Shirin Ebadi under threat

January 2, 2009

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is under threat in her own country of Iran. She works for human rights and works closely with the United Nations. Consequently, the Iranian government has begun persecuting her, closing down the Defenders of Human Rights Center that she helped found, and sending tax inspectors to remove documents and computers from her private law office. Yesterday, a violent mob gathered outside her home, yelling threats.

This awful and frightening news is not being widely reported on in mainstream U.S. media. I learned about it from several news release from Human Rights Watch: Iran: Reverse Closure of Nobel Laureate’s Rights Group, Iran: End Persecution of Nobel Laureate, and Iran: Threats to Nobel Laureate Escalate.


Human Rights Day 2008

December 11, 2008

Yesterday, Dec. 10, was International Human Rights Day 2008 and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which begins:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world…

It is utterly depressing to me that 60 years later, there are still millions of people whose human rights are violated every day. We can do better, far better.

In honor of the 60th anniversary, Amnesty International made a video titled The Price of Silence. It is beautiful:

A vote for Obama is a vote for peace

November 4, 2008

Today is the presidential election in the U.S. and I voted for Barack Obama. There are many reasons I did so, but I want to highlight the reasons most relevant to peace. Based on what Obama and McCain have each said and the various analyses of their positions, I believe that Obama will make much greater progress towards a peaceful world than McCain will.

One issue is fundamental human rights, including health care and the right to privacy. Obama’s health care plan is much more comprehensive and goes further towards providing coverage for more Americans than McCain’s does. Obama has pledged to protect women’s right to privacy in the arena of reproductive rights, and I’m confident that he will make efforts to reverse the damage done around the world by the global gag rule. In general, I believe that Obama is in touch with the needs of people whose rights are not being upheld, and McCain is not.

Another issue is economic security. Obama’s plans will allow more people to be economically secure and obtain jobs. This is very important, since conflict is most likely to arise when people are struggling to obtain basic necessities. Again, Obama has demonstrated through his words and his sincerity that he understands the hardships of these people, while McCain has shown himself to be deeply out of touch.

Finally, most directly related to peace, there is the war in Iraq and homeland security. Both Obama and McCain have pledged to end the war, but McCain emphasizes ending it “victoriously” while Obama emphasizes ending it “responsibly”.

In the area of homeland security, McCain primarily focuses on having a strong military. On his website, it states that “He knows that to protect our homeland, our interests, and our values – and to keep the peace – America must have the best-manned, best-equipped, and best-supported military in the world.” He also believes in strengthening our missile defense and increasing the size of the military. In other words, McCain believes and will act upon the idea that security is found in being the strongest, biggest, baddest kid on the block. I strongly disagree with this position.

On the other hand, Obama addresses a wide variety of approaches to security, including strengthening biosecurity, protecting information networks, improving our intelligence capacity, protecting civil liberties, protecting and modernizing our transportation infrastructure (including public transportation), supporting first responders to crises (who received budget cuts under Bush, supported by McCain), and preventing nuclear terrorism. It explicitly says on his website that “Barack Obama will show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons. Barack Obama fully supports reaffirming this goal, as called for by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, and the specific steps they propose to move us in that direction. He has made clear that America will not disarm unilaterally.” Nuclear disarmament is critical to future peace and I am pleased that Obama supports it.

Obama has a much more well-rounded view than McCain on what it means to be secure. McCain seems to have a one-track mind, that the military is the end-all be-all of security, which is quite a frightening prospect. I want someone as president who has demonstrated that he is aware of the complexities and multi-faceted aspects of security, and I believe that Obama is that person.

It is true that Obama does not go far enough for my liking. Clearly he will be willing to use military force and I do not know how much he would hesitate before doing so. Will he try diplomacy, mediation, and other nonviolent techniques to resolve conflict first? I do not know. However, I think I can safely predict that McCain definitely would NOT hesitate to use force. I would much rather take a gamble that Obama will try other things than take the guarantee that McCain will not.

These are only some of the reasons that I believe Obama will make positive change. If you haven’t voted already, please go vote for Obama!

Organization of the week: Human Rights Watch

October 28, 2008

This week I’d like to highlight the organization Human Rights Watch. They do very important work investigating and exposing human rights violations occuring around the world. They publish reports and generate media coverage of these abuses. This publicity embarrasses governments and puts pressure on them to change.

I subscribe to the Human Rights Watch news releases. They are a good way to get information about what is going on in the world in a way that you won’t get from the traditional media. Of course, it is always depressing news since it is about human right violations. I think I would get quite depressed if I read every release in detail, but I like to be kept aware of the terrible things that happen in this world.

Human Rights Watch also has action items, where you can send an email through their site to the people in control of a particular abuse.

Human rights are fundamental to a peace-oriented society, and thus the work that Human Rights Watch does is very important. As they say on their website:

Human Rights Watch believes that international standards of human rights apply to all people equally, and that sharp vigilance and timely protest can prevent the tragedies of the twentieth century from recurring. At Human Rights Watch, we remain convinced that progress can be made when people of good will organize themselves to make it happen.