Afghanistan Female Delegation Negotiates Face-to-Face with Taliban in Historic Oslo Meeting

OSLO, Norway - Earlier this week, it was widely reported that the first all-female delegation of Afghan women led by Parliamentarians Shukria Barakzai and Fawzia Koofi, met with Taliban representatives in Oslo, Norway to discuss women's rights, with a particular focus on the need for reform in how women are treated within Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan. The desired outcome of these negotiations was the protection of the gains women’s rights activists had achieved.

"Afghan women defended their rights with courage," Barakzai said. Their demands at this initial meeting were about "safeguarding the democratic values achieved in the last decade."

Given the historically hardline position that the Taliban has exerted over women in Afghanistan in terms of their rights to self-determination, education, and freedom of expression; these talks were a momentous milestone in a road that is still fraught with peril and has many miles to be travelled toward achieving any future power-sharing agreement.

These groundbreaking talks happened in the midst of a country trying to reassert its identity after decades of external and internal military and religious turmoil. An environment which help to foment a level of religious conservatism which promulgated the harshest and most appalling acts of human rights abuses. With the encroachment of ISIS and its extremist’s tactics, most of which make the Taliban seem rational by contrast; ideas and dogma previously held sacrosanct are being reevaluated.

It is within this context of the Arab proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” that new alliances are emerging as Kabul and the Taliban begin to explore a peaceful end to the ongoing conflict. These current talks can be seen as an extension of negotiations hosted by Qatar a month earlier between militants and an unofficial Afghan delegation. Although, Afghan women have been members of parliament for a number of years, these progressive talks provided them with a seat at the table whereupon negotiations affecting all of the citizens of Afghanistan were being discussed.

It was reported that about a dozen women attended the negotiations, although most chose to hide their identities for fear of reprisal. Last year Barakzai was targeted by militants and narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack with minor injuries. Despite this, she continues to push for women’s rights and praised the relative ease of these talks in part due to the election of President Ashraf Ghani, a prominent supporter of employment and education rights for all Afghan citizens, regardless of gender.

It's too early to tell how much of an impact the unofficial meetings will have, but ideally these historic negotiations will be a turning point in Taliban/women relations and will pave the way for many more similar exchanges.

Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski
Facebook: Sarah Joanne Jakubowski

Israel Plans to Deport African Migrants to Third Country

african-migrant-worker-in-israel-photo-by-sasha-y-kimel.jpg

Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 01:10 a.m. DST, 26 June 2013

Israel-Egypt border near Netafim, Photo by Vad LevinJERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli plan to send its over 60,000 African migrants to an unidentified third country has received elicit criticism for the potential harm to the migrants.

Over the past eight years, thousands of African migrants, mostly from Eritrea or Sudan, have entered Israel through Egypt. Some of these migrants were fleeing repressive regimes or seeking job opportunities.

Israel has attempted to stop the influx of migrants by building a fence on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Additionally, since last summer, Israel has been imprisoning new arrivals in order to determine if they meet the criteria for refugee status. Israel also offered cash to migrants if they would leave the country voluntarily.

The Washington Post and the Associated Press allude that many Israelis feel some sort of “natural responsibility” toward the migrants from Africa because of the Holocaust. However, other Israelis worry that Israel’s Jewish character will be threatened with the arrival of the migrants.

Fears for the migrants safety from mistreatment in the third country sparked criticism toward Israel’s plan.

Israel has yet to announce the details of the plan and the country they plan to send the migrants to. According to the Washington Post, court documents show that Israel has an agreement with one country to take on some migrants, and is currently in talks with two others. It is not known what these countries would receive in return.

Under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, states cannot send refugees to countries where they will face physical or political danger reports the Associated Press. It is unclear if Israel will be monitoring the well being of the migrants when in another country.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Thailand's Human Trafficking Record

Sam Hargadine, ContributorLast Modified: 14:48 p.m. EDT, 7 March 2013

Crying Girl, Photo by London Street ArtBANGKOK - Thailand and America are bracing for an awkward situation. In June, the US State Department will release its annual human trafficking report. In this year's release it is widely believed that Thailand may be relegated to the 3rd tier watch list. In other words, the worst of the worst.

Thailand's economy and civil society is a leader in the region. It is the United States' strongest ally in mainland Southeast Asia and in many ways does not deserve to be on the same list as Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, or Zimbabwe.

But there are two Thailands. One: the shimmering lights of Bangkok and the beautiful beaches and rice fields. The other: where two million legal immigrants and another few million illegal ones toil away in harsh labor conditions; keeping the Thai export economy afloat.

A report from The Economist looked at the Thai shrimp industry, worth roughly $1 billion a year. In the Samut Sakhon province, shrimp-peeling outfits have been observed physically abusing workers, denying pay, and confiscating workers' international paperwork. The State Department asserts that in Samut Sakhon, "nearly three-fifths of workers experience conditions of forced labor."

Relegation with respect to Thailand's standing in the State Department report would bring about automatic sanctions from the United States. However there are several ways Thailand and America can reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement for the current year to avoid such a measure.

Despite current conditions, there are vast incentives for the Thai and American governments to avoid the public loss of face such a downgrade would bring. After all, both governments want to have friendly relations.

Thailand is currently trying to attack the enabling environment it hosts by enforcing a 2008 law against human trafficking. Instituting penalties for police who tip off shrimp boat owners prior to inspection for instance would be a good start. Also the Thai government is encouraging illegal immigrants to now get temporary papers and be properly registered - without the immediate fear of deportation (a quasi-guest worker program). Laborers who are properly registered are then entitled to a daily minimum wage of $10/day, a strong incentive to self-register.

Only June will tell which way the report will go. However it is unlikely either party, America or Thailand, will let this impasse continue. Perhaps though, for as long as real improvements come for Thailand's most vulnerable, that is a welcome result.

Follow Sam Hargadine on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributor: @SamHargadine