Dozens of refugees held in Nauru while seeking asylum in Australia protest their detention
- Protests have continued for more than a week as some of the asylum-seekers have been detained in the open-air center Nauru runs for Australia for 1,000 days.
- The demonstrations coincided with Australian protests decrying Australia’s controversial offshore detention policy sending refugees who attempted to enter the country without authorization almost 2,800 miles away to Nauru.
- Despite reports to the contrary, Australian and Nauruan authorities argue facilities are well-maintained, have good healthcare and activities, and, except during times of protest, allow for detainees to travel into the surrounding community.
“Locked gates and erected fences contain Nauru asylum seeker protests” (The Guardian)
“Asylum seekers on Nauru determined to keep up protests” (Radio New Zealand)
“Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: via The Guardian)
Few of Australia’s controversial temporary visas for refugees are reaching their targets
- Temporary protection visas (TPVs) and the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) were introduced as three-year and five-year work or education visas for refugees, respectively, requiring them to work or study to avoid losing their residency.
- While some 2,000 have applied for the SHEV, refugee advocates say only 20 have been processed in the 18 months since the immigration ministry announced they would be used instead of opening pathways to permanent residency.
- Without a SHEV, refugees are forced to remain in offshore detention, another of Australia’s controversial refugee policies.
Temporary Protection Visa and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (Government of Australia)
“Turnbull government accused of ineptitude as refugee visa scheme stumbles” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
“Refugees allowed to work and get services in Tasmania from today under SHEV” (ABC, October 2015)
“NSW signs up to place refugees in regional areas on five-year visas” (The Guardian, May 2015)
(Image Credit: Firdia Lisnawati/The Sydney Morning Herald)
Human rights lawyer freed as Azerbaijan continues amnesties
- Intigam Aliyev, an Azeri human rights advocate, had his 7.5-year prison sentence commuted to five years of probation after serving a year in jail.
- Aliyev had been convicted of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of office.
- President Ilham Aliyev, unrelated, pardoned nearly 150 prisoners this month, including political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, while Amnesty International says seven remain imprisoned.
“Azerbaijan frees human rights advocate from jail” (Reuters)
“Prominent Azerbaijani Lawyer To Be Released From Prison” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
“Azerbaijan frees prominent right activist” (AFP via GlobalPost)
(Image Credit: via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
Youth activists sentenced in Angola for anti-government demonstrations
- Seventeen activists were arrested in Luanda last June after an organized reading of Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Democracy, a text promoting non-violent resistance.
- The group has been sentenced to between two and eight-and-a-half years in jail after conviction on charges of rebellion, planning mass civil disobedience, and producing fake passports.
- President José Eduardo dos Santos has been in power for 37 years, and despite his pledge to step down in 2018, rampant inflation, public spending cuts, a public health crisis, and human rights infringements have increased anti-government sentiment in the lead-up to elections.
“Angola Sends a Rapper and 16 Activists to Prison for Plotting Rebellion” (VICE News)
“Seventeen activists sentenced for rebelling against Angolan government” (Reuters)
“Angola: 17 youth activists jailed for anti-dos Santos rebellion” (Africanews with AFP)
(Image Credit: via Africanews)
Burmese, LGBT, and at the Threshold of a New Era
With a non-military political party now leading Myanmar for the first time in decades, Burmese citizens are looking forward to democratic reforms to make the political process more inclusive of its diverse population. Historically, LGBT security in Myanmar has been minimal to nonexistent: colonial-era anti-homosexuality laws are still on the books and arbitrarily exercised, police extortion is rampant, trans individuals are targeted for violence and fetishization, and widespread conservative attitudes promote anti-LGBT discrimination. But now that newly empowered politicians have made promising (if vague) expressions of support for diversity and burgeoning advocacy groups have begun generating visibility and awareness, the LGBT Burmese community has expressed hope that the first signs of a more secure future have appeared.
“Snapshot: LGBTI rights in Myanmar” (The Star Observer)
“The brutal reality transgender women face under Myanmar’s ‘darkness law’” (Mashable)
“Gay People In Myanmar Can’t Live Openly. Here’s Why” (The World Post)
“Myanmar’s transgender people not just chasing rainbows in fight for equality” (The Guardian)
“LGBT group to battle homophobia in Myanmar with information” (mizzima.com via Gay Asia News)
“Myanmar LGBT film festival raises visibility, challenges taboos” (Washington Blade)
(Image Credit: Joshua Carroll/Mashable)
Law to suspend legislators accused of terrorist sympathies passes first round in Israeli parliament
- Arab-Israeli and other opposition lawmakers fear the law will be used to silence opposition to anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian measures in the Israeli parliament.
- Tabled for two additional readings, the proposed law comes as PM Benjamin Netanyahu has indefinitely suspended the return of the bodies of Palestinians killed by security forces after killing Israelis.
- Last month, three parliament members were suspended for supporting families of Palestinian assailants killed after attacking Israelis.
“Israeli law to allow suspension of Arab legislators passes first hurdle” (Reuters)
“Controversial MK suspension bill passes first Knesset reading” (The Times of Israel)
“Netanyahu Orders Defense Minister Not to Return Terrorists’ Bodies to Palestinian Authority” (Haaretz)
“Ethics C’tee suspends Arab MKs from Knesset discussions” (Ynetnews)
(Image Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, via The Times of Israel)
Bangladesh High Court rejects 28-year-old petition to remove Islam as state religion
- The court ruled that the 15 petitioners (10 of whom have died since filing suit) didn’t have the standing to bring the issue before the court.
- Bangladesh was initially established as a constitutionally secular country upon gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, but constitutional revision under military rule established Islam as the state religion in 1988.
- Despite the reaffirmation of secularism as a political principle in 2011, religious and ideological minorities, including secularists and atheists, have increasingly come under attack as Islamic fundamentalism has begun gaining a foothold in the country.
“In 2 Minutes, Bangladesh Rejects 28-Year-Old Challenge to Islam’s Role” (The New York Times)
“HC rejects writ on state religion” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh continues with Islam as state religion” (newsnextbd.com)
(Image Credit: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
As many as 200 Zimbabwean women caught up in Kuwaiti human trafficking scam
- The women were lured to Kuwait under the pretense of domestic and healthcare employment but found themselves subjected to terrifying work conditions including starvation, violence, and false imprisonment.
- While 15 of the women have been repatriated, at least 150 remain in Kuwait, caught up in a process that has seen a former Kuwaiti ambassador to Zimbabwe charged with human trafficking.
- Many Zimbabweans, facing an unfavorable labor market at home, have taken to working abroad, with some having become trapped in employment and scholarship scams by human traffickers.
“Zimbabwe: Former Kuwaiti diplomat trafficked 200 women” (International Business Times)
“Zim govt brings back 15 women trafficked to Kuwait – ministry” (News24)
“15 Zimbabwe women home after Kuwait trafficking scam” (Eyewitness News)
Georgia governor announces veto of anti-LGBT bill
- Republican Georgia governor Nathan Deal announced he would veto House Bill 757, a bill introduced to protect faith-based organizations from anti-discrimination lawsuits.
- Governor Deal’s announcement came in the wake of boycott threats from businesses and prominent entertainers as well as national backlash over the passage of a more extensive anti-LGBT bill in neighboring North Carolina.
- Some Georgia senators have announced their intention to attempt an override, although successful veto overrides are rare in Georgia’s history.
Transcript: Governor’s remarks on HB757 (Georgia Office of the Governor)
“Georgia Governor Rejects Bill Shielding Critics of Gay Marriage” (The New York Times)
“Georgia Governor blocks anti-gay law after boycott threats” (PinkNews)
“Senators calls for override of Deal veto of religious liberty bill” (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)
(Image Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
Sewing Clothes, Sewing Futures
A new initiative is providing Bangladeshi women working in garment factories with the opportunity to earn a college education. Through a partnership with the Asian University for Women (AUW), garment factories, many affiliated with popular global brands, are sending select workers to school while maintaining their pay. Factories’ reputations have taken a blow in the fallout from the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, and some employers are keen on improving their public image through social responsibility initiatives. The Guardian takes a look at the program and a few of its bright young student-workers.
“Dresses to degrees: university opens its doors to Bangladesh garment workers” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: David Levene/The Guardian)