Human Rights Issue Update: Abductions and Murders in the Middle East

Last time you heard from me, we were in the midst of the Egyptian uprising. Fast forward: here we are in the midst of another debacle – this time in Libya, under very different circumstances. Here’s the basic lowdown on what’s happening in Libya, and other human rights stories from around the world:

  • Dictator Muammar Gaddafi tried to quell dissent in Libya by using force against protesters, leaving hundreds dead. This, and the prospect of more carnage, prompted the United Nation to authorize airstrikes against his military. But human rights violations appear to be continuing. In one example, four New York Times journalists were taken into custody and beaten by pro-Gaddafi forces, and a female reporter was repeatedly groped. They recently told their story to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the highlights of which can be seen here. In another terrifying tale, a Libyan woman burst into the closely-guarded hotel where foreign journalists were staying in the capitol city, still controlled by Gaddafi. Badly bruised, the woman told of being abducted and raped by Gaddafi’s forces. As the journalists began documenting her account, she was forcibly taken into custody.
  • Meanwhile, U.S. forces are trying to learn more about their "friendly" allies on the ground. The Libyan rebels are small in number and seem to have formed from peaceful protests. Beyond that, little is known. According to one analysis, “The undertones of the Libyan revolt are tinged with religious fundamentalism, rather than liberal democracy.”
  • Speaking of Gaddafi (Qaddafi/Gadhafi/Qadhafi), why can’t anyone figure out how to spell his name? Apparently, it does not translate well from the Arabic.
  • Despite the Army’s attempt to keep them under wraps, Rolling Stone magazine published graphic photos of dead Afghans, murdered by a “kill team” of rogue soldiers. The actions prompted the Army to issue an apology. The horrific images revealed bodies that were tampered with in order to make the slayings appear legitimate. All of this came on the heels of the court-martial of Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who pleaded guilty to the murders. He was given 24 years in prison, far less than the life without possibility of parole that he faced had he not agreed to testify against four other soldiers.
  • Last month, Congressional hearings on “Radicalization in the American Muslim Community,” led by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), kicked off amid demonstrations and protests by Muslim Americans. King defended the hearings, saying they’re necessary for Congress to fully understand the growing dangers of homegrown terrorism. Critics said the discussion was based on fear and misunderstanding, comparing them to the infamous McCarthy hearings. When discussions moved to the Senate, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) opted to change tone, and instead dicussed - for the first time ever - the civil rights of Muslim Americans and the growing intolerance and discrimination the community faces. This attracted far less publicity.

There has been big news on human rights recently, and I expect it will continue. I’ll be checking back in with you later this Spring to keep you up-to-date!