The next time before you complain…

Hussein witnessed his entired family been killed except for his brother who takes care of him now in Norway. He too was stabbed and has lost the ability to walk and has a serious mental condition. Because his story was heard the Norwegian government has granted him temporary permission to remain. Still Image from the film courtesy of the web trailer from http://vimeo.com/52241270
Hussein witnessed his entire family been killed except for his brother who takes care of him now in Norway. He too was stabbed and has lost the ability to walk and has a serious mental condition. Because his story was heard the Norwegian government has granted him temporary permission to remain. Still Image from the film courtesy of the web trailer from http://vimeo.com/52241270

Today I had the privilege of watching the documentary ‘Nowhere Home’ by the inspiring Norwegian film-maker Margreth Olin at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

She tells the story of boys from Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iraq and other war-striken countries who seek asylum in Norway, but who will be sent back to their countries as soon as they turn 18.

They try to escape a horrific life; experiencing people been killed, even their close family and friends, and to think that they have to go back to these conditions. Khalid, a boy portrayed in the film, say there is no hope in Afghanistan, there is no humanity.

For most of us, the day we turn 18 is special, we celebrate with big parties and embrace a life of freedom as an adult. But for these boys, the day they turn 18 is the end of their lives.They know no freedom, they have no hope for a future. It makes me wonder, and I hope it makes you wonder too… what is it that we have to complain about? We have hope for a future, we have the freedom and the choice to choose our paths… But these boys, they have a future of fear, trying to illegally cross borders to be safe and face the ruthless authorities who imprison them.

We have a lot to be thankful for. And if you don’t have the desire or the ability to take a risk like Margreth Olin to give a voice to these boys and so many others who suffer like them, the least you can do is to think about them the next time before you complain.

My best wishes are with Margreth who is working tirelessly to change the system in Norway to give children like Khalid and Hussein hope.

A reply to a wonderful stranger

This morning, I read an inspiring comment by someone who happened to come across my blog. And I was inspired (the comment can be viewed on ‘who is Natasha?’). I’m sharing my reply with you too…

Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an inspiring comment on my blog. I truly appreciate it. Also, thank you for taking the time to look at my blog. I’m so inspired by you that even though you are bed-ridden you are planning on starting a blog. Please give my your blog address once you start it, I would love to follow. And I’m also inspired by you that you use your time to acquire new knowledge and learn about different cultures and nations. You are absolutely right, children in the west are so occupied by their gadgets. Sadly, it’s not far from the same in my country. A few years back when I was a child, we didn’t have iPods or play stations, we would play outside and embrace the wonder of nature and discover new things everyday. At 5pm everyday the streets are filled with the noise of kids playing. Today, there is not a hum on the streets. All kids are inside watching tv or playing with their gadgets. I think it’s partly the fault of parents. On the other hand, even teenagers and young adults are too busy on their phones to look around and read the papers, maybe, and know what’s happening around them, and in the world. It’s sad to see how ignorant the youth are today. The future is ours, and we need to actively take part in making the world a better place not only for us, but for the generation after us. If we ignore what’s going on in our countries, what will we leave behind for our children and their children? I guess the reason I want to be a journalist is because I can’t close my eyes to things that are happening, especially in my country, and the only way I know how to make a difference is by writing about it or making documentaries about it, in the hope of opening the eyes, ears, mouths and hearts of those who behold my work. So, I start from my blog,until one day I’m hired by a news company to do it on a larger scale. Again, thank you for your response. And I’m looking forward to reading your blog in the future

“Everyone is watching you!”

from www.tumblr.com
from http://www.tumblr.com

Today someone said to me: “the world is watching you…”, referring to Sri Lanka… And I was stumped for words. What I realised is that whatever a small minority of the population does reflects on all Sri Lankans, whether it’s good or bad. In this instance I’m talking about a small group of Buddhist extremists who are claiming to be the true Sri Lankan’s and are fighting to abolish the halal system in the country.

We may not agree with them, but as long as we stay silent and not do our part in standing against it, and standing for the unity and beliefs of every ethnic and religious group that makes Sri Lanka as special as it is, to the rest of the world it seems like we agree with it. So here I am, doing my part in the smallest way I can to share the message that this is not what Sri Lanka is.

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When will the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be truly universal?

A friend shared this video on Facebook and I thought of sharing it and adding to my previous post about women’s rights being violated in the name of culture. I should add that it’s quite evident from this video that it’s not just women’s rights that are being violated.

Article 16 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”

It very clearly states: “men and women of FULL AGE”… This girl is just 12, she is barely a teenager, I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that this child should be deprived of her childhood and her education and be given responsibility as a wife. At the same time I think she is incredibly brave to come forward and speak about her predicament on television. I was heart-broken when she said the only thing left is for her to commit suicide if she doesn’t get the divorce. I hope that she will be guided and counselled and that the law of Yemen would grant her the right to get divorced.

In the end, what we can gather from this is that the UDHR will never be truly universal until all countries absolutely ratify to it, regardless of their religious and cultural traditions. I hope that day will come soon.

Cultural Rights Vs. Women’s Rights: How do we strike a balance?

Image courtesy of: http://www.pakistanlaw.net
Image courtesy of: http://www.pakistanlaw.net

This is a paper I wrote for one of my modules last term for MA International Politics and Human Rights, I enjoyed researching for it and writing it so much that I think it will be a waste not to share it with you. Here is a shortened version of it, hope you like it and your comments are deeply appreciated: 

 

In an ideal world all human beings will be treated equally, regardless of their gender or ethnicity. In fact, article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” However in reality this is not practiced. The universality of human rights, especially when it comes to women’s rights, is lost in the realm of cultural relativism. Drawing from Bunch’s (1990) observation that gender related abuses have been most neglected, I believe that cultural and religious group rights are given more recognition than women’s rights. In this essay I will set forth various theoretical claims and practical cases to argue my point that in reality cultural rights are given a higher grounding than women’s rights, specifically in the Middle East and Asia, but also in Africa and in some cases in the West. I will also look at various approaches that may help in rectifying these challenges.

Before I discuss the challenges I will look at the background of both cultural and religious groups rights and women’s rights. Will Kymlicka (1995) lays down two different kinds of group rights. The first is minority rights that protects the interests of their members and secondly rights which impose restrictions on its members, such as some cultural groups that set prohibitions and regulations on women. Kymlicka supports the first kind of rights but regards the second kind as “difficult” (cited in Anthias 2002: 280). It is one of those situations that whatever approach you choose to support there is always a negative aspect to it. If you oppose the second kind of rights you are demeaning the autonomy of a culture: “rejecting the cultural rules of a minority” (Anthias 2002:280). However if you ignore that these cultural impositions are abusing individual human rights then where does that make you stand? For instance, if you ignore the very brutal practice of female genital mutilation just because it is a cultural practice, does not that make you as ignorant as those practicing it? I will dwell on this further when I discuss how the human rights of women are abused in the name of culture.

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UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training: Day 8: Lessons to take back home

My simple message of Peace for the Olympic Truce Peace Festival to be held tomorrow.

Today was the final day of the training for the Olympic Truce Youth Peace Ambassadors, it was nonetheless a day filled with important lessons and valuable advice on how to carry out our mission as Peace Ambassador’s.

Manal Kelig an important player of the Tourism Industry in Egypt spoke to us about Tourism and Peace.

We may not realise it but we need peace for tourism to be successful but right now the industry is not paying attention to peace rather they are only focusing on the commercial aspect of it. Manal Kelig thinks that if tourism is adjusted in a better model it will be possible to encourage equality and peace

Giving an example Manal explained that an Iranian passport holder is not allowed to travel to countries occupied by the Palestine’s, but at that moment Egypt, Israel and Iran were sitting on the same table discussing issues regarding peace. This is an example of what we as peace ambassador’s can do, we need to speak peace and change everyone’s perceptions.

So what can we do to promote peace through tourism? “Be a Verb, not a Noun!” said Manal, “be an ethical traveller and a positive traveller.” We need to choose sustainable tourism and make sure that we don’t add to the negativity but most definitely add to the positivity.

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UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training: Day 5&6

Yesterday the Youth Peace Ambassador’s were out in the streets of London (Stratford Olympic Park and Central London) conducting a survey to determine the figures of how many people have actually heard of the Olympic Truce. We went around asking people if they have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 1035 respondents only 59 have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 600 British respondents 3.8% have heard of the Olympic Truce, whilst 8.3% of the respondents from 69 other countries have heard of the Truce.

These results go straight to the point we were trying to make before, it is quite disappointing that The Olympic Truce has such little significance. The other day, David Wardrop – Chairman of United Nations Association Westminster said: “You can’t have an Olympic Games without having an Olympic Truce. We’re only celebrating the games because the Ancient Greeks decided that sports are greater than war.”

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UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training: Day 4: Building Peace on Common Ground

One of the main learnings of today was the importance of finding common ground to promote peace.

Dolapo Fakuade, UNESCO Looking Beyond Disaster & Peace Ambassador emphasised that an important factor for peace is finding common interests, this is what brings us together. At most instances people tend to look at the negative, focusing on differences rather establishing what we have in common.

Dolapo gave us an excellent example of how mutual understanding created a truce which has been on for the past 10 years among two Yoruba Tribes in the Western part of Nigeria.

The Ife-Modakeke conflict which was going on for more than a century was devastating not only for the tribes but to anyone who tried to cross the area. People were killed, schools closed and inter-married families were broken.

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UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training: Day 3: No to Weapons!

The small section dedicated to the Build the Truce exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.

Today the Peace Ambassador’s visited the Imperial War Memorial to take a look at the ‘Build the Truce’ exhibition which was created to commemorate the Olympic Truce. As you enter, on the left side is a small section dedicated to this exhibition. This goes to show that governments and other organisations spend more money on war than on promoting peace.

Even though the ‘Build the Truce’ exhibition was small the message given in the film was effective. It highlighted that the world sees peace as the absence of violence but it actually goes much deeper. It displayed a message of the struggles in many war inflicted countries and even though war maybe over in some places there is still need for economic and human development.

UNESCO Peace Ambassador’s say No to Weapons outside the Imperial War Museum

Peace building is a long and hard process… “It needs a lot of work. It needs a generation or two. It needs a lot of people to work in the right direction, never give up or loose their patience” says Abas Al Janabi an Iraqi who was interviewed for the exhibition. This the greatest message we as Peace Ambassador’s can take home. It’s surprising and disheartening to see the lack of interest in promoting peace, I’m sure it costs a fraction of what it costs for war… so why not do it? The answer is not simple, and on our journey we will learn why everyday. But having a strong support network will help us start somewhere.

 

Key Terms

Truce: An agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting for a certain time. 

Peacemaking: Reducing the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict: laying the foundations for sustainable peace.