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Take Action to Demand Turkish Airlines Workers’ Rights

25 Oct

Since June 2012 aviation workers in Turkey have been in dispute with Turkish Airlines (THY) over their right to strike and the dismissal of 305 workers who took industrial action on May 29, 2012 to protest the government’s plan to ban strikes in the aviation sector. Turkish Airlines responded by sacking these workers via text message and email.

The company refuses to reinstate the 305 and to accept any bargaining proposals put forward by Hava-Is, the aviation workers’ union. On May 15, 2013, determined THY workers commenced an indefinite strike action.

This is a crucial time for aviation workers in Turkey as the strike continues and the workers involved and the union representing them are under huge pressure.

You can support the Turkish Airlines workers, CLICK HERE TO SEND A MESSAGE TO TURKISH AIRLINES, telling them to reinstate the dismissed workers and enter into good faith negotiations with Hava-Is, and to tell Turkey’s Minister of Labour to act to ensure that THY respects its workers rights.



Amnesty International UK Blogs: A Map of Non-Violent Activism in Syria

2 Jul
The interactive map shows the non-violence activities within the Syrian uprising © Omar al Assil

Non violent resistance in Syria? Don’t make me laugh. Those trying to topple Assad are all cannibals and head choppers….or so the likes of the academic “Angry Arab”, Asad Abu Khalil would, it would seem at times, try to convince you.

The reality is Syrians in their tens of thousands continue to resist the Assad regimes brutality (and sometimes resist certain armed opposition groups) through non-violent methods of staggering diversity and creativity. The extremely grim and brutal reality which regime apologists and quite often the mainstream media present is but one, extremely narrow perspective of what is going on in Syria. It is far from the whole truth.

A Syrian activist friend of mine, Omar al Assil, has recently produced a beautiful, interactive map of non-violent resistance in Syria. It was created with his colleagues in the Syrian Non Violence Movement including their members inside Syria.

I mention Abu Khalil as he was the first to respond to the map when the social commentator, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi posted it on his Facebook wall on June 21. Abu Khalil responded smugly: “Very convincing. Is there a special color for beheadings?”.

Pulse Media’s Muhammad Idrees Ahmad responded eloquently in the same thread to Abu Khalil’s customary inelegance: “He wants you to make blanket generalisations; to make no distinction between the Syrian majority who oppose the regime peacefully, the minority who defend themselves with arms, or the few who commit unpardonable crimes. They must all be judged by the standard of the lowest among them. Find the most criminal action, and extrapolate it onto the whole opposition.”

That extrapolation is a common reaction by many who only want to amplifythe negatives of those opposed to the Assad regime. Indeed it is the regimes strategy to not just amplify the negatives but exterminate the positives – quite literally when it comes to Syrian human rights defenders. The map and what it shows is a shining example of how many Syrians are peacefully resisting the regimes wide scale human rights violations and trying to build a brighter future. It’s a work in progress for sure and many more activities and initiatives will be added in the coming days and weeks.

I recently wrote about Omar and his colleagues in the SNVM and the campaigns training they have taken at Amnesty International. These activists, some inside Syria and some outside are despised by the regime and their apologists. Why? Because they are not committing human rights abuses – instead, they are campaigning against human rights violations and abuses. They are using methods which the regime and its apologists know are effective in the long term. They are genuinely fighting for a Syria for all – one which seeks to respect and protect the human rights of all Syrians. This confounds the regime narrative of blood thirsty jihadists rampaging and pillaging across Syria.

Omar got the idea to create this wonderful map when he was preparing a presentation for a peace group in Somerset, England. He wanted to list all the alternative newspapers and radio stations that started during the revolution and wanted to visualise it properly.

He told me he found an algorithm to visualise networks which was perfect to visualise the non-violence activities of the uprising. From there he formed a team consisting of SNVM members who started to collect the vast amounts of data about the grassroots activism in Syria.

Maimouna Alammar, who was arrested with her husband when she was pregnant with her daughter in the first days of the revolution, worked on this from inside Syria. She was key to this mammoth data collection operation and another SNVM member, Nisreen Alzaraee , translated the information into English. The project was in development for 3 months as there was so much activism and campaigning to document.

Omar said to me “It was very difficult and challenging to collect this amount of activities. We decided also to include some overview about each item in the map and a link to its website/Facebook page. Maimouna was working from inside Syria and most of the time she worked offline and without electricity to finish the project because of the difficulties to access the internet due to constant power outages”.

For Omar, the main objective of creating this map is to show the Syrian people and the rest of the world how powerful and widespread non-violence is within the Syrian uprising. He wanted to document the hundreds of activities involving tens of thousands of people to show a wider perspective of the revolutionary mosaic. This in turn would help challenge the narrative that all those opposed to the regime are “terrorists”.

Omar said “In the SNVM we believe that there is still a room for peaceful struggle and creativity amid all this chaos. Many people thought that the non-violence came to an end and this is a small step to show them that it is still there and they are using it or working with it on daily basis. So mainly it was to motivate people and the other aim is to document all these activities so interested people can have access to it easily.”

Omar and the SNVM plan to keep updating the map every fortnight. It is an excellent work in progress – regime apologists or indeed anybody that justifies human rights abuses, hate this sort of thing which makes the experience of navigating this map so much sweeter.

So check it out, especially those who think those opposed to the regime’s crimes against humanity are medieval barbarians only looking to munch your heart out.

PS for the techy minded, Omar says “the diagram is based on the Force-Directed Graph algorithm which automatically place nodes depending on their relations. Some of the tools used to generate the diagram are: Gephi, Sigma,InteractiveVis project by JISC and Oxford institute of technology. I did some coding using HTML and Javascript. The add/modify form is based on Form+ powered by Google Apps Script”


via Amnesty International UK.

Malian army expels French journalist from Gao

9 May

A French freelance reporter has said she was expelled from the city of Gao after reporting on allegations of human rights abuses in a nearby town, according to news reports.

Dorothée Thiénot, who contributes to various French news outlets, published an article on the French daily L’Express on January 20, 2013, that cited claims by anonymous local residents that Malian army soldiers were killing real or perceived Islamist insurgents and their accomplices in Sévaré, a frontline town in the conflict between the government and militants linked to Al-Qaeda.

The article quoted a Malian army officer as denying any knowledge of the allegations.

Thiénot told CPJ in an email that she became the target of intimidation once local army officers became aware of the story. She said two days after an officer publicly threatened to expel her from the country, two soldiers entered her house in Gao and escorted her out of the city without allowing her to collect her belongings from the house. She said she was forced to return to Bamako, the capital.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Lt. Col. Nema Sagara, a senior officer with the Mlian army, accused Thiénot of attempting to “ruin the image of the Malian army” with her reporting.

L’Express issued a press statement condemning Thiénot’s expulsion.

from Committee to Protect Journalists

Controlling Information in the Internet Age

2 May

CIMA announces the release of its most recent report, The New  Gatekeepers: Controlling Information in the Internet Age, by veteran journalist and  media development trainer Bill Ristow. The  report traces how the technological revolution of the past few decades has created a new corporate world of Internet-based companies that have become the new gatekeepers of information.

The technological revolution of the past few decades has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer, smartphone, tablet, and an Internet connection. And it has created a new corporate world as well: companies that didn’t exist 20 years ago but that have become among the most highly capitalized in the world by creating ways to help us work, play, converse, learn, argue, shop, and do nearly anything else, all online.

In the process, whether by helping us find information, organize it, prioritize it, or share it, in many ways these Internet companies have become the new gatekeepers of information–and their data-parsing algorithms the twenty first century equivalent of the stereotypical editor with the green eyeshade who filtered the news before passing it along to readers. Of course, there are many big differences between that editor and, say, Google, Twitter, or Facebook. But one of the biggest is that these new gatekeepers aren’t just working in a single newsroom in a single city, largely isolated from everyone else.

The Internet companies, though the largest of them are based in the United States, are literally working on the World Wide Web, playing on a global scale and hoping to elbow out their competitors to lock up rich international markets. As they have expanded globally, these pioneering corporations have had to face, and deal with, a tough reality. The Internet that gave them birth espouses all sorts of high-minded principles of open and free expression. But many of the governments in countries that offer tantalizingly large commercial markets not only do not espouse those principles, they actively deny them. And so the computer and software engineers who have taken us out into the world increasingly find themselves having to navigate its thorniest problems, balancing profit against human rights, and thinking about hate speech, censorship, and yes, whether an image of a woman breastfeeding her baby violates a policy against depicting nudity.

As they forge ahead, a growing number of academics, civil-society organizations, and advocacy groups are working to monitor the impact of the new information gatekeepers. They appreciate the challenge these companies face, and laud them for much that they have achieved. But they also argue articulately that more oversight, more transparency, is needed. And they point to the companies’ own principles. Google, for instance, has long been known for an informal motto from its early days, “Don’t be evil.”

Given that, “it’s difficult to do business in a country that doesn’t have that principle,” said Madeline Earp, of Freedom House. When it comes to the thorny issues of free flow of information, she said, “companies themselves cannot be the final arbiters, which they are by default right now.”

Colin Maclay, managing director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, makes a specialty of studying such things. “Can we get the Internet companies to set a standard? Do we know what good behavior looks like?” he wonders. “If we can set global norms about what’s good behavior and what’s not, then we’re hopeful that in some of those challenging markets we can have better outcomes.”

Center for International Media Assistance.


No UN Human Rights Protection for Western Sahara

28 Apr

(Washington, DC | April 26, 2013) Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), expresses profound concern for the decision of the United Nations Security Council to renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) without a human rights component. Such action will leave the Sahrawi people without a permanent mechanism that can protect them from ongoing rights violations by Moroccan forces in Western Sahara.

In a press release dated April 12, 2013, the RFK Center applauded the unprecedented United States’ draft resolution calling for a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism to MINURSO. Such initiative could prevent many of the human rights violations that national and international organizations have reported. In its recently launched report “Nowhere to Turn: the Consequences of the Failure to Monitor Human Rights Violations in Western Sahara and Tindouf Refugee Camps,” the RFK Center details grave human rights violations against the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara, including summary execution, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests, violations to the rights to life, liberty, and integrity. The report highlights violations of the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly committed by Moroccan authorities.

After its September 2012 visit to Morocco and Western Sahara, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture reported that “torture and ill-treatment were used to extract confessions and that protesters were subjected to excessive use of force by Moroccan law enforcement officials, and that members of the Sahrawi population are specifically, but not exclusively, victims of such violations.” The Special Rapporteur cited a “pattern of excessive use of force in repressing demonstrations and in arresting protesters or persons suspected of participating in demonstrations calling for self-determination of the Sahrawi population.” The Special Rapporteur also visited the Laayoune prison and reported receiving “credible testimonies relating to torture and ill treatment including rape, severe beating and isolation up to several weeks, particularly of inmates accused of participating in pro-independence activities.”

The Special Rapporteur and the United Nations Secretary General have called for a permanent human rights protection mechanism for the Sahrawi people. The Special Rapporteur recommended that “the entire region would benefit from a robust regional inter-governmental human rights monitoring mechanism as an important confidence-building measure which can help to improve the situation with respect to human rights observance and particularly with respect to the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.” In his April 8, 2013 report concerning the question of Western Sahara, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that “[g]iven ongoing reports of human rights violations, the need for independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps becomes ever more pressing.”

“It is appalling that despite the evidence of unquestionable human rights violations against the Sahrawi by Moroccan state agents, the United Nations Security Council overlooked the recommendations of its own Secretary-General and Special Rapporteur and left the Sahrawi defenseless once again,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center.

The RFK Center welcomes the discussion within the Group of Friends—United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Spain—to incorporate a human rights mandate to MINURSO and encourages that such debate be the basis for continuing discussions.  In addition, in order to address the increased concern by the international community with the human rights situation in Western Sahara, the RFK Center calls upon the Security Council to ensure that, based on the current Resolution, the UN mechanisms responsible for the protection of human rights be allowed monthly visits to Western Sahara including, among others: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expressions, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Independent Expert on minority issues, the Working Group on arbitrary detention, and the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances. These discussions and visits should take place this year with an aim to have a permanent United Nations mechanism to effectively monitor and report on the human rights situation in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara and Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, by next year.

“Establishing a mechanism to protect human rights should be an automatic procedure for the UN, particularly in cases that the same UN reports the violations. It is inconceivable that some countries prefer to close their eyes and allow human rights violations to continue. However, even if the Security Council considers a permanent mechanism unnecessary, they can still have more effective supervision under the current Resolution, by facilitating more UN presence in the region.” said Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights and former Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

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