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Health Workers Deliver First Aid to Protest Movements

6:18 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Tahrir field hospital. (Kamal El Tawil via TwitPic)

Cross-posted from In These Times.

Warning: Defending your rights may be hazardous to your health. Potential side effects can include rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons wielded with impunity.

The recent uprisings around the world illustrate the physical risks involved in intense street protests. At the same time, movements are also discovering the connection between health and activism in another way, through medical workers joining the front lines to deploy their skills and their conviction.

Amid the brutal clashes with security forces at Tahrir Square, barebones field hospitals have held the line, thanks to a grassroots network of Tahrir doctors. One volunteer, Ahmed Adel, who has been aiding wounded protesters since January, told Ahram Online, “Treating the injured protesters here again makes me feel the revolution is about to be completed.”

But hospitals are by no means safe havens. Mohamed Fatouh, a leader of Tahrir Doctors, told the LA Times, “The people are refusing to go to the ambulances because they think they go to the general hospitals, and from there they go to the police.” Read the rest of this entry →

Will the Arab Spring Leave Migrants Out in the Cold?

1:17 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Despite some reform efforts in Arab nations, South Asian migrant workers often suffer brutal abuse. (Image courtesy Bahrain Center for Human Rights)

Cross-posted from In These Times:

The uprisings of the “Arab Spring” have been by turns inspiring, frustrating and tragic for activists around the globe. And they are still horribly incomplete—not just because the emerging revolutions have been in many cases squelched by authoritarian regimes, but because the movements for freedom and justice have left out whole swaths of the affected populations. While citizens push for their rights and have broken into the foreground of the Western media, the throngs of migrants who fuel the regional economy continue to face their own struggles against abuse and impunity, mostly ignored inside and outside their adopted communities.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia executed eight Bangaldeshi migrant workers, convicted of killing of an Egyptian man. After the public beheadings, advocates globally denounced the trial (reportedly based on a violent workplace dispute in 2007) as a sham. Executions are up sharply in Saudi Arabia this year, reports Amnesty International, and 20 of the roughly 58 have involved immigrants.

An Indonesian maid met a similar fate in June, as did a Sudanese man last month (on allegations of witchcraft). The reports suggest that state violence against migrants shares the cruel mechanics of much more public government crackdowns on street demonstrations.

Calling for a moratorium on executions in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty notes that aside from the general barbarity of the practice, migrant defendants have no access to legal counsel or language translation, and “In many cases they are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.”

So is the push for more democratic government in the Arab world going to change the plight of migrants, who in many ways have even fewer rights than citizens? Read the rest of this entry →