Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —
the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.
Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.
Issues of human rights and civil rights continue this week to take center stage around the world. Those issues have been so numerous and so serious, however, that we were finally forced to just choose a sampling for you. Here it is.
- Despite a month-long ceasefire, the warring parties in Yemen are failing to withdraw their troops from around the port of Hodeidah — raising the possibility of the recent peace deal collapsing. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch tweeted on Sunday: “A ceasefire at the key port in the famine-stricken areas of Yemen was seen as the key to saving millions nearing starvation. Now renewed fighting threatens to dash these hopes.”
- There’s also been little attention on the European Court of Human Rights’ recent ruling that defaming the Prophet Muhammed is not protected freedom of expression. The reasoning behind their decision was that “defamation could stir up prejudice and risk religious peace.” Important to note here that a number of EU countries also have laws that criminalize denial of the Holocaust. All of these laws restricting free speech in otherwise democratic countries seem to call out for a broader discussion as to where democratic principles of free speech can properly end, and a desire to keep-the-peace begin.
- And in just a few days, on January 31st, the world will be honoring baseball legend Jackie Robinson, 100 years since his birth in a small segregated town in Georgia. Robinson was the first African-American to play in the major leagues, and he made an enormous contribution to the U.S. civil rights movement. As we honor Robinson, it’s worth noting that U.S. football quarterback Colin Kaepernick has still not been signed by a ball club since he was ostracized for taking a knee during the pre-game national anthem — in protest of the continuing racism in America.
- Next, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof drew our attention yesterday to the imprisonment and torture of 29-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul in a Saudi prison. Hathloul reported that since May, she had been “held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder” — all for for daring to campaign for the right to drive. Meanwhile, a Washington Post editorial Sunday called for the U.S. administration to hold Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to account for the imprisonment and abuse of all peaceful women activists: “No regime that imprisons and tortures peaceful advocates for women’s rights should be treated as an ally by the United States.”
- And in India, Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government this past week began its own disturbing campaign against Rohingya refugees, forcing into Bangladesh many of the 40,000 Rohingya who had settled in India after fleeing their country. Since the 2012 start of a brutal campaign by Buddhist monks and Myanmar’s military against the Rohingyas, more than a million Rohingyas have fled for their lives. A statement from Human Rights Watch: “India’s approach to the Rohingya situation has been shockingly callous.”
- Now to Russia. When the Soviet regime fell in 1991, free speech was decriminalized. But last Thursday, freedom of expression and the press was set back about 30 years. The Russian parliament passed a new bill last Thursday that authorizes administrative detention for what they called “patent disrespect” for the government. Two or more administrative arrests for an offender — that is, any outspoken activist or journalist — can result in a criminal indictment.
- And this past week, on January 19th, Kashmiri Pandits marked the 26-year anniversary of their forced exodus from the Kashmir Valley. After the insurgency erupted there in 1989, all Kashmiri Hindus (the great majority of whom were Brahmin Pandits) were increasingly under threat by militants seeking to secede from India and either join Pakistan or become independent. The near-total population of Kashmiri Pandits finally left, under threat of their lives. Most of them are still living in exile.
All of this is a concerning commentary on the state of the world at present.
This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention.
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