In the latest episode of Index on Censorship’s What the Fuck!? podcast, associate editor Mark Frary talks to actor Natalia Tena, known for playing Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter movies as well as Lana Pierce in the YouTube science fiction series Origin and Osha in Game of Thrones.
Tena talks about how she became aware of female genital cutting, a practice that affects more than 200 million girls and women around the world, after reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel:My Life.
She talks about why she has been walking the Santiago de Camino to fundraise for The Orchid Project and her favourite swear words in English and Spanish.
Index on Censorship’s What the Fuck!? podcast invites politicians, activists, journalists and celebrities to talk about the worst things going on in the world, why you should care and why you should swear. Listen to the launch episode with British artist Alison Jackson, famous for her fake photos of politicians and the royal family as she talks about the phenomenon of Donald Trump.
What’s it like to be an author of a banned or challenged book? How can librarians support authors who find themselves in this situation? To mark Banned Books Week, Vicky Baker, deputy editor of Index on Censorship magazine, will chair an online discussion with three authors on 29 September, followed by a Q&A.
Christine Baldacchino, author of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, a children’s book about a boy who likes to wear a dress, which “highly concerned” some parents when it was read in US schools.
Jessica Herthel, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who co-wrote the children’s picture book I Am Jazz, with Jazz Jennings, a transgender activist and YouTube/television star. In 2015, an elementary school in Wisconsin cancelled a reading of the book after a group threatened to sue.
Pohyon Temple in the Myohyang mountains, once a national center for Korean Buddhism. Credit: Uri Tours / Flickr
After the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent organisation created by the US Congress to evaluate religious freedom conditions around the world, released its 2015 report, it became clear that an insufficient amount of progress had been made since Index on Censorship last reported on the issue.
Here’s a roundup of some the most appalling religious freedom violations from across the globe.
Bigotry and intolerance continue to scorch the lives of religious and ethnic minorities in Burma, particularly Rohingya Muslims. The Burmese government demonstrated little effort toward intervening or properly investigating claims of abuse, including those carried out by religious figures in the Buddhist community. As internet availability spread throughout the country, social media played a role in promoting a platform of hate and proposed violence against minority populations. Rohingya Muslims in the country face a unique level of discrimination and persecution. The government denies them citizenship and the right to identify as Rohingya. Additionally, four discriminatory race and religion bills could further the prejudices affecting religious minorities.
North Korea is a nation where genuine freedom of religion or belief is non-existent; it remains one of the most oppressive regimes and worst violators of human rights. Punishment comes to those who pose difficult questions while the government maintains its control through a constant threat of imprisonment, torture and even death for those who break the law regarding religion. Estimates suggest up to 200,000 North Koreans are currently suffering in labor camps, tens of thousands of whom are there for practicing heir faith. In February 2014, the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released its report documenting the systematic, severe violations of human rights in the country. It found “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience”.
Officially an Islamic state with eight to ten million expatriate workers of different faiths, Saudi Arabia continues to restrict most forms of public religious expression inconsistent with its interpretation of Sunni Islam. The government continues to use criminal charges of blasphemy to suppress any dialogue between dissenting viewpoints, with a new law helping drive home the goal of silence. The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing criminalises virtually all forms of peaceful dissent and free expression, including criticising the government’s view of Islam. Lastly, authorities continue to discriminate grossly against dissident clerics and members of the Shia community.
The Sudanese government continues to engage in massive violations of freedom of religion, due to president Omar al-Bashir’s policies of Islamisation and restrictive interpretation of sharia law. Despite 97% of the population being Muslim, there is a wide range of other religions practiced. The country’s turmoil from religious persecution rests on the 1991 Criminal Code, the 1991 Personal Status Law of Muslims, and state-level “public order” laws, which have restricted freedom for all Sudanese. The laws – which contradict the country’s constitutional and international commitments to human rights and freedom of religion – allow death sentences for apostasy, stoning for adultery, cross-amputations for theft, prison sentences for blasphemy and floggings for undefined “offences of honor, reputation and public morality”. Since 2011, more than 170 people have been arrested and charged with apostasy.
Article continues below
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Join the Index mailing list and get an exclusive gift” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:28|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]
Index on Censorship’s summer magazine 2016
We’ll send you our weekly emails and periodic updates on our events. We won’t share your personal information with anyone outside Index.
You’ll also get access to an exclusive collection of articles from our landmark 250th issue of Index on Censorship magazine exploring journalists under fire and under pressure. Your downloadable PDF will include reports from Lindsey Hilsum, Laura Silvia Battaglia and Hazza Al-Adnan.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][gravityform id=”20″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”false”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Uzbekistan
In Uzbekistan, the government imprisons individuals for not conforming to officially prescribed practices or whom it claims are extremist, including as many as 12,000 Muslims. A highly restrictive religion law is imposed, the 1998 Law on Freedom of Consciences and Religious Organisations, which severely limits the rights of all religious groups and facilitates Uzbek government control over religious activity. Many who don’t fit into the framework of officially approved practices are regularly repressed. Additionally, the government has continued a campaign against independent Muslims, targeting those linked to the May 2005 protests in Andijan; 231 are still imprisoned in connection to the events, and ten have died. All the while, Uzbekistan has pressured countries to return Uzbek refugees who fled during the Andijan tragedy.
In an environment of nearly inescapable government information control, severe religion freedom breaches persist in Turkmenistan. Continuing police raids and harassment of registered and unregistered religious groups matched with laws and policies that violate international human rights norms has the nation as one of the year’s biggest offenders. With an estimated total population of 5.1 million, the US government projects that the country is 85% Sunni Muslim, 9% Russian Orthodox, and a 2% total that includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and evangelical Christians. Despite Turkmenistan’s constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom and separation of religion from the state, the 2003 religion law negates these provisions while setting intrusive registration criteria for individuals. It also requires that the government is informed of all foreign financial support, forbids worship in private homes and places discriminatory restrictions on religious education.
While the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, this idea really only applies to “normal religions”, better known as the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” associated with Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. Even still, the government monitors religious activities unfairly, and there has been an increased religious persecution of Uighur Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism. All around repression in China worsened in 2014, including the governmental push for controlling Tibet, Xinjiang, and even Hong Kong, as well as controls on the internet, social media, human rights defenders, activists and journalists.
Ongoing religious freedom abuses have continued in Eritrea, including torture or ill-treatment of religious prisoners, random arrests without charges and banning’s on public religious activities. The situation is especially serious for Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the government suppresses Muslim religious activities and those opposed to the government-appointed head of the community. In 2002, the government increased its control over religion by imposing a registration requirement on all religious groups other than the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. The requirements mandated that the non-preferred religious communities provide detailed information about their finances, membership, activities, and benefit to the country. Additionally, released religious prisoners have reported to USCIRF that they were confined in crowded conditions, and subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations. The government continued to arrest and detain followers of unregistered religious communities. Recent estimates suggest 1,200 to 3,000 people are imprisoned on religious grounds in Eritrea, the majority of whom are Evangelical or Pentecostal Christians.
Poor religious freedom in Iran continued to worsen in 2014, particularly for minority groups like Bahá’ís, Christian converts, and Sunni Muslims. The government is still engaging in systematic violations, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based on the religion of the accused. Despite Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians being recognised as protected minorities, the government has consistently discriminated against its citizens on the basis of religion. Killings, arrests, and physical abuse of detainees have increased in recent years, including for religious minorities and Muslims who are perceived as threatening the government’s legitimacy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1493906845781-a7b9ac80-f77d-2″ taxonomies=”1742″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
“My job is to make good art,” said Belgian artist Kris Verdonck. “I have no interest in being deliberately offensive or provocative.”
Verdonck was speaking at an event at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens last week, entitled Art Freedom Censorship. Featuring a range of international speakers and organisations, including Index on Censorship, the event was inspired by recent works and performances that have been shutdown in Greece following public outcry.
In Verdonck’s case, that outcry came predominantly from one man: a local priest.
Last year Onassis Cultural Centre put on one of Verdonck’s works, Stills, a series of oversized, slow-mo nudes that move within confined spaces. The artist has been showing the images around Europe, projected on to buildings associated with historical dictators. In Athens, the show lasted just one day before a priest complained. A staff member from Onassis was temporarily held in police custody before the centre agreed to halt the projections.
Also speaking at Art Freedom Censorship was director Pigi Dimitrakopoulou, who presented a play, Nash’s Balance, at Greece’s National Theatre in January, before it was pulled mid-run after vehement protests and threats of violence. The work used text taken from a book by Savvas Xiros, a convicted member of the 17 November group, which the Greek government considers a terrorist organisation.
In one of the more heated debates of the evening, Dimitrakopoulou said she hadn’t given much thought to censorship before being embroiled in the scandal. “I always thought I was too conservative to be affected by such things.” She spoke of a “political tsunami” that engulfed the show. “I expected a reaction, but more related to the work,” she said, adding that she believed most critics hadn’t seen it.
Greek journalist and publisher Elias Kanellis, who had been outspokenly against the decision to use the 17 November text, stood by his criticism but clarified that he never called for it to be censored. “Criticism is the founding principle of democracy,” he said. “But what if I were to publish Jihadi propaganda?”
Discussions also included a look at the role of the church in Greece today. Stavros Zoumboulakis, president of the supervisory council of the Greek National Library, spoke of orthodox priests refusing to admit the nation is now a post-Christian society, with only a tiny percentage attending mass. But Xenia Kounalaki, a journalist from Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, argued the issue was less about numbers of active worshipers, more a problem of top-down influence, which still extends into the nation’s education system.