Human Rights Organizations Overlook Female Genital Mutilation to Focus on Israel

December 6, 2012 6:04 pm 5 comments

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of the Human Rights Organization Amnesty International. Photo: Wikipedia.

When the U.N. signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 1948, it signaled a post- World War II optimism that human rights could be genuinely improved. The world that embraced Human Rights Day in 1950 might have envisioned a 2012 without terrorism, fighting, or famine. Unfortunately, that is the daily reality for people living in Somalia, who also have to contend with widespread disease, piracy, and the fact that major human rights organizations seem to have turned a blind eye to their problems.

It seems that knowledge of that country extends little past the movie Black Hawk Down and occasional pirate attacks on Westerners. This lack of information is due in part to a lack of concern among groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Rather than taking the lead in defending Somali people, these organizations are channeling the majority of their resources to areas that are easier to report on, such as the U.S. and Israel. AI’s website contains only 260 articles on Somalia dating back to 1990, whereas there are over 1,000 articles on both Israel (since 1998) and the U.S. (since 2007).

One issue that is being overlooked by human rights organizations is that of female genital mutilation, or FGM. In Somalia, over 96% of women are forced to undergo this cruel and irreversible procedure, which, according to a U.S. Department of State report, leads to “a lifetime of physical suffering….” Despite this rampant abuse (that is really akin to torture), there is a remarkable lack of reporting on the subject, as well as a remarkable disparity between the number of NGO reports on countries such as Somalia and those in the Western world. For example, MADRE, an NGO dedicated to advancing “women’s human rights by meeting urgent needs in communities and building lasting solutions to crisis”, has 513 articles on the United States, 407 on Israel, and only 12 on Somalia. In a MADRE report detailing women’s rights abuses around the world, FGM is mentioned only after a lengthy critique of American policies on women’s rights.

Oxfam International has reported nothing about FGM, despite its claim that the “right to gender equality underpins all Oxfam’s work” and that they are working toward “gender justice”.  An Oxfam partner organization, the We Can Global Network, describes itself as a “worldwide social movement to… end all violence against women”, but doesn’t include Somalia among its list of countries that require change. HRW states that FGM “violates the rights of women to life, health and bodily integrity, non-discrimination, and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”, but does little to report on actual incidents of FGM, and has no reports on FGM in Somalia. Other institutions that claim to stand specifically for women’s rights worldwide, such as Women without Borders, the Amnesty-funded “Stop the Violence Against Women Campaign”, or the U.N.’s “Women Watch”, also fail to mention FGM in Somalia in any online reports.

Another issue concerns the persecution of journalists in Somalia. On November 21, 2012, BBC journalist Ibrahim Mohamed Adan was arrested by Somali security forces for allegedly reporting that his cousin, a soldier, had been executed. He is being held in the central prison in Mogadishu, even though no formal charges have been brought against him. Currently, no date has been set for his trial.

Adan’s predicament should be cause for scandal. Unfortunately, it is commonplace and some might consider him lucky. This year alone, 18 journalists have been killed in Somalia, and 44 since 2007. A 26-year old sports writer named Abdirahman Mohamed Ali was beheaded earlier this year and his body dumped in the street. The terrorizing of journalists with impunity in Somalia has become a “fundamental problem”, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists. There is much that could and should be said about this issue; unfortunately, human rights groups have been mostly silent.

AI claims that “[freedom] of expression has always been a core part of [their] work”, and HRW has a section devoted to freedom of the press on its website. Nonetheless, neither organization reported the murder of Ali or Adan’s capture. HRW published a report in September on Somali journalists, but their silence about the more recent infractions is notable considering their close examination of Israel’s treatment of journalists in the recent Gaza conflict.

Journalists in Somalia deserve the protection and advocacy of the human rights community, as do women who are being abused as a matter of policy. This year, purported human rights champions should not be allowed to pretend Somalia and its problems don’t exist.

Devorah Goldman is a research fellow with Jerusalem based NGO Monitor

5 Comments

  • When I read similar stories from around the world I realize how important the promotion of human rights is despite the imperfections that still exist within the system. In many countries human rights are violated on a daily basis and that’s why I think the activities carried out by various international organizations in this particular area need our support more than ever. I am happy that my native Toronto is also commemorating the International Human Rights Day by taking part in the biggest letter-writing event of the year called Write for Rights taking place on December 10th.

  • It’s just not PC for governments or journalists to criticize any aspect of Islamic practice. The horrors in Israel (where Arab citizens actually having voting rights!) sell more papers.

  • These organizations aren’t overlooking anything!… They are quite aware of these problems in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere…

    The real explanation (IMHO) lies elsewhere… These NGO’s (like AI, HRW, Oxfam etc) are all pandering to their donor base (Europeans, “bleeding heart” so called “liberals”, “progressives” and “lefties” as well as Arabs)… All of whom hate the US and Israel with a vengeance…

    Every time they write up an anti-US or anti-Israel “report” there’s a “cha-ching” sound somewhere in the background!…

  • The women’s movements around the world have bowed to Islamic fundamentalism which regards women as chattels or pieces of furniture, forcing them to conceal themselves under uncomfortable heavy garments, hide their faces and – above all – submit to female genital mutilation, the ultimate humiliation for women. Many feminists have sublimated their feminism to participate in antisemitic hatred, as Richard Sherman has rightly pointed out.

  • Why should human rights workers care about the horror of FGM when they can participate in orgies of antisemitism?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.