Syria is like a buzzword in the news today. We hear Syria, we know it is bad, we know we feel terrible for anyone from Syria, and we know that we need to help the Syrians. However, after a couple of conversations it’s come to light that whilst people understand there is war, not everyone really understands the cause of the conflict in Syria and what is going on now. So lets break it down.
7 years ago is when the conflict started. It is now longer than the second world war. For many years prior to this the political situation in Syria had been tense. Syrians complained of corruption, economic downfall and a hinderance on their freedom. However, it was the Arab Springs (the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia) which fuelled the start of this war. Encouraged by the successful overthrowing of leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, in March 2011, Syrians began their own pro-democracy protests against president Bashar al-Assad.Read More »
Today the spotlight is being shone on China. Despite the secretive nature of the nation, a somewhat frightening story has emerged which suggests that China is detaining over a million Uyghur (Uighur) Muslims in camps in the Xinjiang region.
Who are the Uyghur?
The Uyghur are a large group of ethnic Turkic people of Muslim religion, millions in their numbers, who reside in the North Western Xinjiang region of China. Despite being ruled by China, they are considered more central asian in their culture and ethnicity and bare more similarities with their neighbours Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan than with China.
The Xinjiang region have at times had a relative amount of independence from China and brief moments of autonomy. However in 1949 the Chinese Communist Party took back control of the region and have kept an overly watchful eye on it ever since. The Uyghur culture and integrity have been gradually diminished from this point on. There have been increasing crackdowns from the government and a mass influx of Han Chinese as authorities promote the ‘up and coming’ area in a suspected attempt to make the Uyghur a minority.
To continue on the very large theme that is the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, I bring you another post to discuss just one legal concept….genocide. A sombre concept but frighteningly applicable to the events leading up to the Rohingya refugee crisis (background of this in last post). As previously stated, UN officials have gone as far as to describe the actions of the Myanmarese military and their Buddhist counterparts towards the Rohingya as genocidal. Unarguably the violence directed at the Rohingya was grave, devastating and fatal in nature. It was horrific enough to undoubtedly violate many international human rights, humanitarian and criminal laws. Yet, however much we would like to penalise the guilty party for genocide, does it legally fit the bill?
Definition of Genocide
We may all have in our minds our own idea of genocide that I imagine resembles something like ‘an outstandingly vile and catastrophic event whereby mass amounts of humans are arbitrarily killed’. However, to hold someone/something accountable for Read More »
Inspired by the last post on statelessness, I thought it fitting that the next one should be a whole post dedicated to one of the largest stateless populations in the world, the Rohingya Muslims. What follows is not a post focused on a specific human rights issues, but a more general overview, almost a story, of a population plunged into complete crisis and forced to battle numerous human rights issues everyday. It is not the briefest of posts but decades of unwarranted suffering endured by the Rohingya has earned them more respect than a ‘summary’.
The Rohingya Muslims. A population who are victims of relentless persecution. The majority of Rohingya Muslims alive today have never experienced a life free from persecution. The Rohingya population reside in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, one of the poorest and most basic in the country, and claim to be descendants of Muslim traders who settled in the region centuries ago. However, a long history which has seen Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country home to over one hundred different ethnicities, unwilling to accept Rohingya Muslims, has made survival for the Rohingya a constant battle.
“The more than one million Rohingya Muslims are described as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority‘” – Al Jazeera
Citizenship and statehood is not something that the majority of us will think about day to day. They are aspects of our life that for most are a given from birth, but for some, statehood is a struggle with the potential to turn lives upside down. As of December 2017, the UNHCR recorded 3.2million individuals officially existing as stateless people, with the true number expected to be even higher.
“[S]tatelessness involves high political stakes worldwide and therefore remains among the most overlooked issues on the human rights agenda.” – Al Jazeera
A person is stateless when they are “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law” (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, art. 1). Sounds crazy right? How can someone not ‘have’ a country, surely everyone comes from or belongs somewhere? The easy answer is yes, everyone does come from somewhere. But, owing to technicalities in laws and practices, millions of people around the world fall into a void, a no mans land if you like, where they live a life without the luxury of status or belonging. Statelessness creates a chasm between an individual and their community and prohibits them from living life in harmony with the society around them.
Without going into the technicalities of the nationality laws of every country in the world, these are the four predominant reasons that the UNHCR have identified as the causes of statelessness.
Gaps in poorly written nationality laws which prevent nationality being passed on. Nationality laws are decided by the state. Most commonly states depict that you can ascertain citizenship via your parents at birth, or through being born in the country you ‘should be’ a national of. If there are gaps in the law, a child born to unknown parentage in a country which passes on nationality through the bloodline, may end up stateless from birth.
Being born abroad. Due to the fact that countries make their own nationality laws, occurrences like this can cause a clash of laws which render a child stateless. If a child is born in a country which will not grant citizenship of that country just through being born on their soil, but their country of ‘origin’ does not permit citizenship via bloodline only (e.g. you must be born on the soil of the country), then again, a child risks falling into a vacuum where it is neither a national of their country of origin, or the foreign country. As more and more people choose to live and work abroad, this is becoming an increasingly difficult obstacle.
The creation of new borders and new states. Many people can be left without a nationality if this occurs. For example in the 1990’s the dissolution of Yugoslavia rendered thousands stateless, many of whom remain stateless to this day. The ‘new’ states may enact nationality laws which conflict with the citizenship people already have, or new laws set for nationality may discriminate against certain races or ethnicities.
Nationality withdrawn. In some instances, states can revoke nationality of an individual if they have lived outside the country for too long. Additionally, states have been known to change nationality laws which discriminate against certain races or ethnicities and render them stateless.
Alongside these causes, many issues of statelessness are deep rooted in the wider issues of gender inequality. As many as 27 states have discriminatory laws which prevent women passing on citizenship to their child in certain instances. For example in Nepal, if a Nepalese woman has a child with a foreign man, she may not pass on Nepalese nationality. Yet, if a Nepalese man has a child with a foreign woman, the child is able to ascertain Nepalese citizenship. Unequal laws like this are continuing to foster generations of stateless people. Click here to watch a short video discussing the issue of women and citizenship.
What are the consequences of being a stateless person?
If you’ve never experienced statelessness or gone out of your way to read about it, you may be in for a shock when you discover how much of a hinderance it can be to the normal functioning of everyday life.