8 Things You’ve Probably Got Completely Wrong About Islam

Everyone has an opinion on Islam, but what are the facts? 

Why The French Burkini Ban Is Racism At Its Worst

When will we stop letting fear-based hatred teint our society?

Explosion At Rio Stadium Ahead Of The Olympic Games

What else will go wrong for the host city? 

ISIS Suicide Bombing Leaves 48 Dead In Syria

This is just the latest in a string of recent terrorist attacks.

The Power Of Checking In With Yourself

You have permission to step away from the world for a minute or two.

Unpopular Opinion: Why I Say No To Supporting Refugees

“Thirty per cent of those asylum-seekers who claim to be Syrian are not Syrians.”

This Is What It’s Like To Be An ISIS Sex Slave

Horrifying to read, the untold stories of child sex slaves need to be heard.

Angelina Jolie Warns: ISIS Dictates Rape As A ‘Weapon’

For years ISIS have been using terrorism as a tactic, however Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie today warned that terrorist groups are now using rape as the “centre point of their terror” and insisted that the extremists are encouraged to use it as a “very effective weapon.”

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Speaking to the House of Lords in London, she said: “The most aggressive terrorist group in the world today knows what we know, knows that it is a very effective weapon and they are using it as a centre point of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families, and attacking and dehumanising.

“This terrorist group we are dealing with in Syria and Iraq is absolutely using rape. They are dictating it as policy.

Jolie, who has long been campaigning the issue, said that it was beyond something the world had ever seen before and urged a “very, very strong response” to the terror groups in Iraq and Syria. “I think the most important thing to understand is what it’s not. It’s not sexual, it is a violent brutal terrorising weapon,” she said.

Sexual attacks on women have become a huge part of the ISIS culture; last year it was revealed that the group had made rape a central part of their religion, an act demonstrating the lengths they are willing to go to exude power and instil terror. In a recent article for CNN, the United Nations special representative of the secretary general on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, came to the disturbing conclusion that the conflict in the Islamic State is in essence “a war on women and girls.”

“The refugees and displaced women and girls I met told me how sexual violence is being committed strategically, in a systematic manner, and with a high degree of sophistication by most of the parties to the conflicts…” she said.

“But while it is true that most parties to the conflict are committing sexual violence, it is extremist groups like ISIL that have been particularly public and shameless in institutionalizing sexual violence and engaging in the brutalization of women and girls as a tactic of terror to advance their key strategic objectives.”

Some of the tactics she pointed out included allowing fighters’ generous access to women and girls in a bid to increase recruitment, using women as a vessel to produce children for fighting purposes, and selling females in slave markets to generate funds for the group.

Zainab’s words echo that of humanity at its absolute worst. Likened to the revival of the slave trade in the 21st century, it’s clear that action needs to be taken and fast. Everyone deserves the right to live in an environment where being a women isn’t something to be ashamed of, or afraid of. According to international humanitarian law, there is an obligation to punish such crimes currently being committed by ISIS, but where and how do we start? Do we fight war with war, or do we find other means of intervening? Ones thing is for certain: the UN needs more support; this is something that needs to be addressed not as a nation, but as a globe.

Image via Reuters

United Nations Steps In To The Privacy Debate

Privacy has become one of the hottest political topics and social problems of the 21st century. World Governments have been scattering left and right for a while now dodging questions about secret spy agencies and operations – particularity after top-secret leaks from whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

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One of the biggest problems is that everyday users of technology have no idea how to protect themselves. This makes them exceptionally vulnerable and leaves plenty of scope for abuse. Even when hackers and tech savvy individuals say to use this or that for protection, it’s not a condom, and it’s not as easy to apply. In effect they may as well be speaking a foreign language because so many users have no idea what they’re saying.

Thankfully, the United Nations Human Rights Council has felt a strong need to step in. They have recently announced the appointment of a special rapporteur who is effectively an independent expert. They will be appointed in June 2015 and will play a critical role in developing the meaning of privacy as a basic human right and implementing guidelines to assist counties and agencies comply with the UN’s stance on privacy.

The special rapporteur will also speak to key stakeholders and research any privacy violations which have occurred. I’d expect this will focus heavily on digital technology and advancements in communication. Some have speculated on exactly how much transparency will be provided by the special rapporteur, particularly from some of the spy agencies operating nationally and globally.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK and the National Security Agency (NSA) based in the US are said to be global leaders in metadata collection. Using top secret computer systems they have been able to monitor millions of digital technology users for several years. All US telecommunications companies are said to have assisted in their collection in one way or another and have even had to disclose personal credit card information.

In the past year or so, there has been a significant amount of talk about their practices. Privacy watchers have even suggested these agencies may have gone rouge, pushing the bounds of what’s legal within their jurisdiction.

One system which is under intense scrutiny operates under the code-name Tempora. It intercepts communications via fibre-optic cables, which is primarily how the internet operates. What they have been doing and are continuing to do, is accessing and storing massive amounts of private and public citizen information without any suspicion of crime or terrorism. It’s believed the program is so vast that it collects data from each and every phone user in America.

Another program with the code-name PRISM has also come under direct fire. Users of internet giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Skype have all had their data collected and handed discretely to the NSA and FBI.

Reports have surfaced that the NSA had planed to scrap metadata collection prior to Snowden’s NSA leaks. However, despite claiming it’s been ineffective in the “war on terror” and excessively expensive, this system is still very much operational. Many eyes are looking at June 1st when the law allowing this practice will expire.

The renewal of this legislation won’t be smooth thanks to Snowden. Some politicians believe the legality to collect each private citizens telephone data is an essential national security tool, while others strongly believe it goes against the US constitution. At present no-one is giving away any secrets concerning the future of this legislation, so only time will tell.

Privacy advocates are obviously hoping for it’s dissolution, plus many will be holding their breath for the first privacy report to come out of the UN. Considering the significant load of metadata collected by the GCHQ, NSA and FBI alone, the soon-to-be-appointed special rapporteur will clearly have their work cut out for them!

Image rjscorner.net

Remembering The Big Events Of 2014

A lot happened in 2014. The world lost some amazing talent, Aussies got a royal visit and experienced terrorism first hand. Plus, the world readied itself for the spread of Ebola and flying via Malaysia Airlines became a risk many wanted to avoid. We spare a few moments on this final day of the year to take a look back at some of the big events which got our attention during 2014.

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The Ukraine and Crimean Crisis

Political events in Ukraine and Russia seemed to dominate global news from late 2013 and continued for most of 2014. Crimea announced its independence from Ukraine on March 17 and over 300 000 Ukraine protesters gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square, against the decision. The authorised slaughter of over 100 protesters saw the fall of Ukraine’s President, who fled the country to avoid criminal charges. The residents of Ukraine elected themselves a new President with the hope of stopping the civil and political unrest, however tension in the region remains.

Ebola outbreak

In February, the spread of Ebola – which began in West Africa – startled health officials as they scrambled to contain the outbreak. Fearing the next AIDS epidemic, the World Health Organization implemented treatment protocols as health care workers began contracting the deadly virus. Thankfully Ebola hasn’t progressed to be the global epidemic, many health officials had feared.

The trial of Oscar Pistorius

The world watched on as the Oscar Pistorious trial began is South Africa on March 3rd. Accused of killing his lover, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14 2013, the trial took many months, concluding with a guilty verdict of culpable homicide. Sentenced to five years imprisonment, the former Paralympian is said to be appealing his sentence.

Flight MH370

The mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 began on March 8, when the plane disappeared with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. A massive search and rescue operation was performed, but failed when the plane and its occupants literally vanished from the sky.

The Australian Royal Visit

In April, Aussies got a glimpse of William, Kate and little Prince George. For die-hard Royalists, it was an opportunity too good to miss. There was a little controversy about the royal trio skipping Melbourne on their travels, but all in all the royal visit was reasonably well received.

Flight MH17

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over the Russian/Ukraine border on July 17, on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 283 passengers and 15 on board lost their lives. Officials are currently investigating and the report is due to be released in August 2015.

The death of Robin Williams

The world was stunned by the sudden death of Robin Williams on August 11. Most of us had a tear to shed and fondly remembered the talented actor/comedian. His much loved characters were forever immortalised in history by his passing and quotes like “Captain, my Captain”, “Good Morning Vietnam” and of course “nanoo nanoo” reigned across social media.

Terror in Sydney

On December 16, Australians experienced a first-hand account of terrorism. A lone gunman stormed a local Sydney coffee shop in Martin Place, holding hostages and the city captive. Aussies across the nation watched breaking news in disbelief as events unfolded. The following day, the resilience of Australian residents was revealed to the world. Millions of flowers were laid in honour of the two victims who tragically lost their lives and displayed sheer determination as they reclaimed their beloved city.

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