May 2014 newsletter

Welcome to the May 31, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue deals firstly with the widely publicized case of a pregnant Sudanese women sentenced to death [please note this newsletter was delayed to get the latest action].  Secondly this newsletter provides an update action to last year’s Bangladeshi factory collapse.
The blog associated with this newsletter is at: http://untilall.org/blogs/newsletter/.  Feel free to comment on any topic.

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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.

 

 

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SUDAN: PREGNANT WOMAN CONDEMNED TO DEATH

A Sudanese court has sentenced a pregnant woman, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, to hang for apostasy after she married a Christian man.  The death sentence would be carried out two years after she gives birth.  In addition she will receive 100 lashes for adultery (her marriage is not deemed valid) once she has recovered from giving birth.  Amnesty International has created a petition to protest against this horrible violation of human rights.  Amnesty considers Mariam to be a prisoner of conscience (violates freedom of thought, conscience and religion), her flogging to be torture, and is against the death penalty.

[Update: May 27: Mariam gave birth to a baby girl, Maya]

[Breaking News: May 31: Sudan’s Foreign Ministry has announced that the case will be repealed.  Thus the original action here has been removed (just before I was to send this newsletter).  But because this came from the Foreign Ministry and not the court itself, the spotlight should remain until Mariam is actually freed and all charges have been repealed.  Thus I delayed this email until I found the following replacement action.

Take Action:
Keep Pressure on Sudan – Demand Mariam be Freed!
Background:
Sudan: Pregnant woman faces death for apostasy   [BBC]
Sudan’s twisted history of using religion   [Al Jazeera]

Darfur and thus Sudan have been part of this newsletter’s longitudinal study.  We know how the political power remains an influx, multi-voiced dynamic (which has also been labelled, dysfunctional;  see: Current Status  [UntilAll]).  But it is unknown whether this incident bubbled up from obscurity or became a useful distraction.

 

 

 

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BANGLADESHI FACTORY COLLAPSE FOLLOW-UP ACTION

Last year’s massive building collapse in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people and injured countless others.  After a global protest, the corporations that profited from this tragedy were to pay into a $40 million fund to be collected by the International Labour Organization.

But one year later, less than half the money has been donated — and 15 retailers, including Ascena (Lane Bryant), JCPenney, and Benetton, are refusing to pay up.  Worse, very little has changed within Bangladesh.  Survivors and their families are still struggling, and little has been done to affect long-term change.  Thus consider the action below to demand that these retailers uphold their obligation to the Bangladeshi workers now!

Take Action:
Tell Companies to Keep Promise and Donate to Fund   [Watchdog.net]

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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SYRIA: Latest UN Report

A recent UN report has summarized the extent of the ongoing, four year-old tragedy in Syria.  Almost two-thirds of Syria’s population suffers from extreme poverty because of the civil war, calling it “catastrophic”.  Over 150,000 people have been killed.  Nearly 50% of Syria’s labor force is unemployed, and the country’s gross domestic product has shrunk by an estimated 40% since 2011. Losses from damage are estimated at $143.8 billion.  Full details:
 UN Report on Syria   [Reuters]

 

MALI: Violence Flares

This newsletter originally noted the unrest that was occurring in Mali, and later, highlighted the issue of Mali’s coup in 2012.  Since then France came in to overtake the northern area held by the Tuareg rebels.  France remains concerned about Islamist strongholds.  In the past few days there has been further fighting, whereby Tuareg separatists repulsed an attempt by Mali’s army to take control of their stronghold of Kidal.  A ceasefire has been agreed to, for now.  The point of this update is to note that as long as underlying issues remain unresolved, violence will remain near the surface.
Latest fighting   [Reuters]
Refugees divided on future of northern Mail   [IRIN]

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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When is civil society a force for social transformation?

The cluster that is called civil society, particularly though not exclusively in terms of number of charitable originations, has grown enormously for the last few decades.  The following essay probes the dynamics and asks why there is not a similar reduction in the social ills they try to address.  The essay even suggests there has even been a less positive impact than before.  The author offers two primary reasons.
Civil Society and Social Transformation   [openDemocracy]

 

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

July 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the July 31, 2013, issue of this Peace&Justice action email.

This issue is a brief summer version of the newsletter, much more sparse than usual due to time constraints. The most glaring omission, in terms of big news stories, is Egypt; there are always plenty of little-known conflicts that get missed.  Please accept my apologies.

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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.

 

 

 

 

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TUNISIA: FREE WOMAN UPHOLDING WOMEN’S EQUALITY

Tunisia was the start of the “Arab Spring.”  Recently, an 18 year old woman was alarmed by a Salafist (conservative Islamic) group who were opposing the equality of women.  She wrote a single word (“Femen”, the name of an international women’s movement) on a wall surrounding a cemetery, for which she has been jailed.  The charges and possible lengthy sentences are considered politically motivated and are deemed an infringement her right to freedom of expression.

Tell Tunisia to release Activist:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/Amina

 

 

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TURKEY: STOP EXCESSIVE FORCE AGAINST PEACFUL PROTESTORS

As with many of the recent popular protests, the one in Turkey started with a dispute over the use of a park, in this case Gezi Park, in Istanbul, Turkey.  Prime Minister Erdogan dug in his heels and has tried to quell the protests with violence, rather than listening to the demands.  Of course behind the park issue, are complex dynamics, including a long-simmering distrust of the conservative leanings of the Prime Minister.

Tell Turkey to Stop Using excessive Force:
http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1770&ea.campaign.id=20914

 

 

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SYRIA: STOP EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS OF CIVILIANS

If you use Twitter or Facebook, you may want to mobilize your social media skills to spread this report about stopping extra-juridical killings in Syria.  Basically, as has been part of the brutal campaign, some areas are being targeted to terrorize the civilian population as a means of reducing support for the rebels, as documented in the following Amnesty briefing:

Take Social Media Action:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/syria-civilians-killed-2013-07-25

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Darfur: Sill Mired in Problems

Darfur is our longitudinal study.  There is no action for this month, but you can see a sketch of the latest events at www.UntilAll.org/darfur.htm.

 

Guatemala Genocide Trial a Landmark . . . Then Scrapped . . . Then Conviction . . . Then Overturned

The last newsletter indicated that the landmark trial had been derailed by a separate court ruling but was holding out hope for an appeal.  So it is both a relief and a triumph of justice and vindication of those who testified that Efraín Ríos Montt, former leader of Guatemala, has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/10/guatemala-rios-montt-convicted-genocide

However that relief was short-lived sine the verdict was then overturned [The Guardian (May 21)] . . . though as of June 4, in yet another twist, the Guatemalan Supreme Court rejected a motion to quash proceedings, and has set a new trial date of April 2014.

 

Bees:  Good News, Bad News:

A previous action called for the ban of a certain pesticide in the European Union.  The good news is that it has been banned, so thank you for all who took action.  As has been reviewed previously, such web actions seldom bring change on the own, but can help provide crucial support and backing as part of an overall strategy to bring change.  The following link provides a window into the pieces that were involved to getting the ban passed:
http://www.dailycensored.com/we-did-it-europe-just-banned-bee-killing-pesticides/

But in the U.S., the EPA just allowed a different but also toxic pesticide, sulfoxaflor, to be used on several crops, even while acknowledging it is highly toxic to honey bees.  It added an advisory for honey bees, but one which sounds quite unworkable, such as having to notify beekeepers before and after usage, advising them to keep their bees in the hive, etc.  This is not a precautionary approach to protecting such a vital link in the food chain:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/09-3

Finally – recently in – researchers have discovered that the application of fungicides may be behind some of the rapid decline in bees.  Thus it is looking like a more complicated cocktail of interactions:
http://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/

 

Burma & the Rohingya: Violent Buddhists, a silent Aung San Suu Kyi, and maybe an Al-Qaeda link?

Burma was noted in an earlier newsletter for its surprising, puzzling (and world-hesitant to acknowledge) overtures to open up its previously iron-clad country.  Recently there have been several articles highlighting the recent problems with two minority groups.  There is a long history behind it all, and on its face one sees the contradictions of, for example, supposedly nonviolent Buddhists being extremely violent (although other Buddhists did come to protect the victims), the world acclaimed human rights defender Aung San Suu Kyi being silent about the repugnant human rights violations, and even a possible Al-Qaeda thread in among there.  Again deeper analysis is needed, but the following are just a couple of articles trying to sketch the terrain.
TIME Magazine article
Toronto Star article

 

DRC: Searching For An Internal Solution For The Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been enmeshed in one of the world’s longest and deadliest conflicts (most often given as over 5 million deaths as a result of the conflict), stunningly for the most part off the mainstream news radar.  This newsletter has highlighted some of the initiatives that have been made.  Here is another analysis
Towards internal solutions to the DRC crisis [IRIN]

 

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Brazil Protests:

Given the above actions on popular protests, and while there are many more than simply Brazil, there is an essay on openDemocracy that gives an interesting sketch of the basic issues and challenges facing the country and protestors.  Sparked initialling by student demand for better transportation given a hike in rates, the protest has spread, becoming neither anti-Brazil nor anti-football, but very broadly a call to implement a higher vision for Brazil.  It covers many areas and includes the broad dissatisfaction found within a rising country that now has a sufficiently large middle-class.  They have joined the protest over government policies that have led to hosting the Confederation Cup then the FIFA Cup then the Olympics – “first-world football stadiums and third-world hospitals, schools, and sewage facilities.”
http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/jeff-garmany/football-politics-and-protest-in-brazil

 

Yemen: A Life on Hold

For those who prefer short videos, the following helps give some sense of the millions of people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  This video is about family who has been living for three years in IDP camp in Yemen, noting that many IDPs end up in such camps for 10 or 20 years.  The broader question about the value and perils of such videos must await another newsletter.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFlX0Lz9SFw&feature=youtu.be

June-July 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the June – July edition of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.

This issue provides actions on Syria, Sudan and Burma, among others.  The previously mentioned new feature of these newsletters – occasional sections that focus more in-depth on an issue – will be delayed until the fall.  The first such focus will remain the issue of “Mental Health”.

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SYRIA: STOP THE KILLINGS

What started as peaceful protests over a year ago in Syria has now escalated into an armed conflict throughout the country. Some 15,000 people are dead, thousands have been arrested and many tortured with hundreds dying in custody. Over one million people have fled or are internally displaced.  As well, opposition fighters have also reportedly tortured and killed captured members of the army and their supporters.

The international community has struggled to take effective action. On March 27, 2012 the Syrian government accepted a ‘six-point plan’ by UN Special envoy Kofi Annan and a ceasefire was agreed on April 12. Yet the fighting has continued unabated.

The Russian Federation supported the peace initiative. Yet that same government has repeatedly used its veto at the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria, while remaining the main weapons supplier to Syrian forces.

Please consider sending a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, calling on him to help stop the bloodshed.  While it would be naïve to assume such letters themselves would change his decision, it is important that the international community not be silent.  As well, given that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could face war crimes charges, at the end of the day, what regime wants to be found on the wrong side of history?

Take Action:
Tell Russia to Help Stop Syria’s Bloodshed

Background:
Eyewitness of Houla Massacre [Guardian]
Battle for Aleppo [Globe&Mail]

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US: SUPPORT SUDAN PEACE & ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

Consider sending a message to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012. The act calls for a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for other governments and persons to stop supporting Sudan and its resulting atrocities, and to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan.  It aims to change Sudan’s calculus using diplomatic measures and {non civilian targeted} sanctions. It also advocates policy to help end human rights violations in Sudan.

This newsletter has highlighted how Darfur and Sudan move in and out of the news spotlight – such is the nature of long-standing conflicts.  But as noted in Current Status, there continues to be significant political oppression, and various areas of either atrocities or humanitarian crises.

Take Action (US citizens only: Enter your zip-code for correct Representative):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=205

Background:
Status of Bill HR4169

 

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U.S.: TELL US REPRESENTATIVES TO MAINTAIN SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA

After such a long period of political oppression, and at times areas that verged on ethnic cleansing, it has been an almost stunning to see the signs of change, as indicated by recent events surrounding Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Yet while this forward momentum toward democracy should be encouraged, it needs to be mixed with much caution, so that it does not reward a government that is still carrying out severe human rights abuses against innocent civilians — particularly in Burma’s ethnic minority states.

Thus the following action calls on the U.S. to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act which will continue to prohibit products made in Burma from being imported into the United States — it will deny hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military.  While such sanctions punish everyone by prohibiting economic growth, in this case even Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that they need to remain until real political change occurs.  She sees this as a real leverage point that should not be lost.  Lifting them without real change will primarily reward the military with only minimal help for the citizens.

Take Action (U.S. only):
https://secure3.convio.net/sdc/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=723

 

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WALMART AT 50: DO MORE TO ELEVATE CONDITIONS

Walmart recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  As the world’s largest retailer, its policies hold tremendous clout.  Thus in the action below, you can send a greeting which includes birthday wishes to improve workers’ lives, and to sign on to national or global agreements that strengthen local communities, ensure labour and safety standards, and freedom of association.

Send Special Birthday Greetings:
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/select-an-e-anniversary-card-for-walmart-below-2/

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Failure to Achieve Arms Trade Treaty

It has been hugely disappointing to see the failure to negotiate a new Arms Trade Treaty.  The proliferation of arms around the world has helped turn local conflicts into large-scale human tragedies for civilians.  Our longitudinal study of Darfur is a case in point, where the flood of simply small arms in the 1980s turned local conflicts in the deadly explosive scenarios we have witnessed.  The flood of arms did not generate the conflict, but they did allow the manipulation of the various conflicts to be highly magnified, resulting in enormous civilian tolls and allowing the entrenchment of political/power landscapes.  The only positive note is that the door is open for further talks and a vote could occur by the end of the year.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/28/arms-trade-treaty-william-hague

 

UWAA:  This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”