Blue For Sudan movement: what’s the impact?

Blue For Sudan movement: what’s the impact?

The Sudan humanitarian crisis, which we recently reported on, was under reported until charities and celebrities started spreading awareness on social media, with the #BlueForSudan movement. But it has been revealed that some have used it to raise their own profile.

The humanitarian crisis in Sudan has come to the attention of many across the world, with awareness being spread through the social media platforms Instagram and Twitter. The #BlueForSudan movement and accompanying blue profile picture have spread across the internet quickly over the past few weeks. Many celebrities including Rihanna, Halima Aden, J Cole and others with large social media followings changed their profile pictures in solidarity with the movement. 

According to a tweet by Amnesty International Australia, the color blue is “in honor of Mohamed Mattar, a 26-year-old fatally shot during the 3 June crackdown. His favorite color was reportedly blue.” 

Unfortunately, the rapid spread of this campaign has been exploited by some in order to get more followers, likes, and shares. 

One Instagram account, @SudanMealProject, went viral and gained a following of almost 400,000 in just a week after a post that claimed “For every person who follows and shares this on their story we will provide one meal to starving Sudanese children”. However, this profile lacked any connection to established aid agencies or charities that have been operating in Sudan. Instagram has since removed the page for violating the platforms policies, but many similar fake profiles still exist and are being shared. 

Although most Instagram and Twitter users across the world have likely seen someone they follow change their profile picture to blue, Sudanese people have not been able to see this show of global solidarity. The new military government, in an attempt to stifle protests calling for civilian rule of Sudan, has turned off the internet in almost the entire country. According to NPR, The Impact Hub is one of few internet cafes in the capital city of Khartoum with access to internet.

If you want to help the people of Sudan, legitimate charities include: 

Illustration by @JailiHajo on Twitter

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Sudan: protesters for democracy massacred

Thousands of protesters in Sudan were violently broken up by military forces, leaving over a hundred people dead and many more injured.

Sudan: protesters for democracy massacred

Sudan: protesters for democracy massacred

Protesters demanding a civilian rule to be implemented in Sudan were violently repressed by military forces, last month, in a massacre that was condemned by the UN.

On June 3rd, thousands of Sudanese protesters – who were staging a sit-in in front of the Army’s headquarters in the capital Khartoum – were violently broken up by military forces leaving over a hundred people, including children, dead or injured. Approximately 40 bodies were pulled from the Nile River following the attack.

Protesters were demanding that the government should be turned into democratic civilian rule. Currently, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) is governing Sudan. They took power when President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a military coup after a 30 year presidency, following mass protests towards the end of his reign.

However, the people of Sudan lost trust in the TMC governing the country. They believed the government should be civilian led, causing protests which eventually led to the massacre.

As well as people being killed there have also been assaults, rapes and sexual assaults happening to men and women. Sudanese children have been killed, detained and sexually abused.

One person who was killed in the massacre was Mohamed Mattar, a London’s Brunel University graduate. He was protecting two women at the protest when he was shot. He has become a known figure of the massacre, with many people turning their profile pictures a steel blue as it was his favourite colour. This blue has also become a symbol of solidarity for the Sudan protests.

While there has been a rise in the media coverage of the protests and the massacre in the last couple of weeks, there has been very little ‘western media’ coverage. The spotlight was shone on the situation when singer Rihanna posted about the massacre and the violence happening in Sudan on her Instagram; from here the media coverage and awareness about the situation has risen drastically.

Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) to allow an investigation into the bloody crackdown. About a week after the event, protesters came back to continue the sit-in, after the country’s military rulers admitted that abuses were committed during the attack of the camp.

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Image courtesy of Getty/Brendan Smialowski/AFP

 

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World Refugee Day: UN urges wealthy countries to do more

World Refugee Day: UN urges wealthy countries to do more

On this year’s World Refugee Day, the UN puts the spotlight on helping refugees to become self-reliant in the new place they call home. At a time where 86% of refugees worldwide are hosted in developing countries, ensuring their self-reliance can lessen the stress put on local communities, that already face a lack of or reduced access to basic resources. Wealthy countries, the UN said, need to support this effort on a greater scale.

Every year on June 20th, World Refugee Day raises awareness about the unique perils which refugees face in their daily lives. By celebrating the courage which refugees harbour, as well as drawing attention to the plight which they face, this international day is an important event in the humanitarian calendar.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) describes a refugee as someone who has been “forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence”. Two-thirds of refugees worldwide come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia – with the largest refugee camp in the world located in Dadaab, Kenya, hosting over 329,000 people. Refugees differ from Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), who are forced to flee from their homes but do not (or can not) cross international borders.

World Refugee Day began in 2001 after the United Nations General Assembly passed a Resolution 55/76 and declared the annual event. This initial day commemorated fifty years since the 1951 Refugee Convention in Geneva, which defined what a refugee is, their legal protection and social rights. While the convention was mainly limited to European refugees in the wake of World War II, the convention remains the basis for global humanitarian definitions of refugeedom.

In Ireland, the situation of asylum-seekers have brought international attention. According to the Refugee Council of Ireland, in 2018, 70.3% of applications for protection status were rejected. These asylum-seekers who wait for this decision are housed in Direct Provision system, given basic accommodation and pittance living allowance. The system has been criticised widely in both public discourse and international media (including the New Yorker).

World Refugee Day is a stark and important reminder of the responsibility of wealthier countries to provide answers to the global refugee crisis, by hosting refugees or by providing humanitarian and development support in host countries to help refugee communities become self-reliant.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of EU/ECHO Pierre Prakash.

Women still first victims of sexual violence in conflicts

Women still first victims of sexual violence in conflicts

Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls”. Ahead of the annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflicts, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative highlighted that although the scourge of sexual violence does not spare men and boys, women and girls remain the major targets of sexual violence in conflicts worldwide.

The United Nation’s landmark Resolution 1325 (adopted in 2000) called on member states and parties to armed conflict to “take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict”.

But almost twenty years later, much progress is still needed to prevent and reduce cases of sexual violence in conflicts. A new resolution adopted earlier this year, Resolution 2467, introduces a new survivor-centered approach to help combat this type of violence.

The terms of the resolution include guaranteed justice for survivors and their children and the ending of impunity for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence. In this resolution, the UN also called for “greater attention to the physical and economic security of survivors, which includes mental, physical, and sexual health.”

However, the United States vetoed part of the draft language contained in the resolution – which had said that wartime rape victims should have access to sexual and reproductive health services – on the basis that this implied access to abortion. The resolution was ultimately adopted without this language. Amanda Klasing, acting women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch said that the veto can be seen as a threat to women’s rights: “The Trump administration’s extreme position on sexual and reproductive health and rights is pervading all aspects of its foreign policy in ways that escalates a global erosion of women’s human rights.

Sexual violence against women and girls has been under the spotlight in recent years as a widespread critical issue that needs to be addressed. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 to activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, who work on ending violence against women in conflict situations, was a testament to that. More broadly, the different forms of violence against women and girls were also brought into sharp focus through the recent #MeToo campaign.

More than a third of women living today have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives and there is evidence that conflict situations increase women’s vulnerability to violence.

It is imperative not to become complacent about these issues or to assume that things will only get better for women – the recent negotiations over the language of Resolution 2467 highlight the need to remain vigilant. International Days like this one are important tools for fostering awareness and mobilising political will. As such, it is very important that these days are marked and that we, as global citizens, stand in solidarity with victims of sexual violence everywhere.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of UN Photo/Staton Winter via United Nations Photo

Nagorno-Karabakh: Conflict on the fringes of Europe

Nagorno-Karabakh: Conflict on the fringes of Europe

Despite the exponential rise of the far-right and a growing threat of terrorism, it is popularly believed that Europe has never seen such peace in the twenty-first century. This belief is partly true – the devastating conflict of both World Wars and the fall of the USSR cemented the twentieth century as bloody – and the EU has no doubt influenced this peace between nations. Yet, ethnic and geographical conflict is ongoing on the fringes of this continent, at the border of the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Last month, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was once again brought into the news with Armenian Arsenal player Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s refusal to play in the 2019 Europa League Final held in Baku, due to personal fears for his safety.

What is happening?
Media coverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains minimal, so it is difficult to ascertain happenings without on-the-ground investigation. The area, which lies in Western Azerbaijan, is 95% ethnically Armenian, and had been part of Armenia until Stalin decided to make it an autonomous oblast of Soviet Azerbaijan.

During the fall of the USSR in 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself de facto independent as the Armenian Republic of Artsakh: this has never been internationally recognised. War raged between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces until a ceasefire in 1994. Since then large-scale hostilities conflict have simmered reaching another climax in 2016 during the April War, where over 350 troops from both sides died in four days.

Is this a European issue?
Armenia and Azerbaijan are not ‘officially’ European, but they are members of the Council of Europe. They lie west of the Ural Mountains (often seen as the border between Europe and Asia) and have expressed interest in joining the EU. The issue is a humanitarian one, with over 600,000 internally displaced Azerbaijanis and Armenians and an estimated 30,000-40,000 deaths since 1988.

What does the future look like?
With no diplomatic relations between the neighbouring countries, they are still at war.

Representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have held talks in recent years but progress has stalled since 2016. Now, focus must concern the safety and wellbeing of refugees impacted by this conflict, alongside a promotion of sustainable peace based on mutual concession. These are both concerns which the EU could push for.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Leyla Abdullayeva via Twitter.

The Rwandan Genocide and the power of words

The Rwandan Genocide and the power of words

The role the media played in the Rwandan Genocide.

 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in which approximately 800,000 Rwandans were killed by extremists of the Hutus ethnic group, a group native from the Great Lakes region in Africa. In 1994, for 100 days, they targeted and slaughtered Tutsis, a Rwandan ethnic group, as well as moderate Hutus.

The genocide took its roots from a series of events way before the mass slaughter in 1994.

In October 1990 a Tutsi emigrant militia, the RPF, invaded northern Rwanda, increasing anxieties within the Hutu majority. Indeed, up until the 1960s, Rwanda had been under the control of the minority Tutsi and they had lived as second class citizens.

The Hutu Power movement under the control of the Akazu (a group of Hutu elite) took the invasion as their cue to begin a campaign of propaganda and hate speech, aiming to dehumanise the Tutsi and paint them as evil and untrustworthy.

In 1990, the Hutu Power newspaper Kangura, published the Hutu Ten Commandments which called for all Hutu people to refrain from relationships with a Tutsi. In an effort to vilify Tutsis, the article referred to their continuing ideology of Tutsi domination, and to the ‘permanent dream of the Tutsi’ to restore minority rule. This depiction would continue up to and throughout the genocide in 1994, causing increasing distrust and fear among the Hutu people.

In their pre April 6th 1994 broadcasts, the RTLM, a radio station largely funded by the Akazu, spread their Hutu Power ideology in various ways: They focused on the historical divide between the groups and insisted that ethnic differences between them were a fundamental reality; they implied that the Tutsi desired and were pushing for, a return to control of Rwanda and the subjugation of the Hutu.

On the 6th of April 1994, president of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot out of the sky as it approached Kigali airport. News of his death was broadcasted on the RTLM half an hour later. The RTLM explicitly blamed the Tutsi for Habyarimana’s death, sparking  the beginning of the violence. It is still unknown who killed the president.

Post April 6th 1994, the RTLM were actively involved in inciting the Hutu population to violence and disseminating information as to the whereabouts of Tutsis who were then targeted and murdered by roaming mobs of Hutu.

To this day, the radio station is considered to have played a significant role in the Rwandan genocide. Félicien Kabuga, a Rwandan businessman who invested large sums into the RTLM, fled the country in 1994 and is still sought by international justice courts.

 

 

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Image courtesy of Rh_ via Flickr