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Design for Activism

By Nina Nout

On June 13, we had the pleasure of hosting our Design For Activism lab at the Border Sessions Festival. The goal of the lab was to design a workflow that creates opportunities for tech experts and companies to support human rights activists online. In other words, we wanted to find out how we can engage tech companies long term in order to establish and maintain a sustainable cooperation between human rights defenders and tech companies. In this lab, we also wanted to introduce people to the issues human rights defenders face online, from harassment and arbitrary banning to threats of violence.

We kicked off our lab by getting to know two human rights defenders from Rwanda and Pakistan. Their stories gave us insights into the complicated dynamics of online activism. Technology has been an incredibly powerful tool for them to communicate with others and raise awareness of human rights violations, but it has also exposed them to threats and harassment.

 

Karen van Luttervelt from We Are listens attentively to the stories of our human rights defenders.

 

Online harassment is a worrying trend, as a study conducted in the United States by Pew Research Center (2017) shows. According to Pew, 66% of adult internet users have seen online harassment and 41% have personally experienced it [1]. Among human rights defenders this number may be even higher, as they stand up for the rights of minority groups and victims, resist State and extremists attempts to silence them, and hold existing power structures accountable. Unfortunately, big tech companies have not yet made adequate steps to address and prevent online harassment. An Amnesty International report on online violence against women on Twitter explains: “The company’s failure to meet its responsibilities regarding violence and abuse means that many women are no longer able to express themselves freely on the platform without fear of violence or abuse.” [2]

During the Border Sessions Lab, we used the case of Twitter’s policy on online harassment to demonstrate the power imbalance that human rights defenders’ experiences. We addressed the lived experiences of one of our human rights defenders in detail during a role-play simulation. We divided the group into three smaller groups: human rights defenders, State actors, and Twitter, to discuss how Twitter currently handles online disputes between individuals and the government. This was followed by a discussion about how Twitter could additionally support human rights defenders on their platform. The main question that seemed to form during the discussion was how to translate freedom of expression to an online environment. This showed itself to be a multi-faceted problem. On the one hand Twitter gives human rights defenders a platform to voice their opinions. On the other, the platform enables people to harass and intimidate human rights defenders, as well as spread false information.

The exercise was eye-opening. As we moved further along in the discussion, our participants learned that tech companies frequently use freedom of expression as an excuse not to take action. We also discussed the technological aspects while retaining social understanding of the problem. Another interesting finding was that the human right defenders’ group was overshadowed by the arguments of Twitter and the government. A situation that is also so often the case in real life.

 

Steen Bentall, Head of The Hague Hacks, writes down points discussed during the brainstorming session.

After the simulation we took a short lunch break before we continued with the second part of the day. We split up into two groups to address the question ‘How do we engage tech companies?’. The morning had helped to create a basic understanding of the importance of tech to human rights, and so we built upon this idea during our brainstorming sessions.

We were very happy to see how motivated everyone was to discuss possible solutions. Both of the groups came up with some insightful practical steps and focus points on how to establish and maintain contact with tech companies. The knowledge we acquired from the brainstorm sessions is incredibly valuable. We will incorporate some of the findings into future collaborations with tech companies to ensure support for human rights defenders long-term.

This lab was another example of how important it is for people from different disciplines to come together and talk about tech and human rights. It helped us focus on possible ways of involving tech companies. Our Nextview event also had some great results. We will soon update you on that event too!

If you are interested in The Hague Hacks, or if you would like to learn more, collaborate, volunteer, or just want to drop a note, we’re happy to hear from you. Send us an email at haguehacks@thehaguepeace.org

 

 

References

[1] Online Harassment 2017. (2017). Pew Research Center.

[2] Toxic Twitter – A Toxic Place For Women. (n.d.). Amnesty International.

A Poet of Bangladesh’s Past and Present – a Tribute to Kazi Nazrul Islam on his 120th Birthday

“Of equality I sing: where all barriers and differences between man and man have vanished, where Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians have mingled together.”[i]


Bangladesh’s national poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam (*1899, †1976), sings of equality. He sings of peace. He sings, humbly, of respect and love for humanity, and for his homeland. He sings, hurt, of the divisions he has experienced, the hatred that pervades society. “I have turned mad having seen what I have seen, having heard what I have heard.”[ii] He sings, feisty, of revolt against oppression, and of rebellion against chains of ignorance. Of course, among his four thousand works, not all call out for a common humanity, but it is because of his strife for change that Kazi Nazrul Islam came to be known as the “Rebel Poet”.

 

His poetry is beautiful even when translated. As a non-Bengali native, it is impossible for me to know how unconceivably beautiful his language must be in his own tongue. His writings are flawless; even his earliest prose is so perfect that no effort could have improved it any further. It flows, so I was told, like a fountain, with a rhythm that wraps around the audience like a warm coat, and at the same time rallies every being to stand up for their rights, fuelling their drive to break out of the familiarity of oppression and ignorance. It is said that his language burns with a flame that is unprecedented in Bengali literature. Nazrul became Bangladesh’s national poet because of how uniquely it lets Bangladesh come to life – its nature, its objects, its symbols (both Hindu and Muslim!), its historical heroes (again, both Hindu and Muslim!), its contemporary hurt. Through his influence on new generations of poets, Bengali poetry as an art came closer to life.

 

Kazi Nazrul Islam was known as the “Rebel Poet” not merely because of his fiery language, or because of his desire to liberate Bengal from the British. Nazrul was a rebel because he refused to bow to anyone.[iii] It is true that he was a devout Muslim, and a proud Bengali – what he refused, however, was to be shoved into a categorization that he would have to be loyal to as an end in itself. In a speech delivered in Kolkata’s Albert Hall on December 15, 1929, he said:

 

“Just because I was born in this country and society, I do not consider myself to be solely a subject of this nation and my community. I belong to every country and everyone. The caste, society, country or religion within which I was born was determined by blind luck. It’s only because I managed to rise above these trappings that I could become a poet.”[iv]

 

Though Nazrul was not uncriticized or unopposed in his time, he gave people little reason to hate him. A devout preacher of religious symbols, he applauded religion if used as a language of love, and praised practices of various religions. Instead, it was fanaticism, superstition and ritualistic behaviour he spoke out against:

 

“Do consider the honour of martyrdom
more glorious than slavery,
Consider the sword to be nobler than
the belt of the peon,
Do not pray to God for anything petty;
Bow not your head to anyone except God.”[v]

 

“I am a poet of the present, and not a prophet of the future.”[vi] Nazrul may have claimed that his time may pass, that his writings would become outdated and inapplicable. Considering contemporary incidences of hatred in Bangladesh – riots, violent protests and extra-judicial killings – it is clear Nazrul’s dream has yet to be realized. As the national poet of Bangladesh, his poetry is taught in educational curricula, the national anthem of Bangladesh is a Nazrul song, and his person is celebrated on its own national holiday (today). Why his message has not pervaded society remains a mystery. After all, while Nazrul’s language may be magical and enchanting, his messages are never hidden. The audience need never engage long with his material. Instead, his poetry has been said to “communicate even before [it] is understood.”[vii]

It is true that his memory and dreams carry on in contemporary Bangladesh. In 2012, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister prominently declared:

 

“We want to build a Bangladesh as dreamt by national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam […] breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. We want to build a Bangladesh where every citizen will enjoy equal and basic rights. There will be no difference between the citizens. Women would enjoy their just rights. I urge all to work towards building such a Bangladesh. May Bangladesh Live Forever.”[viii]

 

On this day, his 120th birthday, we celebrate his legacy. Yet merely praising him with words is not enough, instead, our love for Nazrul should extend beyond a dull admiration, and encompass the spirit of rebellion that is so famously attributed to him. Our compassion should rise above the boundaries created by religion, caste, and social status, and should extend to joint humanness. Today, the rebel poet still has a cause to rebel for.

 

 

 

[i] Islam, Kazi Nazrul. Rebel and Other Poems. Sahitya Akademi, 2000, page 37

[ii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[iii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[iv] Kazi, Ankan. “Diminishing a Poet.” The Indian Express, June 14, 2017. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[v] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[vi] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[vii] Choudhury, Serajul Islam. “The Blazing Comet.” New Age Xtra. June 1, 2006. Accessed May 16, 2019.

[viii] Hasina, Sheikh. “113th Birth Anniversary of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and 90th Year of His Poem ‘Rebel’.” Address, India-Bangladesh Joint Celebration, Dhaka, May 25, 2012.

Image source: https://www.calcuttaweb.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1127

Letter to Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, concerning visit Morocco

20, December 2018

Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume
Special Rapporteur on
contemporary forms of racism,
racial discrimination, xenophobia
and related intolerance
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

SUBJECT: visit to Morocco to assess racism, discrimination

Dear Ms. Tendayi Achiume,

On December 12th 2018 the United Nations Human Rights Consul (UNHRC) announced your visit to Morocco, a visit that will take place from 13 to 21 December 2018 to examine the country’s efforts to eliminate racial inequality and discrimination. We* are very pleased with
your visit to Morocco to discuss and examine those important themes in a country where it’s urgently needed. As the news item indicates, your visit will include the cities Rabat, Tangier, Tétouan, Agadir, and Casablanca. Unfortunately, none of these cities are located in the Rif
region where discrimination and racism are the most common.

ccording to the Moroccan news source Hespress several advocates for the Amazigh people and human rights organizations in Morocco highly recommended Al Hoceima and Nador, two cities in the Rif region to be visited by the special rapporteur, due its historical and very
bad relationship between the central Arab government and the indigenous inhabitants of the Rif region the Imazighen also known as ‘Berbers’. Unfortunately, we read in the same news source you’ve decided not to visit the two cities in the Rif region. We consider this as a very unwise and harmful decision, we would like to comment more on this point.

The Rif region and its inhabitants experience racism, discrimination, oppression and marginalization by the Arab government for decades. The recent example can be found in the Hirak movement, a movement which can be compared to the Arab spring. During the Hirak
movement many young men, elderly and women were mistreated by the authorities. They were beaten, some of them were killed, others were raped and discriminated for being an Amazigh and demanding social-economical rights. The Rifians in the city of Al Hoceima where
the Hirak movement started, were not able to demonstrate nor to speak up against the injustice of the authorities. Even the women were not able to held a march on the international women’s day. Those who tried to demonstrate were beaten up by the police and
have been arrested.

Not to mention on the 24th of November 1958 when the city of Al Hoceima was declared by the Moroccan authorities as a military zone. Entering the city of Al-Hoceima involves passing highly militarized checkpoints, which makes segregation and disparities justified through
ethnic rhetoric.

We urge you as the special rapporteur to involve the city of Al Hoceima and Nador in your mission. We believe this is the only way to do justice to your observations and recommendations about Morocco’s efforts on Racism and discrimination.

Respectfully,

*Letter singned by: Anzuf; Marokkaanse Vrouwen Vereniging Nederland; The Hague Peace Projects; Syphax Foundation; GroenLinks Amsterdam; New Urban Collective; Bij1; Humanistisch Verbond; SP Amsterdam.

See here the letter in pdf.

Sadiq al-Mahdi on the future of Sudan

By Lisanne Boersma

On Friday the 16th of October, we had the honour to host an evening with the former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi about the future of Sudan. He has been elected prime minister of Sudan twice, and has been the only democratically elected leader of Sudan so far. Currently he is the leader of the Umma party, which is the largest party in Sudan. Although he is the head of Sudan Call (the organized opposition in Sudan) the Sudanese diaspora present didn’t simply accept his leadership, but presented him with pointed questions.

At times, al-Mahdi sounded like Mandela when he talked about the end of dictatorships, wars and poverty. But how do we know these aren’t simply hollow phrases? Like those of our mealy-mouthed leaders during the general assembly of the United Nations, bragging about peace, equality and prosperity, while their politics back home often show a different story. (see this video from 4:30 onwards)

Sadiq al-Mahdi believes in non-violent change and plays an active and important role in establishing the conditions for a democratic transition of Sudan. He wants to enact regime change through dialogue or peaceful protest. Regime change was a topic that popped up several times during the discussion. ‘What is needed for that?’, ‘With whom does one work together?’ etc. Another hot-button issue was of course what should happen to Al Bashir, the current president of Sudan. In March 2009, al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur. Should he be extradited to the ICC in The Hague, or not?

Al-Mahdi felt that this, at least for the moment, should not be the priority of the opposition. He agreed that al Bashir had committed crimes, but what Sudan needs is a reconciliation program, much like South Africa. Some of the people in the audience opposed this standpoint by stating that in order to reach a stable situation of peace, justice needs to be done first. Are these voices too impatient and perhaps no longer well informed about the complexity of the situation on the ground, or are they righteously fed up with the same empty promises that they have been hearing for decades?

 

Report: ‘Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue’ at the Initiatives of Change event: ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ PART 1

23 – 27 July 2018, Caux (Switzerland)

From the 23rd until 27 july a group of 15 Armenians, Kurds and Turks from Lebanon, The Netherlands and Armenia participated in the Initiatives of Change (IoC) program ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business (AEUB) at Caux Palace (Switzerland). Amongst the 15 participants there were individuals who already knew each other from the dialogue in 2016 and 2017: the Just Governance for Human Security program of IoC. This year there were new participants who heard about the dialogue initiative from the previous years.

This year’s dialogue took place in the framework of ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’. From the introduction paper:

‘Europe in 2018 continues to face a number of challenges: migration, the rise of populism, terrorism, Brexit and relations with the Russian Federation are foremost among them, placing pressure on communities and nations within and across Europe. As a result of some of these challenges, questions of identity, nationalism, citizenship, racism, xenophobia and the legacy of colonization have arisen. Ordinary people need to feel that they can shape their own futures and make a difference.’

‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ 2018 will focus on equipping delegates with the skills needed for developing social cohesion, trust and dialogue during these tumultuous times. We have invited some inspiring thinkers and trainers from Europe and beyond who are keen to transmit their skills to those committed to developing and healing their communities.’ 

Day 1 – Introduction to Caux and all the participants



For the third year in a row the mixed Dutch group from The Hague Peace Projects joined an event of the Initiative of Change. When we took our place at the side of the main hall, the moderator Diana Damsa was asking participants ‘to say hello in their own language’. We counted 13 different hello’s. After the interaction with the participants (181 people from 32 different countries in total) the event could really kick-off.

Young Ambassadors Program & Learning to be a Peace-Maker
Several speakers from the Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) of Initiatives of Change, talked about an ‘European Peace Voyage’ (through France, Germany, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia) dealing with the repercussions of the Balkan war in the nineties of the previous century.

The next speaker, Marwan Bassiouni with Swiss, American, Italian, Egyptian and Dutch roots (!) introduced the program ‘Learning to be a Peace-Maker’ for young European Muslims. Bassiouni: ‘We as European Muslims face challenges with regards to the essence of our religion and the tensions that spread from it between us and non-muslims. Mediation and co-existence is something we should strive for.’ A musical intermezzo took us to the year 1948. A song written by French people in Caux, to welcome their former enemies: the German delegation.

Tatjana Peric, Lord Ashdown
Right after the music the floor was open for Tatjana Peric (Bosnia), advisor on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, and working for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). ‘The first time in Caux for me was in 1996, I came as a refugee from the Balkans and was really energized by the Caux spirit. I made plans to encourage the East-West dialogue.’ Later Peric joined the OSCE, collecting evidence for reports about hate crimes in Europe. ‘Last year there were 2154 racist and xenophobic incidents in Europe… And underreporting is still a problem. In Europe we can see a dangerous merger of anti-migrant feelings with racism.’ Furthermore, Peric emphasized the importance of platforms for young people to empower them, assist each other, build coalitions between organizations and to work internationally. ‘For the work we do, prevention is the best cure.’

Lord Ashdown, a politician from the UK, talked with force about the aggressiveness and vulgarity of president Trump. He worried whether Europe would stay together. ‘Ash and blood’ would be the alternative of a possible break up of Europe. The explanation he gave for the rise of populism in Europe: shifting powers from West to East, which is also a shift of capital. ‘We are facing the ending of 400 years of Western hegemony. A multipolar world is taking form, so it’s time to return to diplomacy. We live in a deeply interconnected world, where we share a destiny with our neighbor, even if they are our enemy.’ In this context, he also mentioned ‘second-generation immigrants’ and ‘terrorism’ in one sentence. In the q&a he would be questioned about this association. Lord Ashdown acknowledged immediately that we should also be more inclusive in our language. ‘I never talk about Western values, we have universal values.’

Dinner and introduction to how things work at Caux
So Caux started with a good discussion. After dinner we were introduced to the history of Caux and how things work here. After plenary meetings, there are community groups with different themes like empathy or courage, where people can hear each other’s story in a more smaller, personal and intimate setting.

Last year we had a meet-up between Armenians, Kurds and Turks on the first day. This year we agreed to do that on the first session on Tuesday at the allocated time and place.

DAY 2 – Inspirational speeches and Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue meeting

Syrian refugees in Turkey

Emel Topçu, Associate Professor at Hasan Kalyoncu university in Gaziantep, gave a presentation about Syrian refugees in Turkey. In Kilis, for instance, before the Syrian war broke out, the inhabitants’ number was about 80.000. Now it’s a city with more than 220.000 people. Consequently, the Syrian influx has had an huge impact on the receiving Turkish society. It also led to a Turkish xenophobic and nationalistic backlash with reactions like ‘Our children are dying in the war, why are Syrians lying on the beach?’, ‘They are partying at the sea’ or ‘They must respect the owners of the country.’

Topçu blamed some media, mainly linked to opposition parties, of speculating about a ‘potential conflict’ or ‘clash’ in Turkey, due to government policy on Syrian refugees. But Topcu was happy to say that ‘we didn’t have a clash with Syrians’. She gave two reasons for the prevention of such a conflict: ‘(1)The role of relatives and (2) civil society. 1.

Topçu: ‘The first reason is that we have a shared history. 100 years ago we belonged to the same country, The Ottoman Empire, before the Sykes-picot agreement divided us. And families got split across the borders. The second factor is the role of Women volunteers who engaged in trust building activities between Turks and Syrians.’

Independent media under pressure in Ukraine
Not everybody in the room agreed with Topçu’s story, but the next speaker, Oleksiy Matsuka from the Ukraine, was already underway delivering his talk about the conflict in East-Ukraine, which started in 2014. ‘The Eastern part is occupied, and the Crimea is annexed by Russia. We don’t recognize them, and call them separatists.’ Matsuka want attention for independent media who are under pressure. ‘A lot are closed down. There are no journalists who’s life has not changed in the Donbass region. This is why we decided to come to Caux. To talk about the very polarized situation in Ukraine.’

Matsuka: ‘As a journalist, I ask questions. I changed the tone form affirmative journalism to interrogative journalism. The reactions of the speakers changed. Uncomfortable moments are many. To doubt everything is important for a journalist.’

Being a neo-nazi in Sweden
The last speaker of the morning plenary was Peter Sundin, a former neo-nazi in Sweden. His personal story was listened closely by the audience. He told the public about his single mother, with five children and her work as a cleaner. ‘We were a poor Swedish family and blamed our economic situation on foreigners, saying they took our jobs.’

He saw his older brother as a ‘role model’. A skinhead who listened to white power music. ‘We said that the holocaust was a fraud, a made-up story to sneer on national-socialism.’ He wasn’t much at school and joined the ‘national youth’, a violent movement. When they were at school, they were confrontative, ‘we felt backed up by this group.’

Not much later, he was involved in a situation which led to the worst decision in his life. They beat up a guy and Peter punched a guy in his face. He was unconscious. ‘When he gained his consciousness, I ran back and jumped full power on his back and landed on his shoulder blade. My friends tapped me on the shoulder.’

‘The next morning I got a phone call. We were on the news. That was the moment I realized it was enough. That was the starting point of a five year long journey for deradicalization. I completely transformed my lifestyle. I had to cut ties with my family. Drop the nazi belief system, and was looking for new world perspectives. I started to watch other channels, things that I called jew-news before..’

‘I spend six months in prison for assault. Now I’m helping youngsters, so they won’t commit the same mistakes I did. Behind every opinion is a human being. So don’t only see the opinion, see also the human. Lets shift the focus on the individual. To change a opinion is an individual process.’

Everybody left the main hall with all these stories in their mind. The community group for reflection was much needed.

Lunch and first Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish (AKT) dialogue meeting

After lunch, this year’s Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue started with an introduction round in which some just told their names and where they came from, and others who elaborated on, for instance, their expectations.

One participant put the emphasis on ‘young people’ and wondered ‘whether Turks and Armenians can be friends’. Another uttered strong wishes of ‘a follow up right after Caux’, and whether the discussion can ‘move beyond the blaming game and try to have a grip on the whole picture’. Furthermore, it was been said that ‘dialogue within communities’ is also important, and in addition to that, ‘that it is necessary to reach out to groups who never come together in circles like these’. Another participant complained about the problematic sides of ‘living locally’, while the world is moving on, ‘new approaches should therefore be worldwide’. The role of ‘privileged diaspora’ to put up grassroots dialogue initiatives like these was underlined and another participant ‘discovered’ that these dialogue-sessions can have a ‘healing’ effect. An ‘action-plan’ should come off the ground this year, ‘but sometimes it feels like impossible in Lebanon’. The last participant in the circle mentioned the links of Armenian and Kurdish communities in her family.

Film by Lebanese group
After the introduction round, we watched a short film made by the Armenian-Lebanese participants of 2017 of which some were partly present again this year. The film, in which all participants agreed that a genocide had taken place, triggered a question to the group ‘whether everybody in the room was on the same page about the Armenian genocide?’

An intense debate about the term genocide followed and whether ‘Armenian Muslims’, ‘who were targeted by Armenians during the genocide (according to one of the participants), were also included as victims?’
This counter-question led to another discussion whether there were actually ‘Armenian Muslims’ before the genocide, or that they were a result of the Armenian genocide, in which Armenians were forced to become Muslims and live in Muslim-households.

Since the question of recognition is one of the most sensitive issues in Turkish-Armenian dialogue, we accepted that we heard the question and that in the following days everybody can individually decide whether he or she wants to give an answer or not.

Then one of the participants said about Armenians that ‘they were stuck in 1915’ and asked ‘How is that possible?’ One answer was that the Armenian identity was almost totally based on what happened during the war. ‘As an Armenian you cannot escape it’. The need of closure is there. And that can not begin, without justice and admittance.

Besides, or linked with ‘being stuck’, is the issue of ‘global citizenship’. A lot of peoples are afraid of the outside world. Identity and national citizenship are strong and people want to keep that alive, as a defense system for the unknown outside world.

The closing statements of this first session was that the border is closed between Turkey and Armenia.

Again, we had an interesting first encounter. But in the evening, we had an informal meeting at Caux station, in which dance-styles of several regions were performed. ‘Before I went to Caux, I never thought I would dance with Turks’, was said by an Armenian participant.

Continue reading part 2 of the report!

#WeWantJustice

Protests led by youth are met with violence;

attempts of dissent are suppressed.

In Bangladesh, mass outrage over two teenagers killed in a road crash escalated into a social movement, with high school students stepping out on the streets, holding placards demanding for road safety and the resignation of the Shipping Minister, Shajahan Khan. Shajahan Khan’s insensitive remarks about the death of the students sparked the outrage. Road safety is a major issue of concern in Bangladesh. Research indicates that last year more than 4200 people lost their lives in road accidents in Bangladesh.

Over the past few days, several images and videos have gone viral on Facebook, which testify to the allegations of brutal violence committed by the police and the Bangladesh Chhatro League (the student wing of the Awami League). BCL has been accused of thrashing and molesting journalists. On Saturday, August 4th, mobile internet was suspended for 24 hours and many complained about a lack of connectivity. Many believe this was done to suppress the dissent, since the issue was not being covered enough by local media and subsequently protesters and supporters of the movement went online to share updates, using Hashtags and tagging international media houses’ social media accounts. Many social media influencers reported that they received thousands of emails and messages from Bangladesh. Some social media influencers, including Drew Binsky, uploaded videos expressing their solidarity and concern.

Shahidul Alam, a renowned photographer and social activist, told Al Jazeera that the movement is not solely being driven by the demand for road safety: other issues too are causing public dissent. The latest update that Shahidul Alam was detained—as reported by Dhaka Tribune—has since been shared by many people on social media. However, according to Dhaka Tribune, the police have denied these allegations. Earlier the same day, Aparajita Sangita, an online activist, was detained but released afterwards—as confirmed from her Facebook account.

We, at the Hague Peace Projects, express our solidarity with the youngsters and condemn the attempt to suppress the voices of dissent through brutal violence, arrest and the suspension of the internet. 

References:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/bangladesh-officials-restrict-internet-student-protests-180805071428323.html

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2018/08/05/btrc-no-directive-issued-to-suspend-broadband-internet-service

https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2018/07/31/minister-shajahan-khan-apologises-for-insensitive-remarks-about-deaths-of-students-in-crash

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/bangladesh-mass-student-protests-deadly-road-accident-180802174519088.html

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2018/08/05/photographer-shahidul-alam-picked-up-from-his-home

https://www.facebook.com/drewbinsky/videos/1859932040710383/

8-12: The Hague Hacks Conference “Technology and Freedom”

The Hague Hacks conference aims to bring together the world of peace and technology to create opportunities and build partnerships. By stimulating cooperation, The Hague Hacks promotes development and use of emerging technologies for peace and justice. This year we shall investigate aspects of relationships between technology and freedom. We shall be delving deep in the discovery of the potential of peace, justice and technology solutions based on today’s challenges.  The conference is composed of workshops, activities and games in artificial intelligence, fake news and hate speech, digital surveillance, big data and block chain. The theme of this event will be: “Technology and Freedom”

Program:

10:00 am – 10:45 am: Introduction part 1 (3 engaging talk and 15 minute knowledge-share and Q & A)
10:45 am – 11:00 am: Coffee break
11:00 am – 12:00 am: Introduction part 2 (3 engaging talks of 15 minutes with 5 minutes of short    Q & A)
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Networking lunch
1:00 pm – 2:15 pm: 5 workshops part 1
2:15 pm – 2:30 pm: Coffee break
2:30 pm – 3:45 pm: Workshops part 2
3:45 pm – 4:00 pm: Coffee break
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Plenary session
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Networking Drinks

Date : 8th December 2017
Time: 10am – 6pm (Doors open by 9.30am)
Venue: Paviljoensgracht 20, 2512 BP -The Hague, Netherlands
Topics: Artificial Intelligence (AI) | Fake News /Hate Speech | Digital Surveillance | Block Chain | Big Data.

Tickets: 15,- including lunch and drinks, reserve your tickets here.

10 & 11 November: Great Lakes Region Conference ‘Women and Men in Peacebuilding

On the 10th and 11th of November we will host for the third time the annual Great Lakes Region Conference. The first edition (the root causes of conflict) in 2015 and the second (the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding) in 2016 were very successful and therefore we would like to continue and invite you for the coming conference. This year we focus on the role of women in the peacebuilding process in the great lakes region. Unfortunately, it is women that are still the victims of conflict rather than the carriers of peace and change.

The Great Lakes Region in Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo) is one of the most vulnerable and unstable regions in the world. In the region armed conflicts have evolved for decades and human rights violations are commonplace.
Rape, torture and murders of women and girls of all ages have reached epidemic proportions since 1994. Violence against women has become a deliberate strategy of war. However, women are not just victims, they also play an important social role, they contribute to peace and stability. To create a future in a war torn society, women are an indispensable basis.

With this conference, we want to strengthen trust between men and women from this region and among women themselves so that they are able to work together for peace.

Full program:

Day 1| Friday, 10 Nov.: Women & Men in Peacebuilding: Why Gender?

13:00-18:00

13:00-13:30        Registration (tea and coffee available)

13:30-13:45         Welcome and Opening – Jakob De Jonge

13:45-14:15         Keynote 1: Peace & justice [in French] – Evelyne Ombeni

14:15-14:45         Discussion: Why Gender? Why Peace? Dr. Helen Hintjens 

14:45 – 15:15       Keynote 2: Le Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la paix et La securite aux Burundi. Why is this important? [in French] – Anésie Nkanira

15:15: 15:45        Tea and coffee break

15:45 – 17:30       Women at the negotiation table. Should men be invited!? Deogratis IrambonaMarie Chakupewa – Hayinchte Muhorakeye – Antionette Mutesa –  Godefroid Nimbona – Marie Nagadya, Moderated by Sophie Kwizera

17:30 – 17:45       Round up and summary reporting of key insights of the day

17:45 – 19:00       Drinks & Networking Butterfly Bar, ISS,

 

Day 2| Saturday, November 11th: Women and Men in Peace Building – What Can Be Done Different?

09:30 – 10:00       Start (tea and coffee available)

10:00 – 10:15       Recap and Welcome – Jakob de Jonge

10:15 – 11:00       Peacebuilding from a gender and development perspective – Dr. Anthony Otieno Ong’ayo

11:00-11:30         Debate: Lobby platform: 1325 the UN Resolution on Women, Peace and Security

11:30-11:45         Coffee break

11.45-12:15         Women, development & stability in Rwanda – Gloria Uwishema

12:15 – 12:45       Gender and Reconstruction in post-conflict DRC – Marie Chakupewa

12:45 -13:45        Networking Lunch – Kenyan Delicacies

13:45-14:45         Art workshop-The influence of art in peacebuilding – (Creating Rights- Fiana. Gantheret, Justin Kabika)

14:45-15:45         Debate: Our seat at the Peace Table: women of the Great Lakes Region –  Christine Among(Uganda), Marie Balagiza (Congo), Anesie Nkanira (Burundi), Yvette Muhire (Rwanda)

15:45-16:45         Group discussions: Case studies: Moving towards an inclusive and peaceful Great Lakes Region? Future perspectives.
Rwanda: Chaired by:      Sophie Kwizera
Burundi: Chaired by:       Deogratis Irambona
Uganda: Chaired by:       Moses Atacon
Congo: Chaired by:         Bashi Cikuru

16:45-17:00         Closing remarks

17:00 -17:30 Dance performance by Jean Claude Mihigo (Ballet Ukwezi)

17 :30 -18:30 Networking Bites and Drinks –  Kenyan Delicacies

 

Where: Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, The Hague
When: 10 & 11 November
Free tickets, but registration required: Reserve here!

Our new project: Sudan


1 – Who are you? 
The Sudan Working group is the result of the collaboration between Stichting Phanaar and The Hague Peace Projects with the common objective to promote the voices of the Sudanese diaspora and engage in the dialogue for peace and justice in Sudan.

2 – What is the team’s mission? 
The mission of the team is to enable the Sudanese community in the Netherlands to actively engage in finding solutions for peace and justice in Sudan and raising awareness about the situation in the country by sharing experiences, knowledge, and concerns that transcend into concrete agendas and actions. 

3 – What are the goals and objectives of the team?
The objective of the team is to create spaces of dialogue that encompass the Sudanese diversity and the different perspectives of the conflict. By doing so, the Sudan working group aims to tackle issues of justice, victims participation, gender, freedom of expression,​ social enterprises, family disintegration and other related subjects in relation to Sudan and to the role of the Sudanese diaspora in an unbiased manner.

 

 

 

 

 

16-8 Film & Discussion: Rampal Coal plant: a deception of development

Join us on Wednesday 16 August for a film and discussion about Bangladesh at Nutshuis from 6:30 till 8:30.

The world’s largest mangrove forest is under treat of coal mining. The Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC), an energy partnership between India and Bangladesh, is building a massive coal fired power plant called ‘The Rampal Rampal Power Plant’ just 14km from this UNESCO world heritage site – a home to the last populations of critically endangered Royal Bengal Tigers. By damaging the Sundurbans with a coal plant, not only would this take away their livelihoods, and the natural resilience that millions of people in Bangladesh depend on, but it would mean burning more fossil fuels and creating more carbon emissions. This is exactly when the world should be leaving fossil fuels in the ground and be getting behind renewable energy alternatives.

Discussion:
Pro-environment activists group in Bangladesh have been protesting the coal power plant since its inception. Activists from India and other parts of the world also have joined in protest and solidarity. UNESCO also expressed its concern and asked the Government of Bangladesh to halt the project. However, despite nationwide protests and international outcry, the Bangladeshi government is hellbent on going through the project. Police brutality and arrest have become part and parcel of the anti-Rampal Power Plant movement in Bangladesh, and leading activists have faced death threats.

Anu Muhammad, the member-secretary of NCBD (the organization leading the anti-rampal protests in Banlgadesh) will join us in a discussion in ‘Het Nutshuis’ in The Hague. Anu Muhammad is a prominent Bangladeshi economist, public intellectual and political acticvist who has been in the forefront of the green energy movement in Bangladesh for years. He had faced arrest, police violance and several death threats along the way. Also activists and experts from both Bangladesh and Netherlands will join this discussion.

Deception of Development:
Bangladesh has entered a critical stage of its development in which the vocabulary around the understanding of development has gone seriously problematic. The Bangladesh state and the media both have gradually separated the idea of social and environmental equity from the vision of development, just like many other parts of the world. While the state continues to be obsessed with high-profile big development projects, farmers, laborers, poor communities, rivers, trees, forests, cultivable fertile land in this process, are perceived to be mere bunch of collateral damage that is expected to be ‘sacrificed’ in this very process towards ‘progress’. The state and the media has been displaying an one track obsession over high GDP growth as the standard of progress. The health of people, cleanness of water, fertility of soil, the quality of food and air are not considered to be worthy enough to be a part of the index of development. In the backdrop of such flawed understanding of development and such disregard towards preservation of environmental resources, it has become necessary to challenge the so called idea of development that does not perceive it necessary to preserve environmental and human integrity. ‘Deception of Development’ is an attempt of as such.

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