Pakistan must end Aasia Bibi’s ordeal

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Aasia Bibi, a mother of five accused of blasphemy, will have her last chance of a court appeal hearing on the 22nd July 2015. The poor Christian mother was implicated in Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws after she had an argument with her Muslim co-workers in June, 2009. 

Global Minorities Alliance (GMA), a Glasgow based organisation which fights for persecuted minorities, is calling on Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to ensure a safe passage and rule of law to the poor mother. She has been on the verge of death due to medical conditions.

Imprisoned mother and wife Aasia Bibi has been languishing in prison since 2009 in solitary confinement which has had a considerable effect on her health.  She is reported to have internal bleeding and is ‘spewing blood’ due to poor health conditions.  In Pakistan, those accused of blasphemy are often poisoned, beaten and sometimes killed by fellow inmates or even by radicalised policemen who feel its their ‘obligation’ to kill those accused of blasphemy.

It is also believed that a bounty has been placed on her head by radical Muslims who believe that Aasia Bibi should be killed even if she is released by the court. The price on Bibi’s head, even though it may be as low as £60, poses an additional threat to her and her family. 

 In a message of support and solidarity, Fareed Ahmad, National Secretary of External Affairs of Ahmadiyya Muslim community UK told Global Minorities Alliance: 

“It is deeply distressing that Aasia Bibi has been on death row in Pakistan for nearly 6 years due to charges of blasphemy. The founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a passionate advocate for freedom of religion and it is shocking to see how far the country has moved away from such noble principles.”

Commenting on the blasphemy laws, which are instruments of persecution for all minorities, Mr Ahmad said:

 “The blasphemy laws are a blot on Pakistan’s landscape and are simply used to settle personal disputes. The blasphemy laws have no basis in Islam and should be repealed. Islam promotes freedom in matters of faith and we pray that Aasia Bibi is granted clemency and released. We also pray that all Christians in Pakistan are granted full freedom to practise their faith and live in complete peace.”

 Manassi Bernard, Global Minorities Alliance Chief Executive, said:

“It is appalling how drinking a glass of water and the argument which ensued could result in solitary confinement for six years with death threats from within the prisons and from the outside world. Aasia Bibi has become an embodiment of persecution and oppression and she should be given safe passage and rule of law.”

“Aasia bibi is an embodiment of determination, faith and courage in the face of persecution. We urge Pakistan’s government to end the misery and persecution of this poor mother, Aasia Bibi, and ensure a safe passage to security so that she can re-start her life with her family without fear and death threats.”

See Global Minorities Alliance full song in support and solidarity with Aasia Bibi written, composed and sung by GMA’s members https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kHtmsPgGik

Free Aasia Bibi Song
Members of Global Minorities Alliance wrote, composed and sang this song in support and solidarity of poor mother of five on death row in Pakistan over blasp…

Tutsi and Hutus in Rwanda: a permanently difficult situation

Hutu refugee trek in 1997                                                                           (c) https://goo.gl/QZKa08

By Beatrice Maria Zanella

When we hear “Tutsi” or “Hutu”, our thoughts return to the year 1972, when the Hutu slaughter of 80,000 to 200,000 victims took place, and overwhelmingly to the year 1994, when the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide shocked the world. However, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict has roots that reach back far beyond this.

In pre-colonial times these two groups were able to live in relative harmony in an area split between modern-day Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the Tutsis were the minority, they traditionally belonged to the wealthier ruling class. During Colonial times (first came the Germans, then the Belgians), the Tutsis were treated with far more respect than the Hutus and allowed to keep their higher social status. In the 1950s, as Belgian interests changed, they began to support the Hutus as means of overthrowing the 500 year old Tutsi monarchy. Whereas in Rwanda the Tutsi were therefore overthrown, in Burundi, after an apparently peaceful change, the Hutus were defeated.

The aftermath of colonialism therefore saw two bordering countries governed by two different groups; the Hutus in Rwanda and the Tutsis in Burundi. Hutu power in Rwanda came to an end in 1994 after the tragic and bloody genocide of the Tutsis, but in Burundi the Tutsis still today hold most positions of influence.

Today, Hutus and Tutsis are spread between Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, currently the most conflict-ridden area. New generations are told not to accept the labels of “Tutsi” and “Hutu”. But tragic incidents still take place, such as a recent story of a Hutu policemen who told schoolchildren to divide themselves based ethnicity. After their refusal, all of them were shot. It will take a long time before perpetrators of genocide and survivors are able to coexist in peace.

How can Tutsis and Hutus be differentiated? Not so easily any more as the Rwandan government has eliminated ethnic designations on identity cards. National census on ethnicity is not carried out anymore: the question “What are you?” will elicit the answer “Rwandan” most of the time. But the memories of such a horrific event are not yet forgotten and it will take a long time for the dust to settle completely.

It is frequently highlighted how difficult it is to teach history in a neutral way. Often only the sufferings of the Tutsis are mentioned, as if they were the only victims of the genocide. Hutus are portrayed simplistically as perpetrators and slaughterers, and it is still often not acknowledged that many thousands of Hutus were also killed. For schools in Rwanda, the place where the next generation of Rwandans are shaped, this is not an easy topic to navigate. Positive steps towards a reconciliation have been taken in Rwanda by the current president P. Kagame, and many citizens plan to flee to neighbouring countries in 2017, when he plans to step down.

Given the relatively recent brutality and senseless violence of the 1994 genocide, perhaps we can look at the development progress and relative stability enjoyed by Rwandans today as something of a success story. Yet there are many steps towards a complete peaceful resolution still to come, a path which hopefully will continue to be taken over the coming years.

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Annual Youth Conference on Roma Rights

So keres, Europa?! (So what, Europe?!)

Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Conference Day #6

 

On Saturday, the last day of what turned out to be a full week of activities, came to its successful end leaving lasting impressions to all those involved . The participants finally presented the results of the 48-hours-actions on which they had been working on so eagerly in the workshops throughout the week. So keres Europa Day 6 Festival 011 - different together

Most presentations took place during a festival in Cluj-Napoca Central Park, however, some of the 48-hours-actions involved street activism in the heart of Cluj.

The “Invisible Theatre” took to the streets to see how people reacted to the scenes of discrimination. Based on personal experiences, the participants scripted short plays and acted them out in public spaces of Cluj-Napoca with audience and examined the reaction when they witnessed discriminatory situations.

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