From uprising in the Middle East to concerts here in the U.S., there’s been a lot happening in the world of Human Rights, so let’s get to it.
- A new report makes clear that demand for Apple’s iPad and iPod has created unimaginable conditions for factory workers in China. Workers at the Foxconn manufacturing facilities put in an average of 60-80 overtime hours per month and are required to stand on their feet for the duration of 12-hour shifts. Following a long string of infamous suicides, the company installed netting around the buildings to stop jumpers, and forced employees to sign anti-suicide pledges. If they end up killing themselves after signing the pledge, employees' families would be entitled to minimum compensation.
- Mumford & Sons and David Archuleta were among the artists who performed for Break the Silence’s Campaign ‘25' which featured 25 musical acts playing in 18 cities on April 25th for a common purpose. The concerts, which were put together by the Invisible Children Organization, are in support of thousands of displaced and abducted children in northern Uganda. Attendees of the shows had to raise at least $25 in order to RSVP; over $1.5 million was raised overall. HeadCount-artist Brett Dennen is also donating all proceeds from the Loverboy CDs and Vinyls sold at his shows or online merchandise store to Invisible Children. The full story can be found on the HeadCount blog.
- Looking at the daily news, it appears as though things in the Arab world must have cooled off since my last update. Perhaps that's true to some extent, but the unrest continues, fueled by social media. Syria cracked down on protestors and the media, but brave citizens shot videos of government-sponsored violence. If you can stomach it, check out this video - one of 9,000 that were uploaded to YouTube in the span of a week. These sorts of videos were the only way the western world had any idea what was really happening and prompted the U.S. to freeze the assets of Syrian president Bashar Assad. More than 700 civilians have been killed since the anti-government uprising in Syria began early this year on the heels of similar popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
- Four western journalists were released from a six-week confinement by the Libyan government. Their one-year sentences on charges of entering the country illegally were suspended. Meanwhile, NATO air strikes continue in Libya against the government of Muammar Gaddafi. They say that they aren’t targeting him specifically, but is it possible Gaddafi could soon go the way of Osama bin Laden? Speaking of which, there’s some - albeit highly controversial - speculation that bin Laden’s death might have violated international human rights law.
- As always, there’s still conflict on the gay marriage front. In February the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, citing discrimination against same-sex couples. Watchdog group Judicial Watch has since filed suit, seeking to determine what influences led to the administration’s decision to launch a “vicious attack” on traditional marriage. Meanwhile, a just-released poll indicates that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans supports same-sex marriage.
- On a related note: following the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the Navy had given initial approval for Naval chaplains to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies on base. That prompted a House committee, led by Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), to push forward a ban on the newly-authorized guidelines, saying that they violate DOMA. Although the Navy only applied the new rule to states in which same-sex marriage is legal, Akin said that under DOMA, the federal government still recognizes marriage as between one man and one woman. Rear Admiral Mark Tidd, Naval Chief of Chaplains, suspended implementation of the new rule pending further review and discussion with other branches of the military.
Drop me a line if you see any human rights-related stories that you think should be in the next update.