“If you drive 40 miles inland from Recife you go back in time 150 years.” Those were the words of a human rights defender from the Pastoral Land Commission in Pernambuco, Brazil, as he tried to explain the lawless brutality with which landowners managed their sugar cane plantations. The reach of the state is weak and the level of corruption and abuse of power is high.
Sitting in Minsk following a few days of meetings with human rights defenders and others in Belarus led me to reflect on where Europe stands with Eastern Europe. Recent criticism of Tánaiste Simon Coveney promoting trade with Russia in spite of sanctions is only one symptom of a broader weakness and lack of strategy at EU level.
Brutal and corrupt dictatorships trying to use sport to improve their image is nothing new, as TheGuardiannoted in February when it compared club ownership and the Champions League to Mussolini and the 1934 World Cup.
Andrew Anderson recently met with human rights defenders and protesters demanding reform on the streets of Sudan.
“It is a coup, done by the security committee which is NISS, the army, RSF and police. They have suspended the constitution, which means suspending the bill of rights, declared a state of emergency and a curfew. They are going to meet the angry protesters with brutality.”
- Human rights defender, Khartoum 11th April 2018
Well-being is apparently dangerous in Turkey. When my friend Ozlem Dalkiran attended a training workshop on holistic security she was asked to draw something which represented what she was worried about. It is the sort of well meaning flipchart & post-it note psycho-babble which messes with my stress levels, but Ozlem gamely drew a map of Turkey with icons representing people fleeing war in Iraq & Syria in the East and friends in prison in Istanbul.
My friend Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is currently chained by hands and feet to a wall in Kober Prison in Khartoum. He has been badly beaten. He started a hunger strike on Sunday in protest at his detention without access to a lawyer since the 7th of December 2016. He was allowed a brief visit from his brothers 10 days ago, but has otherwise been denied access also to his family.