Category: Blog

Keir Starmer
BlogExecutive Committee

PM Keir Starmer cancels ‘stillborn’ Rwanda plan

PM Starmer, abandoned the plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. The scheme faced legal challenges and was deemed ineffective. Britain’s new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, announced on Saturday that he would cancel a plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda. This plan, originally introduced by the Conservative government in 2022, aimed to stop asylum seekers from arriving on small boats by sending them to the East African nation. However, the plan faced extensive legal challenges, preventing any asylum seekers from being sent to Rwanda.

In his first press conference as prime minister, Starmer explained that the Rwanda policy would be abandoned because it would have only affected about 1% of asylum seekers and failed to serve as an effective deterrent. He stated, “The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent. I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

The UK Supreme Court had declared the policy unlawful in November 2023, citing concerns that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country. This led to the UK government signing a new treaty with Rwanda and passing new legislation to override the court’s decision. However, the legality of these actions was being challenged by charities and unions in the courts.

The British government had already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in Rwanda to set up accommodation and hire additional officials to process asylum seekers, funds that cannot be recovered. On July 8, Rwanda responded to the UK’s intention to end the Migration and Economic Development Partnership Agreement, stating it was “a problem of the UK, not Rwanda.”

Sonya Sceats, CEO of Freedom from Torture, one of the many organizations and charities that have campaigned to stop the Rwanda plan, welcomed Starmer’s announcement on Saturday. “We applaud Keir Starmer for moving immediately to close the door on this shameful scheme that played politics with the lives of people fleeing torture and persecution,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Agnes Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, had called on the new Labour government to follow through on its campaign promise to scrap the Rwanda pact.

“Our asylum system must be made to focus on delivering as fairly and efficiently as possible the security and certainty to which every refugee is entitled, however they may arrive,” Callamard wrote in a social media post.

She added that this is “just as demanded by our international obligations, the rule of law, and basic respect for every human.”

BY BURAK BATUHAN KARAKUS

HC 0
BlogCommitteeImmigration CommitteeProjects

‘Humanity Cartoons’ exhibited in iconic London venues

Human Rights Solidarity (HRS) organised a remarkable and meaningful event on the occasion of ‘Refugee Week’ celebrated between 17-23 June. HRS volunteers exhibited the cartoons titled ‘Humanity Cartoons’ about the problems and rights violations of refugees at symbolic places in London, on 20 June.

The 15 works in the travelling exhibition were selected among 750 cartoons participating in the International Migration Cartoon Competition, which was organised for the third time this year. The cartoons dramatically criticise or make suggestions on issues such as ‘migration, asylum and refugees’, which have become one of the main agenda items of the world.

The first place where HRS volunteers exhibited the cartoons was the famous iconic square Piccadilly Circus. The works were then exhibited in Trafalgar Square, followed by near the Prime Minister’s Office (Number 10), Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge and in front of the London Eye.

HRS volunteers also carried banners emphasising the problems of refugees such as ‘Refugees welcome’, ‘They need a home, like us’, ‘Everyone deserves to live in safety’. A cartoon competition and leaflets with information about refugee rights were handed out to people who had been attentively viewing the exhibition.

The fact that the event took place at a time when the UK government is planning to send refugees to the African country of Rwanda was also seen as meaningful by visitors to the exhibition.

Apart from London, Humanity Cartoons was also exhibited in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull City and Lancaster. The exhibition held at St Maary’s Haritage Centre, one of the historical places of Newcastle, was open for 3 days. On 20 June, representatives from other organisations working on refugee issues attended the cocktail reception. Dr Neslihan Aksoy gave a speech on behalf of HRS, while Rebecca Bangura from Comfrey Project and Sara Muzaffer from Peace of Mind spoke.

The competition was held for the third time

The 3rd International Migration Cartoons Competition was organised by the UK registered charities HRS, Time to Help UK and Dialogue Society. This year, 388 artists from many countries of the world participated in the ‘Humanity Cartoons Competition’ with the theme ‘Our Home’ with a total of 750 works. After the preliminary selection by fine arts experts, 35 works were left to the selection of the main jury.

The jury consisting of cartoon artists Gustavo Fernando (Mexico), Ali Miraee (Iran) and Luc Descheemaeker (Belgium) selected the first 5 works. The artists who drew these cartoons were awarded a total of 3 thousand dollars. In addition to the first 5 works, 35 cartoons that passed the preliminary selection are planned to be exhibited in different countries and cities throughout the year after the Refugee Week.

The works reveal the difficult journey of asylum seekers who have to leave their countries due to war, persecution or political oppression, their search for a safe place and shelter, the troubles they experience and the rights violations they are exposed to in an artistic language.

The top 5 artists and their countries are as follows:

1. Mohammad Raei – Iran
2. Alireza Pakdel – Iran
3. Cenk Alparslan – Turkey
4. Rucke Souza – Brazil
5. Didie Sri Widiyanto – Indonesia

‘Kimse Yok Mu’ organised the first competition

The competition was first organised in 2016 by the Turkey-based humanitarian aid organisation ‘Kimse Yok Mu’. However, following the coup attempt on 15 July that year, ‘Kimse Yok Mu’, like hundreds of other organisations, was unlawfully shut down by a Decree Law (KHK).

That year, the winning works were not even allowed to be exhibited in Turkey. The selected works could only be exhibited in Athens, Greece, in April 2016. Subsequently, the organisation’s director and many of its staff became refugees. HRS and Time to Help UK decided to continue the competition 7 years later and organised the second edition in 2023 and the third edition this year.

Humanity Cartoons Addresses:
Website: www.humanitycartoons.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/humanitycartoon
Twitter: www.twitter.com/humanitycartoon

Sexual harassment
BlogCommitteeWomen’s Rights

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

 

On International Day, June 19th, we aim for a world without sexual violence in conflict, ensuring everyone’s dignity and safety. “Wartime sexual violence is one of history’s greatest silences and one of today’s most extreme atrocities…It is perhaps more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.” [1]

Throughout history, rape has been used in conflicts as a tool of psychological warfare to punish, intimidate, and devastate entire communities. According to Inge Skjelsbæk, a professor at PRIO, the conversation has evolved from viewing rape as something that “inevitably happens in war because men are men,” to acknowledging that “rape is a clear war strategy and a war crime that threatens international peace and security.”[2]

Sexual Violence was condemned as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding in 2008 by the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, rape continues to be widespread and prevalent in armed conflicts, situations of violence, and detention settings. It manifests in diverse contexts and results in severe humanitarian consequences. [3]

The data available reveal alarming rates of rape during and after conflicts: during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped; over 60,000 were raped in the Sierra Leone civil war; between 20,000 and 50,000 in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996. Although these figures are shocking, they likely represent serious underestimates, as the majority of victims do not report these crimes to authorities. [1]

Sexual violence amidst armed conflict manifests through various motives and scenarios. It may be wielded as a tool of warfare strategy, as a tacitly condoned practice, or opportunistically driven by personal motivations. [3]

Kirthi Jayakumar, a legal researcher and lawyer, in her blog, delves into the psychological reasons behind sexual violence in conflict. “Rape and sexual violence at the micro level can be a product of lustful intentions, mental disorders or depravity, as criminology offers. However, at the macro level – where the cases are not individual instances, but a collective of several individual instances that happen at dizzying speed, it is about dominance.”[4]

In an article Guardian published, a Conglese soldier admits to raping 53 women and five and six year old children only because they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted during war.[5]

While women are disproportionately affected, men and LGBTIQ+ individuals can also be victims of sexual violence during war. They may face sexual violence from armed personnel, humanitarian workers or peacekeepers, or be trafficked for sexual exploitation.[3]

When a woman endures any form of sexual violence, the repercussions extend beyond physical and psychological harm; she also bears the weight of stigma. This burden, compounded by the trauma of humiliation, often leads families to ostracize these women, forcing them out of their homes.[4]

The repercussions of sexual violence on physical, mental, and emotional well-being can overshadow every facet of a survivor’s life. Even seemingly mundane tasks, such as getting out of bed, taking a shower, or stepping outside, can become daunting.[6]

Every individual deserves to live free from violence that strips them of their dignity and safety. As we observe the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on the 19th of June, let us reflect on this profound issue and aspire for a world where no one is ever forced to endure such degradation to their very essence.

BY CEYDA BETUL KEMANCI 

 

Sources: 

[1] EVAWkit_06_Factsheet_ConflictAndPostConflict_en.pdf (unwomen.org)

[2] Sexual Violence As A Weapon Of War – The Organization for World Peace (theowp.org)

[3] Five things to know about sexual violence in conflict zones (icrc.org)

[4] Why is sexual violence so common in war? — Peace Insight

[5[ Congo: We did whatever we wanted, says soldier who raped 53 women | Democratic Republic of the Congo | The Guardian

[6] Impacts of sexual violence and abuse | Rape Crisis England & Wales

children
Articles & StatementsBlogHuman Rights Defenders

4 June 2024: Remembering innocent children victims of international aggression

 

War zones expose children to daily dangers, denying them safety, education, food, and basic rights, necessitating urgent global humanitarian action. This year on International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression we remember the children of Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar, Turkiye, Syria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Nigeria.

Children residing in war zones around the world witness unimaginable horrors on a daily basis. It is unsafe for them to play outside, sleep at home, attend school, or go to hospitals for medical attention.

Children around the globe endure unspeakable horrors even adults find unbearable and they are innocently caught in the midst of warring parties. They are being subjected to sexual violence, and abduction and are being forced to join armed groups, all while being deprived of essential humanitarian aid.

UN Reports, in Gaza the number of children killed is higher than from four years of world conflict. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said “This war is a war on children. It is a war on their childhood and their future” [1]. More than 14,000 children have been reportedly killed and thousands have been injured. If not injured or killed children are deprived of essential needs, displaced and don’t have access to water, food and medicine. UNICEF had initially reported that “Rafah is now a city of children, who have nowhere safe to go in Gaza”. On the 26th of May 2024, the tents and shelters in Rafah have now been bombed which leaves no safe place for the children of Gaza. UNICEF reports that even wars have rules and no child should be cut off from essential services in accordance with international humanitarian law [2] reflecting that this is not a war but a genocide[3].

There is a silent war and famine going on in Sudan affecting innocent children. Human Rights Watch reports a gruesome incident where RSF Forces first shot the parents in front of their children and then piled up the children and shot them. They later threw their bodies into the river and their belongings after them[4].

To mark a year of brutality against Sudanese children, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) issued a media statement highlighting the violations resulting in 24 million children in Sudan being at risk of generational catastrophe. Among these children, 14 million are in dire need of humanitarian support, 19 million are out of school, and 4 million are displaced, according to UNICEF, making Sudan now the largest child displacement crisis in the world[5].

Since the military coup in 2021, the armed conflict, and the suffering and cruelty continue in Myanmar. Innocent children who are too young to comprehend the chaos around them, are caught in the midst of the conflict, malnourished and deprived of essential needs. UNICEF reports that 6,000,000 children are in need of humanitarian assistance [6].

A year after the deadliest earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, children are still feeling the effects of the tragedy. Almost 7.5 million children in Syria still require humanitarian aid. 3.2 million children in Turkiye still need essential services as families are homeless and without access to essential services, including safe water, education, and medical care [7].

The human rights violations continue in Turkiye not only affecting innocent adults but affecting innocent children. Thousands of children are growing up in prison with their parents who are only detained due to Erdogan’s dictator regime in Turkiye. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is dismantling human rights protections and democratic norms in Turkiye on a scale unprecedented in the 18 years he has been in office, said Human Rights Watch [8]. Recently, several girls under 18 were detained and subjected to psychological torture due to non-implementation of the Constitutional Court and ECHR rulings.

Ethiopia is facing multiple crises due to climate crises (flood and drought), armed conflicts, diseases and economic shocks. Floods have affected the education sector in the Somali region with the disruption of the schooling of over 66,000 children (32.3 percent girls) and damage/destruction to school infrastructure (56 out of 146 flood-affected schools). The scale of damage to the schools and the reported sheltering of IDPs on school grounds will prevent thousands of children from returning to school [9].

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the decades-long armed conflict continued to cause grave violations against civilians and children. The M23 committed more unlawful killings, rapes, other apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity in areas under their control [10]. Save the Children has reported that 78,000 children have been forced to flee their homes due to the escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)[11]. As armed conflict is a daily reality for the children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, these children are facing poverty, sexual violence, being abducted, deprived of food and water and even being trained as child soldiers [12]. UNICEF’s Director of Child Protection said “I met children who survived the horrors of recruitment and use by armed groups and the unspeakable trauma of sexual violence – atrocities that no one should experience, let alone children” [13].

On 8 May 2024, Save the Children reported that children in Haiti are being forced into armed gangs due to extreme hunger. According to the UN, between 30% to 50% of armed groups in Haiti currently have children within their ranks. Save the Children’s Food and Livelihood Advisor in Haiti said “The hunger situation is so desperate our staff are hearing stories of children joining deadly gangs just so they can get food to eat” [14].

OCHA reports that in Nigeria children are at risk of forced recruitment into armed groups when unaccompanied and separated from families, especially children of those considered to be formerly associated or affiliated with armed groups. Protection concerns continue more so for women and girls, who run a higher risk of being subject to violence, abduction, rape, gender-based violence, forced and child marriage, and other violations of their rights. Children in Nigeria face malnutrition on an incomprehensible scale, 1.53 million children under five years old are expected to face acute malnutrition and about 511,800 children are expected to face severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. [15]

On this international day of innocent children victims of aggression we remember all the innocent children who, instead of crying over lost toys, are crying due to fear, destruction, and violence. These children, born into a cruel world, deserve a childhood filled with love and safety, not suffering.

BY CEYDA KEMANCI

 

Sources:

[1] Gaza: Number of children killed higher than from four years of world conflict | UN News

 

[2] Children in Gaza need life-saving support | UNICEF

 

[3] Rights expert finds ‘reasonable grounds’ genocide is being committed in Gaza | UN News

 

[4] Children ‘piled up and shot’: new details emerge of ethnic cleansing in Darfur | Global development | The Guardian

 

[5] Sudan conflict: 24 million children exposed to a year of brutality and rights violations, UN committee says | OHCHR

 

[6] Myanmar-Humanitarian-SitRep-April-2024.pdf (unicef.org)

 

[7] One year after devastating earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria, consequences continue to reverberate for affected children and families (unicef.org)

 

[8] Turkey: Erdoğan’s Onslaught on Rights and Democracy | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

 

[9] Ethiopia – Situation Report, 10 Jan 2024 | OCHA (unocha.org)

 

[10] World Report 2024: Democratic Republic of Congo | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

 

[11] DRC: AT LEAST 78,000 CHILDREN DISPLACED AND FAMILIES RIPPED APART AS FIGHTING ESCALATES | Save the Children International

 

[12] Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Humanium

 

[13] DR Congo: Children killed, injured, abducted, and face sexual violence in conflict at record levels for third consecutive year – UNICEF

 

[14] Extreme hunger in Haiti forcing children into armed gangs – Save the Children – Haiti | ReliefWeb

 

[15] “Nigeria Humanitarian Needs Overview 2024 | OCHA (unocha.org)

move and muse 1
BlogProjects

Walking Through History in Central London: Inspiring Youth Migrants in British Culture

 

Central London’s historic walks, initiated by Human Rights Solidarity (HRS), enjoy overwhelming demand and positive feedback for their educational tours. Did you hear about our recent Walking Through History in Central London project? If not, let me give you a summary of what happened for the past three months. This project was established by Human Rights Solidarity and funded by the Transport for London & London Marathon Foundation. It creates a safe opportunity to be more active and participate in interactive learning sessions about Britain’s history at the same time. Would you believe me if I said the tickets for our next session sold out in one day? There is a very high demand for this project, and we are thrilled to see such enthusiasm and support from the community! Since the start of our project, the feedback we received has been incredibly positive with many participants expressing their enjoyment for the guided walks through historic parts of Central London. Let’s break down where we have been and what we learned through our wonderful tour guide. 

Our first spot was London’s Times Square: The Piccadilly Circus. In this buzzing environment, filled with tourists from all around the world, we learned the brief history of how Britain was built. Did you know the word “Britain” comes from the ancient Romans’ name for the ancient Britons? As we walked through Leicester Square, we didn’t forget to visit the famous Chinatown and take a picture with their guardian lions. Finally, we finished at London’s most significant market, Covent Garden. 

Our second tour started at Tower Hill to learn more about the Roman Wall of Londinium. We explored the ancient defence systems built in London as well as visited the places Samuel Pepys talked about in his diaries. Wandering through the streets of Central London, we learned the nicknames of famous skyscrapers and took a bunch of pictures. After also passing through the Leadenhall Market, where one of the iconic scenes in Harry Potter was filmed, we ended our tour at the Bank Square. 

The most recent session we had was in the British Museum, a place where the history of all countries is gathered in one place. Starting with the famous Rosetta Stone, our tour guide explained how it led to a new era of understanding ancient civilizations. We explored various artefacts gathered from Anatolia and Ancient Greece as well as diving briefly into Greek mythology with stories about Heracles. We ended our tour on the Egyptian floor where we had the chance to see a 5500-year-old mummy.

If this sounds interesting to you, stay tuned for updates on upcoming sessions and opportunities to join us as we walk through history together. Do not forget to book your tickets on our Eventbrite website as we release them on the second Saturday of every month!

phone-1
BlogYAct Committee

The Struggle is Real – Overcoming Digital Dopamine Addiction

 

Overcoming digital dopamine addiction requires mindfulness, healthier habits, and internal change for Gen Z’s balanced well-being in the digital age. Gen Z is the most connected generation in history. Smartphones and devices enable constant browsing and scrolling, leading to repeated dopamine hits with each new notification. Is digital dopamine addiction actually harmful? Study conducted by the University of Cambridge shows that almost half of British teenagers feel as if they are addicted to social media. So, how can we combat this growing concern? 

What is Digital Dopamine Addiction?

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brains that controls the pleasure and reward centres. When we get likes and messages, reach a new level in a game, or find something new online, our brains release dopamine, which makes us feel good. Over time, we can become addicted to seeking dopamine hits from our digital devices, constantly checking for new content and stimulation. 

Moreover, excessive digital media consumption has been associated with decreased attention span, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and strained relationships with family and friends. This is primarily due to the  fear of missing out and constant distraction and stimulation, which can overload our brains. A study published by the Lancet shows that for girls across the range of daily social media use, from  5 or more hours, a strong depressive symptoms score is seen; for boys, higher depressive symptom scores were seen among those 3 or more hours daily use.

What can be done about it? 

Many of us need to recognise that there is a shared responsibility. Addressing this growing issue requires a comprehensive approach involving families, schools, technology companies, and, most importantly, young people. Families can set boundaries, such as no device usage during mealtimes or after a particular hour at night. They can also engage in device-free activities and spend quality time together. 96% of parents set limits on their child’s digital habits.

When it comes to schools, the government and school governors have considered implementing smartphone bans during the day. While this may prevent distractions, it’s crucial to address the root issues. Educating students on healthy device usage and digital wellness is not just a suggestion, but a key to their success in the digital age.

Students also need to be self-aware about their digital habits. They can use app limits and website blockers, turn off notifications, and schedule device breaks. They can also replace endless scrolling with other enjoyable activities. 

What do my friends think?

I surveyed 20 friends aged 16-22, and 75% acknowledged some degree of digital addiction tendencies. A few have deleted distracting apps but admitted it’s an ongoing struggle, apps like TikTok Snapchat and Instagram. 80% agree that schools should provide more education on this issue.

Lastly, ultimately, overcoming digital dopamine addiction is about being mindful and developing healthier habits. External limits can provide a necessary structure, but true change comes from within. By recognising the shared responsibility and taking proactive steps, we can help Gen Z navigate the digital age with balance and well-being. The struggle is real, but with concerted effort, it is one we can overcome. Don’t let devices rule your dopamine-take back control of your time and attention. 

BY AZRA OZCAN 

Sources:

 

waste
BlogEnvironmental Rights

Europe’s Waste Export Dilemma: Environmental Burdens and Global Implications

 

The surge in waste export from Europe to Turkey, poses serious environmental and ethical dilemmas, necessitating robust international environmental policies. The issue of waste exportation, mainly from European nations to countries like Turkey, presents a pressing environmental and ethical challenge. With China’s decision in 2018 to ban the import of plastic waste, Turkey has become a significant destination for European waste. This shift underscores the global dynamics of waste management as nations grapple with waste surpluses and the complexities of international waste disposal practices.

Historically, China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials until its ban, which redirected much of Europe’s waste to other countries, including Turkey and Malaysia. This policy change addressed domestic pollution issues and encouraged China’s waste recycling industries. The ban has had ripple effects across the globe, compelling other nations to rethink their waste management strategies and develop more sustainable practices[1].

In recent years, incidents such as the illegal export of 220 tonnes of waste from the UK to Turkey, which included banned materials like soiled nappies, have highlighted systemic issues in waste management and compliance with international laws[2]. This particular case from 2019 resulted in fines and mandated improvements in waste sorting at UK facilities. However, these actions underscore a broader problem of inadequate oversight and enforcement of waste export regulations. A 2020 Greenpeace report revealed that much of the UK’s plastic waste exported to Turkey was either dumped or burned illegally, posing severe health hazards and environmental pollution [2]. The UK exported significant plastic waste to Turkey in 2023, demonstrating the ongoing dependency on foreign waste management facilities [3].

According to a report in Envirotech Magazine, there has been a significant increase in the amount of UK plastic waste exported for recycling, with over 600,000 tonnes shipped in 2023 alone. More than 25% of this waste was sent to Turkey, highlighting a growing reliance on foreign nations, including non-OECD countries, to manage the UK’s plastic waste. The export of waste has surged by over 500% in the last three years, raising concerns about the environmental impact and the effectiveness of recycling systems in recipient countries [3].

The EU has taken steps to address these challenges through revised waste export rules under the European Green Deal, demonstrating a commitment to reduce waste generation and prevent the shipment of plastic waste to non-OECD countries. Despite these regulations, Turkey, as an OECD country, remains a significant destination for EU waste. This situation presents an opportunity for significant change, raising concerns regarding Turkey’s recycling capacities and the environmental health impacts on its local communities.

Reports from various organisations have illuminated the dire consequences of the current practices. In Turkey, poorly managed waste sites, where much of Europe’s plastic waste ends up, have become environmental hazards. These sites often lack proper controls, leading to widespread pollution and severe health risks for local populations. Activists have used the term “waste colonialism” to describe this dynamic, where developed nations exploit less wealthy countries as dumping grounds for their waste [4]

The magnitude of waste exports to Turkey is significant: in 2021, Turkey imported 14.7 million tonnes of solid waste from EU countries, a threefold increase since 2004, with plastics making up a considerable portion[5]. This statistic highlights Turkey’s role as Europe’s primary waste hub and underscores the urgent need for improved waste management and regulatory practices within Turkey to handle such volumes effectively [6] [7].

This situation necessitates a critical re-evaluation of international waste management policies. Countries involved in waste exports must enforce stricter regulations and improve transparency. Additionally, enhancing recycling technologies and capacities within exporting countries can reduce the need to ship waste abroad, thus mitigating environmental and ethical issues.

The environmental repercussions of waste export are profound, disrupting ecosystems and contravening ethical waste management principles. Strengthening international cooperation and establishing stringent environmental safeguards are essential to ensuring sustainability and justice in waste management.

BY ZEYNEP VEISOGLU

Sources:

[1]          https://politeknik.org.tr/turkiye-nasil-avrupanin-cop-merkezi-oldu/

[2]          https://certified-sustainable.co.uk/why-is-the-uks-plastic-waste-being-dumped-in-turkey/

[3]          https://envirotecmagazine.com/2024/01/24/growth-in-plastic-packaging-recycling-being-shipped-abroad-including-non-oecd-countries/

[4]          https://www.gov.uk/government/news/soiled-nappies-among-banned-waste-exported-to-turkey

[5]          https://tr.euronews.com/2022/05/25/ab-ulkelerinin-turkiye-ye-gonderdigi-cop-uc-kat-artarak-14-7-milyon-tona-ulast

[6]          https://www.politico.eu/article/the-turkey-shaped-hole-in-the-eus-new-waste-export-regime/

[7]          https://www.equaltimes.org/turkey-europe-s-rubbish-dump

 

protest
Articles & StatementsBlog

Investing in Youth: Why Civic Engagement Matters?

The decline in youth participation in politics points to a potential crisis for democracy. But can this crisis be avoided? Over the past two decades, attention has been focused on what many think is a crisis in youth civic and political engagement. This concern has been prompted by research evidence suggesting that younger voters participate less in national elections than older citizens. Additionally, there is the danger of declining voting rates among the young in one or another country over the years. Such developments are often taken as an early warning that the future health of democracy could be at risk. The concern is based on the proposition that political habits formed in youth condition lifelong patterns of political involvement; consequently, today’s disengaged youth would become tomorrow’s disengaged adults. Political and civic engagement manifest in varied forms other than electoral participation. Traditional modes of engagement include voting, working for political parties during elections, and urging others to vote.

On the other hand, there are non-traditional, dynamic modes of civic engagement: participating in demonstrations, protests, and marches; signing petitions, and contributing to political discussions using blogs and social media. In addition, civic actions such as community service, problem-solving programs, and fundraising for social causes provide another avenue of participation, which, though not political, is critical for community wellness and engagement. Diverse avenues provide young people various ways of contributing civically and politically as part of a broad spectrum of participation beyond the ballot box.

On the other hand, young people across various political systems often need more opportunities to actively engage and make an impact within the established political order. Not to mention possessing economic capital, a significant portion of young people worry about getting a job, while another significant portion is concerned about keeping their job. While grappling with these concerns, it isn’t easy to exist or turn towards mainstream politics. Even if they try to enter politics, the institutions and individuals dominant in mainstream politics need to “grant” young people space there so that they can exist in politics. We cannot enter mainstream politics and feel crushed under our country’s economic and political problems that affect our lives. Change is a mandatory way out for everyone, and I want to be one of the subjects of this change. This is where new methods and pathways begin to develop. These methods may emerge as reflections of difficulties, not requiring very robust and detailed planning. Through various youth formations and initiatives, young people practice organizing, advocacy, and demanding. These are individually very valuable internally, but at some point, we need to come together to be able to exert pressure. Coming together does not necessarily mean agreeing on everything. Just uniting on certain basic rights and freedoms is enough to create pressure. Building unity based on common basic desires is possible, and more than possible, it is necessary. The political value of youth as a voting potential has been “discovered.” Still, the real question is whether we should use this potential just for a slightly better status quo or ensure that changes break the power monopoly established political groups hold. What needs to happen is to fight for the necessary adjustments in the representation mechanism when change occurs. This will be a valuable gain for young people and all groups experiencing representation issues. We need to work to use the various practices we experience today to create pressure and force the system to change.

Also, the role of education in shaping young people’s civic engagement must be balanced. Schools that foster an environment where students can freely discuss ethical, social, civic, and political issues help cultivate a generation that is not only well-informed but also deeply engaged. Encouraging discussions around controversial topics and supporting students to express and listen to diverse opinions enriches their political interest, trust, and knowledge. Such educational practices increase the likelihood that students will participate in future elections.

Implementing democratic principles in schools, such as through student councils and representation in decision-making bodies, reinforces these lessons practically. This hands-on approach to democracy at a young age can significantly bolster student engagement.

Adopting a competence-based curriculum that emphasizes essential civic and political engagement skills is crucial in preparing students to be effective change-makers in society. Schools should concentrate on cultivating a deep understanding of politics, coupled with analytical and critical thinking skills, civic responsibility, and effective communication. These competencies are foundational for nurturing students into informed and autonomous participants in democracy.

Integrating innovative teaching methods such as cooperative learning, project-based learning, and service-learning can significantly enhance the acquisition of these vital competencies. These pedagogical strategies engage students actively and foster a practical understanding and application of their knowledge and skills in real-world settings. By embedding these competencies within the curriculum, educational institutions can empower students to actively engage in and positively impact their communities and the broader political landscape.

These competencies are crucial for local or national issues and equally vital for addressing global challenges like climate change, pollution, poverty, and human rights. In today’s interconnected world, fostering global-mindedness or a concern for humanity and the planet is essential. This global perspective is increasingly evident in young people’s civic actions, demonstrating their commitment to local communities and global well-being.

Contemporary research shows that young people with high levels of global-mindedness are more engaged in cultural exchanges, appreciate diversity, support global human rights, and participate in environmental conservation. Educational institutions are crucial in nurturing these traits by integrating global issues into their curricula, which helps students understand global challenges and the interdependence of communities.

In addition to traditional foreign language classes, schools should offer intercultural learning opportunities through student exchange programs, international video conferences, and collaborative online international learning projects. These experiences help students understand and respect cultural differences.

Schools must also encourage students to apply their global competencies in real-world contexts, such as service learning projects, internships with international organizations, or community projects with a global dimension. This helps students turn their academic knowledge into action and reinforces their roles as active global citizens.

In conclusion, the dynamic landscape of youth engagement presents many reasons for optimism. By effectively utilizing national education systems, we can bolster young people’s preparedness for active involvement in their local communities and on the global stage. This strategic enhancement of educational frameworks can nurture well-rounded global citizens ready to contribute positively to society.

BY BURAK BATUHAN KARAKUS

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Articles & StatementsBlogHuman Rights Defenders

Reflecting on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

 

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established by the United Nations in 1966 to combat racial.. discrimination worldwide. It commemorates the tragic events of March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville, South Africa, where police killed 69 peaceful protesters during a demonstration against the apartheid pass laws, which enforced severe racial segregation and discrimination. This day serves as a reminder of the continuous struggle against racism. It promotes activities and actions to raise awareness and find solutions for those most affected by racial discrimination. Despite the abolition of apartheid in 1991 and similar racist legislation in other countries, the fight against racial prejudice is far from over.

Racial discrimination remains a prevalent issue, as evidenced by statistics from the UK, where racially motivated hate crimes are the most reported, with racially aggravated offenses increasing by 19% to 109,843 incidents in 2021/22. This stark reality underscores the vital importance of this day in advocating for and raising awareness about the ongoing efforts needed to educate future generations and eradicate racism. The belief that some people are inherently superior or inferior due to skin color is a harmful notion that we must actively work against to ensure everyone has the freedom and dignity they deserve.

After establishing the definitional framework of hate crimes and the specific strands monitored in England and Wales, it becomes imperative to delve deeper into these incidents’ nuanced statistical tapestry and real-world ramifications. The following section provides a comprehensive dissection of hate crime data, casting light on the demographic profiles of victims, the typologies of hate crimes most frequently documented, and the profound emotional and psychological repercussions these transgressions inflict upon individuals.

This transition from a generalized overview to a granular analysis offers a more lucid comprehension of the prevailing terrain of hate crimes in the United Kingdom. It illuminates the diversity of victims and occurrences and the formidable obstacles encountered in confronting and mitigating these profoundly impactful crimes.

Within this crucible of analysis, we witness the complexities of addressing hate crimes. These complexities extend beyond legislative frameworks and encompass the arduous task of catalysing attitudinal shifts and fostering community empathy.

The definition of hate crime in England & Wales was agreed in 2007 by the Police Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service, and other agencies.

Hate crime in England and Wales is defined as ‘any criminal offense which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic:

There are five centrally monitored strands of hate crime:

  • race or ethnicity.
  • religion or beliefs.
  • sexual orientation.
  • disability
  • transgender identity.

The recent ‘Hate Crime Summary’ report sheds light on the concerning prevalence of hate crimes in the UK, with racial bias being the primary motivating factor, accounting for 45% of reported incidents. Disability-related hate crimes followed closely, comprising 15% of the total cases, underscoring the multifaceted nature of this issue. Notably, the report documents a staggering 1,426% increase in gender identity-motivated incidents, soaring from 18 to 276 cases. Furthermore, there has been a significant 462% increase in reports related to sexual orientation, highlighting the evolving landscape of hate crimes in the country.

The interaction with authorities reflects the urgency and the spectrum of needs among the victims; 60% of the contacts were to report incidents or update ongoing cases. In parallel, 23% sought listening support, advice, or referrals, indicating the critical role of supportive services in the aftermath of hate crimes.

According to the report, racial motivations persist as the predominant driver of hate crimes, with incidents related to disability following as a significant concern. The pronounced rise in gender-motivated incidents by 322% signals an urgent call for attention to this growing issue.

Analysing the types of hate crimes reported reveals verbal abuse at the forefront with 287 incidents, closely followed by threatening behavior in 238 incidents. Harassment, offensive language, and anti-social behavior were also significantly reported, with 209, 132, and 98 cases, respectively. These statistics not only depict the severity of hate crimes in the UK but also emphasize the need for robust response mechanisms to support the victims and address the root causes.

In efforts to gather comprehensive data on instances of hate incidents, the report strives to include a wide range of demographic details such as age, gender, and ethnicity of those affected. This information aids in the nuanced understanding and addressing of hate incidents. However, sometimes, individuals may be hesitant to disclose such personal information, or when a report is made on someone else’s behalf, the informant may lack access to these details. Additionally, there are circumstances where it becomes impractical or insensitive to pursue these questions further, such as when a person is too distressed to communicate effectively or the conversation ends prematurely.

Among individuals who reported experiencing a hate incident and were willing to share personal information, 2% identified as transgender, with the majority identifying as female (61%) and male (36%). Our team endeavors to gather as much demographic information (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) about those affected by hate incidents. However, there are instances where individuals may choose not to disclose such information, or the information might be unavailable if the report is made on someone else’s behalf. In situations where it is either impossible or appropriate to inquire for more details (e.g., the person is too upset or the conversation ends abruptly), no data can be recorded.

Regarding disability, 54% of individuals who disclosed information reported being neurodiverse, with autism accounting for 17% of this group. There was a significant increase in individuals reporting physical/mobility disabilities, rising by 176% (from 13 to 40 individuals).

Concerning ethnicity, 28% of the individuals who disclosed their background described themselves as coming from a white background, with 17% specifying White British. Additionally, 27% identified as having a Black background, 32% as Asian, and 5% as Mixed. Notably, there was a significant rise in reports from individuals identifying with an “Other Black Background,” increasing from 7% to 18%.

Age-wise, the bulk of individuals reporting hate incidents and willing to share their age fell within the 25 to 64 age range (74%), with those between 35 to 54 years old being the most likely to report such incidents (39%).

From a religious perspective, 38% of those disclosing information identified as Christian, and 17% as Muslim. Specifically, for faith or religious hate incidents, a majority identified with Islam (71%) or Christianity (9%).

Concerning living situations, over 75% of those experiencing a hate incident and willing to disclose this information were in some form of rented accommodation, with 36% in local authority housing, 20% in housing association properties, and 17% renting from a private landlord.

In the 2022/23 period, law enforcement agencies documented 145,214 incidents where hate crimes, as identified by central monitoring criteria, were considered a motivating factor. This marks a 5% reduction compared to the statistics from 2021/22. The historical rise in the documentation of hate crimes has been partially linked to improvements in recording practices and an enhanced awareness regarding the importance of reporting such offenses.

Since April 2015, notable increases in hate crimes, particularly those of a racial or religious nature, have been observed during significant events such as the EU referendum, the terrorist attacks in 2017, and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Although similar upsurges were seen in the summers before and after these events, the patterns of increase were consistent across both categories of offenses. When looking at data by Police Force Area for 2022/23, the highest incidence rate of hate crimes, considering all types of offenses recorded by the police, was in the West Yorkshire Police Force area, with 441 incidents per 100,000 people. Conversely, Dorset reported the lowest rate, with 103 incidents per 100,000 population.

Individuals who fall victim to hate crimes are significantly more likely to endure emotional and psychological distress than those affected by crimes in general. Specifically, 42% of hate crime victims reported feelings of vulnerability or a loss of confidence, a stark contrast to the 19% among general crime victims. Additionally, nearly 29% of those targeted by hate crimes struggled with sleep disturbances, compared to 13% for all crime victims. Anxiety or panic attacks were reported by 34% of hate crime victims, a figure that more than doubles the 14% reported by victims of other crimes. Moreover, 18% of those subjected to hate crimes faced depression afterward, doubling the rate of 9% seen in victims of all types of crime.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we reflect on the progress and challenges in our fight against racism. While societies have become more aware and legal frameworks have been established, individuals, communities, and groups continue to suffer from injustices and stigma perpetuated by racist ideologies and practices.

The data on hate crimes in England and Wales serve as a reminder that racism is still deeply entrenched, manifesting in violence, harassment, and marginalization. This day is a call to redouble our efforts, challenge and dismantle prejudices that fuel hate, and amplify the voices of the oppressed and marginalized.

Everyone’s encounter with racism is unique, shaped by their circumstances and intersecting identities.

On this day, we must reaffirm our commitment to creating a welcoming and diverse society where individuals of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds can live together harmoniously, free from fear of abuse or harm.

By BURAK BATUHAN KARAKUS

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BlogCommitteeHuman Rights Defenders

Why is Lawyers in Danger Day dedicated to Iran this year?

Following the protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, lawyers in Iran have faced unjust arrests and harsh sentences. On January 24th, we observe the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, a day dedicated to bringing attention to the risks lawyers face worldwide—persecution, intimidation, and violence—simply for doing their jobs. This date remembers the tragic events of January 24, 1977, when four Spanish lawyers and their colleagues were brutally murdered in what is known as the Massacre of Atocha, a moment that deeply moved Symone Gaasbeek-Wielinga and Hans Gaasbeek. Shocked by such violence, these two Dutch lawyers embarked on a monumental journey in the Philippines in 1990, uncovering the grave dangers faced by lawyers involved in politically charged cases.

Driven by a commitment to protect their peers, Symone and Hans played pivotal roles in establishing the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer in 2009. They also founded the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation, aiming to cast a spotlight on this urgent issue and urging governments worldwide to cease the persecution of legal practitioners.

This year, our focus turns to Iran, a country where lawyers, following the protests triggered by Mahsa Amini’s death, face unjust arrest and severe punishment. Figures like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Hossein Aghasi symbolise the courage of those detained for defending the right to protest.

On this day, we stand in solidarity with endangered lawyers in Iran and around the world who are being persecuted simply for carrying out their professional duties and upholding human rights and the rule of law. We call on the international community to demand the release of lawyers imprisoned for doing their jobs. Our colleagues deserve to be able to practice without fear or intimidation.

International law clearly recognises lawyers’ essential role in upholding justice and human rights in any society. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers specify certain protections and rights that lawyers globally should be afforded to allow them to perform their roles without being subject to interference or intimidation. These principles assert that lawyers should not be identified with their clients’ causes or held responsible for them. It is incumbent upon governments to ensure that lawyers can execute their professional responsibilities freely, devoid of harassment or undue interference. In instances where lawyers face threats to their safety, the authorities are obliged to provide necessary protections.

Furthermore, these principles forbid any discrimination in the licensing of lawyers based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. Ensuring access to legal representation for all individuals is a mandate. Independent bar associations, which shield lawyers from persecution and excessive limitations, must be allowed to operate without external interference.

Determining the exact count of lawyers incarcerated in Iran is difficult due to the lack of transparency. Nonetheless, it is understood that a significant number have been targeted, especially in the aftermath of the 2022 protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death. According to information from the United Nations dated June 2023, between September 16, 2022, and January 10, 2023, at least 44 lawyers were arrested for participating in the protests. While 27 of these legal professionals were freed, the remainder remain in detention.

The Iranian government should take the following steps to ensure lawyers can perform their professional duties without interference or intimidation:

Release lawyers imprisoned for convictions related to their work. Stop prosecutions and other sanctions against lawyers for actions taken ethically in their professional capacity.

Ensure lawyers are not identified with their clients’ causes. Do not charge lawyers for representing clients, regardless of the charges against those clients.

Allow lawyers to form independent professional associations without government interference.

Ensure disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are overseen independently by the legal profession, not the government.

Do not discriminate against people entering or practising law based on race, gender, religion, etc.

Protect the safety of lawyers who face threats due to their work.

Allow lawyers freedom of expression, belief, assembly, and association like all citizens.

Ensure everyone has access to legal services and lawyers of their choice, regardless of social or economic status. Fund legal aid sufficiently.

Inform accused persons immediately of charges against them and allow prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. Recognise lawyer-client confidentiality.

Allow lawyers access to information necessary to defend their clients.

Accept an independent international inquiry into the death of Mahsa Amini and other protest victims, given the questionable motivations behind prosecutions of lawyers and the need for justice.

In closing, We have included a detailed report compiled by the International Coalition for Endangered Lawyers and Iranian Attorneys, which sheds further light on the grave dangers faced by lawyers in Iran who are persecuted for fulfilling their professional responsibilities. I implore legal professionals, bar councils, human rights groups, and other associations globally to access and review this illuminating report. Please aid in spreading awareness regarding the struggles of endangered Iranian lawyers by circulating this report through social media and your networks.

BY BATUHAN KARAKUS