Dear UNPO Members and Friends,
The beginning of the summer has been eventful for the UNPO team and its Members. UNPO has the pleasure to welcome its newest Member, the Lezghin, who are an ethnic group residing predominantly in Southern Dagestan (Russia) and North-Eastern Azerbaijan. This ethnic group is represented by the Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy (FLNCA) whose core objectives and tasks are protection, preservation and development of national and cultural interests of the Lezghins. UNPO will be working with the Lezghin to raise awareness on their situation and rights.
Meanwhile, our Members have been extremely active in the political spheres. July marked the 77th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the commemoration of the July 2009 Urumqi massacre, which led to peaceful celebrations and demonstrations all over the world. Representatives from anti–slavery movement in Mauritania (IRA) made an urgent visit to the European institutions in order to raise awareness of the deteriorating treatment of anti-slavery activists. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) together with UNPO organized a demonstration in front of the International Criminal Court in order to raise awareness of the human rights violations facing Oromo people in Ethiopia.
July has also been fruitful in successful and decisive steps and renewed hope for our Members in their home countries. Mustafa Jemilev, the Leader of the Crimean Tatar Milli Mejlis, was awarded the prize ”For Combat for the Human Rights” in recognition for his continuous struggle for democracy and freedom. Aung San Suu Kyi stood up for Myanmar’s ethnic states and made the first ever speech in the session of Myanmar’s House of Representatives in support of a proposal on enacting a law protecting the rights of ethnic nationalities. In Chile the anti-discrimination law has been passed, which seems to be promising for the minority group Mapuche. A 25-nation International Steering Group supervising Kosova’s democratic progress announced that it will end oversight of Europe’s youngest independent nation in September, a move that will bring the ethnically divided country closer to its aspirations of European Union and NATO membership.
Unfortunately, despite the good news several Members are still facing uncertain situations. Following the attack in June from the Lao military that killed 3 Hmong, the Congress of World Hmong People called for independent international observers to be allowed into the conflict zone. At least five Ahwazi prisoners were sentenced to death on unfounded charges by the Iranian authorities, adding to past sentences and the persistent discrimination against the Ahwazi population in Iran. With more restrictions on information and communication across the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the residents are virtually cut off from independent news and have access only to government propaganda.
In August, we look forward to once again arranging a three-day SpeakOut! training focusing on empowering youth and young professionals from a wide range of nations and backgrounds. The aim is to empower youth to claim their economic, social, cultural and civil-political rights through youth-centered involvement and interaction, while providing them with platforms to think, decide and develop their knowledge of human rights. These trainings are valuable for the UNPO since they allow our different Members to come together and learn from each other’s experiences, thereby making use of the wide network that we have as a member-based organization.