The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
January 6, 2017, Rights Reading
January 6, 2017
Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss. This week we are featuring current and former partners doing work in Burma, resettling refugees from Syria, and creating new sanctuary movements.
“If the police feel so immune that they film themselves committing such brutal beatings, one wonders what other horrors might be taking place off camera that they were not willing to record.”
After a Facebook video of officers beating unarmed men went viral, with over 200,000 views, Myanmar arrested four of the officers. This incident took place in Rakhine State, an area with a large Rohingya population, a minority Muslim group that is not granted citizenship and has faced intense persecution in Myanmar. This type of violence explains “why the government had restricted the international news media’s access to northern Rakhine,” executive director of Burma Human Rights Network, a UUSC partner.
The video itself shows officers “with military-grade weapons kicking or whipping two unarmed men who are seen cowering on the ground in a village.” This article was released just days before an investigation by a commission set up by Myanmar officially stated there was no evidence of a Rohingya genocide. Human rights groups hope this coverage will continue to put international pressure and criticism on Myanmar, specifically Aung San Suu Kyi, the acting leader of Myanmar.
This article highlights a Syrian family who was resettled in Toledo, Ohio one year ago, and also features the work of US Together, a UUSC partner organization that works to resettle Syrian refugees. In addition to helping newly arrived refugees find housing, jobs, and other life skills, they are now offering counseling.
When Omar Al-Awad and his family first arrived, they barely spoke English. Now three of his children are fluent, two of them were named student of the month, and his fourth child was born an American citizen. Omar now helps refugees who have just arrived to Toledo, a place that has a rich history of welcoming refugees and immigrants, and a place that is also at risk of losing this rich history with the new administration’s threat of restricting additional Syrian refugees.
ROC United, a former UUSC partner, and Presente.org have teamed up to start a Sanctuary Restaurant movement, following models of sanctuary communities, schools, and cities. The Sanctuary Restaurant movement pledges to create a hate-free work environment and already has dozens of restaurants signed on. As restaurant workers are often impacted by discrimination, anti-immigrant and sexist rhetoric, and unfair labor practices, the need for a Sanctuary Restaurant movement, and the need to resist and organize is the driving force behind this movement.
Some of the policies include zero tolerance for racism, sexism, and xenophobia, placing a sign that declares the restaurant is a Sanctuary Restaurant, and offering other resources and support, such as a peer network. “Sanctuary Restaurants seeks to create the world we want – establishments free from hate and discrimination, where everyone has a seat at the table,” says ROC United’s co-founder Saru Jayaraman.