Street Kids

This video about street kids broke my heart this morning.

I’ve seen street kids when I lived in Germany and China, like the naïve eight-year-old I was, I didn’t realize why someone who looked like me, was as tall as me, and smiled like me – had to be different and without. In college, I volunteered at a soup kitchen once a week in Judicial Square in DC. It didn’t bother me when patrons came in glaring or screaming obscenities at me (no fault of of their own, there were many with mental health issues that were off their medications). It didn’t bother me when people would come in suits and have a meal before they went job hunting. I saw firsthand how the image of homelessness changed after the 2008 economic crisis. It did bother me when a kid would come in and ask for food. I remember each of their faces.

As an adult, I’ve come to understand that street kids are everywhere – often referred to as “homeless youth” in the United States (http://www.americanstreetkid.com/) – to Kurdistan (Rwanga Foundation). They are at greater risk of human trafficking and child slavery, though this doesn’t happen to all street kids (see this blog post for a comprehensive background on the subject and further information).

Take some time to learn about this vulnerable population (via UNICEF). (In addition, what constitutes group is a vulnerable population?)

Know that homeless youth that are additionally LGBTQI, of an ethnic or racial minority, and female are at a greater disadvantage and more likely to be discriminated. (This likelihood increases given a combination of two or more of the identities listed above. For a gentle introduction to the sociological theory of intersectionality, see here.)

See what you can do to help: from raising awareness (i.e. volunteering, posting on social media, etc.), donating (if you’re in a more fortunate financial situation than me), or simply by not ignoring a kid walking alone in tattered clothes (which every single one of us can do). Ignore critics of #slacktivism (read in support of it here and a general questioning of it here) for a few minutes to share with others what being a street kid looks like.

If you know of homeless youth, here are some resources to help them.

[Nerdy social scientist aside: pretty sure IRB would not have approved of the social experiment depicted in this video.]

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List of Political Science Associations

I have compiled a list of political science associations for graduate students in the department. Here you go: https://goo.gl/FEUJ5Q
As a graduate student, juggling school work, RA/TA work, and other service components, I often find myself scrambling to find forums to present my research. I’ll often stumble upon a CFP and before I’m able to patch something together, I miss the deadline.
I thought it might be helpful to have a central document with most possibilities and go from there. Check them out, sign up for their listservs or check them periodically so that you will be notified when the conferences are approaching.

Iran’s compulsory hijab: comments & personal experience

“We believe in hijab, but we hate compulsory hijab.”

“Iran is for all Iranians – you can’t just hide one side of Iran and show the other side of Iran, and say this is Iran. This is a lie. Iran is me and my mother. My mother wants to wear a scarf. I don’t want to wear a scarf. Iran should be for both of us.”

Masih Alinejad’s Facebook project is My Stealthy Freedom.

From Vox’s “How one Iranian women is using Facebook to fight Iran’s mandatory dress code“.

I used to think that the hijab is tantamount to the repression of Iranian women. When traveling to Iran and having to cover, it was suffocating for me. After asking many women there about their experiences with hijab, I received feedback from those that despised it.

One comment, however, resonated with me – a friend mentioned that she thought the hijab and Islamic covering was liberating. I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying. My friend was not very religious either, but bought into this tradition for other – seemingly rational- reasons. In justifying it, she didn’t invoke any religious doctrine.

She said it took away distractions and permitted men to take her words seriously, instead of focusing on her curves. She told me that with a hijab, no man is sizing her up and sexualizing her; her hijab and mantu (loose clothing, often like a jacket often worn with hijab) saved her from cat calls. While my own experience demonstrated that men will cat call and follow you for almost any reason in a bazaar, her words stayed with me.

From my own experience with Iranian and Iranian-American cultures, women are often regarded as a object, something beautiful to be looked at, cherished, and protected. This is pervasive in my family, but is dichotomous with intelligence; so there is an added pressure of being both beautiful and brilliant. For a second, I thought about the words of my friend – how nice would it be to don an invisibility cloak that took away the beauty and instead focused on my brains? While that may be the case in Iran, here, the effect is virtually opposite. Wearing the traditional Islamic garments here will often bring you more attention than not.

Aside from this anecdote, Alinejad’s work compels us to think about the compulsory nature of the hijab in Iran and urges viewers to consider it should be a choice.

Hands for Ahar mourns the 37 dead and hundreds injured in Bushehr

Hands for Ahar

On Tuesday, a 6.3-magnitude (or, according to other reports, a 6.1) earthquake struck the village of Kaki in the southwestern region of Iran called Bushehr, which is also the location of the country’s only nuclear power plant, injuring over 800 and killing 37 others.

Bushehr, Iran

Several aftershocks have been felt, the highest marking at a 5.3 magnitude. The power plant is reportedly unaffected by the earthquake, as the government – and the Russian organization that built the plant – released formal statements testifying that there had been no release or spills of nuclear material.

As rescue efforts wane, aid agencies are seeking to provide food and shelter to those affected. The Iranian Red Crescent, the primary agency by which aid was administered to those struck by the earthquake in the northwestern region of Iran last summer, is currently heading aid efforts. There is no word as of yet if…

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What’s “Incitement to Genocide?”

I just learned that this morning there was a conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, DC titled “Hate Speech and the Incitement to Genocide”. My boss, who attended it, explained that “incitement to genocide” is the intersection of when hate speech activates action that ends in genocide. The central point of the conference is a truly fascinating notion that explores power dynamics and group psychology and over-arching themes in international war crimes and civil rights. Speakers at the conference included greats such as the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Opinion and Expression Rafael Frank La Rue Lewy, the Ambassador of Norway to the United States Wegger Chr. Strommen, and the UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, among several others.

Interested in learning more about the “incitement to genocide”? Check out the Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Freedom of Opinion and Expression’s most recent report here; take particular note about the “criminalization of expression” on pages 14-16, paragraphs 78-91. Also check out the Holocaust Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia entry about the subject here. Finally, see what Physicians for Human Rights is doing to mass atrocities here.

Spanish Supreme Court Trial of Six Bush-era Lawyers Continues

DISCLAIMER: This is my initial draft for a blog post I wrote for work. This is a link to the actual blog post that was published on Physician’s for Human Rights’ website that my boss, Kristine Huskey, edited heavily – and well, I might add! I would like to credit her for the conceptualization of this initial draft.

Have you heard about the Spanish Supreme Court trying six Bush-era lawyers? The case concerns the accountability of six Bush-era lawyers where each was alleged in participating or aiding and abetting the torture and other serious abuses of persons detained at US detainment facilities at Guantanamo and other overseas locations.

In March 2009, a criminal complaint was filed by the Spanish Association for the Dignity of Male and Female Prisoners of Spain against “The Bush Six”: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, David Addington, and Douglas Feith. The complaint cites various international law instruments as justification for prosecution, namely the Geneva Conventions and its subsequent Additional Protocols, as well as the Convention against Torture.

In response to Judge Velasco’s International Rogatory Letters – intended to determine the appropriate jurisdiction for the complaint – the US government upheld that they were adequately investigating torture allegations of detainee mistreatment, citing the criminal prosecutions of defense contractors David Passaro and Don Ayala, and called for the complaint to be sent to the US for further investigation, “if appropriate”, by US authorities. CCR and ECCHR responded to their submission by demonstrating that the United States had not and would not “investigate or prosecute the defendants or the punishable acts” and therefore Spain should uphold universal jurisdiction in order to prosecute the egregious human rights violations committed by the US.

The Central Court Number 6 ruled on April 13, 2011, in an order by investigative magistrate Judge Velasco, that the US was sound in its investigations of torture allegations in its respective court system. To counter the decision by the Court, the Association filed an appeal, yet the decision was again upheld by Section Three of the Criminal Division of the National Court ruled, by majority, which found that the appeal should be dismissed and the original decision upheld. The Association filed an appeal on June 12, 2012 before the Spanish Supreme Court (Audiencia Nacional), and this amicus brief will support the appeal on the grounds that there have not been and are not currently any criminal investigations of former senior-level Bush administration officials for creation or implementation of a detention and interrogation policy that culminated in cruel and unusual punishment and treatment of prisoners and other serious violations of international law.

A recent amicus brief  by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights (ECCHR) on upholds the principle of universal jurisdiction in international law, which means that Spain has the right to try these six individuals since the US will not. The March 2011 US Submission clearly states that the Department of Justice has no intention to “bring criminal cases with respect to any other executive branch officials, including those named in the complaint, who acted in reliance on [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda during the course of their involvement with the policies and procedures for detention and interrogation”, despite having the legal framework to do so. The brief further illustrates that the US Attorney General has virtually shielded involved US officials after preliminary investigations into a number of interrogation cases “excluded from prosecution ‘anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.’”

This case and subsequent amicus brief is particularly significant in the wake of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Aug. 30th decision to cease the Department of Justice investigation into the deaths of two prisoners tortured in US federal custody on the grounds that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt”, only further demonstrating the US government’s continued avoidance of holding accountable those involved in the torture of US detainees and continued indifference for torture as cruel and unusual punishment by hiding behind shadows and technicalities instead of utilizing the US legal system as it was intended to come to terms with the vast amount of human rights violations committed by the pens of Bush administration legal counsel and the hands of US military personnel, and restoring its once-golden reputation as a champion of human rights, globally.