. Pride is a mechanism for visibility, and in Turkey—a country with very few spaces for...

Hypocritical (Non-)Commitment to Human Rights Plagues White House

Avi Selk, Washington Post The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Tuesday amidst growing criticisms against Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies. This move, which US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has defended as an act of support for global human rights, has aligned the United States with Eritrea, Iran and North Korea, three of the world’s worst human rights offenders and the only other countries that have refused UNHCR membership. In the past six weeks, American customs officials have separated more than 2000 children from their asylum-seeking parents at America’s southern border. Many of these children are now housed in tent cities and converted warehouses, unable to see or communicate with their parents. In early June, the UN deemed these separations illegal under international law and called for their immediate halt. The US has since accused the UN of political corruption and incompetence and has withdrawn their membership from the Human Rights Council (HCR) as a whole. This decision is just the latest of many by the Trump Administration which disregard international treaties and human rights standards, setting an alarming precedent for the remaining years of Trump’s presidency. Ambassador Haley endorsed the withdrawal, stating “the United States will not sit quietly while this body, supposedly dedicated to human rights, continues to damage the cause of human rights. In the end, no speech and no structural reforms will save the members of the Human Rights Council from themselves.” However, the US’ departure from the world’s leading humanitarian organization arguably limits, rather than enables, the country’s ability to positively impact human rights. In her speech, Ambassador Haley cited...

Increasing Hate Crimes against Journalists threaten Indian Democracy

Photo: Translation: ‘The government’s hand on the common man’s face’, Aseem Trivedi A rising tide of intolerance threatens journalists in India. The killing of a journalist is not just a crime but also a human rights abuse as it stifles free speech and freedom of expression. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, journalists have been facing greater threats from an increasingly polarized environment in India. From the death of Gauri Lankesh, a known critic of Hindu right-wing extremism, last September to the recent hate crimes against Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar, there is a lack of press freedom and a growing assault on constitutional and democratic values. Complementing the death threats are increased instances of online abuse. In the case of journalist Rana Ayyub, a pornographic video with her face superimposed on one of the actors was sent to her. The case reflects on the problem of sexism in Indian society where threats of sexual nature are used to shame and silence female journalists. “Islamist”, “Jihadi Jane,” and “ISIS sex slave” are some of the epithets which have been hurled at Ayyub as she is one of the few female Muslims who speaks out against an alleged Hindu nationalist government. While some journalists, like Barkha Dutt, have been able to afford enhanced security and get their houses debugged, many local and less affluent journalists face increased death threats while uncovering cases of corruption and local crime. Correspondingly, India’s ranking in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2018 has fallen two places since last year to 138th, augmenting the problem is the increased impunity of these...

Georgian Prime Minister Resigns Amidst Protests Against Corruption

Photo: Protest leader Zaza Saralidze speaks to demonstrators and journalists. Source: RadioFreeEuropeRadioLiberty Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday following several weeks of popular protest and political disagreements with Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream. Kvirikashvili has been prime minister since 2015. Kvirikashvili stepped down in the midst of other resignations by global officials following protests condemning government corruption. On April 23 Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after 11 days of popular protest, as did Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki on June 4. The protests began on May 31st in reaction to the killing of two teenagers in December and the allegedly improper sentencing of their killers. According to protest leader Zaza Saralidze, whose son was one of December’s victims, the two subjects put on trial for his son’s death were not the real culprits, and those truly responsible escaped prosecution because of their relatives who worked in the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Protesters originally called for the resignation of chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze; however, their demands grew into broader calls against government corruption after Shotadze’s resignation. On June 11, police dismantled protestor tents and detained several members of the political opposition. Saralidze’s protests follow earlier demonstrations in May against excessive force used by police in anti-drug raids at nightclubs in Tbilisi. In his resignation speech, Kvirikashvili stated that “we had a number of fundamental disagreements with the party’s leader” Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in Georgia.   Kvirikashvili went on to state that “today is the moment when the party’s chairman should have the opportunity to form a team on the basis of his own views.” According to...

Death of Palestinian Medic Sparks Outrage and Investigations

Photo: Razan al-Najar’s blood-stained white tunic was carried by mourners. Source: AFP.   The death of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najar in Gaza has prompted international outcry and an investigation by Israeli officials. Al-Najar had been shot by Israeli Security forces as she approached the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on June 1st.  Her death comes as hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been killed by the Israeli military near the border in a recent round of protests. Al-Najar’s funeral procession on June 2nd drew thousands of Palestinians, including uniformed medical workers, who are in high demand after thousands have been injured or killed since protests began in March. On Saturday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator released a statement condemning the death of al-Najar. Three days later, Israel’s military issued a statement on Twitter calling her death unintentional and stating that “no shots were deliberately aimed at her”. A follow-up tweet stated that there will be an additional investigation. The current series of protests in Palestine began in March, pushing for the end of an 11-year blockade of Gaza. Israel claims that these protests are staged by members of the Islamist group Hamas as a way to promote attacks against Israel by using women and children to storm the border fence. As of June 5th, Israeli Security forces along the border have killed more than 115 Palestinian protesters. Although the international community has decried this excessive use of force, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on June 1st  that condemns Israel’s actions. The Trump Administration blames the protests on Hamas. Furthermore, Al-Najar’s death comes more than...