Human rights are violated every day all across the world–and you can help stop it

While America’s human rights problems—homelessness, abuse, trafficking—are relatively well contained and under the radar, a massive part of the world sits as we speak in a quagmire of oppression and injustice. Genocide largely has been eradicated in the large numbers we saw in the 90s and 00s, but people worldwide are held in despicable conditions that we cannot even begin to imagine for reasons we cannot even begin to understand. Human rights, defined as our duty to give to each human being the fair, just standards of living and liberty that they deserve, is the primary focus of Amnesty International, a worldwide organization begun in Britain which claims over three million supporters and workers. The movement, loosely centralized, works through countless ways to try and achieve its goal of universal rights, but the main way that smaller groups in America, such as those in Ames and at Ames High, contribute is through letter-writing campaigns: the organization sends action items of injustices and crises around the world to the groups, who then write letters and sign petitions to send to the leaders committing the rights violations. The organization keeps and publishes a massive amount of information on situations around the world; however, one gets the uneasy feeling that Amnesty’s exposure only covers a small part of human rights problems globally. It’s easier than you think to take action! You don’t have to attend local Amnesty meetings to help with its campaigns. The organization’s website, , has plenty of ways to take action. And sometimes, one of the best ways to help is simply to be informed and aware of rights violations and share that information with others. Here are some of the current appalling situations happening in the world right now: Syria Likely inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, protests began in March after Syrian police forces violently attacked a peaceful demonstration objecting to the jailing of graffiti-artist teenagers. Unlike Libya’s publicly egotistic dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has made several conciliatory gestures and has pleaded with protesters to stop; however, his forces continue to crack down with excessive force, according to news service Al-Jazeera. This comes in the forty-eighth year of Syria’s official “state of emergency” that has allowed leaders such as Assad to commit human rights violations, take political prisoners, withhold fair trials for citizens, and run a generally corrupt regime. Mexico While Americans continue to enjoy Cancun and Puerto Vallarta as resort destinations, the rest of Mexico is locked in a serious crime crisis. Warring between drug cartels has leaked over into government, setting corruption ablaze and letting the abuse of human rights become more and more severe. From the press–at least twelve journalists were murdered in 2009 alone, according to Amnesty International–to military abuses–citizens are often captured, assaulted, or even murdered by military and police forces without clear causes–a state of real emergency and fear exists throughout our neighbor to the south, and rarely is prosecution brought up against those responsible for crimes and rights violations. Additionally, those trying to escape the abhorrent situation (either from Mexico itself or further south in Central America) are not only oppressed by the American government and conservative citizen “border militias,” they are also at extreme risk of abduction, assault, rape, and murder while in Mexico or upon return from deportation. While it is true that the US does not need more illegal immigrants, the situation in Mexico is paramount–make Mexico itself less repressive and corrupt, and the numbers of those trying to flee will almost certainly go down. Iraq Remember in 2006, when everybody was up in arms about the Iraq War? An entire midterm election was decided that year primarily on Bush’s failure to end the conflict. But even though President Obama has ended American involvement in combat operations there, the security and liberty of the Iraqi people is still at stake (as could be expected from a country fresh from being liberated from its longtime dictator and made into a hasty democracy). Last year, a crisis unfolded in Camp Ashraf, a complex serving Iranian refugees, where Iraqi police forces invaded, killing nine and detaining at least 36 refugees. The freedoms of speech and of the press are still severely curtailed. And in the oppressed Kurdistan region, “honor crimes” and violence against women continue almost unimpeded by government. It’s better than it was in 2005–but Iraq still has a long way to go before all its citizens enjoy truly being free.