Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Posts Tagged ‘human rights

Missionaries of Inhumanity

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Warning: Due to the distressing nature of the images, I’ve posted all of them at the very end of this post. May not be suitable to be viewed at work. Viewer discretion is advised.

Hemley Gonzalez, currently back in India, has found another volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity who is now, after 13 years of working for Mother Teresa’s famous organisation, willing to speak up about the countless cases of abuse, medical negligence, and financial fraud she witnessed. And she has many stories to tell. Here is the full-length interview, courtesy of Hemley Gonzalez.

Sally Warner, a registered nurse with a degree in sociology and a graduate diploma in social work from Western Australia, began working as a volunteer with The Missionaries of Charity in 1997. She quickly realized there was something horribly wrong going on in all of the children homes she had visited and volunteered in and soon after became a dissenting voice and critic of the organization, publishing her first book titled “Mother Teresa” in 2003 about these experiences and now currently working on her second publication “Mother Teresa: Sainthood Delayed” to be released in 2011. Sally had heard about my work and the facebook campaign: STOP The Missionaries of Charity / www.stopthemissionaries.com and after finding out I too was in Kolkata, a meeting was scheduled. The following is the transcribed audio of my hour-long interview with her on this most disheartening subject. More about Sally’s work: www.sallywarner.blogspot.com

Hemley Gonzalez [HG]: When did you come to Kolkata to work with the Missionaries of Charity?

Sally Warner [SW]: I’ve spent the last thirteen years volunteering and visiting several houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity, and eventually made my way to Kolkata in late 1999 and began volunteering in some of the houses in early 2000. Here I have visited and volunteered in: Green Park, Shanti Dan, Premdan, Daya Dan and Kalighat which I found quite awful, I lasted only a few day there as I thought it was very dangerous for volunteers with all the highly contagious cases of Tuberculosis, but I had to see it for myself and couldn’t believe it. Speaking of Kalighat, it is now closed for renovations which I’m sure you and your “STOP The Missionaries of Charity” campaign had much to do with.

HG: How many houses would you say you’ve worked in over the last 13 years?

SW: The following is a timeline of the homes I’ve worked in as well as the many others I have visited. I have spent most of my time in the children homes, there were some I could not deal with, some of the ladies homes, and others where patients were just sitting around and doing nothing, often in cement floors and lying in their own excrements, people drugged wrongly by the nuns and of course there is or should I say for now “was” Kalighat, where anyone could just walk in and immediately see an average of 50 men and 50 women laying in cots and basically rotting away.
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Responsible Charity

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Perhaps you remember Hemley Gonzalez. He is the one who did some amazing work raising awareness about some of the more controversial stuff behind the Missionaries of Charity – namely Mother Theresa’s Sisterhood’s opposition to hygiene, their refusal to administer pain-killers or use modern medical equipment, their rather mysterious attitude bookkeeping, and the horrible state of their sanitary facilities, all despite the millions of dollars this organisation receives in donations each year. He quickly became one of Mother Teresa’s most outspoken critics, even being interviewed by the indian Forbes magazine.

The short version of his story goes as follows: He went to india as a backpacker, felt inspired after reading a book about Mother Teresa’s work, and decided to visit Kolkatta to help. Upon arrival he was shocked by the crass difference between reality and the idealised image presented by the media and the Biography he’d read. Yet he stayed for two month, helping the best he could, faithfully documenting everything. Back home, he started a Facebook group called STOP the Missionaries of Charity, successfully kicking up some dust.

He could have left it at that. Like most of the Western world he could have sat at home whining and complaining, enjoying the attention, and never offering actually constructive criticism.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing about him now if he’d opted for that course of action. Being the inspiring person he is, Hemley went back to the US, spent two years networking, gathering support, and getting all the necessary applications and paperwork on the way. Currently, since December 2nd 2010, he’s back in India, enrolling kids in school, providing food, clothing and medical care, helping families make a living so the kids will be able to stay in school… only this time, it’s in the name of his own charity organisation, Responsible Charity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

December 17, 2010 at 19:15

Iran: Over 70 People Executed in Mashad

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The following report was published yesterday, August 15th 2010, by the Human Rights House Of Iran, RAHANA.

RAHANA – It has been reported that some of these individuals arrested in relation to drug trafficking, had been handed down sentences that did NOT include the death penalty and had only been fined. Despite these sentences, they were executed suddenly and without prior notice based on a judicial order.

picture courtesy of iranian.com

Archive picture

According to reports by Iran Green Voice, the reason behind this sudden decision to execute has not been provided by the judiciary, however, there is speculation that the order was executed by Intelligence and Security Institutions. Previously, based on a similar case in the city of Mashhad at the start of the 1st term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency when ties between high-ranking security officials and a drug trafficking group were exposed, more than 60 people (mainly citizens of Torbat-e Jam and Taibad) associated with that case file were also suddenly executed. At that time, a number of the relatives of the security forces in question were also executed.

It is worth mentioning that based on received reports, this last round of executions included names of individuals under the age of 18.

Ahmad Eghbal, political activist arrested on December 21st, 2009 and released after 170 days in prison on June 10th, 2010, on approximately 48,000 USD bail made the following statement in court during his defense: “During my three-month incarceration at ward 6/1 at Vakil Abad prison, based on confirmed information I heard from the prison officials and crew, more than 50 individuals were transferred to ward 6/1 and later executed. However, at one point when 31 individuals were executed, the Justice Department and Information Ministry in Khorasan informed a news paper in Khorasan that only 5 international drug traffickers had been executed.”

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to execute its citizens despite international protests against such actions. The reported number of executions in prisons across Iran is still extremely high.

via freedomessenger.com

It is not even an exceptional story. The Iranian regime does stuff like this on a daily basis – just go to freedomessenger.com or the Rahana homepage to get a taste. And do keep in mind that these are only the fraction of the stories that the agencies and activists of Iran judge newsworthy enough to be translated into english. These are only the spectacular cases. What absolutely astonishes me is the utter disregard the regime shows for its international reputation. They just do not seem to care at all. The only thing that astonishes me even more it the complete lack of action from the west. There is not even a word of condemnation, and Iran’s seat in the UN Human Rights Council remains unchallenged.

Stories like this one do not even make the news over here. There we have a regime that didn’t even bother trying to cover up the rigging of its election, which is bad enough in itself, and a few days ago they executed over 70 people – few of them under the age of 18, most of them without even a justification, all of them without proper trial – and the rest of the world just looks on and does nothing.
And no, I’m not one of those calling for an invasion. But I do ask that we display the minimum of concern and put some political pressure on the regime. We cannot let them go on spitting in the face of the very idea of Human Rights like that. Condemn the actions that are taking place, ask for justification, acknowledge the reports of human rights organizations. I urge everyone to raise awareness of the situation. Spread the word, write to your political representative and news stations and ask them to take a stand.

Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate”: Uganda Made it Real

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Stop the Executions! An Open Letter From Iranian Mothers

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COLOGNE, Germany. A group of Iranian mothers aims to spread the message of Daye Saltaneh – the mother of Farzad Kamangar, who was executed by the Islamic regime two weeks ago. The group plans to protest in front of the state parliament, asking the government to support their cause.

The Mother of Farzad

Daye Saltaneh, mother of one of the executed prisoners.

Dear fellow freedom-loving citizens!

More than two weeks have passed since the executions of the political prisoners Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam Huli, Ali Heidarian, Mehdi Eslamian and Farhad Wakili Rad. Executions of complete arbitrariness, without even informing the prisoners families or lawyers beforehand. Executions on charges that were, according to the families’ lawyers, absurd and untrue. Farzad Karmangar, a teacher and journalist, was the nineteenth Karmangar family member to be executed by the Islamic regime of Iran.

In Frankfurt/Main Farzads family conducted a memorial celebration in honour of the five executed prisoners. During the event, a letter from Farzads mother was read, mirroring the suffering of a woman who has just lost her child. The tears and the silence of the audience honoured Daye Saltaneh whose wish it is that other mothers are spared the same fate; who thinks of other prisoners who are about to be executed, and who appeals to us to stand up and fight for the release of those in captivity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

May 28, 2010 at 16:18

About ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’

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Afghan depiction of Muhammad, 1436

Afghan depiction of Muhammad, 1436

I’m all for free speech, but I think Draw Muhammad Day is a silly idea. I think so because all it does is to play into the hands of hate-mongerers on both sides. My problem here is not that it does antagonize, but that it doesn’t do anything but antagonize.The one thing that criticism of Islam always has to be careful about is not to be hijacked by xenophobes. It is too easy to get pushed into the ‘ignorant-racist-redneck-corner’, and once in there, it’s hard to get out. Criticism of Islam needs to distinguish itself from islamophobic propaganda and racist hate-mongering. We are not Islamophobes, we are rational people standing up for our rights and against censorship.
Draw Muhammad Day is sending out all the wrong signals. What it really does is to play into the hands of the more moronic fractions on both sides. On the Muslim side we will have extremists using this to demonize us in the eyes of new recruits: ‘Those westerners, look at how hatefull they are and how they lack the slightest respect!’ On our side, we will have the racists using it for the same thing: ‘Oh, look at those evil freedom-hating muslims: they already shut down Facebook to censor a few cartoons, I wonder when they will burn the next embassy?’ Both these groups will welcome Draw Muhammad Day. It is oil to their fires. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

May 19, 2010 at 18:36

Abuse in Catholic Organizations is a Deep-Rooted Structural Problem

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The abusive nun

"Never Again!"

The media generally limits itself to refer to the whole business as ‘abuse’, and while that’s technically correct, there is a need to clarify this very abstract term. So what, exactly are we talking about when we speak of ‘abuse’ in catholic organizations? It’s not just molestation, which is what most people think of in this context, if they do permit themselves to think about it at all.
What the victims had to go through is far from being limited to sexual abuse. There are people all over the world who are now finally finding the strength to unveil the horrors of their childhoods in christian care homes, and the stories emerging are simply shocking. They were kept in solitary confinement for days on end, drugged, raped, deprived of sleep and of food, used as forced labour, beaten, humiliated, and even forced to eat their own vomit.
Take a second to let that sink in, take a second to imagine. Once we’ve established an understanding of the situation, we can move on to discuss the causes. Read the rest of this entry »

Germany: Victims of Abuse Speak Up

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GERMANY. A group of former inhabitants of Christian foster homes and schools are speaking up about the many cases of physical and mental abuse they had to endure. The group, whose official internet presentation can be found under jetzt-reden-wir.org (roughly: “now it’s our turn to talk”, website in german only) recieved support from a range of secular organizations, such as the Giordano Bruno Foundation, the IBKA and the Humanist Association of Germany. Düsseldorf resident and artist Jaques Tilly contributed a three-meter-figure of a viciously grinning nun, sporting a crucifix in one hand and a stick in the other, with a lettering on the chest that reads “Nie Wieder!” (Never Again!)

The Abusive Nun

The first demonstration took place on April 15th in Berlin, and recieved large attention from the media, even beyond the borders of Germany. The “Heimkinder” (Foster Kids) protested against the preliminary report of the government’s “Round Table on Foster Home Education”, presented in January 2010, that simply ignored the main issues: The systematic violation of human rights and the abuse of home-children as forced labour.
Among other things such as apologies and compensation, they demanded access to their files, which they are still denied today.

On May 13th, the group protested in Munich. Occasion was the Ecumenical Chruch Day, on which the different confessions of Christianity celebrated Ascension Day. Part of the Christian celebration in Munich was a procession through the city; The “Heimkinder” followed, carrying their banners, the nun, and informing on-lookers by speaking to them, handing out flyers (pdf, german only), and a megaphone.

Note: Pictures of the demonstrations will be added as soon as I recieve permission to use the files.

Written by Phil

May 15, 2010 at 08:20

Don’t Forget About Iran!

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picture via iranian.com

Iran is pretty much gone from the media. The attention span of the public is short, and the acts of solidarity around the globe (remember “where is my vote?”) didn’t last long enough to put serious political pressure on the regime.

No country in the world executes as many of their own people as Iran does. Execution isn’t the only human rights violation in which Iran currently holds the record, either. What’s going on over there is truly sickening. One good source of english information is the Iran Solidarity Blog; another thing that helps me to stay up to date is a newsletter written by Maryam Namazie, a distinguished political activist from the UK. She is the head of the OneLawForAll Campaign, spokeswoman of the british council of ex-muslims, member of the British Humanist Association, and involved in countless similar organizations. In her newsletter today, she wrote this:

In the early hours of Sunday 9 May 2010, the Islamic regime of Iran executed political prisoners Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian. The four young men and one woman were executed for their political opposition to the regime. Farzad Kamangar was a teacher and human rights activist who was arrested in 2006 and charged with ‘enmity against God’ in a ‘trial’ that lasted seven minutes. Mehdi Islamian was arrested on May 4, 2009 and spent six months in solitary confinement; his brother has also been executed. Shirin Alam Hooli was arrested in May 2008 in Tehran and sentenced to death in November 2009. Ali Heydarian and Farhad Vakili were imprisoned since 2006/2007.

The sentences were carried out in secret, without their families or lawyers being informed, and despite the fact that three of the cases were under review. The Islamic regime has refused to hand over the bodies the dead unless their families guarantee that there will be no protests in Iran and abroad.

This isn’t even particulary exceptional – according to iranhr.net, over 350 people were executed on similar charges in 2008 alone – stuff like this never stopped happening. It just isn’t deemed newsworthy by the western media anymore. The international attention, which was huge during the aftermath of the rigged election, has now almost completely vanished.

Please, do your best to keep informed and to raise awareness. What’s happening in Iran is too important to let it just drown in the sea of yesterday’s news. If Iran manages to transform into a free, democratic society, others might follow its example. If the regime stays as it is, they might soon become a nuclear power under the command of a lunatic who deems himself to be the appointed head of god. “President” Ahmadinejad already openly proclaimed his wish to wipre Israel off the map, and chances are he won’t stop at that.

IHEU Petition to keep Iran out of the UN Human Rights Council
Iransolidarity Homepage
Iransolidarity Blog
OneLawForAll Campaign
Council Of Ex-Muslims of Britain
YouTube user FreedomMessenger20
Stop Child Executions Campaign
Iran Human Rights Watch

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