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Take Action: How to Stand Up for Human Rights

Rohingya Demonstration in Malaysia

Kohinoor feels invisible. As a Muslim Rohingya who fled ethnic violence in Myanmar, she was a stateless rolling stone for two years before settling on a patch of wasteland in Delhi, India. 

“We had a good life in Burma but the government and people there don’t like us Rohingya,” she says in this Thomson Reuters Foundation video following her day-to-day life.

Myanmar law, passed in 1982, excludes natives who are not part of the “national races” from attaining full citizenship, according to The Guardian. This exclusion applies to about 1 million Muslim Rohingya’s living near the country’s border with Bangladesh. In December, Reuters reported Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke against the “genocide” of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and criticized Nobel Peace Prize winner and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her inaction. Razak called for international intervention.

“We were chased out of Burma. We were chased out of Bangladesh,” Kohinoor says in the film. “Now, we are in India [and] the people here tell us that India is not our country.”

While walking the filmmakers through the makeshift camp she calls home, Kohinoor explains children from the camp are not allowed to attend schools, her people are turned away from medical attention at hospitals, and despite working for a living, they do not always get paid for services rendered. 

“We also have rights. We didn’t just emerge from the jungles,” she says. “We just want to have the same rights as the people of this country.”

On Human Rights Day, December 10, the United Nations is urging individuals to stand up for the rights of people such as Kohinoor, amid extremist movements, messages of intolerance, horrific violence, and a widespread disrespect for humankind. The campaign #Standup4humanrights is reminding people to take action in defending the rights of anyone at risk of discrimination or violence.

Take Action – What Can You Do?

Taking action begins with becoming informed, according to the UN’s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which declared 29 universal rights every human are entitled to. These rights include Kohinoor’s call for a nationality for the 1 million Rohingya who remain stateless. The list includes the right to education, which remains precarious for undocumented youth in the U.S., such as the subjects in the documentary “American Dreamers.” Learn about universal rights that vulnerable communities are lacking and share their stories to promote education and understanding. Some examples include:

  • Migrants – An animation presenting a metaphor for thousands of migrant workers around the world.
  • LGBT community – Browse through our catalog of documentaries exploring the spectrum of gender and sexuality. 
  • Women – Explore the contributions women have made to society and the many gaps that remain in women’s rights worldwide.
 The Rape of the Samburu Women
"The Rape of the Samburu Women" | Women in Focus

Taking action also means speaking out against injustice wherever we see it, the campaign suggests, whether it’s overcoming sexist remarks in the wrestling ring or forming a village with women raped by British soldiers. Of equal significance is standing with activists who defend human rights, such as indigenous leaders at Standing Rock, activists who endanger their lives for environmental justice, and lawyers upholding the rule of law.

So, sign petitions, lobby your government, combat myths with facts, and simply engage in online and real-time conversations that speak in favor of tolerance and against prejudice, #Standup4HumanRights suggests. Learn more about the campaign on:

Top image: Ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees shout slogans during a gathering in Kuala Lumpur on December 4, 2016 against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

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