Separating my posts on Human Rights

I am trying to set up a separate menu or category for my posts relating to Human Rights, from those relating to my writing journey, which was the original intention of this blog.

This may turn out to be an epic fail, as I seem to have lost the ‘About Me’ heading and cannot seem to reinstate it. So I am not holding my breath in anticipation of a ‘Human Rights’ one appearing.

If I make an absolute hash of it, I shall delete it fairly pronto. Bear with me…

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Who cares what I write? Who dictates what I read?

Is there anyone out there reading this? My last two posts have been about issues that I sincerely believe matter. Rape. Murder. Yet both posts were read by fewer people than previous posts about my writing journey. I don’t understand why and have given it some thought. I am left feeling uncomfortable, because the conclusion that I have reached is that the media is to blame. Blame may offend you, especially if you are a reporter, a journalist or work in the media in whatever form. How about the media being culpable, in that they have such tremendous power about what we read, or maybe more importantly what we don’t get to read, or to watch, or to listen to. Who dictates what you (or I) read in the media? Pause for thought…

I continue to be shocked by news reports from a variety of sources in relation to human rights. A ten year old rape victim refused an abortion in Paraguay. Migrants are drowning daily in the Mediterranean. Nepalese earthquake survivors are targeted by human traffickers. Burundi in a state of unrest, with protesters killed on the streets, and thousands fleeing the country.

In the midst of this suffering there is too much coverage, in my opinion of the General Election in the UK. It is a sorry state of affairs when only 34% of the population vote for the future Prime Minister. Time for change in terms of electoral reform, maybe. Dare I say that the other item covered in the UK, in terms of overkill, was the birth of HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about our British culture, including our Parliamentary System and the Monarchy. I question the balance in terms of what is being reported and how.

I digress. A big forward step in this my writing journey has been the belief that I can make a difference by writing about those important issues. Sadly I had a reality check knowing that very few people have read those posts. It almost halted my journey, but not quite. I would welcome advice as to how to make this blog more visible and attract more readers. I too, am culpable in not having the expertise in raising my blog’s profile.

I imagine you can sense my frustration. I hope so. That was the intention…
Please leave a comment on my blog, rather than on Facebook.

Paying The Ultimate Price

Have you heard of Sabeen Mahmud? If you read a decent broadsheet newspaper, watch an informative news channel or regularly read articles about Pakistan chances are you will know her name. Remember it, please.

This intelligent, caring, outstanding woman activist was shot dead in Karachi yesterday evening. Murdered. Assassinated. Killed.

Why?

Sabeen was a founder member and director of ‘The Second Floor’ – affectionately known as ‘T2F’ in her liberal circle of friends, under the umbrella of an NGO called ‘PeaceNiche’. How tragically ironic. The venue serves as a place to meet for coffee, to debate and as an arts venue. It does not sound threatening to me, far from it.

On Friday evening, an event was publicised to be held at T2F, entitled ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2’. A number of high-profile activists, who had made a march from Quetta to Karachi in October 2013 to pressure the authorities into revisiting their policies and actions over missing political Baloch activists, were invited to attend. This included Mama Abdul Qadeer, who together with Sabeen organised the event.

His son had disappeared in the region in 2009. His dead and mutilated body was found in 2011. As a parent would you walk 1200 miles to protest against missing people, one of whom is your child? Qadeer, 73 years old did just that. I admire and respect his brave protest.

The event had been scheduled to take place at a university in Lahore. On advice from the Inter Service Intelligence Directorate, it was cancelled. Hence ‘Take 2’. Surely Sabeen knew the risks? Yet she was prepared to go ahead with the event. It cost her her life.

Shortly after the event an unknown gunmen fired a number of shots into Sabeen’s car, killing her and critically injuring her mother. A number of journalists have been killed in Balochistan too, not to mention a list of 12,000 (yes 12,000) missing people that was handed to the UN three years back.

What are these faceless murderers scared of? That the truth will out? Or that liberal Pakistanis want to debate the disappearance and murder of people in Balochistan, and the political reasons behind them?

It is a cowardly way to silence an opponent. I am thankful that I am able to voice my opinion. Free speech is a privilege. Journalists worldwide endanger themselves to present the human stories to you and I. On occasion they pay the ultimate price for doing so.

Surely the debate must continue. Surely these murders must stop.

Please read something Sabeen Mahmud wrote on the PeaceNiche website : http://www.t2f.biz/some-thoughts-and-thank-yous-on-t2fs-6th-birthday/

R.I.P. Sabeen Mahmud…

Human. Right?

I cannot post this week having agonised over reports I have read from ‘Human Rights Watch’ and not express my indignation at what is happening to women and girls in Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is the definition of ‘human rights’, I ask myself? I needed to remind myself of the United Nations ‘Universal Charter of Human Rights’.
Here is the link: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ – if you are interested.

Women are discriminated against and abused especially in times of conflict. Rape used as a ‘weapon of war’. I hate the acceptance and use of that term. It has become a sickening cliché. I had one of those light bulb moments. My journey with words surely has to illuminate not only my own conscience, but also yours.
How can I raise the awareness of what is happening? I believe you have to be fully informed and read widely; to check the validity of the information and if the source of said information is credible. I urge you to subscribe to the newsletter of Human Rights Watch Organisation, and if you read anything this week then read this article about the systematic rape of Yezidi women in northern Iraq. It will bring tears to your eyes.

Here is the link: http://www.hrw.org/node/134203 – HRW have a very large audience. Join it.

I am totally impressed by the research methodology the organisation adheres to, which is set out on their website. I am not easily impressed. More than 80 researchers in countries across the world are conducting research, interviewing the victims, corroborating with witnesses to bring their stories into the wider domain. I have the utmost respect for these researchers and reporters. It is often dangerous, demanding, but oh such essential work.

Yet that is only half of the story. Their mission is to actively focus on impacting society at both a national and international level, to effect positive and sustainable change. That really challenges me. I want it to challenge you too. Are you?

It could be your wife, your sister, your eight year old daughter or mother being raped and sexually abused. But for the grace of God, it could be you, or me. Can you even begin to imagine the trauma of these women and girls? Raped not once, but repeatedly over the course of days, weeks and even longer. Not only do they have to live with the fallout of unwanted pregnancies, contracting STD’s, including HIV/AID’s, but also the psychological trauma. Some attempt suicide, by cutting their wrists, by hanging or by electrocution in the bath. It sickens me. I am not going to give the perpetrators blog time.

Forget your ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ fantasy and fictional world. Something far more sinister and real is happening today, in Iraq, in Syria and beyond. These women and girls must never be forgotten, nor society accept the ridiculous notion that they are ‘spoils of war’.

E.L James, do me a favour and donate some of your millions to Human Rights Watch. Now there’s a challenge! I might just have a little respect for you, should you choose to do so…