Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Global Feature | Atheists & Secularists

The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists

Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)

With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.


The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)

Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)


Secular Rescue

Atheist Asylum Program


Pakistan Feature | Trans Women

The Fitful Progress of the Movement for Pakistani Trans Lives

Source: CGTN YouTube

By way of Pakistan’s landmark 2017 census, some 10,000 transgender Pakistanis have become officially visible in the eyes of the government, though community organizers say the number is likely much larger. Illiteracy, poverty, disenfranchisement, trafficking, threats to sexual health, and the dangers of unregulated sex work plague Pakistan’s trans women (khawaja siras, a reclaimed term in the trans community), but the recent securing of legal protections have given hope to a community where precarity reigns.

While communities of trans women have provided kinship and security where mainstream society has offered a mix of scorn and fetish, hierarchical systems within the communities have layered additional vulnerabilities upon threats already faced. The women have organized and built security-focused civil groups, and the last decade has seen a number of victories including census recognition, a third-gender option on ID cards, limited economic investments, and technological and political tools for accountability in law enforcement. Some hardline conservatives have become unlikely allies as trans women are seen among some Islamic sects as holy, though they have stopped short of supporting partnership rights. Recent international media coverage has highlighted recent gains as well as ongoing insecurity for Pakistan’s increasingly visible trans community.


Pakistan’s Transgender Women, Long Marginalized, Mobilize For Rights” (NPR | January 2018)

Tabooed transgender community still facing discrimination but to be protected in Pakistan” (Xinhua | January 2018)

New App TransMuhafiz Puts Pakistani Transphobic Offenders in the Spotlight” (Planet Transgender | January 2018)


Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret (Clover Filmsvia Real Stories/YouTube | December 2016)

Somebody (TriumF Mediavia YouTube | September 2017)


TransAction Pakistan

Myanmar News | Journalists

Reporters arrested in Myanmar following Rohingya coverage
  • Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the outskirts of Yangon after working on stories related to the military crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine state.
  • The Ministry of Information said the reporters faced charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for having “illegally acquired information” for dissemination to foreign media.
  • The event has prompted international condemnation, including by the United Nations, foreign governments, international journalism organizations, and press freedom advocates.

Factbox: International reaction to arrest of Reuters reporters in Myanmar” (Reuters | December 2017)

Analysis: Government Turning Back the Clock on Press Freedom” (The Irrawaddy | December 2017)

UN chief calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists” (CNN | December 2017)

Tajikistan News | LGBT

Tajikistan launches register of LGBT citizens
  • A state publication indicated 319 gay men and 48 lesbians had been identified following research into the Tajikistani LGBT community as a part of operations called “Morality” and “Purge.”
  • One police source indicated that the register could be used to gather medical records under the pretense that the state is looking to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Same-sex relations are not illegal in Tajikistan, although activists have in the past pointed to discrimination and persecution in the conservative country.

Tajikistan authorities draw up list of gay and lesbian citizens” (Agence France-Presse via The Guardian | October 2017)

Tajikistan: LGBT Registry Sparks Outrage” (EurasiaNet | October 2017)

There’s a rising global tide of crackdowns on LGBT communities” (The Washington Post | October 2017)

Egypt News | Activists & Dissidents

New NGO law severely curtails capabilities of rights organizations and charities in Egypt
  • President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a law limiting NGO work to developmental and social work activities and subjecting them to government regulation, with violators facing to up to five years of jail time.
  • NGOs will have one year to come into compliance with the law or be dissolved.
  • Human rights organizations accused the government of attempting to quell dissent, with officials long having accused NGOs of taking foreign money to destabilize national security.

Egypt issues controversial NGO law, cracking down on dissent” (Reuters | May 2017)

The Latest: Egypt’s president ratifies law restricting NGOs” (The Associated Press via ABC News | May 2017)

Egypt’s NGO law aims to ‘erase civil society’” (Al Jazeera | May 2017)

(Image Credit: via Reuters)

Indonesia News | Christian

Jakarta’s Christian governor of Chinese descent sentenced to prison for blasphemy
  • Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was sentenced to two years in prison after having accused political opponents of using a verse from the Qur’an to mobilize opposition to his re-election.
  • His remarks drew massive protests in the Muslim-majority country and a religiously charged vote for the Jakarta governorship in April, where he lost to Muslim rival Anies Baswedan.
  • Judges cited fundamentalist religious groups in the ruling, shocking observers with a prison sentence for Ahok because he “did not feel guilt.”

Jakarta governor Ahok sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy” (The Guardian | May 2017)

Jakarta’s Christian Governor Ahok jailed for two years for blasphemy” (The Sydney Morning Herald | May 2017)

Jakarta’s former governor Ahok dropping appeal against jail sentence for blasphemy” (ABC | May 2017)

(Image Credit: Antara/Pool/Sigid Kurniawan, via The Jakarta Post)

India News | HIV+

India passes nondiscrimination law securing rights for people with HIV
  • The first of its kind in South Asia, the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, healthcare, and public accommodations such as restaurants and calls for the establishment of an ombudsman to monitor violations.
  • An estimated 2.1 million people live with HIV in India, with some 1 million currently receiving treatment.
  • Some advocates for the positive community argued that the law does not go far enough to guarantee free treatment for the afflicted.

Parliament clears landmark HIV Bill” (The Hindu | April 2017)

What is HIV/AIDS Bill? All your questions answered” (The Indian Express | April 2017)

India takes flawed first step towards ending HIV and Aids prejudice” (The Guardian | April 2017)

(Image Credit: Jayanta Dey/Reuters, via The Guardian)