Global news can often feel oceans away and it can be difficult to remember why we, as Marian students, should care. Thanks to the internet, the world is more connected today than ever before. It has never been clearer to see how cultures and events on the other side of the globe can have a profound impact on America and American culture. Anyone who has learned a foreign language, eaten a gyro, eggroll or enchilada or befriended someone of a different culture knows that global culture is present everywhere. “No man is an island,” British author John Donne wrote, and truly, no country is either.
In fact, Marian students are impacted by many of the same issues as students across the planet. Anyone who has ever rejoiced in receiving their drivers license, celebrated their ancestral culture, participated in an action of peaceful protest or visited a museum can relate to the universally human stories shared below. “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future,” Nelson Mandela once said.
It is crucial that we, as intelligent young students, empower ourselves through education. The more we understand about what’s happening in the world, the more we can impact and change it.
I tell my students, your job is to be educated. Change starts with education, that’s how you empower yourself. You have to understand what’s going on in order to change things. – Mrs. Katy Salzman
Rohingya people face “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar
For years, prejudice against the Rohingya has brewed in Myanmar, a heavily populated country located in Southeast Asia. One of the many ethnic minorities in Myanmar, the Rohingya are descendants of early Muslim traders. They have their own culture and language and comprise the largest population of Muslims living in Myanmar. The group has experienced worsening violence and religious discrimination from the majority Buddhist population in recent years.
Amnesty International, a human rights organization that works to bring an end to government abuse and human rights violations, reports the group has faced segregation and limited access to education, health care, and jobs. In 2014, the government of Myanmar took the first steps towards systematic discrimination by refusing to include the group in the census. Denying the Rohingya’s claims of long-standing ancestry, the government insists the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and has revoked all their rights as Myanmar citizens.
Thousands of Rohingya began leaving Myanmar after losing their rights. They made dangerous journeys by sea and foot to neighboring countries, predominantly Bangladesh, reportedly fleeing discrimination and abuse from the government security forces. In 2017, the prejudice rose to a horrific level. Throughout the single year, at least 288 Rohingya villages were burned down, allegedly by officers of the Myanmar government. Medecins Sans Frontieres reports that at least 6,700 Rohingya have been killed, including 730 children under the age of of five.
Between 700,000 and 800,000 Rohingya have braved overcrowded, unstable boats and days of walking to escape into Bangladesh. Driven away by rape, abuse and the burnings of their villages, many of the Rohingya don’t survive the treacherous journey. Even if they survive, safety in Bangladesh is not guaranteed. Crammed in refugee camps alongside hundreds of thousands of fellow Rohingya, families set up camps in the rough countryside with very little access to medical help, clean water, food and shelter. Many suffer from untreated wounds, disease and malnutrition.
The Myanmar government insists only 400 Rohingya have died as a result of “clearance operations.” The United Nations has referred to the crisis as “the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis” and a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” yet international aid has avoided getting involved and due to the denial demonstrated by the Myanmar government, it’s difficult to understand where the crisis stands today.
Hundreds of young adults killed in Nicaraguan protests
In April of 2018, unrest began to boil over in the Central American country of Nicaragua. The now-critical crisis began when several pro-government groups violently attacked a group of peaceful demonstrators advocating for reforms to Nicaragua’s pension system. Footage shared of the events sparked further protests which were met with more violent attacks.
Now, just four months since the initial incident, the situation has grown into a full-blown crisis. Survivors of the protests and several human rights organizations allege that the government’s security forces have used extreme violence against protestors, including “live bullets and sharpshooters.” The Nicaraguan government insists that the attacks are responses to equally violent attacks from demonstrators, yet the majority of human rights organizations agree that the government groups are overwhelmingly responsible for the violence.
As of Sept. 4, 322 people have been killed in the demonstrations and thousands more have been injured, while hundreds remain detained by the Nicaraguan government. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the dead include numerous police officers and at least 23 children and teenagers. The Nicaraguan government reports the death toll for the same time period at 198. The United Nations Commision for Human Rights reports that the majority of deaths reflect the “average profile” of protestors: young professionals and students under the age of 30. However, the ideology supported at the protests represent ideas supported by Nicaraguans of all backgrounds and walks of life. Support continues to grow as the violence escalates. The Roman Catholic Church in particular, has played an active role in encouraging peaceful protest and diplomatic discussion to end the violence, despite harsh backlash from the leader of Nicaragua.
A recently released report from the United Nations Human Rights Office revealed that detainees are being tortured by government officials with barbed wire, attempted strangulation and taser guns. The report also spoke of sexual violence and rape experienced by both women and men. Since the release of the report, the Nicaraguan government has shut down the UN group in its borders.
As government-pushed propaganda spreads and the violence continues, several officials in the United Nations and other human rights organizations have called for international aid to end the violence. “It’s essential to immediately halt the violence and rebuild national political dialogue. Only a political solution is acceptable,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a recent press release. The U.N. Human Rights Office predicts only further escalation of violence, whether or not international forces will intervene remains to be seen.
“How did we not realise that they were becoming monsters? How did we let them get away with so much?”
-Old woman at an anti-government protest in Managua, Nicaragua
‘Right to drive’ represents small victory for women’s rights
Women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia have recently celebrated a big victory which many of American women take for granted: the right to drive. “It’s a dream come true that I am about to drive in the kingdom,” Rema Jawat, one of the first 10 women to receive licenses in early June, said, “driving represents me having a choice—a choice of independent movement. Now, we have that option.”
While lifting the ban on female drivers is a step in the right direction, female activists continue to be persecuted for exercising their rights. Sarah Lea Whitson of the Human Rights Watch explains that the continued arrests of the most vocal women’s rights activists are part of an attempt to dispel hope for further progressive changes, “The message is don’t get any ideas. You don’t actually have any rights,” Whitson said in an interview with USA Today.
Five Things Saudi Arabian Women Can’t Do
1. Make major decisions without permission from a male “guardian”
Women are not allowed to travel, open a bank account, apply for a passport, file a complaint with the police or get married or divorced without the permission of a “wali” or guardian, usually a father, uncle, brother or husband. In May of 2017, women celebrated another victory when they gained the right to enter university, apply for jobs, and undergo surgery without male permission.
2. Wear casual clothes or makeup
Saudi Arabian women are required to adhere to a strict dress code requiring them to wear a long, black cloak known as an “abaya” and a head scarf, revealing only their face. Conservative religious police are quick to harass women for revealing too much flesh, wearing too much makeup or decorating their abayas.
3. Interact with men outside of their family
Most public buildings—such as schools, banks, stores and offices—are segregated, with entrances for each gender to avoid too much interaction between women and men that aren’t related. Busses, beaches and parks are also segregated in this way, and “unlawful mixing” can result in criminal charges for both parties, though charges are typically harsher for women.
4. Swim in public
Private, female-only pools in gyms and spas are the only place women are allowed to swim. Public pools are reserved exclusively for men.
5. Participate freely in sports
When Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics for the first time in 2012, conservative religious leaders were quick to denounce them as “prostitutes.” Accompanied around the clock by a male guardian, the women were expected to dress as they do every day in Saudi Arabia, with only their faces revealed. Saudi Arabia welcomed its first ever female spectators to a sporting event in September 2017. They sat in seats separate from the men to celebrate the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s founding.
“Lucy” the earliest human fossil and others lost in fire at Brazil’s Museu Nacional
Late in the night on Sept. 2, a fire raged inside Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. Lining the walls and gallery floors of the 200-year-old museum and research institution were more than 20 million artifacts dating back to the Pleistocene period—nearly three million years ago. “It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America,” Cristiana Serejo, vice-director of the museum, told The Guardian, “We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old…only about ten percent of the museum has survived.”
Among the losses, “the anthropological collections were the worst loss,” Dalton de Souza Amorim, a professor of biology at the University of São Paulo, said in an interview with The New York Times. Throughout 200 years of cultivation, investigation and curation, the museum had amassed the largest collection of Brazilian archeological material in the world. Sarcophagi from Egypt and South America, paintings from the Renaissance, collections of dragonflies and butterflies found exclusively at the museum and solitary recordings of long-lost tribal groups were all lost.
Among the most critical of the cultural and scientific artifacts lost to the flames, is that of “Luzia” or “Lucy,” one of oldest pieces of human remains in the Americas. Losses like this one are tragic, not only because of the significant role they’ve played in scientific discovery so far, but because of the information they could yield in the future. As technology advances, fossils and specimens like Luzia can be re-analyzed to reveal more specific and crucial information.
As tragic and destructive as the fire was, it serves as a powerful reminder to cherish, protect and explore museums and the artifacts they preserve for us. They maintain “our tangible record of life on earth,” paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History Michael Novacek told the Times, “A great collection is like a new terrain to explore, a place of rediscovery, where new studies of old objects yield new truths.”