Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Iraq today: struggling for a better future?


Interview with Mohammed Thamir -Assistant Director of programmes (ATHAR Center For Development) AND Ali Nais -Board member (ATHAR Center For Development)

Reporter: First of all, which are main issues Iraq has to deal with today?

Mohammed : The most important challenges Iraq is facing today are administrative corruption, terrorism and the presence of U.S. forces.
Ali: In my opinion, the main issue is the process of internal and external displacement of millions of citizens because of sectarian violence and changes in the political system. Sectarian tension and related conflicts represent a real threat for all Iraqi people. Also, Iraq has become an arena for regional disputes between the neighboring countries and world powers (The United States and Iran). Terrorism has made over the past years thousands of innocent victims in my country. Nevertheless, financial and administrative corruption is not a less dangerous issue.

R: How are people in your country working to improve it?
Ali: Regarding the terrorism, I would mention as successes?? the almost complete elimination of armed groups and foreign fighters in most tensed regions of country, as well as the neutralization of militias in the dangerous areas of southern Iraq. There is also a sincere endeavor to help displaced families return back into their home areas, although many of them had already succumbed to the realities imposed by these conflicts and decided to settle in new areas.?

R: So are "forced migrations" a reality? Do militias actually force people to leave their houses??

Mohammed : Yes, it is a fact. The conflict between religious parties (Sunni and Shiite) has become more acute in the last years. My wife's family is now displaced and living in Syria. They had their home and all their belongings confiscated by Sunni militias.

R: What international / national partnerships has your organization established? Are you interested in collaborating with European organizations?
Mohammed : We are working on two levels of cooperation, cooperation with the government through state agencies and ministries and cooperation with other local organizations(NGOs).Unfortunately, in my country European organizations are very weak and lack the long-term vision in cooperating with local organizations.
Ali: Cooperation with European organizations is an ambition of all of us, as I believe we have common denominators on our action-agenda to add to the diversity and breadth of their work in the world.

R:How is your organization ( ATHAR Center For Development) working to empower youth?

Mohammed : Our training workshops? curricula is prepared on the basis of experience and advice provided by qualified instructors and international organizations.

Ali: Through the organization's programs we are trying to provide young people specific management and leadership skills in order to enhance confidence in themselves and open their minds towards new horizons in the hope they will eventually become active players in the political and administrative life of Iraq.?

R:How would you describe Iraq youth? What do they hope, fear, dream of?. ..What matters most to them? Do they have fun? Is their daily life much different from that of European youth? ?

Mohammed : Today, Iraqi youth are affected by negative thinking, greatly influenced by? Islamic currents, and totally ineffective? in matters concerning public life. Generally, what young people want is more jobs and more freedom.

Some are afraid of Western culture?s domination; others fear more the expansion of fanatical religious movements. But they do not think much about future. So, yes, there is a big difference between European and Iraqi youth. I believe a European young person has a sense of internal security an Iraqi youth doesn?t have and perhaps also feels more balanced with oneself. I mean, a European youth trusts himself, his ambitions and dreams. In contrast, the young Iraqi lives and dies without ever giving voice to his dreams, those dreams that live deep inside him also die with him.?
Ali: The present youth category is an age group that has passed through the same conditions experienced by other youth groups five years ago. These hard times of social and political change as well as security threats negatively impacted everybody. Youth are living cycles of violence and religious extremism. Of course most young people would love to live a normal life in a stable and secure country and thus break the spiral of continuous violence and killings. But for the moment, everything seems static and youth have no future plans. Their main concern is finding employment.

Having fun is quite impossible for Iraqi youth today. There are almost no entertainment options; there are no casinos or casino cities or cinema, theatre or social clubs, sports, public parks.

So it?s hard to compare Iraqi youth and European youth, there are so many differences in political systems, environment, development, security , education matters?

R:Is education a problem in today?s Iraq?

Mohammed : The educational level is indeed very low, and young people have to face many difficulties if they want to continue studying. Girls are the most vulnerable group.?

R:Are women rights respected in Iraq??
Mohammed : All Iraqis are exposed to violence on a daily basis and women are, of course, the first victims .

We certainly can?t affirm that women are in any way equal to men and this is a known fact. Women have no rights in Iraq, they can?t live their lives freely. For example, because of religious codes, women are forced to wear the hijab and even young girls in schools are obliged to wear the Islamic dress. There are also cases of coercion in forcing women to marry.?
R:How is life in the Kurdish community of Iraq?

Mohammed : One can feel in the air a certain sense of freedom in citizen?s life, but there are number of reports indicating high rates of suicide of women in Kurdistan because of crimes of honor.

R:How is your country seen from the outside? Does the international community support and understand Iraq?

Ali: It seems like in the recent period the government opened up somewhat more towards cooperation with Arab and Western countries in order to emerge from isolation. I believe it is crucial for the international community to start understand Iraq and its need of development in order to offer a helping hand.

R:Could you give me one more Iraq daily-life image?

Mohammed : A Turkish soap opera television series called Nour has recently become very popular in Iraq. It's basically a love-story, focusing on two characters, Mohannad and his wife Noor, who are struggling to achieve happiness in a world divided by the tradition ?modernity conflict. Watching the series has become a social phenomenon, everyone here is following the evolution of the events in the soap-opera. But the Islamic extremists consider ?Noor? a threat to their religious and ethical values. So, in an attempt to protest against Western culture, religious extremists put pictures of the series heroes on streets and sidewalks so that they will be trampled by passers-by. Of course, most people avoid walking over the images. Also, some shop-owners who sell pictures of the serial heroes got beaten and received death threats from Islamic fanatics! Religious extremists will always dare go against the whole society's will.

Luciana Grosu, Romania
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