Stories about human rights

Iran and the clash of modern civilisation

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 ended 2,500 years of uninterrupted monarchical rule and ever since then, the country has been hit with a series of sanctions that have had a huge impact on it economically and politically, leading to relative isolation. With changing political winds and shifting strategic alignments, the sanctions have been eased considerably, thereby allowing Iran to once again participate more actively in global matters. This gradual reintegration of Iran into the world community has been one of the big geopolitical stories over the last few months. Iran is undoubtedly a significant nation. It is strategically located, has huge energy reserves, a rich cultural ...

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Targeting beyond China: They took my family into custody to intimidate me

On March 27, Chinese police crashed my father’s 70th birthday party in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. They accused my family of causing a forest fire the day before by lighting incense and burning paper as part of the annual tomb-sweeping festival to honour deceased relatives. Three of my siblings were summoned to the police station and found out quickly that they were not being detained over an arson charge. As an exiled Chinese journalist living in Germany, I had written an article in mid-March for Deutsche Welle criticising the Chinese government for “secretly kidnapping” a journalist, Jia Jia, in connection with a widely distributed open ...

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I love the UN, but it is failing

I have worked for the United Nations for most of the last three decades. I was a human rights officer in Haiti in the 1990s and served in the former Yugoslavia during the Srebrenica genocide. I helped lead the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, planned the mission to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, and most recently led the Ebola mission in West Africa. I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold. And that’s why I have decided to leave. The world faces a range of terrifying crises, from the threat of climate change to terrorist breeding grounds in ...

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The big Kamal confession: What happens next?

It takes exceptional courage to speak out against power abuse in Pakistan. To expose someone infamous for violent politics. To challenge the status quo. Regardless of the authenticity of claims, Mustafa Kamal exhibited extraordinary courage in an unprecedented tirade against the party’s chief Altaf Hussain. He accused him of working against the state and deceiving people of Pakistan. He exposed the internal workings of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and even made a revelation about the party’s alleged links with Indian spy agency RAW. Interestingly, there was nothing too shocking about the revelations. It all sounds like familiar stories. A recent BBC report had also raised ...

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Revisiting Islamabad’s Hotspot: The obvious sexism that no one notices

Hotspot – the place where all the brats and burgers of Islamabad ‘hang out’ Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bash these brats and burgers. Half of my friends come under this category and I love them. I’m not here to criticise Hotspot ice cream or food either. Their food is actually not bad. In fact, I’m not here to talk about any issue of importance. I’m here to talk about something insignificant. Something no one cares about because they don’t believe it is a problem. Something all these brats and burgers just accept and, consequently, condone. Something that these ...

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Why did the doctors of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital refuse to treat a transgender patient?

Recently, in Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, a victim of a gunshot wound was left unattended for three hours. The patient was critically injured and the doctors refused to administer treatment. Moreover, the hospital staff was callous and impertinent. The victim’s name was Adnan. The whole incident sounds unreasonable, doesn’t it? Why would the doctors refuse to touch a patient? Why would the hospital staff point and laugh at a dying person? Well, Adnan is a transgender person. The entire transgender community in Pakistan has had to endure repeated verbal, physical and sexual abuse. I felt particularly sorry when I learned my medical peers were involved in an act ...

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#IStandWithAhmadis, and so should you

Here in Pakistan, we often feel affronted by the mistreatment of the minorities overseas, we identify with racially, religiously, or culturally. Any occurrence of a mosque defiled, or a Muslim man or woman being abused in the West, is quickly shared across social media captioned with angry messages. This, of course, is fair enough. As someone who considers himself to be a member of this planet rather than defined by race or religion, I feel humanity should know no boundaries. That being said, it is difficult to fathom how the volume of our outrage is directly proportional to the distance of the ...

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I am ashamed by this Ahmadi clause at a university in Lahore

A month ago, I got a very disturbing call at 8pm. One of the best engineering professors at a leading American university told me, in a flabbergasted tone, that something is troubling him and is related to Pakistan. “I have not seen such overt discrimination ever in my life,” he said. A few days before the distressed phone call, he and I had an interesting conversation regarding basic human rights when my column on pluralistic ramifications of Sufism and its association to the land of the subcontinent was published in a local newspaper in the US. He appreciated that I had tried to highlight the mystic culture ...

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Why should Indian-Muslims get concessions that the Hindu majority does not?

Most Hindus believe that India’s efforts, after partition, to integrate Muslims have always hinged on policies excessively and unduly unfair to Hindus. To many, this is done by extracting from India’s Hindu majority extraordinary concessions and accommodation which would be absolutely unacceptable in any other part of the world. These efforts have always pivoted on the construct of the Muslim as a special citizen. This can been seen in every policy matter ranging from the double standards propping the unconscionably discriminatory Article 370 in Kashmir to the government funding of madrassahs and the stipends given to imams and mullahs (as opposed to ...

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#IStandWithIndianMuslims: Indian police detain ‘Muslim’ lambs on Eidul Azha

In international conferences on human rights, India likes to claim it is all for freedom of religion and equal rights. When countered on social media with respect to its minorities, right-wing Indians become defensive, claiming they treat their minorities all too well and it is the Indian Muslims who like to whine for nothing. “This country exists in the name of Hinduism and Muslims should accept their second-class status here. What’s the big deal? Can’t Muslims be thankful we gave them a home?” said one of the country’s leading Hindu cleric Pundit Srinath Ramkumar, echoing the sentiment of the right-wing Hindus. India ...

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