Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Akhir / Jamadiul Awwal 1423 H
July 2002
Volume 15-07 No:187

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Features


Rights and Wrongs


Rights and Wrongs

The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) based in London has been working relentlessly for the protection of minority rights all over the world through its intensive training seminars

By A Staff Writer

Trampling of minority rights and growing communalism have become the order of the day. Amidst this gloomy scenario, the training seminar organised by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG) comes as a ray of hope as it not only created awareness of the magnitude of the problems of minorities across the globe, but also helped the representatives empower themselves to intervene on atrocities that are committed against minorities in their respective countries.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a NGO based in London which is working relentlessly for the protection of minority rights all over the world. It not only provides funding for minority rights promotion, but publishes studies regularly on minorities in different parts of the world. MRG annually conducts an international training seminar dedicated to Neelam Tiruchelvam who was the chairperson of MRG and was assassinated by the extremist groups of Sri Lanka. In this training, the MRG staff along with resource persons from well-known NGOs and UN staff members from different UN organisations involved in promotion of human rights and minority rights are invited to impart training to the representatives of different NGOs working for the minorities (maybe linguistic, religious or ethnic) in different parts of the world (excluding North America and western Europe). The training programme equips the participants with skills to fight for minority rights locally, nationally and internationally. Also they get exposed to the international mechanisms devised by the UN to protect minority rights like the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudices (1978) or the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief (1981).

After the training, the MRG arranges a meeting of the participants with the MRG Council members who are drawn from different parts of the world. As part of the sub-commission on Human Rights, there is the UN Working Group on Minorities (WGM) which comprises five members who are neither diplomats or politicians. Prof Eide, a professor from Norway is the chairman, Laila of Algeria, Prof Bengoa of Latin America, Prof Kataskin of Russia and Soli Sorabjee of India are members of this group. MRG helps the participants in its training seminar to prepare their interventions on minorities in their countries. The participants read out these statements in the WGM meeting. The eighth session of the WGM was held in Geneva recently. MRG had selected 19 participants from all over the world and three were selected from India. The Centre for study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), Majlis (Women's Group), both from Mumbai and World Fisher People's Forum, Kerala were the three NGOs whose representatives participated in this training. The writer representing CSSS gave her intervention on the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Jamil, representative of the Turkish minority from Greece urged the WGM to draw the attention of the Greek authorities to the concerns of the Turkish minority on their religious and other rights. Ramiza Sakip of Macedonia, a Muslim, but a representative of the Roma community (gypsies) wanted better facilities for her community in Macedonia and also protection of the livelihood of gypsies in Eastern Europe. Violet, another Muslim of the Albanian minority in Macedonia stressed on the fair treatment of her minority group in her country. Atteib Ahmad of Chad was seeking better integration of minorities in the development process of his country.

Abid Hussein of Ethiopia, who was representing the pastoral community who are Muslims raised the issue with the WGM to make the governments of his own country and the neighbouring countries to ignore borders for the pastoral community as they move about with their camels from one country to another. Soron Arif, a Kurd from Iraq turned the attention of the UN towards helping the Kurds from the persecution of the Iraqi government. Larissa, a Chechnyan Muslim from Russia urged the UN WGM to exert pressure over the Russian government to stop the genocide of Muslims in Chechnya. Muslims from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries presented their views on minority rights A Baluchi representative from Pakistan accused the Pakistan government of keeping a hold on Baluchistan. Another representative of MRG alleged that Pakistan was neglecting Sindh province and that the Sindhis were being discriminated within their homeland which should be stopped. The Sri Lankan Muslim minority representative urged the Sri Lankan government to recognise Muslims as a distinct identity in the new set-up of peace and make Muslims equal partners in the socio-economic development of the country, considering the turmoil they had to undergo due to the civil war.

Can the UN MGM solve all these problems? May not be. What it can do is at least to bring the erring governments become aware of their follies before the international community. In these troubled times for Muslims in India, the youth have to gear up to face the challenges of the future and for this, Muslims ought to make their NGOs pro-active to fight communalism. The UN Working Group on Minorities has come a long way through organising seminars like these that will empower the Muslims to assert for their rights and also to take up issues plaguing the community, to the international forums in a professional style.

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