Human Rights Defenders
On his 17th birthday, Omar al-Qahtani writes about his dad, Mohammad al-Qahtani, a human rights defender and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of Saudi Arabia’s few independent human rights organizations. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for peacefully calling for reforms in the country.
My name is Omar Al-Qahtani and today I turn 17.
I have two brothers and two sisters, oldest is Abdullah (20), then Norah (18), than me, then Othman (15), and Layla (4). Then there’s also Harley Davidson (24 weeks), our kitten.
We are what you would call a regular family, except we are far away from our father, who’s been in prison in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. Thankfully though, we talk to him every day. My father is a really brave man who will never give up on his beliefs. We are all so proud of him.
My father loves to have fun with us and to enjoy life but he is very serious when it comes to school and work. Before his arrest, life in Saudi Arabia was different: easier, simpler.
Photo: Tarek Hussein with his brother Mahmoud (Twitter @HMahmoudmohmed)
Human rights defender Tarek Hussein is free!
After being arbitrarily detained for 40 days, the former prisoner of conscience has now joined his family. The Egyptian police released Tarek Mohamed Ahmed Hussein on 27 July after arbitrarily detaining him since 17 June. That day, police officers arrested him from his home in Cairo. The police kept him in detention despite AlKhanka Prosecutor's order to release him on bail on 18 June. They claimed that Tarek Hussein has been sentenced in 16 different cases. During his detention, the police held him incommunicado for 12 days and abused him. Tarek Hussein could still potentially be imprisoned as the Prosecutor has not formally closed the investigation.
Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.
Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack details how scores of human rights activists – often labelled “foreign agents” and “traitors” by state media – have been prosecuted and jailed on spurious “national security” charges, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of human rights reform raised during President Hassan Rouhani’s first election campaign. Some activists have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty International.
By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Honduras campaigner. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KPriceAmnesty
“Admirable, courageous, inspiring”: those were the words we heard over and over again from the Members of Parliament, government officials and Amnesty supporters who heard the testimony of Central American human rights defenders we brought to Ottawa in June.
All have paid dearly for their efforts to defend the rights of vulnerable people seeking to protect the land and water on which their lives depend.
Luis Fernando García Monroy (left) was shot by security guards of a Canadian-owned mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala during a 2013 protest against its impacts on the environment so vital to the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. Following surgery and reconstruction of his face, Luis Fernando went on to co-found Youth Organized in Defence of Life (known by its Spanish acronym JODVID), to carry on the creative, determined activism of Topacio Reynosa, another young human rights defender who was killed in 2014.
Responding to news that the Turkish authorities have issued detention orders against four human rights defenders released on bail on Tuesday, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe said:
“With this cruel and retrograde step, Turkey has underlined its growing reputation as an indiscriminate jailer of civil society activists and a stranger to the rule of law.”
One of the four, Nalan Erkem was detained from her house in Istanbul last night. A second, İlknur Üstün was detained from her home in Ankara today.
“These four people should never have been detained in the first place. Having already endured twelve days behind bars, they are forced to relive the ordeal yet again. Instead of dropping the baseless investigation, the Turkish authorities have raised their absurdity to fresh heights,” said John Dalhuisen.
The four human rights defenders will now join their six co-suspects behind bars, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey.
By Alex Neve, Amnesty Canada Secretary General. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty.
As a human rights advocate you know you will not make everyone happy. Government officials, military leaders, armed groups and businesses all attract your scrutiny, criticism and suggestions for improvement. Some act on the advice. Others ignore it. Some strenuously disagree.
Public debate can get heated. The recent exchanges around Omar Khadr’s case are a striking reminder of that. Even in Canada, leading Amnesty International, I’ve felt that heat. I’ve been insulted and called names. I’ve been rebuffed. I’ve been threatened.
But no matter how inflamed things have become, I’ve never been jailed for standing up for human rights.
My close colleague Idil Eser, who does my job in Turkey, heading up our national section there, has been jailed for doing just that. She has been behind bars for the past two weeks because she passionately defends human rights; in Turkey and around the world.