Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. In his recent blog post, Lajeunesse spoke out against Google’s exclusionary workplace culture, as well as the company’s suspected co-operation with human rights abuses in China and Saudi Arabia. Google’s human rights and inclusion record has been repeatedly called into question over the last number of months and Lajeunesse is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

 

A major criticism of Google over the last number of years has been its co-operation with the governments of China and Saudi Arabia with their human rights abuses. The development of Google’s ‘Dragonfly’ project, a search engine that would comply with China’s censorship and surveillance laws, faced much objection until it was eventually terminated in December of 2018. Google has also been heavily condemned for hosting certain applications of the Saudi government, including ‘Absher’, an app which enables men to track and control female family members. In response to the development of these projects, Lajeunesse claims he advocated for the integration of a human rights based approach in decision making, but that this suggestion was repeatedly dismissed. He argues that human rights concerns where overshadowed by the drive for “bigger profits and higher stock prices”. 

 

Further to its poor international human rights record, Google’s internal workplace relations have also invited criticism. According to Lajeunesse, workers from marginalised backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to unfair treatment at Google. He described young female employees being bullied and screamed at by senior colleagues, as well as “diversity” exercises in which workers were separated by race and sexuality and encouraged to shout slurs at each other. Lajeunesse says he repeatedly raised these issues with HR, but they were never meaningfully responded to. In February 2019, despite being highly rated within the company, Lajeunesse was told he no longer had a job. While Google claims this was down to company “reorganisation,” Lajeunesse holds that it was his advocacy for human rights and inclusion that cost him his career. Since leaving Google, LaJeunesse has spoken out about the importance of government intervention in the area of human rights and is currently running in the Democratic Senate primary in Maine. 

 

LaJeunesse is not the first to accuse Google of punishing worker activism. In October 2018, over 20,000 Google employees around the world staged a walkout, protesting the companies handling of sexual harassment. In June 2019, Claire Stapleton, one of the walkout leaders, retired after twelve years with the company. She says this decision came after facing months of structural retaliation against her activism, including being demoted, isolated and gaslit. Since leaving, Stapleton has spoken out publicly about Google’s systematic discrimination of women and minorities, as well as the culture of retaliation she claims is being used to quash employee action. 

 

Despite reports of punitive backlash, collective worker action continued to grow throughout 2019. A network of employee activists has tackled a vast range of issues, from promoting the rights of part-time workers to petitioning Google to rule out working with agencies such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In November, amidst a climate of growing labour unrest, it was revealed that the company had hired an anti-union consulting firm. Shortly after, four employee activists announced they were filing federal charges against the company, claiming they had been fired due to their role in labour organizing. The four activists believe that their termination was intended to act as a warning to other employees. Cases like these are especially threatening to Google’s contract and temporary workers, who make up 54% of its workforce and are uniquely vulnerable to this kind of retaliation. Nonetheless, it is clear that labour unrest at Google has continued to escalate in light of the firings.

 

Google’s repeated controversies in the areas of inclusion, human rights compliance, minority rights and labour relations pose serious questions about the power of Big Tech in our society. Evident in the records of companies such as Amazon and Facebook, these issues are not unique to Google and are perhaps symptomatic of a more fundamental problem. Can the profit-driven business model which dominates our economy be compatible with human rights? Or, as suggested by Lajeunesse, are these issues “the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture that rewards growth and profits over social impact and responsibility”?

 

 

Photo by Google Inc. [Public domain]

 

 

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Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

Arguably, Ireland’s most important General Election of recent times is a mere day away. We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues. 

 

 

Fine Gael – ‘A Future to Look Forward to’

Centre-right, Liberal conservative party led by Leo Varadkar 

Climate: Minimal climate action, refusal to tax large corporations. Proposed a carbon tax. Didn’t attend Climate Hustings organised by students and NGOs in the Mansion House this week.

Housing: The party dismissed the suggestion of a rent cap. Notable that half of TDs are landlords. Refused a Housing as a Human Right Bill. Promise to build 60,000 social houses in the next five years.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health:  Create safe access zones for those accessing abortion services and the beginning of a plan to offer free contraception. Implement a best practice model of care, in line with WPATH standards, for Trans People, and deliver a framework for the development of National Gender Clinics and Multi-disciplinary Teams. Develop a communications plan to raise awareness of mental health resources.

Direct Provision: Implement a new set of standards across the new centres, with changes to be in place by the end of 2020.

Gender: Create Citizen’s Assembly to tackle  relevant issues regarding parental leave, pay-gaps and representation.

 

 

Fianna Fail – ‘An Ireland for All’

Slightly more liberal than Fine Gael, centre-right party led by Micheál Martin.

Climate: Want to phase out the use of some single-use plastics by 2025, phase out fossil fuels and have an anti-litter fund to tackle dumping and dog fouling. Establish a National Infrastructure Commission for 30-year decarbonisation planning. Didn’t attend Climate Hustings organised by students and NGOs in the Mansion House this week.

Housing: Strong focus on home ownership in manifesto. Notable that half of the TDs are landlords. Promise to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2025 for average income workers.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Nothing in manifesto regarding abortion or contraception. Review the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts to ensure that Trans people have explicit protection within the equality grounds.

Direct Provision: Responsible for creation of direct provision. Want to reform it rather than eradicate it, ensuring that the “National Standards for Accommodation” are reviewed at least every five years. Reduce waiting period of asylum seekers’ right to work from 9 to 6 months, speed up processing times and enable those seeking aslyum to access driving licenses. 

Gender: Implement mandatory Gender Pay gap transparency legislation and initiate gender quotas at local elections.

Note: Fianna Fail is the only party not providing a policy on growing night culture and our night-time economy.

 

Sinn Fein – ‘Giving Workers and Families a Break’

Centre-left party led by Mary Lou McDonald, with a core objective being Irish Unity. 

Climate: Totally opposed to fracking. No carbon tax increase, state divestment from fossil fuel projects and no new licenses granted for offshore fossil fuel drilling. Transition to electric vehicles and invest in renewable energy. Place obligations on manufacturers of packaging and implement a deposit return scheme on bottles.

Housing: Living wage, rent freeze for three years, more social housing, ambition for 100,000 homes in five years. Large focus on ending homelessness.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Free contraception scheme. Free sanitary products for students, those in direct provision and medical cardholders. Safe access zones for abortions. No mention of Trans rights. Greater support for people with mental health difficulties to enter employment and training schemes. 2 free GP visits a year, 1,500 extra GPs.

Direct Provision: Want to end the direct provision system. Provide a tailored range of health services based on the health needs of those seeking asylum. Believe in migration management with rules and regulations that serve the interest of Irish people, all while fulfilling international obligations to protect people fleeing persecution and war.

Gender: Increase funding for domestic violence refuge provision by €12 million.

 

 

Green Party – ‘The Future Belongs to all of Us’

Centre-left party, led by Eamonn Ryan.

Climate: Vast climate action plan. Ban single-use plastic, set up bottle deposit and return scheme. Immediately ban smokey coal and tighten restrictions on the harmful use of pesticides and insecticides. Peatland restoration and rewetting programme. Call for 7% annual fall in emissions. Afforestation programme granting 120,000 farmers payment for the planting of one hectare of woodland on their farm; helping farmers transition to regenerative and sustainable agriculture.

Housing: Tax vacant premises. Reform the Housing Assistance Payment to drive investment into the provision of new social housing units rather than relying on sourcing from the private sector.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Free contraception, strenghten and diversify sex education in schools, making all elements of the curriculum mandatory. The Green Party supports the amendment of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 to include recognition by self-declaration for non-binary and non-gendered individuals; to make recognition for trans people aged 16 and 17 equal to that of those over 18; and to introduce a system of gender recognition for children under 16. Promote the installation of gender-neutral public toilet facilities.

Direct Provision: Work towards ending Direct Provision and replacing it with a not-for-profit system based on accommodation provided through existing or newly approved housing bodies. 

Gender: Progress legislation which requires companies to publish aggregated data on pay by reference to the gender of their employees.

 

Solidarity – People Before Profit (Planet Before Profit)

Left-wing, working-class voice.

Climate: Free public transport. Stop the importation of fracked gas and put a carbon tax on the big polluters. Create a just transition for workers and farmers. Funds for retrofitting houses.

Housing: Vast list of policies. Increase minimum wage to living wage of €15/hour . Referendum on “right to housing”. Immediately declare a housing emergency, which will enable the state to borrow funds to begin a major house building programme. Build 100,000 council houses over five years, creating construction jobs. Force NAMA to hand over land and stop the sell-off of public land to private developers. Immediate rent freeze and ban economic evictions. 

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Heavily involved in Repeal movement. Free contraception and sanitary products. Separation of sex education in schools from religion. Emphasis on LGBT rights and additional healthcare.

Direct Provision: End DP and give asylum seekers the right to work.

Gender: Education should include a cultural critique of everyday sexism. Full financial support for women’s refuge and rape-crisis centres dealing with domestic violence. Increase paid maternity leave to 12 months.

 

Social Democrats – ‘Hope for better, Vote for Better’

Centre-left, supportive of Nordic model, led by Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall.

Climate: Construction and expansion of public transport with lower fares and cycle lanes. Encourage local energy generation schemes and solar panels. Completely ban fracking, gradually reduce subsidies for non-renewable energy. Levy plastics that can’t be recycled here, implement a deposit return scheme.

Housing: 100,000 homes over five years. Rent freeze and legislation to stop land hoarding by private entities. Referendum on the right to a home.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Committed to fully funding Sláintecare. Free contraception and safe abortion, along with adequate support services. Increased funding for services in mental health and addiction services. Supports for LGBTQI+ people living in direct provision.

Direct Provision:  End direct provision and replace it with not for profit accommodation.

Gender: Work to eliminate the gender pay-gap, put stronger penalties on companies who are at fault. Mandatory gender quota of 30% on the executive boards of all large companies registered in Ireland.

 

Labour – ‘Building an Equal Society’

Centre-left, led by Brendan Howlin

Climate: Promote clean public transport, electric vehicles in rural Ireland, and solar panels. Create a merging department on climate action. Exploit our offshore wind potential by establishing a new Offshore Wind Development Agency with a specific mandate to attract investment. Were not present at Climate Hustings at the Mansion House.

Housing: Living wage and job security. 100,000 homes over the next 5 years, rent freeze and legislation to stop land hoarding.

Reproductive and LGBTQ Health: Initiative to combat period poverty, implement exclusion zones for uninterrupted access to safe abortions. Strengthen hate crime legislation. End the 12-month celibacy rule that currently exists for gay or bisexual men donating blood. Extension of the Gender Recognition Act to those aged from 16 to 18; addition of a third gender option for non-binary people on all official forms. Free gender care through an Irish NHS, including services like psychotherapy, counselling, speech and language therapy, hormone therapy, hair removal and gender reassignment surgery.

Direct Provision: End the system.

Gender: End gender pay-gap. Require businesses and public agencies with 50 or more employees to publish their gender pay-gap in their annual reports.

 

 

 

Many young people in Ireland have become disillusioned with the current state of Irish politics. We have the power to shape the future of Ireland, so please use your vote on Saturday the 8th of February 2020 and bring ID to the polling station.

 

 

 

Photo by Mohamed Hassan

 

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

After 3 years of deadlock, the Northern Ireland Assembly reached an agreement on 11th January of this year, returning the executive to Stormont to begin business as usual once again. As the power-sharing executive gets back on track, issues which have been at the forefront of public discussion for the past few years will fall squarely into the MLAs laps. It is clear that the Northern Irish public has worked out what they need from the new executive, and will not let them ignore the most pressing issues. These include those which facilitated the deadlock in the first place; abortion rights, equal marriage and an Irish Language Act. There is another important issue which has come to the fore in recent years which has fallen into the political void left by Stormont until recently, and that is the issue of mental health.

 

On the 20th January, just over a week since the Assembly was reformed and the ministerial positions were allocated; an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph. The letter was addressed to the new Minister for Health, UUP’s Robin Swann, and called for an urgent focus from the Department of Health on the alarming suicide rate in Northern Ireland. Dozens of high-profile figures from the worlds of sport and entertainment (including Gary Lightbody, Carl Frampton and KNEECAP) have signed the open letter, which calls on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in NI. Although Swann has said that suicide prevention is a top priority for his government, the letter states that the current ‘Protect Life 2’ strategy does not go far enough in dealing with the severity of the issue. The letter calls for current spending on mental health services to be doubled, and a cap on waiting times to see a mental health professional set to 4 weeks. The letter also highlights the fact that deaths from suicide are often concentrated in deprived areas, stating that commitments to address poverty and inequality should also be recognised as suicide prevention measures.

 

In 2019, NI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride warned that there was no greater challenge to public health than suicide. Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK, with around 5 people dying every week; three times as many as those who die in road traffic collisions. More than 70% of those who have died from suicide were not known to mental health services. Speaking to BBC NI, Gary Lightbody pointed out that while the NI suicide rate is 25% higher than in England; NI mental health spending per capita is half of English spending. He pointed out the unique position of Northern Ireland; that on top of the reasons for mental health issues that the rest of the UK face, NI also has the unique issue of residual trauma from the Troubles. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict. During the Troubles, between 1969 and 1997; an estimated 3600 people died as a direct result of the conflict. It was reported in 2018 that around 4500 people had died from suicide in the region, and with around 300 people dying by suicide each year, this figure is now thought to be over 5000. 

 

During the 3 years of political deadlock in NI, the pressure fell to charities and other community groups to address the mental health issues in the region. Groups such as the Participation & Practice of Rights, who backed the open letter published to Robin Swann, had been campaigning for years for the health board to declare an emergency in regards to the suicide rate in NI. They, along with other charities, have welcomed the return of the executive but warn that the current approach to mental health strategy does not go far enough. The charity group Action Mental Health have professed concerns that the commitments to mental health in the new Stormont agreement remain vague. They are calling for a Mental Health champion to be put in place in Stormont; someone with relevant experience and power to focus on achieving parity for mental health in NI, in line with the rest of the UK.

 

With an entire generation of school children now born and growing up post-ceasefire, many young people are determined that they will not watch their peer groups torn apart by suicide in the same way that their parents’ generation saw theirs torn apart by violence. In February 2019, BBC NI reported that one in 10 Northern Irish school children are living with a diagnosable mental illness. One group working to this end is Pure Mental NI, a grassroots youth movement who held their first rally in Belfast City Centre on the 4th of January. Pure Mental NI’s aim is to lobby the government for improved mental health education and awareness in primary, pre-primary and secondary education. The group was founded in August 2019 by teenagers Jay Buntin and Matthew Taylor, who wanted to address the serious lack of awareness and education around mental health in schools. In an Instagram following their rally in Belfast, the boys said they hoped that in the future “no one goes through our experience in a school that never provided a single talk, assembly or even a discussion around mental health in our entire seven years”. As the Assembly settles into a new decade of power-sharing, it is important that they listen to activists and campaigners and respond with urgency to the mental health crisis, or another generation may fall victim to the tragedy which the ceasefire promised to avoid.

 

 

Photo by The People Speak!

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The latest figures of the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, show 5,974confirmed cases132 people have died so far as a result of infection, and there are almost 7,000 suspected cases with 48,000 people carefully monitored for symptoms. In recent days China has seen a significant jump with the number of deaths increasing by 26 to 132almost all in the province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan.This trend is likely to continue in the short term. 

 

There is an evident spread of the virus to the European continent, with Germany claiming the first confirmed case on the mainland. The German citizen had no history of travel to China but was in contact with a Chinese colleague in Germany. Nearly 60 cases have been reported in 15 other countries, including the United States, France and Singapore.

 

As of Tuesday morning, preparations have begun to evacuate Irish citizens trapped at the epicentre of the outbreak. An estimated eight Irish citizens are living in the affected region which has been put on lockdown since the Chinese authorities imposed severe transport restrictions to attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. 

 

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Irish Times that the Embassy “is in contact with Irish citizens in Hubei province regarding their intentions”. The Department of Foreign Affairs did claim to be exploring options for assisting Irish citizens to leave Hubei province “if required”, which was to include “commercial options”. However, this would mean Irish citizens leaving their Chinese partners behind as well as facing another period under quarantine once being removed from this area.

 

There is further concern among the Chinese community in Ireland about the presence of a tour party from the Hubei province in Dublin this weekend before travel restrictions were imposed. While there is no evidence that this group posed any health threat, its presence prompted criticism on Chinese social media, including warnings to the community in Ireland. 

 

This criticism is magnified in the affected Chinese region itself, with residents angry that they were not informed earlier about the risk posed by the outbreak, which is thought to have begun in December. On Monday, the mayor of Wuhan acknowledged such criticism of his handling of the crisis and offered to resign. However, it is worth questioning how much aid the resignation of the Wuhan mayor would assist at this point, given the advanced stage of an increasingly urgent health crisis which is becoming globalised.

 

 

Photo by Fred Murphy

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

 

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. Political autonomy, corruption, powerlessness, poor economies, climate change and social media seem to be the chief contributors to the mass protest rage that has taken over. The large anti-government demonstrations have not been peaceful, with the number of human losses increasing as every day goes by. From Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and more, the story seems to be the same: voices that were never heard are gathering together for a scream to bring about a much-needed change! Does it mean the people’s voice will finally be heard?

In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

 

The Begining of a Long Road

Economic hardships ignited the dimming spark that led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces. The days following November 15, 2019, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with an abrupt political decision. A 50 percent increase in fuel prices, came without warning. This apparently, came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the country faced a deficit which amounted to two-thirds of the yearly $45 billion budget. 

Although the protests started off as peaceful demonstrations, soon it took a violent turn leaving about 180 people dead. Security forces open fire on unarmed protests who were largely either unemployed or low-income young men aged between 19-26.

These protests revealed the frustration among the citizens against their leaders. Although petrol remains cheaper in Iran – home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves – average incomes are too low to comfortably absorb the steep hike. The serious economic challenges faced by Iran are partially due to Trump administration’s sanctions on the country. The sanctions were levied to pressure Iran into renegotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers which President Trump abandoned. According to Bourse & Bazaar, More than 1.6 million Iranians have fallen into poverty since the American sanctions were imposed. 

In relation to the protests, Trump tweeted, The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!” The encouragement of the protests and expressions of satisfaction by the American administration only show that they may be campaigning for the fall of the Iranian regime in the guise of the claims that the aim of the administration was to  “change the behaviour of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” as quoted by Mike Pompeo.

The most unsettling differences from past demonstrations to the 2019 protests were the blanket of silence that fell over the country with an internet shutdown. Although, Iran was able to keep vital infrastructures running like hospitals and banks, they completely denied access to the only two global internet portals in Iran owned by the government. The regime has a stark choice between funding its proxies abroad and its nuclear program or addressing its people’s dire economic needs. If the regime chooses poorly then it will continue to provoke the kind of rage that was witnessed in the 2019 protests.

 

 

The US Intervenes

The protests in Iran have now taken an interesting turn with protesters protesting against the US intervention as well as continuing their demands for the fall of the Iranian regime. On January 3 of this year, US President Trump said that he ordered a precision strike to “terminate” a top Iranian commander who was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans, adding that this decision was one of deterrence and not aggression. A US drone strike on a Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani on Trump’s order. Iran, in a letter to the United Nations, called the attack state terrorism and an unlawful criminal act. Iran’s ambassador to the UN told CNN that the attack was an opening to a war. He said Washington has escalated a war it began by pulling out of the nuclear deal with Tehran. Thousands of demonstrators were seen marching in Tehran and other cities to protest the strike after Friday prayers. Men, women and children carried images of the slain commander, many crying and others shaking their fists, shouting “Death to America” and “Revenge, revenge, revenge.” 

 

Ukranian Passenger Plane Crash

For a third reason in a matter of weeks, Iran witnessed a further series of protests after the government admitted it had mistakenly downed a Ukranian passenger jet that killed 176 passengers. Some of the video posted on social media showed some chanting “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here” as other footage captures riot police clashing with the protesters and responding with tear gas. After a U-turn by the Iranian government that had initially rejected reports of the downed plane, a judicial spokesperson, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said at a news conference that an undisclosed number of people had been arrested in connection with the crash.

January 11, 2020, witnessed large crowds of students who demonstrated outside Amir Kabir University for a candlelight vigil. Demonstrating outrage at the shooting down of the aircraft, they chanted “death to the dictator” and “resignation is not enough, a trial is needed!”

However, the students summed up the general feeling surrounding recent protests in the country when they also stated that “today, we are surrounded by evil on all sides.” 

Tehran has announced that it would stop abiding by limits on uranium enrichment which had initially been agreed upon in return for the relaxation of the sanctions. The US, as a result, has pressed ahead with further sanctions against Iran. 

 

Photo by Mojnews 

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. If you’re new to Rachel Husson’s Brexit series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective, a view of the craziest week of 2019, what Brexit means for Ireland, and what it means for students. Also, don’t forget to test your Brexit knowledge by taking our quiz!

 

What has happened over the last couple of months? 

Since the last time you read the series, some events worth mentioning took place in the Brexit saga. After the European Council agreed in late October on an extension of Brexit’s due date, an early general election was granted by the British parliament (438 votes in favour, 20 against). This election occurred on the 12th of December and the results set several strong statements. First, the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, won a comfortable majority of 364 seats of a total 650 (against 203 seats for the Labour Party, and 13 for Lib-Dem Party). Therefore, it seems that the 2016 referendum’s results were not a “mistake” after all. The second statement was made by Scottish electors. Out of the 59 seats in Parliament granted to Scottish constituencies, 48 were swiped by the Scottish National Party (SNP) – who campaign for Scottish independence within the European Union.

Five days before Christmas day, Johnson’s EU Withdrawl Agreement Bill was presented (again) to the House of Commons, which passed after two readings. From there, the Agreement had to be transposed in British law. A “transposition” bill was drafted and passed the Commons on the 9th of January by 330 votes against 231 and the UK is now expected to finally meet the latest Brexit deadline.

 

What’s next?

The text of the Withdrawal Agreement is now in the hands of the House of Lords, where the Government has no majority. So, this should be interesting. If the bill gets the Lord’s approval, then the Queen will have to give her royal consent. Normally, this should just be a formality. But we have to keep in mind that the European Parliament also has to vote the deal before Brexit can officially happen. If everything goes on track, Brexit will happen on the 31st January.  For 11 months, the UK will still follow all the EU’s rules and regulations, it will remain in the single market and the customs union and the free movement of people will continue. The challenge for the UK will be to get all its new rules and policies in place by the end of this year.

The UK and the EU will enter a new phase of negotiations about their new relationship. The stake is huge because they’ll have to agree on a “partnership” for future decades. Let’s be honest, 11 months (until the 31st of December precisely) to deal with that kind of negotiations is really short. Look how long it took them to reach the leaving deal. Of course, Johnson doesn’t want any delay. But you know it, loyal reader, the British PM has said that before, and look where we are – the initial exit date back in Halloween seems like ages ago. However, this time Johnson is so committed that his promise was enshrined in the bill passed on the 9th. No extension should there be. He has said that he’d rather have part of a deal than ask for a delay. So, you get it correctly, a no-deal Brexit is still a possibility. 

Knowing that, Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said that the period of time they have is “very very tight”, not long enough to cover every topic, so they will have to prioritise. The Prime Minister of Croatia, which currently has the presidency of the Council of the European Union for 6 months, agreed and wish to work first on trade and fishing. 

Nevertheless, prioritizing doesn’t mean compromising. On one hand, the EU recalled on several occasions that it will not consent to anything that would damage its own integrity, common market or customs union. On the other hand, Johnson expressed that he wouldn’t allow any kind of alignment on the EU’s regulation nor would he accept staying in some way under the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction. The British PM wants to “maintain control of UK fishing waters and [its] immigration system”.

 

 

Review on Scotland and Northern Ireland

The call for a second referendum on Scottish independence made by Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish PM and leader of the SNP, was formally rejected by Johnson who sees a second vote as a “political stagnation” that would impact Scotland “because of a campaign to separate the UK”. “It is time that we all worked to bring the whole of the United Kingdom together and unleash the potential of this great country”, he added. The PM claims that by refusing he respects Scots’ democratic decision: the 2014 referendum was promised to be a “once in a lifetime” occasion and set Scotland to remain in the UK. But one could argue that the situation has changed since 2014. It seems understandable that Brexit made a difference… According to the SNP, the Conservatives are afraid of the results if the vote took place in the pro-Europe nation. The full answer of the Scottish Government is expected to arrive by the end of January. Stay tuned… 

With the New Year came great news for Northern Ireland: a new executive is in place after three years of talks. Called “New Decade, New Approach”, the 62-page deal was published by both British and Irish Governments and set out guidelines and commitments for the new executive. This agreement comes after Northern Ireland was really divided on the December UK general election: 8 seats in Westminster for Unionists (DUP) and 9 for Nationalists (7 for Sinn Fein which practice abstentionism, meaning they refuse to sit in London, and 2 for the SDLP). Would Northern Ireland be inspired by Scotland? It’s not that easy, mainly because it’s not the same situation. Scotland wants its independence, when in the North the idea would be about changing the Parliament they answer to, talking about “Irish unity”. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, for such a vote to be called, the initiative must come for the British Secretary of State when they think the majority of the Northern Irish population would support Irish unity. One may argue that some elements point to that. If Northern Ireland’s choice was to leave the UK, then the Irish Republic would have to vote on that Irish unity too. Surveys have shown than 51% of the Irish population is in favour of this unity. Short advance, especially when you think of the margin of error. It appears clear that the whole island is deeply split on the matter… The post-Brexit daily life and the future deal may help some islanders to fold one way or another. 

 

It seems to me that the UK’s History might be made in the next few years…

 

 

Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer

 

 

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Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. He is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

#GE2020: A Final Manifesto Rundown

We have seen the final debates, been enveloped in canvassing and leaflets and passed by the posters and flyers distributed around the country. As polls indicate a possible change in direction for the Irish government; it is important to recap on each party’s promises before casting our votes. Each party has a full manifesto available online, but here is a brief summary of various stances and responses on key human rights issues.

A Public Health Emergency in Northern Ireland

On the 20th January, an open letter was published in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph calling on the government to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with regards to suicide in Northern Ireland, which remains the highest in the UK. The alarming nature of the mental health crisis is put into perspective by the fact that more people have now died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than died in the conflict.

Coronavirus: Number of Cases Suspected to Rise

The novel coronavirus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread rapidly with 132 confirmed deaths. The infectious disease is also emerging in other countries: Europe, France and Germany have confirmed cases.

The Leaderless Protest Series – Iran

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.