The Awakening of a New Iran?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador. FlickrThere has been much controversy recently on the position of Iran in international relations. Potential nuclear war aside, many Iranian people are suffering in this moment. Therefore, as the new year begins and Iranian elections draw increasingly closer, it is a good time to reflect on the country’s very recent internal events.

The last Iranian elections took place on 12th June 2009.

Cast your memory back to the following day. The results have just been announced with a 65% vote in favour of Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Soon, the streets of Tehran echo with shouts of “Death to the dictators!”. Police and Islamist militias charge in to control the uproar and the protestors for the crime of demanding an answer to the question “Where is my vote?” Violence ensues. Iranian government figures stand at 20 as to the numbers murdered by officials, though opposition and Green Movement figures estimates numbers dead to be within the hundreds.

WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA

REFUGEE RIGHTS PROTEST IN MELBOURNE. PHOTO: TAKVER, FLICKR

Although Australia is a nation conceived and developed by immigrants, the contemporary political climate towards asylum-seekers is one of hostility—a hostility that has seeped into the Australian population. The recent failed attempt by the Australian Government to introduce a refugee swap deal with Malaysia highlights the core issue regarding Australia’s immigration policies and discussions—the debate has changed from being a humanitarian issue to a political strategy. In 2011, many asylum-seekers arrive by boat to Australia—a stable and wealthy democratic nation—full of hope, but this hope is short-lived. Their hope is replaced with despair as they are immediately, and in some cases indefinitely, placed in detention centres. Welcome to Australia. 

South Sudan: Darkness After the Dawn

A NEW DAWN FOR A NEW NATION. A MAN CARRIES THE SOUTH SUDANESE FLAG DURING INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS ON 9TH JULY OF THIS YEAR. PHOTO: BABASTEVE. FLCKERA new dawn for a new country. After fifty years of bitter struggle, South Sudan officially became an independent nation on 9th July 2011. It has been a tough five months for the South since its independence. The challenges facing the new country are as grave and problematic as ever. Internal conflicts, food shortages, as well as more serious oil and border disputes with the north, have all contributed to making it an extremely difficult period for the world’s newest country. 

After the Egyptian Elections

“SCAF KEEP OUT”, GRAFFITI IN CAIRO, EGYPT. PHOTO: GIGI IBRAHIM. FLCKR

– Winners and Losers

Many international and domestic political observers have watched the Egyptian parliamentary elections with hope. This round of parliamentary elections came to bridge a gap of trust between the national Egyptian institutions and the Egyptian people, who had been rendered voiceless by the previous regime. Whereas the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) has stressed that, unlike in the past era where there was little judicial supervision of elections, this time elections would be carried out “under complete judicial supervision”.

Belarus – Europe’s Last Dictatorship

VLADIMIR PUTIN TALKING WITH PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO OF BELARUS. PHOTO: KREMLIN.RU. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Belarus has been branded the last dictatorship in Europe. The country is currently ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. Electoral fraud, suppressed opposition and disregard for human rights have been characteristic throughout Lukashenko’s presidency. Despite massive protest from the citizens, sanctions and criticism from the international community, the Belarusian authorities remain unaffected. The lack of democracy however, is not the only deficit in Belarus now – the economic crisis is increasing in severity, and Belarus is in need of loans to avoid default. The question remains: who is willing to bailout this dictatorship?

A Snapshot from Poland

JANUSZ PALIKOT, A BUSINESSMAN AND POLITICIAN. PHOTO: REPORTER DZIENNIKA INTERNETOWEGO. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS– Human Rights, Religion and Politics

When it comes to human rights, and the lack thereof, it is usually dictatorships in other parts of the world that come to mind. It is easy to forget that these complex questions may just as well surface in Europe; for example Poland, a stable democracy with strong Catholic roots, also has some human rights issues on the political agenda, much due to incompatibility between cultural-religious traditions and the contemporary, more liberal trends in human rights.

The Palestinian Refugee

ROOFTOPS OF ASKAR REFUGEE CAMP. NABLUS, WEST BANK. PHOTO: MICHAEL LOADENTHAL. FLICKR– 63 YEARS OF CONTINUOUS STRUGGLE

By May 15, 1948, the Zionists’ militia forced approximately 700,000 Palestinians (1) to leave their homes in the historic land of Palestine. Currently there are over 4.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, and the passing of time has not weakened their struggle for getting the right of return. As an example, on May 15, 2011, many Palestinian refugees from Lebanon were killed, and another 120 were injured, by Israeli forces during demonstrations at the Lebanese border.The Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian demonstrators who were protesting by throwing stones from Lebanon and trying to raise the Palestinian flag on the border. Referring to Palestinian refugees, Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said that “the old will die and the young will forget”. Recently, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outright refused discussion of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. 

Failure of the Greek Asylum System

Asylum-seekers, being in that vulnerable position, could be seen as the subject par excellence of the human rights and most in need of a grid of protection. And to be sure, again and again their rights are violated. In Europe, a grim record of human rights violations, in the wake of the Dublin II regulation and the failure of the Greek asylum system, is being exposed. The human rights institutions have been harsh in their critique, but what has been achieved?

On 21 september 2010, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) declared the asylum situation in Greece a “humanitarian crisis”. The situation has been problematic for a long time. A large number of reports speak of a malfunctioning asylum system, unable to effectively determine the asylum claims being made, and a systematic practice of detaining asylum seekers for periods ranging from a few days to a few months without adequate information given as to the reasons for detention. Furthermore the detention facilities are reported as being overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacking in ventilation, mattresses and access to toilets.

The UN vote on Palestinian Statehood

QAWASMI AND CHOMSKY. PHOTO: JEANINE DE ROY VAN ZUIJDEWIJN.A pivotal event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took place when Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority and the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), requested full membership of the United Nations on the 23rd of September, 2011. Although the outcome of this process is still unknown, Israeli peace advocate Chassia Chomsky and her Palestinian counterpart Maysoun Qawasmi both hope that change is about to come.