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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Communication for Change

Between 13th and 19th of November 2015, the Global Human Rights Defence organised a training titled ‘Communications for Change’, a 6 days training for 21 youth workers from seven different countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine). The aims of the training were to develop a strong communication strategy for youth workers and their organisations; to explore possible future partnership between the participating organisations; to organize projects focusing on improving the quality of youth work; to improve the capacity of youth workers in social media, online fundraising, campaigns and marketing and to allow the them to share best practices with other youth workers.

The training was an intensive six days presentations and workshops that mostly started at 10:00 to 19:00. It always consisted of presentations by trainers, workshops and role-playing. At the end of each day, the participants were divided into smaller groups for an evaluation session. The project officially started on Sunday, 13 September 2015 with the introduction to the training week and the objectives of it and followed by team building games.

                                   Communication Strategy training by GHRD project team

 On the following day, the participants had on Communication Strategy that was presented by GHRD team, followed by workshop on Introduction to Communication and Advocacy by UNOY (The United Network of Young Peacebuilders).

                           Introduction to Communication and Advocacy workshop by UNOY 

On the third day, the participants had a session on how to make a perfect pitch for their work and organisations. This session gave the opportunity to the participants to learn about guerrilla marketing through Elevator Pitch. The participants learned how to deliver the summary of their ideas to someone important (potential investors, clients, etc.) on an elevator ride, which approximately takes in thirty seconds to two minutes.

                                                         Brainstorming ideas 

 The following day, the workshop was presented by Enviu, a start-up company that focused on improving the quality of life of people in a sustainable way. This session gave the participants a practical insight into communication strategy in 5 stages, which are planning, preparation, implementation, evaluation and follow-up and decide the best way for each phase. In the end, every organisation had to present their own version of communications strategy for a project.

                                                     Team-building game in Mytikas

Next training was a visit to youth organisations who had successful approaches in working with young people through theatre and other creative means. For instance, one approach is to offer young people, who have dropped out of school, an alternative education through arts. The participants were engaged in a similar workshop which began with a team building game led by one of the coaches. The participants were also challenged to make a short play (approximately 5 minutes) with the topic on daily social problems, for example, school bullying.

The last day of the training was about storytelling through social media and online fundraising. These sessions were practical ones which included many discussions and practical examples on how to implement the learning outcomes directly to your work.

                                                      In the Communication Museum

Apart from presentations and workshops, the participants also had the chance to visit the Communication Museum. The visit to the Communication Museum, for instance, was aimed to show to the participants the impact of communication on daily life. In this museum, the participants could enjoy designs, secret messages, expeditions, facts and a touch of nostalgia.

                                                       Ukrainian food and drink

One of the unique programmes of the ‘Communication for Change’ training was the Intercultural Evening. This programme gave the participants the opportunity to introduce typical drinks and food from their country and other items as well, such as pictures, music, typical clothing, etc.

                                   Participants from Croatia with their cultural presentation

                                                          Serbian and Croatian desks

Participants from every country had to deliver a brief presentation about their countries and to explain drinks, food and items that they brought from home, followed by a food tasting. Participants from Croatia arranged a small interactive quiz; they gave souvenirs to people who could answer questions about their country.

                                                   GHRD team, Anna and Jasper, 
                                      were introducing typical Dutch snacks and sweets

                                                                     Armenian desk 

Furthermore, Ukrainian participants introduced their folk dance that was demonstrated together. As a host, GHRD team also had the chance to give a presentation about the Netherlands. They introduced typical Dutch snacks and sweets and also arranged a small quiz for the participants.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Global Hands Erasmus+ training ‘’Integration through Action’’

I participated on behalf of Global Human Rights Defence in a 6-day training for 25 youth workers from eleven different European countries . The training entitled 'Integration through Action' was organised by Global Hands at De Montfort University in Leicester, United Kingdom. During the training we were introduced to the concept of Social Rights in Europe as well as issues of racism and stereotyping. The seminar stimulated us to develop key skills related to these topics through non-formal education methods and we got familiar with interactive methods to engage with young people across Europe, especially those on the margins of society, who often find it difficult to access their social rights. The seminar has given me valuable theoretical and practical tools and insights in the topic, and it has truly been an unforgettable experience.

On the day of our arrival, the project was officially opened by Marco and Momodou, the facilitators during the week of training. The location, which looked like a trendy lounge, immediately ensured a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for the ‘getting to know each other’-games.

During the following days we created mind maps, posters and presentations on several topics in the field of integration, played instructive games related to stereotyping and prejudice and expanded our theoretical knowledge through lectures – all in a non-formal education setting.

The intercultural evening proved the perfect opportunity to introduce Dutch cookies and sweets (the stroopwafels were a hit –of course) and a typical Dutch game: koekhappen. 

One of the highlights of the Erasmus+ training was the ‘local realities day’, during which we visited the Racial Equality Centre and a Gurdwara, a Sikh temple, in Leicester. It was truly special to experience a Sikh wedding ceremony.
Each and every one of our group participated in the – sometimes heated – discussions we had on topics such as stereotyping, racism and integration. Even though we all live in the European Union, and may sometimes be neighboring countries, the issues we face differ significantly.
At the end of the training week, each group developed and designed their own project. Our masterpiece was entitled ‘Equality and Diversity’, and given our faces we were very proud of the team effort.

Despite the many cultural differences, we had one thing in common: our group loved to dance. Here we are practising an Angolan dance, which was definitely an interesting experience

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The 10 most homophobic and transphobic quotes by politicians

Global Human Rights Defence presents the wall of shame: an exposé of 10 of the most homophobic and transphobic quotes by politicians from all over the world. These quotes are so shocking that it beggars belief they were uttered at all, least of all by politicians!

1.       “If you come here, you'll see homosexuals from Europe and America are luring our children into homosexuality by distributing cell phones and iPods and things like this, and I can explain to you what I really want to do. To kill every last gay person”[1]

Ugandan Member of Parliament David Mahati expressed his thoughts in an interview with journalist and gay rights activist Jeff Sharlet in 2010. Mahati proposed the country’s controversial anti-homosexuality law that criminalises homosexual acts and introduces prison terms for those who do not report a homosexual. On 20 December 2013, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed despite severe resistance from the international community.

Link to trailer ‘’Call me Kuchu’’:

2.       ‘’I think that kind of disregard for the God-endowed natural rights of human being is the archetype of all crimes against humanity. And I think we have an entire elite faction that is now committed to committing such a crime against the American people’’[2]

American political activist and perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes equated gay marriage with crimes against humanity. Salient detail:  Keyes’ daughter Maya Marcel-Keyes was fired as her father’s consultant and was left homeless after coming out as a lesbian to her family. At the moment, Maya is a social and political activist and involved in the gay rights movement in the United States.

3.       "Those miserable people want Iran to recognize f*****"[3]

In his sermon, the Iranian Ayatollah and member of the Assembly of Experts Movahedi Kermani focused, in unmistakable terms, attention on the Western tolerance of homosexuality after a resolution was adopted by the European Parliament to intensify contact between the EU and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Kermani was seconded by the Commander-in-Chief of the Basij morality militia Nagdi, who claimed that "the European Union is worse than grazing livestock. They demand that we recognize homosexuality, which is something even the beasts in the wilderness refuse to do to each other."

4.       "If two men have a right to marry, how can we deny the same right to two siblings? Are we to authorise incest?"[4]

The rate of repellent and groundless statements continues. This quote of UKIP MEP Roger Helmer is a fine example of the stance of this right-wing political party from the United Kingdom. UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage defended a parliamentary candidate who referred to homosexuals as ‘’disgusting old poofters” by stating that you people are ‘’very snobbish […] about condemning people, perhaps for the colloquial language we use’’. Gay marriage seems to be a sensitive issue as two UKIP MPs even had to resign after openly supporting gay marriage.

5.       "A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room.”[5]

Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives Frank Artiles in support of a bill that would make it illegal for an individual of one biological sex to enter a single-sex restroom or changing room designated for the opposite sex—even if the individual self-identifies as a person who belongs there.

6.       "Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural"[6]

In the run up to the Indian elections of 2014, President of the Hindu nationalist BJP Rajnath Singh shed light on the party’s point of view on homosexuality. This was backed by BJP’s spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who said ‘’we can’t bring Western culture into our society and culture’’. Though, the party came up with an unexpected place to spread their campaign message: the gay dating app Grindr. Prime-Ministerial candidate Modi’s picture was visible on Grindr with the encouraging message to vote BJP.

7.        “Don’t misunderstand me. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.” [7]

Michele Bachmann comments on homosexuality as a mental disorder, speaking at EdWatch National Education Conference in 2004. She is the founder of the US House of Representatives’ Tea Party Caucus, belongs to a denomination of the Lutheran Church and has been a foster parent to 23 children. In 2004, Michele Bachmann, then Minnesota State Senator Bachmann, attempted to get an anti-gay marriage amendment on the Minnesota ballot at a voter referendum to write discrimination directly into her state’s constitution.

8.       "Such people are the curse of society and social garbage. They don't deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the US administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan"[8]

This was stated by the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami in response to an event on gay rights that was hosted by the US embassy in Pakistan. Just like Bangladesh, Pakistan outlaws gay sex. Despite this institutional ban and clerics denouncing homosexuality as sinful behaviour, underground parties for homosexuals and marriages of convenience between same-sex partners are among the many surprises the Islamic Republic of Pakistan offers.

9.       ‘’Homosexuality is anti-god, anti-human, and anti-civilization. Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights. We will not allow gays here.’’[9]

This is one of the many anti-gay statements of Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. While calling for continued peace in Gambia, the same country considers homosexuality a criminal offence and the President has expressed his support for this law "If you are convicted of homosexuality in this country, there will be no mercy for offenders."

10.   ‘’If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.”[10]

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe – a country where homosexuality is declared illegal by law - has his own way of emphasising that homosexuality will destroy our lineage. Adding that ‘’Imagine this son born out of an African father, (US President Barrack) Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.”

These 10 appalling and shameful statements from politicians around the world show there is still significant opposition to providing equal rights to LGBT people. Globally, the LGBT community faces a huge risk of marginalisation and violence. At this moment homosexual activity is illegal and thereby punishable in 78 countries[11], which comes down to 78 countries too many, according to Global Human Rights Defence. We believe human rights are universal and inalienable in nature and apply to every single person.

Even though this article can be considered a political wall of shame, Global Human Rights Defence remains committed to provide equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Do you want to support our cause? Think of a positive quote to counterbalance the previous ones and share, post or tweet it with #WallofLGBTpride.


Sunday, May 10, 2015


Are you at your wit’s end when observing the contemporary geopolitical situation while contemplating how people at power are able to willingly ruin democracy? Here is the ultimate plan for disaster and a nightmarish reality:

1. Have a political dynasty    
Before diving into the required conduct of actors to squash democracy, certain preconditions need to be met. The parties in the political arena need to be based on dynastic leadership in which succession is a rare occurrence. This ensures sluggish policy change and vested interests which are firmly and resolutely defended if necessary. Historical grievances, patronage and feudal ties are the cornerstones of politics, opposed to a political agenda that addresses societal and economical challenges. This lack of internal democracy ensures that critics do not receive a platform to express their ideas while the constituencies have little influence. Thus, if political participation is meagre, the first sign of an eroding democracy is visible.

2. Hold elections without really voting
Having established the preconditions, we can continue with the actual behaviour of the different actors. Right before the elections, opposition parties should publicly announce its boycott of the elections and deploy violence in order to prevent people from voting. The opposition boycott will lead to a historically low voter turnout and uncontested parliamentary seats which, in turn, can be assigned to the government party. As no parliamentary opposition exists, the government can rule the country as it sees fit. Laws that lack scrutiny and democratic accountability are approved in parliament leaving the door wide open for political tyranny.

3. Deploy paramilitary forces
The government should set up an elite paramilitary force to combat terrorism while the critics should raise their concerns for the need of such unit without even considering reforming the law enforcement and judiciary. Over the years this paramilitary unit should become infamous for killing people in self-defence, cross-fire or in custody. The unit should continue to carry out extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture while enjoying impunity. The government should not make any attempt to hold the unit accountable, especially when there are allegations that ruling party members are using the unit as a death squad.  Make sure that the unit continues to operate with impunity even if their actions lead to systematic human rights violations and abuse.

4. Create a culture of fear and impunity
Those who have read the novel 1984 by George Orwell remember the vivid fear of the protagonist for being under possible surveillance by the Party or run the risk of being overheard by the Thought Police. Indeed, a social order can be best controlled by fear. The ‘other’ should be afraid at all times. Without leaving explicit evidence, leaders of the opposition parties should suddenly disappear. And if this is too subtle, launch a vicious crackdown on the opposition. Be sure not to act in accordance with any international human rights standards or domestic law. Make sure the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Democracy can only be destroyed when lawlessness is the order of the day.

5. Use violence to hold onto power
The opposition must organise strikes, traffic blockades and demonstrations in order to create overall disorder. Of course, these measures have to take a violent turn at a certain point in order to cause a significant disruptive effect and nationwide chaos. Thus, attack those who refuse to honour the blockades and throw petrol bombs at any vehicle that ignores the obstructions. The government should strike back at violence with more violence by allowing excessive force to be used against political protesters while their actions continue to cause civilian casualties and the ongoing clashes leads to major economic loss. Both parties should not take responsibility for the people who are injured or killed due to escalating political violence.

6. Attack vulnerable minorities
A functioning democracy is the ultimate system in which the basic and inalienable rights of minorities are guaranteed. For a democracy to slowly crumble away, single out the religious and ethnic minorities. Unlawfully destroy their houses, shops and places of worship and use violence as a means of deterrence if you suspect them of having voted for the other party or not boycotting the elections like your party had called for. You will not be held accountable as a culture of impunity is the ultimate source for oppression and the slow decay of democracy.

7. Shrink space for civil society
In order to have a functioning democracy, you need to have a functioning civil society. A strong civil society can challenge the power of government and hold the government accountable when they fail to meet their obligations to the public. To deteriorate democracy, you need to push the civil society to the margins of democratic  processes. Like some governments, start from shrinking space for civil society. Use creative legal manoeuvres to weaken their role in speaking out against social injustices and establishing political dialogue. Pass laws that are vague and broad enough to increase limitations on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Use these laws to stifle dissent and harass critics of the government.

Do these 7 steps remind you of a terrifying storyline based on a dystopia happening in far future? It is actually the present of various countries around the world, in particular the present of Bangladesh where political stalemate have cost the lives of hundreds of people and led to systematic abuse of human rights. The current situation goes further than ruining democracy, it ruins a society that gasps for its breath.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

10 Inspirational Women Human Rights Defenders from South Asia

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the struggles women have and do face, and celebrate what women have achieved against all adversity. We present 10 women who have fought; fought for their rights, fought for the rights of other women, fought for the rights of others. It is humbling to live in times where such women exist. For your determination, we praise you. For your courage, we admire you. For your persistence, we thank you.

Safia (Warasta) Amajan – Afghanistan 

Remembered as a teacher and ‘true public servant’, Safia Amaja fought for women’s rights through education. During the Taliban’s fundamentalist rule, she was an outspoken critic of the Taliban and defied their ban on educating women: she memorised the Quran and secretly taught Islamic studies to young girls in Kandahar. After the Taliban fell, Amajan worked for the new Afghan government setting up the provincial department of women’s affairs. Her progress in this role eventually lead to her assassination by the Taliban.

Taslima Nasreen - Bangladesh

The eminent writer and intellectual, Taslima Nasreen, continues to support freedom of expression and thought, women’s equality, and secularism despite the call for her death by extremist groups and expulsion from her home country. She won a Bengali language literary award for her book Lajja (Shame), which was banned by the Government of Bangladesh, shed  light on the unfair treatment of Hindus in Bangladesh.

"When I write, I don't allow the feat of consequences to interfere with the writing process. I have in the past paid for my commitment to the truth and the way I live my life. I am prepared to pay more if I have to."

Asma Jahangir – Pakistan


Asma Jahangir is Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyer. She was involved in forming the first law firm established by women in Pakistan, was the first female president of the Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, the United Nations Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief from August 2004 until July 2010 and a founding member of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. Jahangir’s work traverses the advancing women’s rights in Pakistan, the prevention of persecution of religious minorities, and fighting extremism.

Sunila Abeysekera – Sri Lanka

Sunila Abeysekera spent a lifetime fiercely advocating for the victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, despite being brandished a traitor for it and being forced to leave the country for safety at times. She was also a staunch feminist who played a lead role in the global women’s rights movement, including recognition of "women’s rights are human rights" at the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. She was particularly forthright in fighting violence against women and championing for sexual and reproductive rights.

“When everyone is criticizing you, then you are doing the right thing.”

Anuradha Koirala - Nepal 

Having recovered 50,000 women from human trafficking, Anuradha Koirala and her organisation Maiti Nepal, continue to rehabilitate and empower women and girls traficcked and forced into sex work across the Indian border.

Khushi Kabir - Bangladesh

After the liberation of Bangladesh, Khushi Kabir became the first women to work with marginalised women and men. She has tirelessly advocated to improve the lives of the rural poor in Bangladesh, particularly women. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

“When did I become a feminist? There are lots of moments in every woman’s life that make her stand up for herself and her sisters, and there were many in mine. But the first one that comes to mind is the day I was told I couldn’t take a seat on the bus, simply because I was a woman.”

Malala Yousafzai – Pakistan 

As a young women activist, Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the Taliban’s war on education for women. Her words were such a threat that the Taliban attempted to assassinate her. Her courage and determination to continue fighting for her right to education on behalf of all women was recognised when she became the youngest person, the first Pashtun, and the first Pakistani to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

"One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world."

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi - India

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a prominent artist and LGBT activist. She was the first transgender woman to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the UN General Assembly task force on HIV/AIDS while championing her role as the ambassador to the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW).

The recent landmark decision by the Supreme Court recognizing a third gender is something positive that is helping to protect the identity and rights of future generations of hijras in India. I personally never thought this judgement would ever be made in my lifetime, but we were fighting for it .”

Mangala Sharma – Bhutan

Speaking out against the Bhutanese Government’s “one nation, one people” policy and discrimination against ethnic minorities, Mangala Sharma was exiled from Bhutan. She created Bhutanese Refugees Aiding Victims of Violence (BRAVVE) which supports thousands of refugee women from Bhutan who had been subjected to sexual violence and torture. She was the first winner of the Ginetta Sagan Fund award in 1997 due to her work to protect the rights of women and children in areas where human rights violations are pervasive. 

Aneesa Ahmed - Maldives

The former Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Maldives, Aneesa Ahmed brought to the surface the taboo subject of domestic violence. Since her governmental service, Ahmed is a strong advocate on ending gender-based discrimination and violence and the harms of female genital mutilation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Update: Kajal Bheel - January 26th, 2015

January 26th, 2015: Kajal Bheel’s next hearing will be on the 11th of February. Global Human Rights Defence calls for the return of Kajal to her parents. We await the judge’s decision and will keep you updated on Kajal's 7th hearing.

Full case of Kajal Bheel here: