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March 2, 2016

Iran Trains Young Children for Warfare Against US and Israel

As the media focuses on all that is allegedly “new “ in Iran, with new elected representatives and new business opportunities,  young children in the Islamic Republic are being trained in decades-old Iranian propaganda, violence and hate, with the goal of “conquering Tel Aviv”.

Iranian children

As part of last month’s Fajr Decade celebrations (the anniversary of Islamic Revolution), Iranian officials in the city of Lamard organized the “Sixth National Children’s Memorial”, an event which trains children for warfare against the US and Israel. According to reports, as many as 1,200 children participated in the event, with some dressed in military apparel. The event included forms of target practice with weapons, running through obstacle courses and learning about “conquering of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem” as “holy values.” One photo from the event shows a young boy holding an Israeli flag which he is preparing to set alight in a nearby bonfire.

Iran (which infamously sent in child soldiers during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s) is a signatory to an international protocol of the Convention of the Rights of Children which says:  “States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces…” and “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities. “   While such trainings may not constitute explicit recruitment or involvement in hostilities, with sessions such as these, Iran’s power brokers are educating, motivating and training for hostilities against Israel in the future.

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November 20, 2015

Today We Remember Transgender Lives Lost and Recommit to Justice

For the past sixteen years on November 20th, transgender people and allies around the world have come together to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It is a day to honor transgender people whose lives tragically ended in the last year as a result of anti-transgender violence and discrimination and celebrate the resilience of those who are living. At memorial services around the country, the names of transgender people who have been killed in the last year are read.

TDOR-forblog

Much like observing a yahrtzeit (the anniversary of a death), it is a time for reflection and introspection. This year was an especially violent year, with at least 22 reported murders in the United States since January, almost double the number of trans murders in all of 2014. This year has also witnessed a significant increase in reported non-lethal anti-trans violence. And the majority of this year’s victims were transgender women of color.

Just this past week, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus hosted a forum that brought together advocates and community leaders to discuss how to address soaring levels of violence against transgender people. Unsurprisingly, issues of racism, poverty, the systematic marginalization of trans people, including discrimination in schools, jobs and housing were highlighted. Advocates prioritized comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and immigration and criminal justice reform as a way to reduce violence against trans people.

Also earlier this week, the FBI released the 2014 Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report. While the report documented a decrease in the number of reported hate crimes in the United States, crimes targeting victims on the basis of their gender identity tripled. Tripled. And the violence against transgender people is not limited to the United States.  Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project, a program of Transgender Europe, systematically monitors, collects and analyzes reports of homicides of trans people worldwide. This year TMM identified 271 trans persons to be added to the list to be remembered.

It is important to take this day to mourn and to honor the lives of those tragically cut short by hatred and violence. And it is also a day to re-commit to naming the problems working on solutions.

A comprehensive federal anti-discrimination law that explicitly includes gender identity is essential. We must ensure that transgender people are explicitly protected from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, education, federal funding, credit, and jury service. These legal protections will go far in reducing the number of transgender people put in vulnerable positions as a result of discrimination.

State hate crime laws must cover hate crimes committed on the basis of gender identity and expression. An inclusive federal hate crime law is not enough. We must redouble our efforts to fulfill the goals of ADL’s 50 States Against Hate campaign, particularly enhanced training for law enforcement officers on how to identify and respond to hate crimes committed against trans people, better data collection and reporting by law enforcement agencies, and increased public education.

And we must educate young people and educators about transgender lives. Our schools must be places where transgender and gender non-conforming youth are able to thrive in an environment that is safe and free from bullying and harassment.

So today, we remember and mourn. Tomorrow we continue to fight fiercely for securing justice and fair treatment to all.

 

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November 5, 2015

Prioritizing Trans Rights in the Face of Hate and Lies

On Election Day, 60% of just one quarter of eligible Houston voters disappointingly rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) when they voted No on Prop #1. HERO created a broad swath of nondiscrimination protections for the city of Houston, including protections based on race, religion, sex, military status, pregnancy, genetic information, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The campaign to repeal HERO was grounded in fear and deception, relying on the lie that the anti-discrimination ordinance would permit men to use women’s bathrooms.

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

There is a sad irony here. Opponents of the ordinance cannot cite a single instance of a transgender person harassing a non-transgender person in a public restroom. Why? Because it doesn’t happen. Not in Houston nor in the 17 states and 200 cities that already have explicit protections for trans people. To the contrary, it is transgender people themselves who are most vulnerable, with 70 percent of transgender or gender non-conforming respondents in Washington, D.C. reporting that they have been, “denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms.” And it is precisely this violence that highlights the need for comprehensive hate crime laws in all 50 states.

But while the loss in Houston still stings, the news for LGBT people around the country is not all bad. Just last week, in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case out of Virginia, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a transgender student barred by his school from using the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity.  And in Illinois, the Department of Education found Monday that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender girl who participates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions.

In other good news, a district court in Alabama recently issued a decision in Isaacs v. Felder Services LLC that agreed with the EEOC that discrimination based on sexual orientation is always a form of sex discrimination.

But make no mistake, the ugliness and hate we saw in the campaign leading up to the vote in Houston was real and has a real impact on the lives of transgender people – not just in Houston, but across the country. Rather than retreat, this is an opportunity for LGBT communities and allies to rally. We must prioritize transgender rights, hold elected officials accountable for their words and actions, and find ways to educate communities, and particularly to reach young people.

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