Since 2003, Iraq has suffered devasting conflict and insecurity. The country witnessed large-scale violence caused by the terrorist group Da’esh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). From June 2014, ISIS launched a genocidal campaign against ethno-religious minorities in Iraq. The targeted violence sought to erase the presence of religious minorities in Iraq altogether, and particularly the Yazidis. ISIS decried the Yazidis as devil-worshippers. ISIS executed those who refused religious conversion.
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The convergence of faith and human rights has faced vehement debate. In recent decades, where extremists groups are carrying out atrocious acts “in the name of God”, xenophobia and Islamophobia have become increasingly commonplace in western nations. This begs the question of whether religion has a place in human rights movements, or if there is a place for human right in religion. Nowadays, faith leaders play active roles in mediating conflict and organizing humanitarian assistance. Various faith organizations are realizing the importance of forming partnerships with different faiths, and finding the commonalities that can connect rather than divide us. At the very heart of almost all religions are teachings of love and compassion. In this conversation, we seek to discuss the role of faith in promoting human rights across the globe and strategies for strengthening partnerships between secular and religious human rights defenders.
LGBTQI rights are fought for with a spectrum of tactics. In some states, gay citizens and allies march in pride parades and mark themselves with rainbows; in others, activists work in secrecy to protect their safety. Homophobia takes many forms and stems from a multitude of sources, each one different from the next. LGBTQI rights are human rights and must be upheld accordingly, but this lack of uniformity leads to distinct challenges in advocating for these rights on a global scale. Today, activists around the world confront a multitude of bigotry as they fight for the universal protection of queer individuals. In this conversation, participants discussed challenges and strategies for promoting LGBTQI rights through local and international actions across a range of situations.
Businesses and human rights are to a large extent interdependent: businesses are able to play a positive or negative role in building human rights movements, and the position that a business takes can influence its brand in the same way. In January 2017, Uber experienced a backlash on social media that called for users to delete the app in response to the company’s decision to turn off surge pricing and continue service to the airport during the New York City taxi drivers’ strike against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Thousands of Twitter users adopted the #DeleteUber hashtag to decry Uber’s actions, and many consumers turned to Lyft for future service, which fiercely opposed the executive order and announced a one-million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union. As demonstrated in this case, businesses can impact the human rights of their employees, customers, and communities. It is important to explore the innovative ways in which businesses can participate in human rights movement building. Conversation participants discussed the tactics and strategies used to integrate businesses, both locally and internationally, in human rights movements.
Protest art has been practiced throughout history, especially serving the anti-war movement in the mid-20th century. Today, art has become a powerful and international language to speak against all forms of human rights violations, along with other activism. For example, during the Arab Spring, the arts were used to make anti-authoritarian statements. The photographer and graphic designer, Nermine Hammam, captures the fundamental frailty of rule by force in the global community in her exhibition Cairo Year One by combining the realities of the conflict with a surreal and idealistic background. Tunisian folk-rock singer Emel Mathlouthi and rapper El General used music to rail against the state brutality and the suffering of Egypt’s youth and working class, which attracted considerable attention from protestors and transformed into a powerful protest song. The protest art of the Arab Spring has since joined a broader dialogue between protest art of the past and present, in mediums as diverse as books, film, performance art, and multimedia.
Data visualizations can be an incredible resource for human rights defenders, but understanding what data to use, as well as when and how to use data can be an overwhelming and daunting task. As of 2014, IBM found that each day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created; that is a lot of information to sort and share. A simple online search will yield many statistics stating that humans understand and absorb information faster as visual representation than text-based. Interestingly, a 2010 study by S. Bresciani, et al found that even when accounting for cultural variances “the visual representation of information objectively increases understanding and recall.” In short, taking troves of data that human rights defenders come across in their work, both knowingly and unknowingly, and converting it into visual representations of that data, can be a powerful tool. However, used incorrectly data visualizations can be misleading and, in some instances, harmful or dangerous.
In September of 2016, a high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants was called, a first at the Heads of State and Government level, by the UN General Assembly. The goal was to seek a better international response to the growing refugee situation. As local conflicts and global tensions between countries have been exasperated in recent years, more than 65.3 million people are currently facing years of displacement after fleeing violence in their own homelands. Numerous issues have been raised, particularly focusing on the responsibility of host countries (countries that receive refugees) to protect, assist, and resettle.
According to Transparency International, a global anti-corruption coalition, sixty-eight percent of the world countries has a serious corruption problem and this includes half of G20. More than six billion people live in countries with serious corruption issues. The Corruption Perceptions Index is a global indicator of public sector corruption, providing an annual level of corruption by ranking countries. The characteristics of the countries which score well are countries with liberal open democracies with an independent judiciary and a free press. At the same time, corruption can be defined from several different perspectives.
Social networking tools have revolutionized the way that social movements and human rights advocates operate. In a world where the public creates the news in real time and information is readily available in a moment’s notice, the process of communication and dissemination has been largely democratized. Individuals can magnify their voice, not only through information consumption and generation, but through active engagement and organizing. For example, activists of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong used a mesh networking tool, traditionally used at music festivals, to communicate.