Lina Ben Mhenni–A Tunisian Girl–Shines a Light on Human Rights

By Julia Hanweck

Congratulations, Bravo, مَبروك and Herzlichen Glückwunsch, to Lina Ben Mhenni for her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

To view the blog post, Lina Ben Mhenni–A Tunisian Girl–Shines a Light on Human Rights,” please click on the link below to my second blog titled, “The Fourteenth Moon.”

http://thefourteenthmoon.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/a-tunisian-girl-shines-a-light-on-human-rights/

The Fourteenth Moon” is my sister-blog to “Human Rights, Our Greatest Needs: We Must Thrive, Not Just Survive.”

Thank you for visiting my blog sites that spotlight courageous people who are advocating for human rights throughout our world.

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Lina Ben Mhenni–A Tunisian Girl–Shines a Light on Human Rights

After the Tunisian Revolution, this award-winning blogger continues to fight for her country and her people

By Julia Hanweck

Lina Ben Mhenni has experienced repression first-hand.  Since 2007, three years prior to the Tunisian Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring, she actively wrote about political and social issues in her blog that she titled, “A Tunisian Girl.”  Freedom of speech, human rights–especially women’s rights and student’s rights–and social problems fueled her blogs that she wrote in French, English and Arabic. 

The Tunisian Ben Ali regime viewed her as a threat.  They censored her blog and banned her Twitter account in Tunisia.  Police often followed her and ruthlessly came into her parents’ home and stole her laptops.  Search warrants were not in the terminology of this regime.

Even though she feared being caught by the police, arrested or tortured, she said that she forgot about her fear because she had to fight for her country and her people.  Once she started blogging, there was no turning back.

Lina Ben Mhenni accepts her "Best Blog" award at Deutsche Welle's BOB's awards ceremony.

Lina Ben Mhenni accepts her "Best Blog" award at Deutsche Welle's international blog awards ceremony. Photo by Julia Hanweck on June 20, 2011 in Bonn, Germany

 
I had the honor of meeting Lina Ben Mhenni at the Deutsche Welle BOBs (Best of Blogs) 7th Annual Awards Ceremony on June 20, 2011 in Bonn, Germany where “A Tunisian Girl” was awarded–by an international jury–the overall “Best Blog” for 2011.  The awards ceremony took place at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum conference, “Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media.” 
 
As a delegate, attending this international conference, the bravery and dedication of this 28-year-old blogger struck me.  In addition to blogging, she works as an assistant professor at the University of Tunis. 
 
I asked her how she pressed on despite the climate of fear in her country.
 
“When you believe in something, and you see injustice everywhere and when the oppression is so big, you lose your fear,” Ben Mhenni answered, explaining how she forgot about her fear.  “When I saw the first person killed by the police, I got rid of my fear.”
 
On Friday, December 17, 2010, in the remote Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, a humiliated 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the town’s municipal office.  A police officer had confiscated his scale for weighing produce, and local officials refused to help him.  After countless times of being hassled by the police, this was the last straw.
 
Bouazizi’s desperation and self-immolation emotionally resonated with his fellow citizens sparking the Tunisian Revolution that set the Arab Spring in motion.  An unknown person from an unknown town, who had little hope beyond being a street vendor, unintentionally made a significant contribution to history as the unstoppable chain reaction of revolutions and uprisings shook the world.   
 
In December 2010 and January 2011, to document the repression and killings and to ensure that the deaths from the revolution would not go unnoticed, Ben Mhenni travelled to remote towns–including Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine–where the uprisings had started.  She posted victims’ photos and provided online support for the revolution and for the people who risked their lives demonstrating in the streets.
 
The Tunisian people celebrated the end of a corrupt regime in mid-January 2011 when President Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia.  Over six months have passed, and Tunisia’s journey toward a democracy is sprouting, but it will need nurturing, close observation and citizen participation to succeed. 
 
The drive due south from Tunis–Tunisia’s coastal capital in the north–to Sidi Bouzid is around 170 miles.  Once unknown outside the country’s borders and economically and politically on the margins from the inside, Sidi Bouzid now has a spot on history’s map as the birthplace of the revolution and the Arab Spring.  In honor of Bouazizi, the main route through his town has been named Boulevard Mohamed Bouazizi.   
 
Ben Mehnni has been blogging about the difficult road to democracy and knows that the struggle did not end just because of the regime’s downfall.  Protecting what she terms as, “the fruits of the revolution,” is one of her goals in this tense post-revolution period. 
 
 
An international jury awared Lina Ben Mhenni Deutsche Welle's "Best Blog" award for 2011.

Along with other award winners, "A Tunisian Girl," Lina Ben Mhenni, holds her "Best Blog" award. Photo by Julia Hanweck in Bonn, Germany on June 20, 2011.

 
 In addition to writing her blog, “A Tunisian Girl,” she has been a contributor to “Global Voices Online” since October 2008.  Her most recent article, “Tunisia: Time to Register for Elections,” posted on July 25, 2011, she urges her fellow citizens to register for the electoral lists.  Just as bloggers reported on the events during the revolution, they are also covering the registration for the upcoming October elections.
 
“But statistics have shown that Tunisians are reluctant to register on the lists,” wrote Ben Mhenni in “Global Voices Online” on July 25, 2011.  “That is why a group of Tunisian bloggers have launched an online campaign to urge people to register on the electoral lists for the election of a constituent assembly on October 23, 2011.”
 
Despite all the challenges and oppression she has endured, Ben Mhenni continues to shine a light on the political developments and social issues of her homeland.   
2011 Deutsche Welle BOBs Awards (Best of Blogs): Lina Ben Mhenni's "A Tunisian Girl" blog wins the overall "Best Blog" award in Bonn, Germany on June 20, 2011

2011 Deutsche Welle BOBs Awards Ceremony (Best of Blogs). Photo by Julia Hanweck in Bonn, Germany on June 20, 2011

 
If you would like to view Sidi Bouzid’s location in Tunisa and Boulevard Mohamed Bouazizi on the internet, search “Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia” and “Boulevard Mohamed Bouazizi” on Google Maps.
 
Copyright (c) 2011. The 14th Moon: Shining bright to illuminate the night.  By Julia Hanweck.  All Rights Reserved. (The Fourteenth Moon).
 

If you would like to read about other people who are award-winning human rights advocates, please see my other blog, “Human Rights, Our Greastest Needs: We Must Thrive, Not Just Survive” at www.juliahanweck.wordpress.com

Thank you for visiting “The 14th Moon.”  Next time you observe the moon, think of all the people in our world working towards a more peaceful planet and how the beauty of the moon can also bring us our own inner peace. 


Egyptian Blog–the Violet Revolution–Wins International Blog Contest

Eman Hashim’s Feminist Blog Takes the First Place Award in the “Best Blog Arabic” Category

By Julia Hanweck

Please refer to the April 4, 2011 post for more information regarding: Deutsche Welle’s blog contest; my interviews with Eman Hashim, who is a pediatric ophthalmologist for special needs children; her participation in the Egyptian Revolution; and her blogs.

Congratulations! Mabruck!  Herzlichen Gluckwunsch!  Egyptian Blogger and Cairo native, Eman Hashim, has made history.  Her “Violet Revolution” blog won first place in Deutsche Welle’s 7th Annual BOBs (Best of Blogs) 2011 Contest.

"Violet Revolution" celebration for Eman Hashim in Cairo, Egypt. She proudly holds up her Deutsche Welle BOBs' award.

Out of the 11 finalists, the “Violet Revolution” took the lead with the highest percentage of votes–35%–in the “Best Blog Arabic” category.  The 2nd place winner came in with 23% and the 3rd place winner with 15%.

“Coming from voters it pays off that my voice is really touching people,” said 30 year old Hashim when I asked her how she felt after winning.  “It’s amazing, I feel great. I have been working on women’s rights since 2008 and blogging on my own without a group behind me.” 

The 2011 BOBs was celebrated at Deutsche Welle’s 2011 international conference, “Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media.”  Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international television, internet and radio broadcaster and translates into English as “German Wave.”  Deutsche Welle has been broadcasting for over 55 years and provides worldwide news coverage that is accessible in 30 languages around the globe. 

As a delegate attending the conference in Bonn, Germany from June 20 to June 22, 2011, I had the honor of meeting numerous delegates and representatives from Deutsche Welle, including the Director General, Erik Bettermann.

The opening ceremony paid tribute to the people in the Middle East struggling for their right to freedom and self-determination.  In light of events around the world, the 2011 international conference placed special emphasis on human rights.

"For me, 2011 is the year for human rights," said Erik Bettermann, Director General of Deutsche Welle (Germany's international broadcaster) at the opening ceremony of the Deutshe Welle Global Media Forum and conference, "Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media" (Photo by Julia Hanweck, Bonn, Germany, June 20, 2011)

"For me, 2011 is the year of human rights," said Erik Bettermann, Director General of Deutsche Welle, at the opening ceremony of the Global Media Forum & Conference, "Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media" (Photo by Julia Hanweck, Bonn, Germany, June 20, 2011)

At the opening ceremony, Erik Bettermann, Director General of Deutsche Welle, referred to the upheaval in the Middle East and said, “For me, 2011 is the year of human rights.” 

“The media can be a powerful instrument in implementing human rights by serving as a bridge for information and as a tool toward insight,” said Bettermann.  “Social media—especially Facebook, Twitter and blogs—have created new impetus.  They are the communicative driver and catalyst of civil campaigns and protest movements.”

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum is a congress with international reach.  Over 1,600 delegates from approximately 100 countries attended this year’s conference.

Hashim’s blog, the “Violet Revolution,” became a finalist in Deutsche Welle’s 2011 blog contest after the Egyptian Revolution and won the first place award in the “Best Blog Arabic” category because of her courage, dedication and genuine concern regarding issues related to human rights.  The words for “violet revolution” are pronounced “thawrat al banafseg” in Egyptian Arabic (revolution = “thawrat” and the violet/purple = “al banafseg”).  Hence, her blog’s website is: www.thawratalbanafseg.blogspot.com.

Well aware that the transition to democracy in Egypt will take time, patience and perseverance, Hashim is committed to bringing positive change to her society.  She will continue to write her blogs and reach out to readers in all corners of the world because she is determined to be a part of the solution both inside and outside of Egypt. 

Her focus has been primarily on domestic/family violence because she feels that domestic violence is one of the reasons that there are so many problems in Egyptian society and in all societies.  The tentacles of severe problems, that domestic violence causes, reach and suck onto individuals, families, communities and entire societies.

Hashim stressed that there are no borders when it comes to the pain people experience from domestic/family violence and all other types of human rights violations. 

She further added that, “No matter what culture, country, or religion a person comes from and no matter what their gender and age may be, victims and survivors of human rights violations feel the same pain.”

To find out more about the 2011 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum’s “Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media” conference program, speakers, and partners, please go to: www.dw-gmf.de.  

Below: screen shot from Deutsche Welle’s BOBs contest and the “Violet Revolution” blog’s 1st place win.  (Click to enlarge or open web-link)

Below: screen shot from Eman Hashim’s “tweet” when her “Violet Revolution” blog won 1st place in the “Best Blog Arabic” category.  (Click to enlarge)

Copyright (c) 2011. Human Rights, Our Greatest Needs: We must thrive, not just survive.  By Julia Hanweck.  All Rights Reserved.


Egyptian Feminist Blogger Making History: Finalist in International Blog Contest

Eman Hashim’s “Violet Revolution” Blog Opens Eyes to the Global Realities of Violence Against Women

 By Julia Hanweck

At 29 years old, Eman Hashim, a native of Cairo, Egypt, works as a pediatric ophthalmologist for special needs children.  Her work reflects her dedication to improve the lives of children.  She is equally dedicated to her blogs that focus on raising awareness of global violence against women (VAW) including family/domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), rape and sexual assault, human trafficking and other brutal human rights violations.

Eman Hashim discusses feminist blogging on the internationally televised show, "The Game of Life" (in Arabic, "Lu'bat Alhayat")

 Currently, she is receiving international recognition, and one of her blogs, the “Violet Revolution” is a finalist in Deutsche Welle’s prestigious 7th annual world-wide blog awards contest, the BOBs (Best of Blogs).  In light of events around the world, this year’s contest will be putting a special emphasis on human rights and freedom of expression.  Deutsche Welle has been broadcasting internationally for over 55 years.  Through TV, radio and the internet, this innovative media company offers worldwide news and information from more than 60 countries and in 30 different languages. 

Online voting is currently in progress, and the last day to vote is April 11, 2011.  You can vote once per category every 24 hours.  Directions on how to vote are provided at the end of this article, and they can also be found on her blog, “Just Raise Your Head Up High.”

While in Cairo in Jan. and Feb. 2010, I had the honor of meeting and interviewing Eman Hashim.  Since 2006, she has been writing three separate blogs.  The first time I talked with her, I was struck by her courage, strength and determination to shed light on topics that many people—throughout the world—are afraid to even glance at for a second. 

While some people find it emotionally safer to sweep the violence against women’s issues under the rug, wear blinders and plug their ears to pretend that “this never happens in my backyard,” Hashim lifts up the rug, throws it away and removes both the blinders and ear plugs.  Her blogs reflect her genuine concern and in a conversational writing style, she provides readers with knowledge and sources to help empower them in their own precious lives and in the lives of others.

Throughout the 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution, we kept in contact almost everyday via her cell phone, and her courage never waned.  In fact, as she continues to be involved in the process to democratize Egypt during the post-revolution period, her strength, confidence and determination increase with every breath and step she takes and every word she speaks and writes.

Peaceful protesters fill Cairo's Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution

Despite the fear of retribution from the Mubarak regime, she demonstrated in Tahrir Square almost every day from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, 2011.  She fought off police who attacked her, she was shot at, her eyes burned and her throat was raw from the tear gas, she slept on the cold pavement or against military vehicles freezing at night.  She also demonstrated in front of the Parliament. 

Day after day, the peaceful protestors were under deadly attacks.  Despite all the threats, detainments, arrests and violent attempts made by the regime to crush the peaceful protests, despite witnessing the gruesome deaths and injuries inflicted upon her fellow demonstrators by the regime, Hashim, along with her fellow demonstrators, never gave up.

“Everyone is watching around the world, and they [the Mubarak Regime] are even now arresting the activists, but it is not going to work because this is the voice of freedom, and it is the voice of rights,” said Hashim via a phone call on Feb. 3, 2011.

During another phone call in the midst of the revolution, I asked her if her hand was badly injured after police shot at her with–what were most likely–rubber bullets.  She selflessly described how minimal her injuries were in relation to others and said, “People are dead, seriously wounded everywhere and every time.  It’s [her hand] nothing, it’s fine compared to the real wounded and those who have sacrificed their lives.”

During the revolution she continued to post to her blogs.  She posted the following to her blog in English, “Just Raise Your Head Up High” on Feb. 10, 2011: “The demands of the Egyptian revolution at Tahrir Square” with a list of 12 demands for immediate response and a list of 8 demands for the transitional period. 

Even with the possibility of reprisal, Hashim took the risk of granting interviews to major media outlets including the “Huffington Post” and “Al-Jazeera English.”  Well aware that the transition from the old regime to a democracy will take time, patience and perseverance, she is dedicated to bringing positive change to her society.

If you would like to vote for Eman Hashim’s “Violet Revolution” blog (in Arabic, thawrat means “revolution” and al banafseg means “the violet/purple”) in Deutsche Welle’s blog contest, the BOBs (Best of Blogs), please click on the link provided at the end of these 3 simple voting steps:

Vote for the "Violet Revolution"-- 3 quick steps (click on image to enlarge)

Once you enter Deutsche Welle’s BOBs site, log into your Facebook or Twitter account (upper right-hand side). 

  1. Go to “IN THE CATEGORY” and click on the arrow and select “Best Blog Arabic” 
  2. Next, go to “I VOTE FOR” and click on the arrow and select the “Violet Revolution”  
  3. To finish, click on “VOTE.”  The system will not count your vote until you log into Facebook or Twitter. 

Deutche Welle’s International BOBS (Best of Blogs) Voting Site

If you have the time, there are many other blogs listed in other categories and languages that may peak your interests.

Courageous & peaceful women make history

Experiencing solidarity with men during the Revolution has broadened her scope beyond women’s issues

Prior to the Egyptian Revolution, Hashim’s main concerns were violence and human rights violations against women.  However, she is now widening her scope to include violence against ALL humans after experiencing solidarity with men throughout and after the revolution.  She demonstrated side-by-side with men for 18 days, her life was saved by a young man who came out of nowhere when a police officer cornered her and her friend at the dead-end of a street and raised his gun in their faces, and she was carried by fellow demonstrators when she fainted from tear gas or collapsed with pain. 

On International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, 2011, she wrote in her “Just Raise Your Head Up High” blog, “I have been fighting domestic violence against women for a long time now, and I still am.  But I find it hard to talk about when at the same time, all Egyptians were hit, kicked, run over, and shot by police.”

She further added that, “Today I am not an Egyptian woman, today I’m an Egyptian.  And, as I have been saying for so many times: VIOLENCE IS NOT OK AND DOES NOT HAVE AN EXCUSE.”

Note Regarding Photo of Eman Hashim:  Eman Hashim was interviewed on the television show, “The Game of Life” (Lubat Alhayat).  This international show highlights important social dilemmas that people in Arab societies face in their daily lives and also aims to uncover the truth and reality concerning women’s issues.  The show is broadcast on “Al Baghdadia,” an independent media outlet based in Iraq that highlights, through its programs, the problems and concerns of people–including human rights.  The mission of “Al Baghdadia” is to encourage freedom of speech, pluralism, the democratic system, and equality to all citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity, language, gender, social affiliations and political beliefs.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Julia Hanweck, All Rights Reserved.


American Civil Rights Movement

Vodpod videos no longer available.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Jean Jackson of Selma, Alabama had marched alongside her friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  From her unique experiences, she recalls her friend’s passion, courage and leadership.   Historical film footage and still photos from the Civil Rights Movement are woven throughout this news piece and illustrate the sufferering that the non-violent demonstrators endured in order to obtain Civil Rights.  

Source: Al Jazeera English, April 4, 2008 and titled, “First Person, Jean Jackson friend of MLK Selma, Alabama” on YouTube


Egyptian Solidarity: Voices of the 2011 Revolution (Part 1)

 
After 30 years of oppression, the silence and fear has been broken by peaceful protestors

By Julia Hanweck

Egypt’s now infamous January 25, 2011 “Day of Anger—Youm El Ghadab” demonstration against the 30-year Mubarak regime had originally been planned to last from only 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  No one expected such a mass movement to gain such momentum from Facebook posts and Twitter “Tweets” fueled by an internet and technologically-savvy generation living in a country where close to 50% of the citizens live in poverty.

Mr. Adel, a physician from Cairo, described how the peaceful Egyptian protestors had a real-life experience of the adage, “There is safety in numbers.”

“It seems that when the people went outside in mass numbers after 30 years of oppression, all the people who were scared to talk began to break this siege of fear and started to talk,” said Adel, who is also a writer. “Once the people were released from this fear and started to voice their opinions, nobody can stop them, and this is actually what is happening here.”

Annually, the U.S. provides close to $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt.  Also, according to major news sources and analysis by Middle East experts–in the U.S. and abroad–the Mubarak family has built up fortunes that could reach $70 billion.  Explaining to readers and viewers why the tensions in Egypt erupted into what many refer to as a revolution, the articles and broadcasts reported that much of this fortune has been acquired by corruption and the stifling of Egyptian public resources for personal gain.  With Egypt’s current poverty rate hovering at 50% and a growing and obvious desparity between the rich and the poor, this wealth does not trickle down to the majority of the population.

Close to one year ago, on the night of Jan. 27, 2010, I walked around Cairo’s Tahrir Square—the epicenter of the 2011 Egyptian demonstrations–with an employee of the Cairo-based organization, the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.  Andalus’ office is a short walk from Tahrir Square. We had just spent the afternoon and evening with other employees and human rights advocates at the Andalus Institute discussing current women’s issues in Egypt and America, pluralism, tolerance, human rights, and the promotion of democracy.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the Andalus Institute’s several partners.  The Andalus Institute confirms its commitment to the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, proclaimed and signed by the member states of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) on 16 November 1995, and all international declarations, covenants, treaties, and bills pertaining to the subject of human rights issued by the U.N. (United Nations) or any of its sub-organizations.

American history dated 1962 on the wall of Cairo’s Andalus Institute: “You cannot know where you are going until you know where you have been” (photo by Julia Hanweck on 1/27/2010 in Cairo, Egypt)

In Jan. and Feb. 2010, I was struck by the strength, courage and determination of the employees I had met who advocate non-violence. When I walked through the doors at Cairo’s Andalus Institute, one of the prominent framed posters hanging on the wall of the reception area was from American history dated 1962.  It was a photo of three bathrooms: “LADIES,” “MEN,” and “COLORED.” The quote beneath the photo of the three bathrooms stated, “You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”

The other framed poster in the Andalus Institute’s reception area that caught my eye was also related to the American Civil Rights Movement: a blown-up photo from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 with a sea of people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The quote beneath this photo read, “When one person stands up, he is often not noticed; but when thousands stand up together they cannot be overlooked.”

On the wall at the Cairo-based Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies: Martin Luther King Jr. and American Civil Rights Movement History, August 28, 1963 (Photo by Julia Hanweck on 1/27/2010 in Cairo, Egypt)

This poster of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech and the accompanying quote symbolize the current events and demonstrations throughout Egypt. Chills cover my body as I look back at the photos I took of these framed posters a little over a year ago.

As I talk to friends and acquaintances, watch various TV news programs, and read news articles about the Egyptian demonstrations, I understand that some people fear that this movement could turn Egypt into another Iran.

My close Egyptian-American friends of many years, who invited me on this trip to Cairo in Jan. 2010 for a wedding, began the chain of friendships and connections that I have with Egyptian citizens.  Most people outside of Egypt and tourists to Egypt have not had the experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have with Egyptians who are longing for freedom and democracy.

I was invited to and attended a round table in Cairo at the Andalus Institute where the topic, “What the Media Can Do to Protect Freedom of Religion,” was presented.  This round table was organized by the Media Diversity Institute, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Andalus Institute.  Presentations were delivered by experts with follow-up questions and anwers, open discussions and participation.

I have heard, first-hand, the individual voices of Egyptian citizens and have had personal interactions and friendships with these people who are fighting oppression and searching for peaceful ways to better their lives and the future generations to come.

Eman Hashim, a 29-year-old pediatric ophthalmologist working with special needs children in Cairo, has been demonstrating at Tahrir Square since Jan. 25, 2011.  She explained to me from Tahrir Square—via her cell phone—that this is absolutely not a religious fundamentalist movement; on the contrary, it is a revolution for freedom, democracy, dignity and human rights.

“Christians and Muslims of all ages are united together as humans.  We sleep on the pavement freezing every night, we share food, people are cleaning the streets, singing and playing football,” said Hashim, who is also a feminist blogger.  “It’s our country and we are doing everything for it.  We are proud that we are part of the Revolution, and the end of a 30-year regime.”

Poverty is rampant, unemployment is high even among the population with university degrees, and people feel hopeless.  As food and commodity prices rise, it is difficult for people to afford to feed themselves and their families.  The illiteracy rate is estimated to be around 30%.  Tens of thousands of Egyptians—many from impoverished families—work in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries spending years abroad to earn money and traveling by ship to return home.  Many feel that the elections in November 2010 were rigged by the Mubarak regime to position his son as the next president and continue the regime.

They are fed up with the corruption, bribery and human rights violations.  The younger generations are internet-savvy and connected to a world outside of Egypt–including cell phones.  They use Facebook, Twitter, MSN, Google, Yahoo and other social networks.  They write and/or follow blogs and surf the internet on a daily basis.

Ms. Mahmoud, an Egyptian writer and artist, explained that from her point of view, the Egyptian citizens want to live in a democracy where they don’t have to suffer from bribery at every turn and have freedom of speech and freedom of the press without fear of being arrested and possibly tortured.  They want to earn a livable wage where they can afford to feed their families.

“We just hear and read about democracy, but we have never experienced it in our lives.  We want democracy as it is defined in the books,” said Mahmoud.  “They [the Mubarak regime] just disconnected us from the internet for over a week like a bunch of rats, and the whole world was connected but us.  We returned to the cave ages during that time.”

As Americans watch these events in Egypt unfold, it is vital to remember our own history including the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, movements for the rights of Native Americans, workers rights movements and the plethora of other movements involving human rights.  Some people were scared of what the results could be in these movements, but if these had not occurred, we would not have the freedom and democracy that we cherish as Americans.  Women may not be voting, working or earning university degrees.  Bathrooms, neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, water fountains, and seats on buses might still be segregated, all crushing the dignity of our fellow humans.  This list goes on and on…

There are Egyptians who look to our American Civil Rights Movement and history for guidance.  I met, talked, and engaged in discussions with them.  I continue to communicate with many of the people I met in Cairo in 2010 and cultivate friendships.  I am in the process of writing a book with one of them about international women’s issues and human rights.  They desire the same freedoms that we enjoy—and sometimes take for granted because we are used to having them— every day in America.

Americans have reached breaking points throughout our history.  The Egyptians have finally reached their own.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Julia Hanweck, All Rights Reserved.


Human Rights: Our Greatest Needs, Beyond All Others

Copyright (c) 2011. Human Rights, Our Greatest Needs. By Julia Hanweck. All Rights Reserved.

Our Greatest Needs

Our greatest needs, beyond all others, are our human rights including freedom, love, dignity, and peace.  Love never harms.  On the contrary, love respects the uniqueness and dignity of others and ourselves. Love never controls or dominates; rather, it sets others and ourselves free.

Currently, and throughout history, courageous people are enduring and have endured unfathomable suffering in their struggle for human rights.  They have risked their lives, been tortured, imprisoned, denied medical care and murdered.  They have been without medical supplies, food, water and other basic needs all for the sake of freedom, dignity and human rights. 

As I write this, human rights violations are occuring around the globe and in every country.  Youths and adults are being preyed upon, exploited and trafficked in the pornography and prostitution industries.  On the grounds of some factories, children and adults are locked behind barbed-wire fences and forced to work in squalid and dangerous conditions.  While some of these business owners hoard huge amounts of wealth, many of these workers are never paid enough to climb out of poverty and may even die due to poor ventilation, over-exertion and lack of health care.  Many activists demonstrating peacefully for democracy are being arrested, jailed, tortured and killed.  The list goes on…

While laws pertaining to human rights have been enacted, are stricter and enforced to a higher degree in some parts of the world than in others, no nation is immune to human rights violations.

The Connection Between Human Rights and Love

Human rights and love are intertwined.  Love goes hand-in-hand with respecting the rights of others.  Often, during wedding ceremonies, the Bible passage about love from Corinthians (below: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) is read aloud.  It sounds so beautiful at the ceremony when emotions are highly charged and tears fill the eyes of the bride and groom, their families and guests.  Sadly, when the wedding celebration has ended, and people return to daily life stresses–traffic, bills, careers, studies, school and work deadlines, sports teams, yard work, cleaning, etc.–these precious words are at risk, for some, to be left behind in the air at the ceremony’s site to be forgotten.

This returns us full circle to our greatest needs.  Our greatest needs, beyond all others, are our human rights including love, freedom, dignity and peace.  Love is the strongest ingrediant for human rights.  Humans are complicated; however, love is not.    

The Definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7


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