The Miriam Shlesinger Memorial Blog for Human Rights Action August 20-26

Our featured image shows our beloved Miriam (1947-2012), a great friend and human rights defender.


Although there has been little easing of the pandemic we nonetheless turn our attention to other burning needs. We still encourage you to support Doctors without Borders who are fighting the virus in the places with the greatest need of support.

Doctors Without Borders Changed The Way We Heal The World

This week we call your attention to Mercy Ships, a fleet of five ships that sail the world to bring medical help to the poorest and most deprived people on the planet. The mission:

Mercy Ships is a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since its founding in 1978. Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the forgotten poor by mobilizing people and resources worldwide, and serving all people without regard for race, gender, or religion. Mercy Ships programs promote health and well-being by serving the urgent surgical needs of the forgotten poor and empowering developing communities. Since its founding, Mercy Ships has performed more than delivered services valued at over $1.43 billion and impacting more than 16.3 million people as direct beneficiaries.”

First surgery in Senegal for a hare-lipped 2 year old


We are issuing a call to support Krembo Wings, an Israeli non-profit organization which brings children with and without disabilities together for weekly social activities in its branches across Israel. Krembo Wings serves children and youth of all backgrounds and reflects the diverse make-up of Israeli society. Krembo Wings motto is Together Creating a Meaningful Place for Everyone. The society provides a warm and friendly environment for children and adults who have special needs. This call will be a permanent feature of this blog. Please donate to this worthy cause.


Indigenous tribes do not simply die out. They are killed by the actions of so-called civilized nations. Survival International provides a long list of cases in which a letter from you can and will make a difference. Please open this link and write at least one letter. This link will be a permanent feature on our blog and we would be grateful if you gave it a bit of attention each week. We suggest going down the list in the order given. The letters are pre-written for you. All you need to do is send them. It would be nice also if a donation to Survival International could be forthcoming.

A major calamity for indigenous people is the lack of respect for their basic human rights.Our vision is a world where tribal peoples are respected as contemporary societies and their human rights protected. We fight for tribal peoples’ survival. We stop loggers, miners, and oil companies from destroying tribal lands, lives and livelihoods across the globe. We lobby governments to recognize indigenous land rights. We document and expose the atrocities committed against tribal people and take direct action to stop them. Our vision is a world where tribal peoples are respected as contemporary societies and their human rights protected.

This week we call your attention to the myth of the “brutal savage.” Read this post carefully for it debunks the myth propagate by certain anthropologists.

Portrayals of Indians as violent savages remain common. Perhaps the worst recent example of this characterization comes from the controversial U.S. anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who carried out fieldwork with the Venezuelan Yanomami from the 1960s.

In his book, Yanomamö: The Fierce People, Chagnon constructed a sensationalist image of the tribe, describing them as “sly, aggressive, and intimidating,” “fierce,” “continuously making war on each other,” and living in a “state of chronic warfare.”

The Fierce People was a best-seller in the USA and is still a standard text for anthropology students today. It is also a key source in many recent popular science books by writers such as Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker, which also promote the myth of the “Brutal Savage.”

Despite the popularity of The Fierce People, Chagnon’s findings have been severely criticized by others who have extensive experience of the Yanomami. Many anthropologists, doctors and missionaries that have worked over many decades with the Yanomami simply do not recognize Chagnon’s characterizations, and profoundly disagree with his depiction of the tribe.

The Yanomami speak out

Hear what Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami spokesman and President of Hutukara, had to say about The Fierce People and Noble Savages in interviews with Survival.

In an excerpt taken from La chute du ciel, Paroles d’un chaman Yanomami, by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert, he discusses the violence of Western societies.

Whilst a few Yanomami may die in conflicts, far more have been killed by outsiders in violent attacks or by the diseases they have brought in.

Between 1989 and 1993 it is estimated that nearly 20% of the Yanomami in Brazil died from diseases introduced by the gold miners. These invasions still pose huge threats to their health and security. Davi Kopenawa warns:

Today our real enemies are the gold miners, the cattle farmers and all those who want to seize our land. Our anger must be directed at them. That’s what I think.

Davi Kopenawa at Hutukara Yanomami Association’s 3rd general assembly November 2008. In 2004, Yanomami from 11 regions in Brazil met to form their own organisation, Hutukara (meaning ‘the part of the sky from which the earth was born’), to defend their rights and run their own projects.
© Luciano Padrão/CAFOD

The greatest tragedy in this story is that the real Yanomami have largely been written out of it, as the media have chosen to focus only on the salacious details of the debate that rages between anthropologists, or on Chagnon’s disputed characterizations. Rarely mentioned is the fact that The Fierce People had disastrous repercussions for the Yanomami, and tribal peoples in general.

Read how Brazil’s military dictatorship was influenced by the characterization of the Yanomami as hostile to each other.

See why UK government refused to fund an education project with the Yanomami.

More recently Chagnon’s research has been used by Jared Diamond in his controversial new book, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? to back his erroneous claim that “most” “traditional” societies like the Yanomami exist in a state of “constant warfare”; that they are far more violent than industrialized societies; and that they welcome “pacification” by the state.

Diamond’s book has been condemned by Survival director Stephen Corry, indigenous organizations and academics, and his arguments compared to those of European colonists, who sought justification for the brutalities of imperialism.

Please read this long post and share it on all your social media and among your friends to help the maligned tribes in their struggle to survive in a hostile world.


We have added this section to the blog in order to join the struggle against slavery worldwide. This week we refer you to the the ILO’s Protocol on Forced Labor which is all about modern slavery. We call your attention to the anti slavery campaign. There you can sign up for action updates.The importance of checking your sellers’ supply chains cannot be overemphasized.

Look for these logos:

Find a campaign to work for. Light must be made to shine in the darkest of places. We invite you to join Freedom United and raise your voice to end prison slavery in the United States.



Urgent Action Victory! Niger Journalist Samira Sabou Has Been Freed

Samira Sabou, a journalist and President of the Niger bloggers association, was freed from Niamey prison on 28 July after the judge dismissed all charges of defamation against her. She had been arbitrarily detained for 48 days, in pre-trial detention, after a defamation complaint, filed by the son of the President, was made against her following a Facebook user’s mention of the President’s son’s name in a comment on a post made on Samira Sabou’s Facebook page. The 26 May post related to allegations of corruption in the procurement of military equipment on.


Samira Sabou was arrested on 10 June after a defamation complaint against her was filed by Sani Mahamadou Issoufou, the son and deputy chief of staff of the Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou. On 26 May, Samira Sabou commented on her Facebook profile, about the embezzlement and overcharging of defense contracts revealed in an audit of the Ministry of Defense. Although she never referred to an individual in her post, she was charged with “defamation by a means of electronic communication” for both her post, and for a comment made on the post by another Facebook user, who singled Sani Mahamadou Issoufou as one of the culprits. She was subsequently remanded in pre-trial detention and her request for bail was denied. Her trial began on 14 July and the Prosecutor requested a sentence of one month and one week and a 1,000,000 XOF fee against her. Two weeks later, the court ordered her release, dismissing all charges against her. The complainant has appealed against this verdict.

Samira Sabou’s detention generated important media focus on the situation of human rights defenders and journalists in Niger, and on the abusive use of the Cybercrime Law to stifle dissenting voices. There was a lot of engagement on her case. In the span of two weeks, more than 5000 people signed a petition and over 2000 e-mails were sent to the President of Niger, calling for her release.

Following her release, Samira Sabou thanked all the organizations that have contributed to her release, including Amnesty International and its members who took action: ‘‘I don’t forget about Amnesty International, especially the team in Dakar who since the first moment they have highlighted the incoherence related to my arrest.(..) I have been particularly touched by the solidarity and the support that I have received from all corners in the globe”. She also highlighted the abusive use of the Cybercriminality Law to harass civil society members and human rights defenders; “I will continue the fight for justice in Niger [by] challenging before the courts, the constitutionality of the Cybercriminality Law, with all free and just men and women”.


Urgent Action: Imprisoned Mapuche’s Life at Risk

Machi (spiritual Mapuche leader) Celestino Córdova Tránsito completed over 100 days on hunger strike demanding to join his community for the period of a mandatory spiritual retreat. He was convicted and in prison in the city of Temuco for homicide induced by arson in 2014. Authorities failed to dialogue with him, and a local Court authorized the possibility of force feeding him. On 10 August, he expressed his intention to enter a dry strike. We demand authorities urgently initiate a dialogue with Celestino Córdova and abstain from feeding him against his will.



Urgent Action: Charges Against Detainee Must be Dropped

Unidentified officers arbitrarily detained Nicmar Evans, a Venezuelan political scientist and communicator, on 13 July 2020 in Caracas, Venezuela. They reportedly belonged to the Directorate for Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Corps (CICPC). He is in custody of the DGCIM and is charged with ‘advocacy of hatred’ for posting social media messages that allegedly challenge the policies of Nicolas Maduro. The Attorney General has until 31 August to either formally accuse him or drop the case. We call on him to drop the charges against Nicmer Evans and release him.



Women and girls must be allowed home abortions during the coronavirus pandemic

13,397 taken. Help us reach 15,000

Women and girls*n Northern Ireland are being put at risk due to not not being able to self-manage abortions at home.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on travel, women in the rest of the UK are now allowed to self-manage abortions at home using approved medication.

Email the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland demanding women in Northern Ireland are given the same access to this basic healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.


Universal ratification of ILO Convention on child labour: now it’s time to implement!

 “Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour. It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children’s health, morals or psychological wellbeing, have no place in our society”, commented  ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

With the ratification this month by Tonga of ILO Convention 182 on eliminating the worst forms of child labour, an ILO Convention has for the first time been ratified by all 187 member states.

IUF General Secretary Sue Longley welcomed the achievement of universal ratification, but called for renewed efforts to implement the Convention especially in agriculture which employs 71% of all child labour and is ranked as one of the three most dangerous industries to work in alongside mining and construction.  

Please post this call on all your social media and make the demand for the end of child labor go viral.!!

IUF Safe Return to Work during COVID-19 Demands: HRCT 18-08-2020

Millions of workers in the HRCT sector are suffering from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crucial to the rebuilding of the sector will be strong trade union voices guiding the policy development and implementation in order to ensure robust health and safety measures, income security, job security, gender equality including health care and sick leave, and above all trade union rights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s