• Ed Giles/Getty

    LINKED IN

    Crowdsourcing Human Rights

    A new internet tool seeks to put activists in closed societies in touch with skilled people in the free world who can help them. It’s crowdsourcing for human rights.

    When legendary former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky sought help from the outside world to fight for freedom decades ago, he had to rely largely on individuals he knew to get help from outside the Iron Curtain. The dissidents of the 21st century now have a new tool to connect them instantly over the internet to hundreds if not thousands of people around the world already standing ready to pitch in.

    Today, the organization Advancing Human Rights will unveil a new web platform called Movements.org, a site where dissidents and human rights activists can go to access a growing network of lawyers, publicists, journalists, and human rights advocates and ask them for help on any range of tasks from seeking asylum, organizing their efforts, or just getting the word out to the world about their struggle. The project began with a $250,000 seed grant provided by Google, which has been expanding its involvement in the internet freedom space.

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  • YouTube

    On Trial

    The Jihadi Wore Lingerie

    London-born Nawal Msaad is on trial at the Old Bailey after being arrested at Heathrow with rolled-up 500-euro notes worth $27,000 in her panties—allegedly for jihadi fighters in Syria.

    She is well-dressed, confident and beautiful, but the authorities claim this 27-year-old British student is also part of a terrorist plot to fund jihadi fighters in Syria.

    Nawal Msaad, who was born in London, was arrested in January at Heathrow Airport before she could board a flight to Turkey when officials discovered tightly rolled 500-euro bills worth $27,000 in her underwear.

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  • OREN ZIV

    Death Spiral

    Israel: Murdered Teenagers, Dying Hopes

    As Israel mourns its politicians vow retribution. Hamas threatens to “open the gates of hell.” Could U.S. diplomacy have prevented the tragedy? The sad fact: it didn’t.

    AMMAN, Jordan — The tragic murder of three Israeli teens on the West Bank has their nation in mourning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed retaliation. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” he said, declaring “Hamas will pay.” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz blames not only Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority, which denounced the kidnappings. Steinitz said it should have protected the hitchhikers, who came from an Israeli settlement near Hebron. Hamas, for its part, denied any role in the kidnapping and the killing, but threatened that an Israeli attack would “open the gates of hell.”

    In fact, those gates have been open for a long time, and this tragedy makes it all too clear just how badly peaceful activism and U.S.-led diplomacy have failed to stop the spiral toward horrific violence in the Holy Land.

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  • AP

    On the Run

    Cairo’s Anti-Gay Crackdown

    President Sisi, already infamous for his crackdowns on dissidents and the press, is now going after the LGBT community.

    CAIRO, Egypt — The party at a villa in a western suburb of Cairo was in full swing when three armored police trucks quietly pulled up to the main gate. More than 300 men and women from the gay community had gathered in Kerdassa on the same day, November 4, that former President Mohamed Morsi of the puritanical Muslim Brotherhood first appeared in court. They wanted to party hard and forget the escalating violence that had left hundreds dead and was ripping the country apart.

    Without any warning, dozens of black-clad riot police armed with rifles and metal sticks stormed the garden. Terrified people scattered and tried to hide, remembers Ahmed, a gay Cairene in his twenties who is now a fugitive: “They had so many weapons, they had clearly been some serious preparation. They hit everyone they could.”

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  • National Dialogue Preparatory Commission/AP

    Human-rights martyr

    Tribute To A Slain Libyan Sister

    A Libyan women’s rights activist pays tribute to slain defender of democracy, Sawa Bugaighis, who was stabbed and shot to death in her home on the day of the country’s general election.

    The following editorial is being published anonymously to protect the identity of the author due to current threats against those fighting for democracy and human rights in Libya.

    When you hear of the death of someone you admire, someone inspiring, someone formidable, and someone so courageous, there is always a sense of sadness. When that person is someone you know and have learned from, then that sadness is devastating— the pain intensifies as you mourn for them and pray for their family. But in addition to sadness, the case of the murder of Salwa Bugaighis is also terrifying. It is terrifying because Salwa defended other people's right to live, to thrive, and to succeed; and her life was cut short because of it. It is terrifying because it is the first time that a prominent women's rights activist has been assassinated in her own home. It is terrifying because there has been no clear response and no condemnation for such a heinous act from any of the political or military structures in Libya. It is terrifying because it is a clear message to everyone who opposes extremist views, anyone who values women's rights, dignity, rule of law, and the basic principles of democracy.

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  • Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

    Rebuilding Lives

    How To Help America’s Trafficked Victims

    The U.S.’s resources to help survivors of modern slavery are woefully short term.

    If and when a victim of modern slavery is finally free, the long and difficult struggle to lead a healthy, productive life is just beginning. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for the scars of torture or terror; no quick fixes for the effects of trauma and oppression. And yet, America’s standard approach to trafficking victims is very short term.

    I know how long it takes to recover from being enslaved, because I was trafficked myself. At 17 years old, I left Indonesia believing I would go to America, work as a nanny and earn $150 per month.

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  • Corbis,Antonio Guillem

    Mutual Consent

    Does CA’s College Rape Bill Go Too Far?

    With California’s new proposal to regulate the physical intimacy between adults, are we in danger of legislating all the joy out of sex?

    A bill making its way through the California Assembly is attempting to address the problem of rape on college campuses by mandating “affirmative consent”—a verbal or written yes—before engaging in sexual activity.

    California’s not the only one in the midst of moral panic. Here in the UK we’ve seen a bloodbath of historic sexual abuse claims, and endless media coverage of the allegations and trials. The most prolific paedophile was the TV presenter and philanthropist, the late Jimmy Savile, whose charity work in children’s hospitals and care homes gave him unprecedented access to vulnerable youngsters. The convictions of these perpetrators—all male, and almost all elderly—is a reminder that behaviour which was permitted, or at least not talked about, in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s is no longer acceptable. Obviously this is a good thing.

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  • The Daily Beast

    Horrific

    Iran to Hang Abused Child Bride

    Razie Ebrahimi was just 17 when she killed her abusive husband to escape his blows—and the state wants to execute her for her crime.

    Languishing in a prison cell in southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz, 21-year-old Razie Ebrahimi awaits her date with the gallows.

    For decades, Iran has been brazenly violating international law and sentencing an untold number of juvenile offenders to execution by hanging. Most hopeless among them are young Iranian women, who often suffered from abuse in forced, underage marriages and who turned to violence as the only means to escape their circumstances.

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  • Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty

    Donetsk Diary

    Searching for Ukraine’s Disappeared

    Kiev is keeping silent on the hundreds of citizens kidnapped in east Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists—but one activist is determined to bear witness to the missing.

    Two things motivated Yekaterina Sergatskova to put together her list of people abducted during the past three months of unrest in eastern Ukraine: a lack of interest in the problem by Ukrainian media, and almost no mention of the rising wave of disappearances by state officials. Some people had vanished without a trace; others were given a chance to place a phone call and negotiate their freedom. One night last April, Sergatskova, 26, and an aide sat down and put together a database, to catalogue the victim’s name, and the date and place of abduction. All in all, she counted more than 100 cases. The names included businessmen, bureaucrats, journalists, editors, city council members, and regular citizens.

    Since that night, Sergatskova has taken many trips to Donetsk, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Luhansk, and a number of other Ukrainian towns gripped by the civil war, to interview heartbroken relatives and take the testimony of abductees who managed to escape or were released from jails in the basements of former state buildings seized by pro-Russian militias.

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  • Nina Strochlic/The Daily Beast

    Revving Up

    Congo’s Badass Women Mechanics

    Girls in the devastated city of Goma, “the rape capital of the world,” are breaking stereotypes to find work—and independence—as car mechanics and carpenters.

    In a large auto body shop off a dusty alley in the Democratic Republic of Congo, two teenage girls climb behind a stripped-down truck to take a break under a shady cluster of trees. A few moments before, 16-year-old Kubuya Mushingano, clad in a blue mechanic’s uniform, and 17-year-old Dorcas Lukonge, her hair wrapped in a scarf, were, respectively, wielding a circular saw and power drill.

    Each day, these two young trainees saw, drill and weld—making doors and windows for cars at the auto yard, a dirt enclosure littered with scrap wood and metal.

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  • Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix dog 'Tinkerbell' and a baby sit in prams while Tinkerbell's owner and the baby's mother talk at a park in Tokyo August 19, 2007. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters)

    CATS NOT KIDS

    Pope's Wrong About My Child-Free Life

    The pope may pooh-pooh the decision to remain childless, but the world needs more people who choose pets over kids.

    Pope Francis came into office on a wave of hope that finally the world would have a progressive pope instead of the string of throwbacks with retrograde ideas who had come before. He’s since then been busy dashing those hopes, one speech at a time, demonstrating that he has zero intention of actually bothering to learn about people’s real lives and needs before telling them how to live their lives. Now he’s moved on to picking on childless couples, with a little extra shade thrown at pet ownership. Oh goody, just in time for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

    Speaking from his home in the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis warmed up by shaming people for enjoying their lives. “This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free.” Then he dragged Fido into, griping, “Maybe it is better, more convenient, to have a little dog, two cats; and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog.”

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  • via Youtube

    Sudan Shame

    Sudan’s Pregnant Death-Row ‘Apostate’

    Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian condemned to death in Sudan for “apostasy,” will soon suffer 100 lashes. Her husband is American. Her infants imprisoned with her, too. Why is Obama silent?

    On death row in Sudan last week, Meriam Ibrahim gave birth to a girl, whom she named Maya. The 27-year-old prisoner of conscience is now a step closer to the gallows. On May 15, Meriam was sentenced to be hanged for apostasy from Islam, but the execution was ordered delayed until the then-8-month pregnant defendant delivered and weaned the baby.

    Notwithstanding its assertion last weekend that Meriam would be released “in a few days,” by Monday Sudan had made it clear it has no such intention. Her defense lawyer is now pursuing legal appeals, but Meriam’s  only real hope of being spared lies in the moral pressure created in the court of public opinion. 

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  • Helene Bamberger/Cosmos, via Redux

    Savior Complexes

    Somaly Mam & the Cult Of Pretty Victims

    Yes, the famous anti-sex-trafficking activist fudged certain facts to gain attention for her cause—but this sorry tale should make us concerned about our own need for photogenic girls to save.

    Somaly Mam, one of the world’s most famous anti-sex-trafficking activists, resigned as head of the Somaly Mam Foundation on Wednesday, after Newsweek published an expose by Simon Marks accusing Mam of lying about her background and fabricating some of the sob stories of underage sex trafficking she used to gain attention and funding for her cause. Marks detailed how Mam’s story of being forced into prostitution as a child—her age for when she first started shifted in each telling—didn’t jibe with the memories of her from classmates and family members. More troubling, Marks also accused Mam of encouraging young women who had not been trafficked to lie about it, coughing up lurid stories of rape and abuse in order to get wealthy donors to open their wallets.

    Are there larger lessons to be learned from this whole sordid tale? Marks resists anyone who might use this to deny that sex trafficking is a serious problem, though he does argue that “the scale and dynamics of the situation are often misunderstood, in part because of lurid, sensationalistic stories such as those told by Mam and her ‘girls.’” But this should be a wake-up call, an opportunity for people in the feminist and non-profit world to seriously consider some troubling trends that may hamper the long-term ability to enact change. Namely, there’s way too much emphasis being put on heroic figures overcoming adversity and too little attention paid to systems of oppression. In addition, there’s a serious problem of issues being highlighted not because they are the most pressing or widespread issues, but because they are the least likely to draw controversy that might run off wealthy celebrities who only want the safest causes to publicly support.

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