Tag Archives: Human Rights

Individuals, not government, fixing discrimination in Philly

The city of Philadelphia is pushing new rules to fight discrimination. Eleven bars in the Gayborhood, the city’s LGBT hotbed, will be required to participate in fair business practice training and implicit bias training. The bars will also be required to post fliers made by the city’s Human Relations Commission about the city’s fair practice ordinance.

These efforts come as a response to a report released by the city in January, which found that women, minorities and transgender people have been discriminated against in the Gayborhood for decades. The city’s heavy-handed approach, while well-meaning, adds yet another expense and burden to local businesses. Mandating these implicit bias trainings will take workers away from their actual productive duties and force the bars to pay employees to attend diversity training sessions that have largely been found to be ineffective.

Meanwhile, residents of Philadelphia are doing a better job of preventing discrimination than the city’s government. Individuals and the market have already acted to scale back the level of discrimination in the Gayborhood, before the government ever could.

Continue reading at Watchdog.

Why An EU-Libya Deal Would Be No Good

Although the EU-Turkey deal caused seemingly endless troubles, everyone seems to agree on one thing: the deal worked. It managed to drastically bring down refugee numbers. For the new Maltese EU presidency, this seems justification enough to replicate it, just that this time the chosen partner is Libya.

With his new proposal, up for debate at the EU Council on 3 February, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is trying to tie up a deal that would make Libya one of the EU’s closest partners in migration control. However, the price of this partnership would be high. It would not only mean a final goodbye to Europe’s commitment to human rights, but it would create further tensions both inside and outside Europe.

The timing of the proposal makes sense, with Malta just assuming the rotating EU presidency, and the migration influx expected to start in the spring. In order to prevent what he calls a “new migration crisis”, Muscat claims Europe has to act quickly and decisively, with pragmatism taking precedence over idealism. In concrete terms, this means negotiating and funding a deal with Libya in which the Libyan coastguard, de facto dependent on whichever warring faction rules the coastline, would be responsible for turning around boats before they reach international waters. This is supposed to drive down numbers, and disrupt the business of smugglers. In return, reception centers would be opened in Libya, allowing asylum seekers to apply on the spot, with the lucky ones accepted receiving safe passage over the sea. Yet, what sounds reasonable in the beginning, is ultimately heavily flawed.

Continue reading at Vocal Europe.

Beyond the Burkini: Muslim women and the Global War on Terror

The French burkini ban debate may no longer be trending, but there is an ongoing civil rightscase against the city of Chicago initiated by a Muslim woman against six police officers who unlawfully strip searched her because they thought she was a lone-wolf suicide bomber. This case has not received as much attention as it should, with most of the attention focused on the election and gun violence. However, the burkini ban and the Chicago civil rights case are symptomatic of a larger problem within the Global War on Terror. Over the last decade, a major frontier of the War on Terror has become the Muslim woman.

To be clear, this is not the first time that women have become cannon fodder in interstate or civil conflicts. The most studied way through which women become a part of the front in wars is rape, which has been deliberately used as a weapon of war in Bosnia, the Congo, Japan and Chechnya, to name a few. However, with the War on Terror, the manifestation of this problem is more subtle, and worse, is often couched in claims of female empowerment, as with the French burkini ban. In reality, this crackdown on Muslim women shows the general frustration with state failure to effectively fight terrorism. Muslim women become natural targets in trying to dominate radical Islam in order to show strength faced with an enemy who has figured out how to strike at the heart of Western civilization.

What becomes more frustrating, particularly for Western states that fall victim to terrorism, is its persistence despite its political ineffectiveness.  Since the 1980s, it has been agreed that terrorism is ineffective. In fact, the Rand Corporation found that “terrorists have been unable to translate the consequences of terrorism into concrete political gains.” In that sense terrorism has been fundamentally a failure. How, then, does a state combat an enduring threat that is neither deterred by failure nor law and whose “root causes” are not discernible?

Continue reading at The Hill.

What It’s Like to Escape From North Korea

‘I had to learn how to think before I could learn to be free’

When my plane touched down at Incheon International Airport in the spring of 2009, I thought my long journey to freedom was over. My heart was beating out of my chest with excitement as my mother and I and our small band of North Korean defectors were met by South Korean agents and ushered through the impossibly shiny and modern arrivals gate. Finally I could do and say what I wanted without being arrested.

But I hadn’t been in South Korea for more than a few weeks when I realized that freedom was not so simple, and in many ways my mind was still locked behind the sealed borders of North Korea. I was 15 years old with the equivalent of a second grade education, and I didn’t even possess the language to express concepts such as liberty, individuality, or love for anything other than the Leader. I had to learn how to think before I could learn to be free.

Read the full Time Magazine article, co-authored by Yeonmi Park and Maryanne Vollers, here.

Kim Jong-un is no joke, says North Korean defector

Advocate Yeonmi Park was featured in The Guardian on the horrors of growing up in North Korea, and why we shouldn’t think of Kim Jong-un as a joke.

Yeonmi Park, a 22-year-old who fled to China before making it to South Korea, described the complete control the dictator had over her childhood. “I believed my dear leader could read my mind, I thought if I thought a bad thing he could punish me,” she said.

…Park urged the audience in London to not to take their freedoms for granted. “To me it’s not a joke. This [the west] is a paradise; it is a heaven,” she said. “He is a criminal, he is killing millions there, I hope we see him as not a joke.”

You can find the article online at The Guardian.

If you’d like to speak with Yeonmi, please contact Young Voices.