Monday, December 10, 2012

Letting their Voices Be Heard

Today is Human Rights Day worldwide.  If anyone's interested, here are two brave persons, continuing to speak out.   

 "They shot him nine times.
Losing a child breaks your heart in pieces.
It can't be compared to anything.
We gather strength from nowhere,
and start over.
My dream is to find justice."

Doris Berrio is the founder of the "League of Displaced Women", a group of women denouncing human rights violations and supporting women's issues.  She was forced to flee her home village in the region of Uraba in Colombia in 1997. Her husband received death threats from armed groups who had moved into the area. She escaped with her two young sons to the city of Cartagena, only to have her youngest son then murdered in retaliation for her efforts to fight back.

Blind self-taught legal activist Chen Guangcheng speaks directly to China's new leader Xi Jinping about human rights and rule of law violations, as well as religious persecution.  He names particular prisoners of conscience and asks for their release, one of whom is Nobel Peace Price Laureate Liu Xiaobo*.

(*For 26 months, Xiabo's wife Liu Xia has been cut off from the world outside her apartment in Beijing – prevented from receiving guests, making phone calls or using the Internet. She’s been charged with no crime. She is being punished for being the wife of China’s most famous political dissident, jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo). [Source]

When life becomes intolerable because their rights as human beings are consistently denied them, people sometimes, in desperation, take their own lives,  because the entities who govern them do not do anything to help or protect them:  Here are two countries' examples:

In Kyrgyzstan, three young women, aged 19, 19 and 20, hanged themselves after having been kidnapped for marriage, a 'tradition' in their country.

Every day approximately 32 girls are kidnapped and six are raped. That’s more than 11,000 young women who are kidnapped each year, and 2,000 rapes. Only one out of 700 are investigated as crimes, and only one in 1,500 is prosecuted. [Source]

And in Tibet, recently, three more!:

A 16 yr old Tibetan girl died yesterday after setting herself on fire.[Source]

A 17-year-old Tibetan man burned himself a week ago in Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province. In an apparent protest against China’s repressive policies in Tibet, Songdhi Kyab set himself on fire near Bora Monastery. He was reported to be alive when police forcibly took him away to a public hospital in Tsoe township, one of the biggest towns  in the area.  Eyewitnesses in the area say that Songdhi's survival may be “very slim” as he was seen smashing his head while engulfed in flames.[Source]

Lobsang Gendun, 29, a monk at the Penag Kadak Troedreling Monastery in Seley Thang, died after after setting himself on fire today in Pema County, Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Eyewitnesses say Lobsang raised slogans with his hands clasped in prayers while engulfed in flames.[Source]

At least 92 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, with 28 cases reported in November alone. The acceleration has coincided with several anti-China rallies and a corresponding security crackdown.

China's response to protests of the Tibetan people has been to more harshly tighten an already tight control over them regarding their practice of religion and ability to speak out about their situation. Journalists are forbidden to investigate. 

U.S. officials have urged their Chinese counterparts to address policies such as restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist practices, surveillance on monasteries, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and use of force against Tibetan activists, calling on  the Chinese government to "permit journalists, diplomats, and other observers unrestricted access to China's Tibetan areas," where Beijing has tightly restricted the flow of information. [Source]

Expressing concern and asking China to "please stop doing this" I don't think will have much effect, unfortunately.  It hasn't worked in the past.   Human rights violations have been occurring in Tibet for many, many years, since the Chinese swept in and took over the country.  Anyone following these matters can see that the Tibetan culture is slowly being erased and replaced.  Sixth-generation exiled Tibetan refugees living in India cannot become citizens. [Source]  They remain stateless, a people without a homeland.  When there are soldiers on every street corner, when  displaying an image of the Dalai Lama is grounds for punishment, when a people live in constant fear so great that they see no other recourse than to suicide themselves, it seems to me governments who are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should do a tad more than just express concern, claim sadness, and merely request the country violating these rights to please stop.  Am just saying.

This is 2012.  We humans have been living among one another for millions of years.  You'd think we would've evolved more by now.  Why is this crap still going on everywhere?   The injustices remain the same; only the technology and methods get more sophisticated.  Human trafficking, sexual abuse of children, kidnapping or disappearing whole groups, imprisonment for expressing an opinion, torture, murder, assassination  by drones, destroying another's land and people with poisonous chemicals or bombs laced with white phosporous guaranteeing lasting suffering to generations to come.  It never ends.

I sometimes wonder what it'd be like  to be inside the skin of one of many thousands of frightened, severely oppressed people, for just one day.  To feel that absolute fear, to have to watch everything you say and do for fear you be 'taken away', to live under such threat day after day after day.  Would I fight back, and how?  Would I keep silent, for fear of what they'd do to my children if I continued?  Say I escaped them, would I stay silent, just glad to have gotten away?  Fear can follow you, live in you, scar you  forever.  All these thoughts flood through me when reading these stories.  And it's not just one's rulers one fears.  The growing power of the drug cartels in Mexico, for example, decapitating and dumping mutilated bodies in public places as a warning not to interfere with their activities - last year, 493 such deaths; this year predicted by year's end to have been similarly high (49 headless and dismembered bodies in Nuevo Leon state in one month alone).  Not to mention the countless lives destroyed by civil unrest causing humanitarian crises in places too numerous to mention.

Not only lawless criminals, ruthless governments  or endless wars take away one's rights (and life); ordinary persons do it to one another as well, like a husband to a wife, a mother to a child, a friend to a schoolmate, unfortunately.  No one should have the right to tell you what to think or believe.  Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and that "this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief."  Under this provision, not only does no government have the right to not allow you to practice your religion, but no parent has the right to dictate his/her offspring's present or future beliefs or religion.  (The Declaration also declares that one has the right to change one's beliefs.)  Choosing to follow this or that path in life, especially one that is not 'traditional', should be one's right as well.  One should be free to choose the life one wants, marry who one wants, be who one wants, without fear of reprisal.    This is a subject that's rarely addressed, much less discussed, in terms of universal human rights.  Granted, being shunned, chastised, bullied or disowned is not the same as being imprisoned for speaking out or being physically tortured, but the victims of intense or sustained personal intimidation (of whatever kind) and certain victims of state-sponsored, unjust persecution do have this in common: their individual rights have both been summarily dismissed as being totally irrelevant. 

 It's interesting to see how many of the basic rights specifically mentioned --even among the more civilized, democratic and 'advanced' countries, are still, sadly, simply not the case today,  due to massive economic hardship, and the arrival and spread of Terrorism, where citizen's rights are increasingly subject to being bargained away. But here's the thing.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just that--a declaration.  It does not in form create binding international human rights law

The "right to an existence worthy of human dignity", of those basic things necessary for survival, such as "food, clothing, housing, medical care, and protection" -  may one day amount to being privileges, as more and more are finding themselves entitled to less and less (or no) access anymore  to what was long taken for granted.. A sobering thought.

There are many ways to fight injustice, support human rights, and spread the word.  Here's one:

Video from 2011 celebrating 50 years of Amnesty International

I remind myself that although I've posted about the situation in Tibet  here, here, here, and  here (and about writer Liu Xiaobo here and elsewhere),  these and today's posting are but small, infrequent or 'occasional' speakings-out, and that it's  not enough.  It's never going to be enough, given the magnitude of the reported abuses.  But maybe a reader (assuming anyone actually got this far reading!), might do the same - i.e., spread the word.  Let's do it!  Because they can't, the ones for whom it would be dangerous to do so, the ones who will be punished for doing so.  We should do it - because we can:     Talk about it, write about it, sing about it - just get the word out.  ("Let's stand up/ Stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up/ Don't give up the fight!" ~ ~ Bob Marley).  :)

Thanks for stopping by.