Japan court issues first ruling on same-sex marriage rights
- The Sapporo District Court found the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.
- Six plaintiffs had also sought damages for the lack of extension of marriage rights, which the court did not grant.
- While homosexuality has been decriminalized in Japan since the late 19th century, the country remains the only Group of Seven nation that has not recognized full marriage equality.
“In landmark ruling, Japan court says it is ‘unconstitutional’ to bar same-sex marriage” (Reuters | March 2021)
“Japan court says same-sex marriage should be allowed” (The Associated Press | March 2021)
“Japan court finds same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional” (BBC News | March 2021)
Canadian government assigns terrorist designation to far-right groups
- The Proud Boys and the Atomwaffen Group join a list of dozens of organizations—primarily Islamist groups—that the Canadian government has classified as “terrorist entities” in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
- The designation enables seizure of the assets of the group and its members, movement restrictions, and the criminalization of material support, which civil liberties groups criticize as governmental overreach and, ironically, facilitating harm against religious and racial minorities.
- In the wake of the January 6th events, Canadian Proud Boys chapters have seen their online presence evaporate, with webpages and social media platforms where they were active—such as Parler—shuttered.
“Canada declares the Proud Boys a terrorist group” (The Washington Post | February 2021)
“Terror list a ‘problematic’ way to fight white supremacists, civil society groups say” (The Canadian Press via CTV News | February 2021)
“Canadian Proud Boys in ‘panic’ as platforms go offline and government talks of terror listing” (Global News | January 2021)
Listed terrorist entities (Government of Canada)
People of African descent in Guangzhou face heightened discrimination amid COVID crisis
- Afro-descendant residents of Guangzhou, home to one of the largest Black populations in China, have reportedly been evicted and rendered homeless, had businesses targeted, been profiled by police, and subject to other discriminatory responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- As the country has reported an overall decline in COVID-19 transmission, anti-Black discrimination has been tied to increased fears about the reintroduction of the virus from foreigners driven by misinformation.
- The situation has ignited a diplomatic firestorm, with African political leaders expressing outrage on social media and the U.S. Consulate General cautioning Black Americans against travel to Guangzhou.
“Africans in Guangzhou are on edge, after many are left homeless amid rising xenophobia as China fights a second wave of coronavirus” (CNN | April 2020)
“How foreigners, especially black people, became unwelcome in parts of China amid COVID crisis” (ABC News | April 2020)
“China fails to stop racism against Africans over Covid-19” (The Guardian | April 2020)
New Zealanders rally in support of Muslim community as government takes action
- Some 15,000 people attended a rally in Christchurch to honor the memory of the 50 who died in the recent terror attacks.
- The country’s chief censor issued a ban on the attacker’s manifesto, classifying the document in the same way as other terroristic propaganda such as Islamic State materials.
- More than 1,000 voluntarily turned in their weapons as the government moved to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing she expects legislation to be in place by mid-April.
“Thousands attend New Zealand vigil, rally to fight racism, remember Christchurch victims” (Reuters | March 2019)
“Censor bans ‘manifesto’ of Christchurch mosque shooter” (The Guardian | March 2019)
“Christchurch shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons” (BBC News | March 2019)
Murder in Playa del Carmen brings official count of journalist deaths to eight in Mexico
- Ruben Pat, security reporter and founder of Facebook-based Playa News, was shot and killed outside of a bar in the Quintana Roo resort town after having received threats for the last six months.
- Pat’s murder was the second involving Playa News staff, with another, Chan Dzib, having been shot less than a month earlier.
- The deaths come amidst a 132% increase in homicides in the state of Quintana Roo in the first six months of 2018 vs. 2017.
“Two Mexican journalists killed in separate attacks” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)
“Journalist shot dead in Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen” (Reuters | July 2018)
“Another Mexican Journalist Murdered As Violence Escalates” (teleSUR | July 2018)
Israeli parliament passes law formally establishing country as Jewish nation-state
- The new basic law codifies a number of ultranationalist principles, including Hebrew as the sole national language, the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national priority, Jewish symbols as national symbols, and a unified Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
- Previously, Israel existed formally as a multiethnic democratic state, with Arabic as the second national language and the concerns of Arab Israelis—who comprise a fifth of the population—at least nominally afforded equal weight in matters of national identity and self-determination.
- While some observers have dismissed the law as largely symbolic, Arab lawmakers and progressive advocates argue it provides the legal ground for segregation and discrimination and reduces ethnic and religious minorities to a second-class citizenship.
“Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate” (Haaretz | July 2018)
“Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)
Saudi flight academy opens applications to women as mobility restrictions lifted
- Oxford Aviation Academy has received hundreds of applications from women at its flight school branch in Dammam.
- The change comes as the government has lifted a decades-old ban that prohibited women from driving or traveling without permission.
- Despite the legal relaxations, women still face a number of mobility obstacles, including many derived from the country’s guardianship laws.
“Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots” (Reuters | July 2018)
“The ban on Saudi women driving is ending: Here’s what you need to know” (CNN | June 2018)
“How Guardianship Laws Still Control Saudi Women” (The New York Times | June 2018)
The Transnational Oppression of Uyghur Chinese
Growing paranoia over terrorism by and radicalization of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority has led to the dramatic expansion of state surveillance activities in Xinjiang—where Uyghurs account for nearly half of the population—and abroad. Digital surveillance, travel restrictions, indefinite detention, “reeducation” camps, and the exploitation of intra-community and transnational relationships have dramatically expanded the crackdown on ethnic minorities perceived as threats to the integrity of the state. After fleeing China, Uyghur emigrants find themselves and their families (some of whom remain in China) subject to harassment by Chinese security forces in places as far flung as Istanbul and Washington, D.C. BuzzFeed News and The Globe and Mail have profiled a number of Uyghur Chinese in exile and the oppressive conditions they and their families face, including high levels of distrust and fear of advocacy.
“Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again” (BuzzFeed News | July 2018)
“How China is targeting its Uyghur ethnic minority abroad” (The Globe and Mail | October 2017)
“‘It is about Xi as the leader of the world’: Former detainees recount abuse in Chinese re-education centres” (The Globe and Mail | July 2018)
“One in 10 Uyghur Residents of Xinjiang Township Jailed or Detained in ‘Re-Education Camp’” (Radio Free Asia | June 2018)
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Denmark approves new classification and requirements for low-income immigrant neighborhoods
- The Danish government plans to classify low-income, predominantly Muslim immigrant neighborhoods as “ghettos,” triggering a set of household requirements for the receipt of welfare benefits.
- Starting at one year of age, children will be separated from their families for 25 hours a week for education in “Danish values” (including Christian religious traditions), while other Danish children typically do not begin school until age six.
- The policy comes as anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the country, with political figures (including the Prime Minister) denigrating immigrant enclaves and demanding assimilation.
“Denmark to school ‘ghetto’ kids in democracy and Christmas” (Reuters | May 2018)
“In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“‘No ghettos in 2030’: Denmark’s controversial plan to get rid of immigrant neighborhoods” (Vox | July 2018)
Indigenous communities throughout Mexico protest presidential election, press for self-rule
- Residents have banned political parties, destroyed protest signs, patrolled streets for campaign paraphernalia, and blocked ballot delivery throughout small towns in the western state of Michoacán as anti-government sentiment has grown.
- Seven municipalities covering 16 towns and at least 50,000 voters have decided to opt out of the election, and Maya communities in Guerrero and Chiapas have begun mobilizing as well.
- Although popular leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has advocated for Mexico’s indigenous communities in the past, historical and ongoing neglect by and corruption in the government has led many indigenous Mexicans to disengage and push for greater autonomy.
“Indigenous Mexicans spurn presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers” (Reuters | June 2018)
“The Mexican indigenous community that ran politicians out of town” (The Guardian | April 2018)
“Mexico’s Indigenous Council Continues Campaign Despite Violence” (teleSUR English | January 2018)
Hungary passes laws criminalizing support of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants
- The Hungarian parliament passed legislation criminalizing the “organization of illegal immigration,” prohibiting individuals and organizations from providing aid to undocumented immigrants including support in asylum petitioning.
- Framed as retaliation against the pro-immigrant efforts of billionaire Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, the laws could subject those found guilty of providing support to asylum-seekers to imprisonment for up to a year.
- The passage comes amidst a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, spearheaded by recently reelected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
“Hungary passes anti-immigrant ‘Stop Soros’ laws” (The Guardian | June 2018)
“Hungary to criminalise migrant helpers in crackdown” (BBC News | June 2018)
“Hungary aims to criminalize aiding illegal migration in ‘Stop Soros’ bill” (Reuters | May 2018)
Denmark bans face veils as anti-Muslim sentiment increases
- The Danish Parliament passed legislation effectively banning burqas and niqabs, imposing up to a 10,000 kroner fine on anyone found in repeated violation.
- Just over three dozen people are thought to be currently affected by the legislation, prompting Muslims and advocates to argue the bill’s greater purpose is to stir Islamophobic attitudes.
- The ban comes amidst a wave of anti-Muslim remarks and proposals, including the Immigration Minister’s touting of falling Muslim citizenship approval numbers, a 50,000-signature petition to ban the circumcision of boys, and calls for the closing of Muslim schools.
“Danish parliament bans the wearing of face veils in public” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Denmark swings right on immigration – and Muslims feel besieged” (The Guardian | June 2018)
“Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister” (The Local | May 2018)
Austrian government announces Islam crackdown, shutters mosques
- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that it would be dissolving the Arab Religious Group, which runs six mosques, along with a Turkish mosque and would be shut down.
- The Interior Chancellor also announced that the residence permits of dozens of foreign-born imams associated with Turkish organization ATIB were under review, which could lead to their deportation if revoked.
- Implementing its pledge to restrict immigration and monitor assimilation, the government, a conservative coalition that includes the far-right Freedom Party, is using as justification a 2015 law prohibiting the foreign funding of religious groups and for Muslim organizations to support the Austrian state and society.
“Austria to shut 7 mosques and could expel dozens of imams” (Al Jazeera | June 2018)
“Austria shuts down seven mosques in what it says is ‘just the beginning’ of a crackdown” (The Washington Post | June 2018)
“Erdoğan warns of ‘crusader-crescent war’ after Austria’s shutting of mosques” (Hurriyet Daily News | June 2018)
Bahrain government bars opposition groups from elections
- The Shura Council, the upper house of Bahrain’s parliament, approved legislation that prevents members of dissolved political groups from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
- Such groups include al-Wefaq, tied to Bahrain’s politically and economically marginalized Shiite majority, and the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), a secular movement.
- Last year, courts ordered the dissolution of the two primary opposition groups, arguing that they fostered violence and terrorism in the country.
“Bahrain bars members of opposition groups from standing in elections” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Bahrain bans members of dissolved parties from running in elections” (Middle East Monitor | February 2018)
“Election ban on members of dissolved political societies approved” (Gulf Daily News | April 2018)
Thousands rally against anti-Pashtun violence in Karachi
- The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has emerged as a nonviolent ethnic rights group confronting abuse and neglect by Pakistan’s security apparatus, recently invigorated by the killing of Pashtun youth Naqibullah Mehsud in January.
- Despite a government ban and media censorship, PTM recently staged rallies across the country in cities including Lahore and Karachi, the latter of which is home to Pakistan’s largest Pashtun community and the location of Mehsud’s killing.
- Demonstrators rallied against enforced disappearances (numbering in the thousands, according to some claims), extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses against the Pashtun community, who make up 15% of the Pakistani population.
“Thousands rally in Pakistan’s Lahore for Pashtun rights” (Al Jazeera | May 2018)
“Pakistani ethnic rights group stages first rally in Karachi” (Reuters | May 2018)
“On ‘Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’” (The Nation, commentary | May 2018)