9 Human Rights Tragedies the World Needs to Stop Ignoring
In our age of hashtag activism, it is both easy to remember and forget human rights tragedies happening across the globe.
This brand of crowdsourced outrage means that our anger passes and changes quickly: One moment we're concerned with the disappearance of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the next we're glued to our Twitter feeds to follow the case of a woman charged with apostasy in Sudan.
But human rights tragedies aren't limited to the ones that manage to be momentarily immortalized by hashtags — there are many ongoing tragedies happening right under our noses that don't necessarily get attention.
It's a tragically long list: missing women, ethnic cleansing and spreading diseases. Pick any country — including the United States — and there's most likely a tragedy you'll uncover that seriously violates international laws and standards. While unleashing international outrage can sometimes hurt more than it helps, there are some situations where it can make a real impact.
Here are nine serious human rights tragedies that deserve more attention:
1. The impact of drone strikes.
A day of celebration quickly turned into a funeral after a U.S. drone struck a wedding procession Dec. 12, 2013, in Yemen.
The missile killed the bride and a dozen family members and friends. The United States has not yet revealed the reasoning behind their murder.
Drone strikes don't just happen in Yemen. During the course of America's "War on Terror" — over 2,000 Pakistanis have been killed, including 176 children.
Even though the U.S. says they are targeting terrorists, civilians are paying the price for drone strikes. Take the story of Nabila Rehman, a 9-year-old girl who testified in Congress, along with her family, about how a drone strike killed their grandmother in north Waziristan.
Her father, Rafiq, described how the drones seriously disrupt life: "Our children live in fear. They don't want to go to school. They don't want to play outside."
These attacks are in violation of international law, for killing civilians and violating soveriegnty.
2. The ongoing slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Until 2011, a military junta ruled Myanmar, leading to a change in atmosphere for the country, including freeing Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
But the country is also persecuting its Rohingya Muslim minority. More than 250 people have been killed in sectarian violence, and 140,000 are now confined to camps after fleeing the violence. In total, 250,000 have fled their homes.
But some would go as far as calling them "concentration camps." Jason Motlagh described in TIME Magazine what life is like in the cramped and squalid camps, which face a long list of problems, including the removal of aid groups, malnutrition and waterborne illnesses.
While the recent round of violence has lasted for two years, the country's 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims have faced a "long history of discrimination and persecution" at the hand of Buddhists, according to the United Nations.
These Buddhist monk movements are exacerbating a deep ethnic divide. Burning buildings, beating Muslims, attacking buses transporting Muslims are some of the attacks committed by Myanmar Buddhists.
3. Unreported horrors in the world's most isolated country.
There's not enough information on what horrors prisoners face in North Korea. People live in fear of being punished if they speak out or escape the country.
The country, ruled under isolation, does not reveal much to the outside world, but with great research and efforts by the United Nations, we're learning more about North Korea's human rights abuses against its own people.
The UN estimates there are 80,000 and 120,000 prisoners in North Korean camps. Abuses by the government include "deliberate starvations, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide."
The UN calls these abuses hurting more than 24 million people "systemic, widespread, and gross human rights violations." Information is limited but the North Korean government has even been compared to the Nazis.
4. Horrifying human rights violations in Syria.
The tragic situation in Syria saw some of its bloodiest days recently — with 700 killed during fighting between pro-government forces and fighters from the militant Islamic State (IS) group. It did not manage to make much of a splash in the headlines, taking a backseat to Gaza and Ukraine.
Syria's conflict has raged on since 2011, and its narrative is complex, polarized, and fractured. As the situation continues, and the international community drags their feet, the humanitarian crisis in Syria only worsens.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the death toll is now above 170,000, with a third of those deaths being civilians. And now approximately 9 million Syrians have fled the country. Within Syria itself, 6.5 million are internally displaced.
It's a nightmare that seems unending: the Syrian government has indiscriminately killed civilians, using random shelling and in some cases chemical weapons — all condemned under international law. Pro-government forces host unfathomable torture chambers and rebel, jihadist forces brutally execute those who cross them.
5. Cultural and political rights denied in Tibet and Xinjiang.
"Free Tibet" is a slogan that is, in some ways, synonymous with our nation's modern protest culture. It's a struggle that is ongoing, even if it is not in the headlines.
China is still depriving people of their cultural and political rights in Tibet and Xinjiang, two autonomous regions in the country.
Image Credit: AP. Richard Gere at a pro-Tibet rally in 2008.
Both Tibet and Xinjiang are subject to punishments such as torture, long-time detentions, intrusive surveillance and squashing protests. More than 3 million live in Tibet and more than 20 million in Xinjiang.
Tibet first came under Chinese occupation in 1950, and until it is freed, its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, remains outside of the occupied country.
China's authoritarian government has pushed Tibetians to relocate and put them into new housing, by way of forcible mass migration.
The Xinjiang region is home to the country's Muslim minority Uighurs, who face immense discrimination and restrictions based on their religion.
China recently responded to a wave of acts of violence in the Muslim-populated Xinjiang region by publicly executing 55 suspected terrorists in front of a crowd of 7,000 people.
6. A worldwide threat against the world's native populations.
In 90 countries around the world, as many as 370 million indigenous people are under threat. In some cases, they're being forced to flee their native land that they've held for generations.
They're being deliberately discriminated by exclusion of economic, political, cultural and human rights.
Take, for example Ethiopia, where the government is currently grabbing land from indigenous groups in South Omo. Tribal and ethnic groups, like the Mursis, are being forced to leave their ancestral homes to make way for huge economic projects.
While the Ethiopian government claims that the groups are leaving their homes out of their own free will, groups like think tank Oakland Institute say the country is using killings, beatings and rapes in order to clear land.
Its a phenomenon that could lead to the end of the world's indigenous populations.
7. A civil war in the world's youngest country.
The world's youngest country is already facing incomprehensible human rights violations, by way of a civil war.
The violence, which is brewing over oil control and a disputed border, is coming at a steep price for South Sudan's civilians.
According to the UN, "50,000 South Sudanese children could die this year unless they receive assistance" and 10,000 have died in the ongoing war, the Crisis Group claims. And 45,000 have fled to a UN base and hundreds of children have been killed.
South Sudan's government and anti-government forces have also heartlessly destroyed civilian property, as well as humanitarian aid facilities.
The government has targeted "civilians along ethnic lines" in South Sudan, along with reports of rape, sexual abuse, kidnapping and widespread killings, according to the UN.
8. Brutal battle of ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic.
Search for news from the Central African Republic (CAR), and you'll hear about harrowing tales of ethnic cleansing from the country for both its Muslims and Christians.
Back in March 2013, the Seleka militia ousted then-President François Bozizé, then spent the following 10 months targeting the country's Christian population by burning down villages, widespread lootings and killings.
The tables have now turned: Christian militias are aggressively retaliating to repel the Muslim population all together as the Seleka militia retreats. Christians are chasing Muslims, killing them by the hundreds with machine guns and machetes.
The United Nations says the situation continues to escalate to this day. More than 1 million have left the country. Thousands have died, but the death toll is unclear because many refugees report having buried their family members.
9. Human rights abuses in treating Ebola virus patients.
An Ebola virus outbreak that has led to 603 deaths and 964 infected in Western Africa nations, including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have people scrambling to take care of it.
However, there are reports of malnutrition and discrimination in treating the patients, not giving them the medical care they should be receiving.
A member of Liberia's Human Rights Protection Forum said there are not enough human rights protections for Ebola patients, "Do you expect a suspected Ebola patient, said to be passing wastes, to live without food, medicine, and even company that could give that person hope and a sense of belonging?"
The crisis is taking place in countries that lack both the infrastructure and basic public health to bring an end to the virus, according to World Health Organization officials.
When we're talking about one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, it is most certainly a crisis that the world should be paying attention to.