Rerouted, Rerooted: Oral Histories of Syrian-Armenian Refugees

Rerouted, Rerooted: Oral Histories of Syrian-Armenian Refugees

By Larissa Peltola, Editor, RightsViews.   The Armenian Genocide, which took place 106 years ago, today, claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. While people around the world are now more aware of what occurred in 1915, following a global push for recognition of the genocide, few are aware of the lasting implications of the genocide which have carried on to this day. HRSMA alumna Anoush Baghdassarian (‘19) and Pomona College graduate Ani Schug (‘17) have undertaken the important and necessary work of collecting the oral histories of Syrian-Armenian refugees - the descendants of genocide survivors - to keep the memories of those who have perished alive. What was the Armenian Genocide?  Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide, was moved to do so after hearing about the systematic annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Before WWI, Armenians - in what is now Turkey - totaled over two million. But by 1922, there were fewer than...
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The Neoliberalization of Academia: Why the Columbia University Graduate Workers Strike is a Human Rights Imperative

The Neoliberalization of Academia: Why the Columbia University Graduate Workers Strike is a Human Rights Imperative

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. The opinions expressed in this article are Noah’s own and are not representative of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) or Columbia University.  Thousands of graduate students and student workers at Columbia University began striking on March 15, 2021 after many stalled negotiations with school administrators. A strong majority of student workers, 96%, voted  yes to authorize a strike and with a  deadline of March 15, 2021. The Graduate Workers of Columbia University (GWC) and all those in solidarity call on the university to agree to a fair contract. According to GWC bargaining committee members, the strike is a last resort after years of unsuccessful negotiations with university representatives, and assert that withholding their labor is the final means of forcing the university to recognize their demands. Columbia University has had a long and tumultuous history in regards to treating graduate workers as employees....
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Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. Americans owe over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt and the Federal Reserve projects that 31% of all U.S. adults have student loans. House and Senate Democrats have frequently implored President Biden to forgive up to $50,000 of federal debt through an Executive Order, an action Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has articulated Biden should take during his first 100 days in office. During a recent CNN town hall, an audience member asked President Biden what actions his administration will take to forgive up to $50,000. He quickly responded by stating “I will not make that happen.” President Biden has given several reasons for why he does not support large student debt forgiveness, namely, he believes such action would disproportionately benefit students who go to “elite” private colleges. “It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or public university,” he said...
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The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Kelly Dudine, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program   Globally, girls and women are simultaneously among the most overworked and most impoverished populations. Entire economies thrive due to the unrecognized and undervalued labor of women, including household work, care work, and informal and low-wage labor.  During the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, girls and women stand to lose even more. Women in varying levels of employment are now struggling to maintain dignified work, and many fear the loss of income more than the pandemic itself. “During the first lockdown, all the artisans were tense about not having enough orders to work and feared not getting paid,” said Rosna Kafle, Chair of the Kopila Valley Women’s Cooperative in Surkhet, Nepal.  The Cooperative employs some of the most vulnerable women in the community with work as tailors and weavers. Before the Cooperative, many of the artisans were unemployed, or performed hazardous work, like breaking stones or...
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NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.   On January 29, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted Rafael Yuste, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, to discuss the proposal from the Morningside group led by Yuste (Yuste et al., Nature 2017) to add new human rights articles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to protect mental privacy, personal identity, personal agency, equal access to cognitive augmentation, and protection from algorithmic biases. The event commenced with moderator Lara J. Nettelfield, Senior Lecturer, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, introducing Rafael Yuste who began his presentation by discussing the fundamental biology of the brain as well as why we must study neuroscience in relation to human rights. The brain, which is composed of roughly 100 billion neurons, is what generates all of our cognitive and mental abilities. If we understood how this organ worked, we would recognize the mind...
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President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

By: Guest Contributor Isidora Roskic, MA candidate in the Human Rights Studies program at Columbia University.  With the 2020 election results finalized, the Biden-Harris administration could bring promising advancements for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. While Trump’s Republican platform was once referred to as one of the “worst platforms in terms of LGBT issues,” President Biden’s policy proposals hold great prospect for real change. According to his Plan to Advance LGBTQ+ Equality in America and Around the World, banning so-called “conversion therapy” presently stands as one of the government’s top priorities. Gay conversion therapy (GCT), otherwise referred to as “reparative therapy,” is the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to alter one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through spiritual, psychological and/or physical intervention.  Experimental “treatments” include lobotomies, testicular tissue transplants, chemical castration, and aversive conditioning: application of electric shock to hands/genitals, and administration of nausea-inducing drugs during the presentation of homoerotic stimuli. Conversion therapy survivor, Sam Brinton, opened up about the horrors of undergoing...
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Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

By Anna Miller, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in ISHR’s Human Rights MA Program. Note: this piece addresses antisemitism in the United States only, though it exists worldwide. As a Jewish person born and living in the United States, my knowledge is primarily based in this country.  The Jewish people are no stranger to hatred and violence. Jewish history is marked by thousands of years of antisemitism, centuries of forced diaspora, and a boiling point of bigotry that led to the Holocaust. Today, antisemitic hate crimes and speech have reached a new high in the United States. In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League reported 2,107 antisemitic incidents, the highest number on record since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979 (ADL).  Due to their acute familiarity with discrimination and injustice, Jews tend to be active in social justice movements and speak up about human rights issues. Notably, Jews marched in civil rights protests in the 1960s and were vocal about...
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  Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: Repeal FOSTA-SESTA

  Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: Repeal FOSTA-SESTA

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.  In 2017, President Trump signed into law two highly controversial bills projected to make it easier to reduce illegal sex trafficking online. The House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, have garnered bipartisan support as well as praise from misguided celebrities and was hailed as a landmark victory for sex trafficking victims. However, since the FOSTA-SESTA’s conception it has done little to target and reduce online sex trafficking and conversely threatens to increase violence against the most vulnerable within society, specifically queer sex workers and sex workers of color.        Opponents as well as critics of the bill have articulated that it doesn’t appear to do anything concrete to target illegal sex trafficking, but rather targets a longstanding “safe harbor” rule of the internet: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act....
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The Scope of Justice: Comparing Two Distant Criminal Justice Systems

The Scope of Justice: Comparing Two Distant Criminal Justice Systems

By Donggeun Lee, RightsViews Staff Writer and a second-semester junior majoring in Human Rights. “Comparison is in many ways a useful mirror into which we look, and by looking we notice things about ourselves and our own country and our systems that sometimes might please us [and] that sometimes might give us pause and even cause us disappointment and dismay.” - Professor David T. Johnson On October 12th, the Columbia Law School hosted an event entitled “Criminal Justice in Japan - A Comparative Perspective” addressing the question of what we can learn from differences between criminal justice in Japan and the United States. The event was moderated by the executive director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies, Nobuhisa Ishizuka, and featured two speakers: David T. Johnson, a professor at the University of Hawaii, and Kiyo A. Matsumoto, a United States District Judge at the Eastern District of New York.  Differences between Japan and the United States According to Franklin E. Zimring, the author...
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“It’s Not Living, It’s Surviving:” Venezuelan Refugees in Colombia and the COVID-19 Crisis

“It’s Not Living, It’s Surviving:” Venezuelan Refugees in Colombia and the COVID-19 Crisis

By Larissa Peltola, a staff writer for RightsViews and a graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program The political and economic crises which have plagued Venezuela since 2014 have resulted in the mass exodus of over 5 million Venezuelans, the largest migrant crisis in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Of the over 5 million people that have fled their home country of Venezuela, over 1.6 million have settled in neighboring Colombia, resulting in a refugee crisis made increasingly worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Milena Gomez Kopp, Visiting Research Scholar at School of International and Public Affairs, engaged with students during the October 28, 2020, Food for Thought speaker series and discussed her analysis of the growing refugee crisis. Background  Venezuela was once considered the wealthiest and most resource-rich country in Latin America. With the largest oil reserve in the world, the economy grew rapidly, and Western countries looked for ways to engage in trade with Venezuela. This changed with the...
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