Friday, December 27, 2013

Rob Ford bungles handling of ice storm emergency

Rob Ford, you have shown your incompetence again, by claiming that the ice storm that hit Southern Ontario, other parts of Eastern Canada, and parts of the U.S. last Sunday was NOT an emergency! What part of downed trees and damaged power lines does NOT constitute an emergency with you?! Many traffic lights are STILL out of power as a result of the ice storm--how is a city supposed to go on as usual with no working traffic lights?! People are living without heat and electricity in the dead of winter, and many have had to turn to warming centres just to survive! Yet none of this seems to register with you!
You, Rob Ford, say that you didn't want to call a state of emergency because you didn't want people to panic...well, guess what? PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN LIVING WITHOUT HEAT AND ELECTRICITY FOR ALMOST A WEEK ARE PANICKING ANYWAY! They have every reason to panic--they are hungry, cold, and desperate! Telling people to just be patient is NOT going to solve anything! These people need answers and real help! With people starving in the ongoing cold comes the risk of widespread illness--this is a real public health issue that needs to be dealt with IMMEDIATELY! If anyone gets sick or dies from not getting help during the ice storm, it will be MORE BLOOD on YOUR hands! Your bungling of the ice storm emergency shows yet again that you are not fit to be Mayor, and that you should be forced to resign!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Illegal arrest of Bahraini children is outrageous!

The false charges against 10 year old Jehad Nabeel AlSameea and 13 year old Abdulla Yusuf AlBahrani must be dropped, and both of these young children should be released immediately! Children should never be forced to suffer because of a country's political problems! The effects of torture and wrongful imprisonment on adults are horrible enough, but when it happens to children, the effects can only be that much worse! The ongoing political repression in Bahrain is horrifying, and the international community must intervene in Bahrain NOW to stop the oppression, or we will have another Syria on our hands!
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Open letter calling for Rob Ford's resignation

To Rob Ford:
Your resignation is long overdue! Your false allegations that Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale is a pedophile are beyond vile! You have humiliated Canada with your unprofessional and criminal behaviour many times, but this is a new low! You should have been forced to resign and sent to jail a long time ago, and your slander of Daniel Dale is further proof that you have NO credibility!
You claim that you are staying on as Mayor because you represent the citizens of Toronto--who exactly are you representing? Almost nobody wants to be associated with you! When people are organizing protests and holding signs calling for your resignation, what does that tell you? When there are various petitions going around calling for your resignation, including this one here, it should be clear to you that most people do NOT want you representing the City of Toronto!
Stop humiliating Canada, retract your accusations against Daniel Dale, and resign! You are a drunken, loud-mouthed fool who has NO class! You have NO business in municipal politics! Stop complaining about the media "invading your privacy", when you CHOOSE to bring negative attention to yourself through your own thoughtless actions! Anyone who continues to make excuses for you is just as guilty as you are for condoning criminal behaviour!
Karen Akhtar

Friday, December 6, 2013

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, and a reflection on how Canadian politicians should follow in his footsteps

Nelson Mandela's death is an enormous tragedy for the world--he was an incredible leader who made remarkable sacrifices not just for his country, but for all of humanity. His courage, strength, and compassion provide much-needed hope and inspiration in a world where cold political manipulation is all too common. He was a true activist who lived by his words, and he will be missed by many around the world.
Now if only more Canadian politicians could follow in Nelson Mandela's footsteps...
Canadian democracy is in a crisis. The Senate scandal and Rob Ford's outrageous antics reveal how greed and selfishness have taken precedence over real leadership and service to the community. We call ourselves a society based on equality, yet it is painfully clear that this value is not enforced. While many Canadian politicians are squandering money and doing as they please, we are failing our most vulnerable citizens. Immigrants are increasingly falling through the cracks right here in Canada. Khadijeh's story is a case in point--Khadijeh has been in Canada for almost 20 years, and STILL hasn't been granted Canadian status!
Other immigrants have had to face unreasonable hurdles while trying to come to Canada as well. Adel Benhmuda had to start a petition to convince Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to drop its request for a $6,800 fee, which was related to the costs of deporting the Benhmudas back to Libya! The deportation resulted in Adel Benhmuda being tortured! These are not "little mistakes" by CIC--these are clear cases of CIC taking advantage of vulnerable citizens!
It's time for a change in leadership here in Canada. We must pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and his values by practicing what he advocated. We need politicians who are genuinely interested in working for the greater good of society, not just enriching themselves. A tall order, yes, but in a country that prides itself as a democracy, we must demand better. Anything less will lead to more cynicism, and a society that looks more like an oligarchy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Open letter calling for the citizenship application of Leila Heidari's mother, Khadijeh, to be processed immediately

To Minister Chris Alexander:

Several months ago, Leila Heidari launched a petition on, stating that her mother, Khadijeh, had submitted her citizenship application in 1994. At the time, Khadijeh was told by officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) that they would make a decision regarding her national status by 2001. It is now 2013, and Khadijeh's citizenship application still has not been processed. Khadijeh now has severe dementia and is being denied the health care she desperately needs, because she is not recognized as a Canadian citizen. More information about her condition is available at the following link:

I would like to know why it is taking so long for Khadijeh's citizenship application to be processed. Almost 20 years have passed by, and no progress has been made regarding her application. Khadijeh is now 92 years old, and her health is failing. In addition to her severe dementia, Khadijeh also needs to be treated for injuries on her face, arms, and hands, after she lost her balance on June 4, 2013. Evidence of Khadijeh's injuries can be found through the following link:

It is impossible for Leila Heidari to get proper health care for her mother when Khadijeh is not even recognized as a Canadian citizen. Leila Heidari is a hard-working Canadian citizen who is not only trying to help her ailing mother, but is also struggling to raise her daughter, who has severe autism. Additional information about Leila Heidari's daughter with severe autism can be found on her petition and in a May 30, 2013 Facebook post. Please show compassion to Leila Heidari's family, and grant Khadijeh Canadian status immediately.

Karen Akhtar

Friday, November 22, 2013

Despite government claims of stabilization, the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan continues

It is heartbreaking to read that over 5,000 Filipinos have died from Typhoon Haiyan and its effects; the fact that the death toll is most likely to increase is depressing as well. It is clear that more work needs to be done to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan--more effort needs to put into locating those who are still missing. More aid also needs to be sent, and every effort should be made to ensure that survivors get the help that they need. I thank all of the organizations that are in the Philippines right now who are genuinely trying to make a difference.
Another way to help is to sign KD Faustino's petition, who is trying to get major Canadian phone companies to temporarily waive fees for Filipino Canadians, so they can stay connected with loved ones still suffering in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. For more information, please visit:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Aid to the Philippines is good, but major improvements could be made

Philippine government defends typhoon response as death toll passes 3,600 | CTV News

The stories of Renee Patron, Susan Tan, and Johnny Ogriman illustrate just how desperate things have become in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Susan Tan had everything stolen from her warehouse and grocery store from people struggling to survive, yet she is STILL trying to help those in need! Aid organizations and the Filipino government should learn from Susan Tan's example and use every resource available to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The outpouring of relief for the Philippines is wonderful, but it is clear that much more work needs to be done. Anyone who can help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan should do so, and I applaud anyone who makes a genuine effort to help those in need.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ford family remains in denial about Rob Ford's criminal behaviour

Rob Ford doesn't need help--he needs to resign and be put in jail! The new video showing him to be threatening someone while drunk, coupled with his admitted drug use, show what an irresponsible person he is! He is not fit to be the mayor of Toronto; time and time again, he shows himself to be someone who has no class or dignity! He is not a helpless victim who deserves sympathy; he chose to create his own problems by behaving recklessly! The Ford family deserves to be questioned as well, as they continue to make excuses for Rob Ford's behaviour. His continued position as mayor is a MAJOR injustice to the city of Toronto, and to the Canadian legal system itself!
What is your reaction to this story?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Senate scandal is making Canada look like a joke!

Senators Brazeau, Duffy, and Wallin do NOT deserve continued benefits--they have claimed inappropriate expenses and should face the consequences for their actions! They already enjoy lavish salaries and connections to political power, yet they STILL stole taxpayer money! They shouldn't just be suspended--they should be fired and imprisoned! Clearly, the concept of equality does NOT exist in Canada--senators are somehow above the law, even when they break the law! Canadian democracy needs an overhaul IMMEDIATELY!!!
What is your reaction to this story?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford must be FORCED to resign!

It is absolutely outrageous that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will be staying in power, after admitting to smoking crack cocaine! He must be FORCED to resign--his behaviour is completely unprofessional, and he's making Toronto look like a joke! I am also tired of the people who continue to defend his behaviour and act as if he's a victim--Rob Ford is an ADULT who CHOSE to do drugs while in public office! This is not "a little mistake"--Rob's Ford's criminal behaviour is having HUGE CONSEQUENCES on the city of Toronto! When someone is better known for doing drugs and getting drunk rather than creating good public policies, he or she is in no position to be holding public office! I don't buy his apology either--he's manipulated everyone for far too long, and has completely broken the public trust! STEP DOWN ROB FORD!!!
What is your reaction to this story?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fee for family wrongly deported to Libya is horrendous!

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) should reverse its decision to ask for a $6,800 fee from a family who have already been wrongly deported to Libya! The Benhmudas have been through more than enough--they don't deserve to have their lives be put on hold like this! It should have been clear from the first time the Benhmudas applied for refugee status that their lives were in danger, and CIC should have never rejected their application! Do the right thing CIC--scrap the $6,800 fee, and bring the Benhmudas back to Canada immediately!
What is your reaction to this story?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lack of empathy for Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan is atrocious!

It's been a year since Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Attaullah, who was working for the Taliban, and he STILL remains at large!!! How is it that Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for girls' education, cannot live safely in Pakistan, yet the Taliban can do as they please?! By refusing to investigate Malala's case, the Pakistani police are allowing fear, ignorance, and cowardice to destroy Pakistani society! The Pakistani legal system must be criticized for the same reasons as the police!The Pakistani government must be blamed as well--how did Attaullah manage to escape to Afghanistan, and nobody from the government security forces tried to capture him and kill him?!
The Pakistani citizens who ignore Malala's suffering deserve to be heavily criticized as well--how is it that the attempted murder of a young girl who wants girls to be educated gets dismissed as a conspiracy theory by the West, yet any criticism of the Taliban is blunted in the name of being "culturally sensitive?!" What is Pakistan becoming as a society when anyone who wants to change Pakistan for the better is targeted as an agent of Western imperialism, yet the Taliban are given the benefit of the doubt? Pakistani society is in an incredibly sad and pathetic state of affairs when we have Malala, a now 16 year old girl, more willing to challenge the beliefs of the Taliban than most members of Pakistani society!
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Judge's dismissal of Baha'i citizen's murder proves that Iran's legal system is still corrupt

The delay in dealing with the case of Iranian Baha'i citizen Ataollah Rezvani shows yet again that the Iranian legal system is not based on delivering real justice to victims, and that widespread persecution of Baha'is continues in Iran. The judge's dismissal of Rezvani's death as a suicide instead of the murder that it was goes against all of the evidence presented in the case, and is a gross injustice to Rezvani himself, his family, and his friends. Despite all the talk of reform, it is clear that grave human rights abuses are accepted and rewarded in Iran; nothing will change until real, effective punishments are used against the Iranian government and its legal system.
What is your reaction to this story?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bring Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson back to Canada now!

It's been over a month since Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson has been arrested without charge in Egypt--when is the Canadian government going to bring them home?! It's clear that Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are innocent--the Egyptian authorities can't even give a reason as to why they're being imprisoned in the first place! They didn't do anything wrong--why are they being forced to suffer?! If these two men die, it will be blood on the hands of the Canadian government!!!
Please help Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson by signing the following petition: 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Worker exploitation in Bangladesh continues

What is it going to take for Western retailers to respect Bangladeshi workers' rights?! The fact that Bangladeshi garment workers still have to fight for a wage increase, even after the horrific factory collapse that killed thousands of workers back in April of this year, says a lot about how much Western retailers and factory owners don't care about their own workers! It is clear that consumers living in the West need to put even more pressure on Western retailers to improve working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers--Western retailers and factory owners won't change until they are forced to!
On May 22, 2013 I conducted an email interview with Arif Ullah, who is advocating for better working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers. Please help him put pressure on Western retailers to respect Bangladeshi workers' rights by signing his petition:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Death penalty for Delhi gang rape convicts is great news!

I applaud Judge Yogesh Khanna for sentencing the criminals to death! They don't deserve to live a comfortable life in any society, and it is beyond high time that India takes the issue of violence against women seriously! Judge Khanna's decision should serve as an example to any male who dares to think that he can get away with rape! The criminals should be hanged right away so that their lawyers don't get the chance to file an appeal!
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Implement recommendations to help acid attack victims!

I agree with the Indian Union Home Ministry's recommendations to help acid attack victims, and it is beyond high time to do something about the issue of acid attack violence! Acid attacks are destroying countless lives, particularly across South Asia, and many acid attack victims are often left with nothing! By allowing acid attacks to continue and delaying the passage of legislation to protect acid attack victims, India is showing the world that it does not care about tackling the issue of acid attacks!
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Free Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson!

The charges against Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are unjust and unfounded--they should be released immediately! It is clear that they are innocent, and do not deserve to be suffering in prison! They have already been wrongfully imprisoned for two weeks--how much more do they have to suffer before they are brought back to Canada safely?!
To help free Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson, please sign the following petition: 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stop failing the mentally ill!

I agree with Association president Jim Chu--various levels of government need to invest more resources in mental health care and make sure it is getting to the right people, so that someone's possible mental health crisis can be prevented in the first place. Why are we allowing people with mental illness to fall through the cracks, and then when these people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, living on the streets, and end up in the criminal system, we act like it's a surprise?! WAKE UP!!!
To support better mental health care, please sign the following petition: 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cancel "Border Security", a useless reality TV show!

Reality TV show "Border Security" needs to be cancelled immediately! It is an invasion of privacy and offers no value to Canadian society! People's humiliation and misery should not be broadcast as entertainment, and it is unthinkable that anyone would defend this! A show like this should not be produced anywhere, and it definitely does not belong in a country like Canada, which claims to be based on democracy and respect for human rights! By allowing "Border Security" to continue, Canada is allowing itself to become a surveillance state!
For more information on how "Border Security" is destroying lives, please read and sign the following petition: 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Backlash against payout for chief who sexually assaulted girl increases

I agree with everyone who has criticized chief Terrance McArthur for getting a large payout after sexually assaulting a girl--he is a criminal, and deserves to be treated like one! He has refused to step down as chief seveal times even after he was found guilty, showing that he feels no remorse for what he did. The band council's treatment of McArthur as if he is some kind of victim is equally disgusting--they should be providing compensation and support to the girl who was sexually assaulted, not bailing McArthur out!
What is your reaction to this story?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lenient sentence, payout for chief who sexually assaulted girl is outrageous!

Why is Terrance McArthur, the chief who sexually assaulted a girl, being sentenced to only nine months in jail?! This lenient punishment is sending the message that if someone commits sexual assault, he or she can serve a little bit of jail time, then move on with his or her life as if nothing has happened--this is wrong on so many levels! Where is the justice for the sexual assault victim?! Apparently the band council didn't bother to think of her at all, as they are also giving McArthur a payout of over $47,000! Why is the band council paying McArthur after he has sexually assaulted a young girl?! This is DESPICABLE!!! I find it bitterly ironic that Aboriginals across Canada are pushing for a national inquiry for females from their own communities who have gone missing or have been murdered in Canada, yet this Aboriginal band council turns a blind eye to the issue of sexual assault within their own community--this is ABSOLUTELY VILE!!!
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Iran needs to get justice for Sattar Beheshti

Sattar Beheshti's case must be taken to court, and the opinion of the Medical Examiner's Office must be ignored, as it is clear that their explanations for Beheshti's death contain too many inconsistencies. Beheshti's family and the other prisoners who were kept with Sattar have given ample, believable evidence that he had been tortured, and it is clear that they are the ones who are telling the truth. To ignore their observations would defy all logic, and would illustrate yet again that Iran's legal system is extremely corrupt.
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, July 5, 2013

More worker exploitation in Bangladesh

The latest revelations of Bangladeshi garment workers falling ill after eating food provided to them by their own employers shows that factory owners are continuing to exploit Bangladeshi workers. This latest information also shows that there must be even more pressure put on Western retailers to ensure safe working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers--inspections conducted by the companies themselves will not work, as it is clear that they care more about profits than human lives.
Arif Ullah, a Bangladeshi workers' rights advocate in the U.S., is currently petitioning Western retailers to ensure safe working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding agreement. To get Western retailers to improve working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers, please sign Arif Ullah's petition:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another failure of justice in Iran

It is clear that the Iranian legal system is not changing, despite the election of a new government. The case of Sattar Beheshti must be taken to court, and all evidence must be fully examined; failure to do this will show that any hope for reform in Iran will be lost. Beheshti's killers, members of FATA, and the security forces who continue to threaten his family should also be imprisoned.
The wrongful death of Sattar Beheshti and the continuing plight of his family are more painful reminders that the international community needs to keep a watchful eye on Iran. Until the Iranian legal system is changed to protect innocent victims, a genuinely free and democratic Iran cannot exist. Pressure must be maintained on the Iranian government to ensure that victims of Iran's cruel legal system can finally receive justice.
What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bangladeshi workers ignored with amended labour law

The amended labour law is a slap in the face to Bangladeshi workers who continue to be exploited! Preventing Bangladeshi workers from getting better working conditions and being able to unionize show that the Bangladeshi government is just as guilty as Western retailers of abusing Bangladeshi workers! The suggestion that the Bangladeshi government should decide whether Bangladeshi workers should get an already inadequate 5% of profits donated to them by the companies also makes it clear that the Bangladeshi government has no interest in protecting its own workers!
The industrial disasters of November 2012 at Tazreen and April 2013 at Rana Plaza made it obvious that Bangladeshi garment workers were being treated like disposable cogs in a machine, yet the Bangladeshi government callously chooses to ignore the plight of its own citizens! It is clear that citizens around the world still need to put pressure on the garment industry and the Bangladeshi government to stop worker exploitation in Bangladesh. On May 22, 2013, I posted an e-mail interview with Arif Ullah, a petition organizer  who is advocating for Bangladeshi workers' rights: In our e-mail interview, he elaborates on the issue of worker exploitation in Bangladesh, and provides in-depth information about the garment industry and the Bangladeshi government being complicit in abusing its workers. I have also provided a link to his petition in that blog post, and I will provide it again.
To help Bangladeshi garment workers get better working conditions, please sign Arif Ullah's petition:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Doctors, refugee advocates protest cuts to refugee health care in Canada

Refugees coming to Canada already face major challenges trying to adjust to life in a new country, and the latest cuts to refugee health care only exacerbate those challenges. The excuse of "cost-cutting" is unjustified--waiting until refugees' illnesses are hazardous to public safety and health will endanger the lives of refugees and Canadian citizens. The health costs will also increase, as treatments for illnesses in the advanced stages will certainly cost more than preventing the development of illnesses in the first place. The well-being of refugees is just as important as the well-being of Canadian citizens--by denying a basic human right such as health care to refugees, Canada's reputation as a country that treats all people equally has been thrown into question.

What is your reaction to this story?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Victim wrongfully detained in Syria

A June 7, 2013 news release from the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) reports that 22 year old Suhaib Hassan Swaidan, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer, was held against his will in the Syrian city of Homs on May 23, 2013. Various sources confirmed that he had been arrested by the Military Intelligence, part of the Syrian Army, when he was crossing the Cultural Centre checkpoint with a SARC First Aid Squad Ambulance Team. The checkpoint is in the Al-Midan area near Al-Mahatta Avenue, located in the city of Homs.
After Swaidan was arrested, there has been no information given to his family regarding any charges against him or his whereabouts from the Military Intelligence. However, some recently released former detainees confirmed that Swaidan is being held at the Military Intelligence Prison, located in Homs. Another report stated that he has been mistreated  by the prison authorities, and it is feared that he is being tortured because of his solitary confinement.
Swaidan has sustained two injuries while working with SARC. In August 2011, shrapnel caused by nearby shelling hit him in his neck. Then, in January 2012 during First Aid missions in Homs, a bullet hit his thigh, which permanently damaged his nerves and the structure of his leg, requiring rehabilitation. Swaidan is a second year student at the Faculty of Economics in Hama, a Syrian city. He has been a volunteer with the SARC since 2011. He was a member of SARC's Human Resources Committee of Homs City Branch and a leader of a First Aid Squad. 
The wrongful imprisonment of Suhaib Hassan Swaidan is a new low in the human rights abuses being committed against innocent Syrians. To arrest an innocent person, now disabled, who worked to save other people's lives without presenting any charges or informing his family, shows that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is not trying to maintain "stability"--this is about tainting anyone as an enemy, destroying any opposition, and upholding a tyrant state!!!
How many Syrians have to die and be wrongfully imprisoned before President Al-Assad is taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be tried for crimes against humanity? "No evidence exists" CANNOT be used as an excuse, because PLENTY of evidence exists to prove that President Al-Assad is a war criminal!!! By failing to take President Al-Assad to the ICC, the international community is complicit in maintaining a corrupt political system in Syria and proving that human rights abusers will be rewarded instead of punished, like they should be!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Criticism of Burmese government's persecution of Aung Ko Latt and other victims

The claims of Burma's transition to democracy are meaningless when Aung Ko Latt and others like him continue to be wrongfully imprisoned. The Burmese government's promotion of trade with its country is nothing but a masquerade to keep people around the world from knowing the truth about Burma's ongoing human rights abuses. Until there is genuine respect for human rights in Burma, there can be no democracy. The international community needs to continue to pressure the Burmese government into halting persecution of its innocent citizens.

What is your reaction to this story?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Criticism of Iran's crackdown on Ashkan Zahabian, student activist

A May 29, 2013 article from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) states that on May 27, 2013, Iranian security officials broke into the home of Ashkan Zahabian and arrested him. He was a former student at Ferdowsi University and a former member of the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat Student Organization General Council. Zahabian was then transferred to Mati Kola Prison, located in the Iranian city of Babol, on the same day. This information has been provided to the ICHRI from an anonymous source. The ICHRI has also been informed that the security officials who broke into Zahabian's home first claimed that they were electricians, and asked to enter his house. When they were inside Zahabian's home, they threatened him with physical abuse and guns. They took him away, dragging him out of his bed, without even allowing him a chance to get dressed.

The source also noted that after Zahabian's family appeared in court, the Sentence Enforcement Unit officials claimed that they had sent three court orders to the family. However, the family stated that they had never received any court orders and challenged the validity of the claim. They also questioned why Zahabian was arrested without court orders and without any legal process. Babol Court authorities claim that the purpose of Zahabian's arrest was to enforce his eight-month jail term from his 2011 case. Zahabian was charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and threatening national security, according to a July 2011 ruling from Judge Bagherian. The source also commented that Zahabian was charged with associating with Grand Ayatollahs in the Iranian city of Qom. However, according to the attorney, this charge has not been proven with any evidence.

Zahabian studied chemistry while he was in university and was a former member of the university's Islamic Association. He was suspended for one academic term in 2008 due to his student activism. Four days after the 2009 elections, the Intelligence Ministry arrested him. A militant group identified as Ansar-e-Hezbollah, who were dressed in plainclothes at the time, beat him severely while he was arrested. He was arrested again on November 4, 2009 during Student Day protests. A Babol Revolutionary Court sentenced him to six months in jail without his presence in the courtroom. In February 2009, he was banned from continuing his education based on an Intelligence Ministry decision, while still suspended from university. He was then expelled, just one term away from graduation. He was arrested again on May 2, 2011. After spending 43 days in solitary cells and being interrogated in Shahid Kachooei Prison, located in the Iranian city of Sari, he was taken to Mati Kola Prison.

The source also noted that Zahabian started a hunger strike after serving more than half of his six month jail term at Mati Kola Prison, to protest his unjust imprisonment, where he was being kept in a ward with dangerous criminals. His health worsened, yet he was forced into solitary confinement. He was ignored by security guards and doctors working in the jail, which led to him losing consciousness. Zahabian developed liver, stomach, and speech problems as a result of being interrogated in jail and because of his hunger strike. After his release, he remained under medical care.

The fact that Zahabian has been arrested without any evidence shows once again that the Iranian legal system is not based on justice; it is based on persecuting innocent victims. It is also completely cowardly of the security officials who broke into Zahabian's home to misrepresent themselves as electricians, threaten him, and arrest him without any court orders. To make matters worse, Zahabian's health has been neglected with full knowledge from Iranian doctors and security officials, causing his condition to deteriorate even more. Zahabian is an innocent citizen who was working hard by going to university and getting educated, but now his future has been ruined. Zahabian's wrongful arrests have caused him to suffer needlessly, and illustrate the rampant corruption in the Iranian legal system and government.

What is your reaction to this story?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Changing the way business gets done: An interview with Arif Ullah, petition organizer and advocate for Bangladeshi workers' rights

Picture of Arif Ullah. (Reused
with permission from Arif Ullah).
After witnessing endless media coverage of worker abuse in Bangladesh and the failure of major U.S. and European retailers to stop it, Arif Ullah decided that something had to be done to protect Bangladeshi workers' rights. He has launched a petition on, calling for major U.S. and European retailers to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. Here, Arif Ullah elaborates on the situation of worker abuse in Bangladesh, and the changes he wants to see in the garment industry.

1. How does it feel to read about these human rights abuses happening in your home country?

Arif: I'm both heartbroken and infuriated. Since 2005, at least 1,800 workers have been killed in Bangladesh garment factories. All of these deaths, including Rana Plaza, could have been prevented.

If international companies that source from Bangladeshi garment factories enforced basic safety standards, garment factory owners would have no choice but to acquiesce, however morally bankrupt and inhumane they may be. They're entirely dependent on their contracts with these companies, and would not risk those relationships. 

Foreign companies are entirely aware of this, but they've done next to nothing to pressure the factories because of fears that safety standards would cut into their already massive profit margins--it would cost companies ten cents more per garment to make improvements. Instead, they hand-pick auditors to inspect factories, which is similar to hiring a fox to guard the hen house. The message that they're sending is clear: Bangladeshi lives are expendable. 

Last week, mounting pressure from human rights organizations and the public, as well as negative media coverage, led 18 major companies to sign the Accord on Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety, including H&M. American companies are conspicuously missing from the list of signatories. Walmart and Gap have instead expressed concern about the safety plan. They don't like that it's enforceable and legally-binding. And they want to continue to self-monitor with impunity. Other North American companies that have refused to sign on are: Target, Sears, JC Penney, Kohl's, North Face, Children's Place, Macy's, American Eagle, Nordstrom, and Foot Locker. 

2. In addition to signing the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, what other measures do you want major U.S. and European retailers to take to protect Bangladeshi workers?

Arif: Unfortunately, safety is not the only problem in Bangladeshi factories. Workers are often made to work 12 to 16 hours a day, if not longer, or risk losing their jobs. Wages have not kept up with inflation, and the minimum wage is barely enough to make ends meet (which, to be fair, is not dissimilar from the United States). And, there is no such thing as health care for the 3.6 million workers--mostly young women--employed in the industry. Sexual coercion is also not uncommon. 

As well, the Bangladeshi government has made it nearly impossible for workers to unionize, requiring union organizers to present the names of those interested in joining unions to factory owners for their approval. This week, the government announced changes to this and other policies that would increase workers' rights. I'll believe it when I see it. All the major Bangladeshi political parties--the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Awami League, Jamaat-e-Islami, and the Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP)--are in bed with the garment industry. 

International companies that source from Bangladesh can pressure both factory owners and the Bangladeshi government to make improvements in all of these areas, and of course, they should help to fund them. The $20 billion garment industry accounts for approximately 80 per cent of the country's exports--factory owners and the government would not jeopardize this cash cow.

3. What is your message to the major U.S. and European retailers who are guilty of abusing Bangladeshi workers, and for people who continue to defend worker abuse in Bangladesh?

Arif: International companies are in Bangladesh because it is lucrative for them. Cheap labor affords them wide profit margins. However, cheap labor must not come at the expense of people's lives. Companies have a responsibility to ensure safe work places, livable wages, and healthy working conditions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Americans last year devoted just 3% of their annual spending to clothing and footwear, compared with around 7% in 1970 and about 13% in 1945, according to Commerce Department data.” But there is a high cost for cheap labor, and we are reminded of this all too frequently. 

I would like to thank Arif Ullah for taking the time to share his insight about workers' rights in Bangladesh, and for advocating for Bangladeshi workers' rights. 

To sign Arif's petition, please visit:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Indian police get punished for sabotaging investigation of rape case involving five-year-old girl

It's good to see that the police who sabotaged the investigation of a rape case involving a five-year-old girl are being punished for their actions. An inquiry into the latest acts of corruption by the Indian police is necessary, so that they are judged and shamed by the public for failing to live up to their responsibilities. This inquiry should be a lesson to any other Indian police officers who are thinking of neglecting their responsibilities and getting away with it--the public is watching is you, and will not remain silent when you engage in acts of corruption.

It's also good to see that the rape victim has been taken to a better hospital where she can finally receive the  appropriate treatment for her injuries. I wish the little girl and her family all the best in trying to receive the justice that they so rightfully deserve. As for the Indian police, shame on you again for not taking the case of a five-year-old girl getting raped seriously, and for trying to pay off the victim's family to pressure them into dropping the case!!!

What is your reaction to this story? Please share your comments below.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Indian police sabotage yet another investigation of rape case

This is outrageous! How many more females need to become victims of sexual assault before the Indian police and government take women's rights seriously?! We are talking about a five-year-old girl who was kidnapped, beaten, and raped by her neighbour, and had a bottle of hair oil and a candle found inside her body!!! To make matters even worse, the police initially refused to register the case, insulted the victim's family, and tried to pay off the victim's family to get them to drop the case! The callous treatment of the victim's family by the police shows that the Indian police are more interested in defending the rights of criminals than of actual victims!

The doctors who withheld important information about the girl's condition from her own family are also to blame in all of this--how could they not inform the victim's family of her condition?! What is even more disgusting is the fact that the rape victim has been taken to a rundown hospital that doesn't even have the proper facilities to treat her condition! The complete lack of concern for this little girl's life is absolutely appalling!!! Whoever was involved in preventing the rape victim and her family from receiving justice should be jailed for life--they are no better than the rapist! India prides itself as a democracy that respects human rights, yet this most recent case of rape that has been ignored by Indian authorities shows that the opposite is true!!! SHAME ON YOU INDIA!!!

What is your reaction to this rape case? Please share your comments below.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Provide justice to families of missing and murdered Aboriginal females in Canada with national inquiry

It's encouraging to see that most of Canada's provinces and Aboriginal organizations are united in asking for a national inquiry for missing and murdered Aboriginal females to be launched. The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal females in Canada is a national tragedy that deserves a lot more attention from the legal system and the media. How can we go around the world preaching the importance of human rights and democracy, when we are failing Aboriginals in our own backyard? How many more protests and conferences will it take before we provide justice to the victims' families? A national inquiry is LONG overdue!

How do you feel about the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal females in Canada? Please share your comments below.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Iran must immediately release blogger with heart condition!

An April 12, 2013 article from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) reports that doctors at Ghezel Hessar Prison, located in Iran, have concluded that jailed blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari is too unhealthy to remain in prison. However, he has been forced to serve his sentence, despite already having suffered two heart attacks, according to his daughter Mitra Pourshajari, who was interviewed by the ICHRI. She also commented that the authorities will be held responsible if they do not offer furlough for her father's open heart surgery, should he suffer another severe health issue.

On September 12, 2010, Mohammad was arrested at his home. He was brought to trial at Branch 109 of Alborz Province Courts with Judge Gholam Saraee handling his case. He was charged with insulting Ayatollah Khamenei and for supposedly being a threat to national security. Mohammad was punished with three years' jail time. However, in December 2011, he was punished with another year in jail, this time being charged with blasphemy. He has been taken from Rajaee Shahr Prison to Ghezel Hessar Prison with no explanation. According to Mitra, her father's case is still open and the judge dealing with his case has stated that the Intelligence Ministry is still conducting further research on the case--despite the previous two convictions. She fears that her father will face even more punishments.

Mitra also stated that evidence of two blocked arteries in her father's heart became apparent after a heart attack last October, and that prison doctors have even concluded that her father is too unhealthy to face jail time. Despite all this, Mitra states that over the past six months, the authorities did not even bother to transfer her father to a hospital. She added that her father suffers from additional diseases, ranging from disc problems, kidney stones, and an enlarged prostate.

Mitra is also concerned about the prison's dirty living conditions and her father's poor health. She has demanded her father's release and asked the Iranian legal authorities to get him treatment quickly, as he has already suffered two heart attacks. She also stated that the future of his health is looking more uncertain, especially considering the fact that his arteries are 85% blocked. Mitra also stressed that her father's heart condition is the direct result of being imprisoned--he did not have any health problems before being jailed. She stated that the authorities will be held responsible if her father suffers another severe health issue.

The needless persecution of Mohammad Reza Pourshajari and his daughter prove yet again that the Iranian regime has no respect for human rights. Punishing someone with unfounded charges shows that the Iranian legal system does not care about true justice. To add insult to injury, Mohammad is being denied access to treatment, despite being in obviously poor health. To deny medical care to someone whose health is clearly deteriorating is incredibly inhumane, and clashes with the Iranian government's claims that it is trying to enforce morality.

How do you feel about Mohammad Reza Pourshajari's persecution? Please leave your comments below.

Human rights defender must be released immediately!

An April 11, 2013 article from the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), an organization that advocates for human rights in the Middle East, reports that Abdullah Al-Hadidi, a human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for tweeting. According to the GCHR, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance made the decision to sentence Al-Hadidi on April 8, 2013. His conviction is the first under the UAE's new cyber crime law and refers to the supposed publication of misinformation related to the UAE94 case. (The UAE94 case refers to the trial of 94 UAE activists. For more information, please visit: 

The GCHR also notes that court access to the UAE94 trial was severely limited, and entry was denied to journalists and several members of the international community. However, Al-Hadidi was allowed into the courtroom and made notes of the trial, posting the information on Twitter. He also helped families of the victims who were being persecuted by documenting their cases.

In the early morning hours of March 22, 2013, Al-Hadidi was arrested by plainclothes policemen at his home located in Sharjah, a city in the UAE, in the presence of his three children and wife. The policemen did not show a warrant for his arrest, and he was taken to a police station in Sharjah. At the police station, the family was told that Al-Hadidi was wanted for a financial offence, and prevented them from bailing him out.

He was taken to Abu Dhabi the same day, as a court security official filed a complaint against him because Al-Hadidi allegedly used force against officers from the General Command of Abu Dhabi Police. This security guard had also removed Al-Hadidi from the courtroom during the most recent trial related to the UAE94 case, which happened on March 19, 2013.

Al-Hadidi was questioned about the information he posted on Twitter, and maintained that he is telling the truth about what happened during the UAE94 trial. He was taken to the office of the general prosecution of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and charged under Article 265 of the Penal Code and the new cyber crime law for publishing information about the UAE94 trial dishonestly and deceptively. He was unable to receive bail.

On April 2, 2013, the Court of First Instance permitted the defence to submit its evidence before sentencing. On April 4, 2013, the defence witnesses, who are all families of the victims in the UAE94 case, stated that Al-Hadidi did not use force against the security guard who removed him from the courtroom. Al-Hadidi was found not guilty after court examination. However, the victims' families were not questioned about the information he posted on Twitter, and Al-Hadidi was charged with posting the information on Twitter.

Al-Hadidi's arrest highlights once again the widespread disregard for human rights and freedom of expression across the Arab world. By punishing Al-Hadidi for posting information that UAE citizens have every right to know about, the UAE authorities are setting themselves up for criticism. It does not matter how much the UAE tries to sell itself as a tourist paradise--as long as crackdowns on dissent continue, the ugly truth about the UAE's human rights abuses will remain.

Citizens around the world also have a responsibility to pressure the UAE government into respecting human rights. Aside from raising awareness about what's happening in the UAE, let's withhold our tourism dollars from the UAE government. Boycott all travel and study abroad opportunities in the UAE until the UAE finally releases all innocent victims from jail and respects human rights--let's not feed a draconian regime with our money.

How do you feel about Al-Hadidi's arrest? Please share your comments below.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Criticism of the Bahraini government in the torture and killings of Zakariya Al-Asheeri and Ali Saqer


A March 13, 2013 article from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expressed concern over  a Bahraini court's decision to acquit everyone involved in the torture and death of blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al-Asheeri, who was detained by the police after a show trial that was over a year long.

On March 12, 2013, the first higher criminal court acquitted five policemen who were charged with beating 40 year old blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri to death, who was detained by the police in April 2011. Two of the policemen were accused of torturing Al-Asheeri, causing fatal injuries; the other three policemen were charged with failing to report the crime. All five have been cleared of their charges relating to Al-Asheeri, although two of them have been convicted  for the fatal beating of another detainee, Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer.

Al-Asheeri, who was a moderator for an online forum, the now-defunct, was arrested on April 2, 2011 for calling for the overthrow of the regime, promoting sectarianism, publishing false news, and inciting hatred. On April 9, 2011, he was found dead in custody. His body was given to his family, which showed extensive signs of torture. At the time, the Bahraini government denied all reports of torture, and claimed that Al-Asheeri had died of complications related to sickle cell anemia.

The same five policemen have also been accused of beating Ali Saqer to death. Two of them had been found guilty of his death by the court, and had been sentenced to jail for 10 years. They did not attend the hearing and have not been detained.

Saqer turned himself into the police on April 5, 2011, after numerous threats were made to his family. Four days later, he was pronounced dead by the Ministry of Interior. It released a statement claiming that Saqer caused trouble at the detention centre, forcing security to control the situation, and that Saqer resisted them, which led to him being injured in the process. He died later after he was taken to the hospital. The Minister of Human Rights had also claimed that detainees had died of natural causes at a press conference, and accused activists of doctoring photos to make it look like the victims had experienced torture. When Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR, published the photos of Saqer with evidence of torture on his body, he was accused of doctoring photos. Rajab was ordered to tried in a military court.

The trial began over a year ago on January 11, 2012. The accused policemen were not held in custody and had attended a few sessions in their uniforms, which indicated that they were still on duty at the time, and are not considered a threat to the victims remaining in custody. For more information on this story, please visit:

The deaths of Zakariya Al-Asheeri and Ali Saqer prove once again that massive human rights violations are taking place in Bahrain, and that the people who tortured them should be imprisoned for life. With the cases of government-sponsored torture increasing in Bahrain, it is clear that the need for the international community to find a practical, non-military solution to Bahrain's growing political crisis is becoming more urgent. Any claims by the Bahraini government that its own citizens are not being tortured to death are obviously false, and can be easily refuted with the following photos:

Signs of torture were found on the body of blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri. Photos reused with
permission from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

Signs of torture were found on the 
body of Ali Saqer. Photo reused with 
permission from the Bahrain Center 
for Human Rights (BCHR).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fixing British Columbia's Mental Health Care Crisis: An Interview with Kelly Bradley

Kelly Bradley, right, stands next to her
husband, Owen Bradley, left. (Photo
reused with permission from Kelly
*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Wait lists. Being told her adopted daughter was "physically OK" even though she was experiencing an obvious mental health crisis. These were the things that Kelly Bradley had to deal with while trying to get help for her 11-year-old adopted daughter, *Jeannette. Now, Kelly Bradley is advocating for changes to British Columbia's (B.C.'s) mental health care system. (British Columbia is a province in Canada.) 

Describe Jeannette's condition. What does she experience that makes her need intensive mental health care?

Kelly: Jeannette is living with Adolescent Bipolar disorder. She was having rapid cycling episodes, which in her case and many children with Bipolar, results in very violent behaviour that can last several hours. Moreover, she was self-harming by hitting her head (hard) into walls, windows, her hands, or with her hard toys. She wanted the "angry feelings to stop." We were seriously concerned she would fatally harm herself or seriously injure one of us (her parents).

Describe your experiences at the hospital when Jeannette was having a mental health crisis.

Kelly: The first time we sought emergency help in January, Jeannette was admitted so the hospital could rule out any "physical reasoning" for her rapid cycling. When the testing came back, it showed that her medication needed an overhaul, and that would need to be done at Ledger House, Victoria's only psychiatric assessment hospital that has 13 beds and, at the time, had a 3-4 week waiting list. We were told that the hospital was not set up for what Jeannette needed, and we would have to take her home to wait. They also said if she had another violent episode and we were concerned for her safety, that we could bring her back to the hospital. The hospital gave us a card with the crisis line, a prescription of Ativan, and a waiting list. 

20 hours after Jeannette's first discharge, we had to call 911 to get the police to help us take her back to the hospital, because she was too violent for us to safely take her. The police took Jeannette under the Mental Health Act and had to stay with her until she was seen by an ER doctor. They wouldn't allow me into the waiting area because she was too violent. I had to leave the hospital briefly to get my son from preschool, and received a phone call from the hospital social worker saying that Jeannette will be discharged because she was "physically OK." Both myself and Jeannette begged them to admit her because we were worried she would fatally harm herself, but again they said the hospital wasn't set up for kids like her. Again, they gave us a business card for the crisis line and told us to bring her back if she has another episode. 

Two days later, Jeannette had another very violent episode and again we called 911 to help us get her to the hospital. The police came and once again took her under the Mental Health Act and brought her to the hospital. I had to find a babysitter for my other kids, so I followed shortly after. By the time we reached the hospital, she was already discharged and waiting in the "safe room" for us to take her home. It should be noted that each time we took Jeannette to the hospital, we first called the crisis line and they themselves told us to take her after hearing her in the background.

You have been petitioning B.C.'s Minister of Health, Margaret MacDiarmid, to make changes to B.C.'s mental health care system. What changes would you like to see?

Kelly: I don't want any family to be abandoned like we were when Jeannette was in a crisis. When a child comes to the ER of any hospital with a mental health emergency, there needs to be appropriate, inpatient, emergency care and stabilization for kids in crisis. There needs to be access for the child and family to be assessed by a psychiatrist, not an ER doctor, and a plan that doesn't take weeks to implement. No child or youth in crisis should be told to wait. You wouldn't ask a child with a broken arm to wait weeks to have treatment, but why is it OK for a kid fighting to stay alive to wait?

You have posted a petition on asking for changes to B.C.'s mental health care system. How do you feel about the response you have been receiving?

Kelly: We are overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received from supporters on It's also very hard for us to read all of the heartbreaking and similar stories other families have faced trying to access emergency help for their children across B.C.

What is your response to people who believe that mental health care is not an issue?

Kelly: Mental health affects everyone either directly or indirectly. People with mental health issues face stigma every day. Just because you can't physically see the pain and suffering, doesn't mean it's not as serious. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and youth. I do not want my child to be another tragedy and statistic.

I would like to thank Kelly Bradley for sharing her story, and for advocating for changes to B.C.'s mental health care system.

To sign Kelly Bradley's petition, please visit: 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Solitary confinement, denial of health care to Syrian human rights lawyer is appalling!

A March 9, 2013 news release by the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), an organization that advocates for human rights in the Middle East, reports that Khalil Matouk, a Syrian human rights lawyer is being cut off from communication and detained. He is also being prevented from receiving medical care for a lung disease. He is being detained at State Security Branch 285 in Kafr Soussa, Damascus, although the Syrian government has denied this. Matouk's lung disease decreases his lung capacity by 60%. He is also being denied medicine, which he took on a regular basis before he was detained to improve his health.

Matouk has been detained for over 149 days, even though Syrian law only allows someone to be detained for up to 60 days for investigation purposes. When Matouk's 60 day detention period has passed, a group of Syrian lawyers wrote to the Attorney General in Damascus demanding Matouk's release. The Attorney General stated that Matouk is not being detained, even though other former detainees have confirmed seeing him in State Security Branch 285 over the past month. The GCHR is concerned that Matouk is enduring a forced disappearance. Other lawyers and his own family have been barred from seeing him, and the Attorney General's recent statement that he is not being detained by the Syrian government has caused the GCHR to be concerned about Matouk's health and safety.

The GCHR is concerned that Matouk is being cut off from communication and detained because of his work as a human rights activist and lawyer, and asks the Syrian government to release him immediately.

As the human rights disaster in Syria continues to unfold, the latest report of Khalil Matouk's forced disappearance is even more of a reason for the international community to pressure the Syrian government to release all innocent victims from prison, and bring the Syrian government to justice for war crimes. The evidence of human rights violations in Syria is there, and one does not need to look hard to find it. The longer Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is allowed to remain in power, the longer Syrians will be trapped in a political crisis. Instead of arming the rebels and creating more violence and displacement, take president Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and have him tried for human rights violations. Once he is there, keep him imprisoned for life. Any country that continues to support Bashar al-Assad should also be punished for supporting human rights violations. The Syrians have suffered more than enough--don't prolong their suffering by sending in more weapons and fueling more violence and displacement!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Criticism of the Bahraini authorities withholding the body of Mahmood Al-Jazeeri, deceased man, from his family

Photo of Mahmood Al-Jazeeri.  
Used with permission from the 
Bahrain Center for Human 
Rights (BCHR).
On March 1, 2013, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), an organization that advocates for human rights in Bahrain, expressed its concern over the Bahraini government controlling the funeral and burial of Mahmood Al-Jazeeri, who died a week ago from injuries caused by a teargas canister fired at his head on February 14th. The BCHR had received information that his body is being withheld by the government, and that his family is not allowed to claim the body for the funeral and burial in the location of their choice.

The government is also controlling the location of Mahmood's funeral. The family wants to hold the funeral in the village of Al Daih, as this is where his family descends from, and where most of Mahmood's family is living today. However, the authorities want the funeral to be held in Nabih Saleh village to keep funeral attendance low, as only one entrance to the village exists. Nabih Saleh is also far away from where protests in Bahrain have been taking place (the Pearl Roundabout). Bahraini law does not specify where a funeral should be held. The reason given by the government for withholding the body is because it would contradict local social and religious traditions, although it has nothing to do with the country's legal code. The BCHR stated that withholding Mahmood's body from his family violates their human rights, and is illegal.

Mahmood's brother, Hasan Al-Jazeeri, went on hunger strike on February 26th to protest the government's actions. Hasan is being detained and imprisoned for a year, convicted in an unfair trial of illegal assembly and rioting, a common charge in Bahrain. Mahmood's mother is challenging the government's decision, so she and her family can bury Mahmood.

The BCHR notes that controlling the funeral of people killed by police is not new in Bahrain. During the 1990s, the government forced some families to bury their murdered sons without any formal funeral, and only in front of a few family members. The government has systematically harassed the mourners of the victims who were killed by the police. Since February 14, 2011, all funerals of the victims have been disrupted by the police. The BCHR also notes that it is common for mourners at funerals to be attacked with teargas by the police. Injuries and deaths have been documented as a result of police raids on funerals, including the murder of Fadhel Al-Matrook, who was shot on February 15th, 2011.

The BCHR has asked the Bahraini government to stop dictating the burial rituals of the dead and to focus on punishing the killers of Al-Jazeeri. So far, no official has been brought to justice for human rights abuses committed against the victims.

Mahmood Al-Jazeeri has already died a needless, violent death, and the Bahraini government withholding his body from his own family adds insult to injury! His family has the right to bury Mahmood in Al Daih, and the Bahraini government has no right to meddle in their affairs just to serve the interests of their own regime! By withholding Mahmood's body from his own family, the Bahraini government is only fueling outrage against the state by disrespecting human rights.

Anyone who has attacked a peaceful protester in Bahrain should be tried for human rights abuses, and the Bahraini government should be brought to justice for endorsing political repression! The international community also has a responsibility to intervene in Bahrain through non-military means, and bring the Bahraini government to justice for crimes against humanity! Non-intervention would only allow a disaster to unfold! INNOCENT CITIZENS OF BAHRAIN NEED JUSTICE!!!

For more information on this story, please visit:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Denial of medical treatment to wrongfully imprisoned Iranian activist is horrible!

In a January 3, 2013 article, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) held an interview with Robabeh Rezaei, who is the wife of Reza Shahabi, a labour activist who is currently in jail. She spoke about her husband protesting the prison authorities barring him from seeking outside medical treatment through a hunger strike. She also describes meeting him on December 24 and seeing him in extremely poor health. Rezaei recalls her husband telling her that his health has started worsening the Sunday before, and that other prisoners were telling him to get help from the infirmary in the prison. However, he refused medication and prevented himself from being hooked up to an IV. Rezaei is extremely concerned about her husband's health, as he told her that he was suffering from low blood pressure. She stated that had the prison authorities not prevented her husband's hospital treatment, Shahabi would not be in the situation that he is in now. On December 17, 2012, Shahabi went on a hunger strike.

On June 12, 2010, Reza Shahabi, who is a member of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and is a part of their Board of Directors, which is affiliated with the Suburbs Bus Company labour union, was arrested. Information obtained from reports show that he had been beaten while being interrogated, which lead to spinal injuries needing medical attention. Last summer, he underwent neck surgery, but after only a few days,  he was already sent back to jail. In an earlier interview with Rezaei, she told the ICHRI that Shahabi was sent to the hospital only once after his surgery for a checkup. She also explained that over the past few months, Shahabi has also lost sensation in his fingers and feet. He is experiencing severe back and neck pain as well.

On December 15, Shahabi was finally sent to the hospital for an examination, after many requests from his family. He was scheduled to have an MRI, but before he could be treated by doctors, the prison guards who were with Shahabi abused him verbally and physically. He was then taken back to prison. He stopped taking his medication and started a hunger strike two days later to protest being denied an MRI by the prison guards, and the overall brutal conditions he has been forced to endure in jail.

Rezaei asked the Tehran Prosecutor and the Head of the Judiciary to allow Shahabi to have a leave of absence for medical reasons. She emphasizes that if her husband does not receive treatment, he remains at risk of becoming paralyzed. Rezaei also states that Shahabi has become apathetic as a result of his ordeal in jail, and was told by her husband last Monday that he will continue with his hunger strike until he receives a leave of absence for medical treatment.

On April 14, Shahabi was told that he will be jailed for six years. He has been charged with organizing with others to deceive the country's security (five years) and promoting false information against the government (one year); he has been banned from social activities for five years as well. Shahabi is currently being held at Ward 350 of Evin Prison.

Reza Shahabi's treatment in jail is further proof that the Iranian government and the prison authorities have no respect for human rights, and more pressure needs to be put on them by the international community so that Iranians can live in freedom. The denial of medical treatment for Shahabi and others like him is cruel and callous; it is also completely contradictory for a country that claims to be based on morality. By continuing to mistreat people the Iranian government deems "criminals," it is only making a mockery out of its own justice system and is fueling political unrest within Iran. Shahabi and others like him deserve justice, and the people who are complicit in torturing him are the ones who deserve to be imprisoned.