Sketching faces for the faceless, giving voices to the unheard

The best place to sell copies of the Quran is in front of the mosque, my grandfather once told me. I begin this piece with that advice in mind. To borrow a phrase from Ophelia Benson, this is not about a donation from a deity, but this is about a congregation of the faithful. This is about introducing a new independent magazine of human rights journalism to one of the largest forums of humanists online – Butterflies and Wheels. If you are a regular at B&W, I take that your faith in humanity, freedom and liberty counts above everything else and that is why you might be interested about this new magazine we have launched.

I am sure some of you have read articles from the first issue of Independent World Report since Ophelia – who is also one of our editorial advisers – mentioned this in one of her posts. If you have not already, you are invited to browse our website at to see if this is something you want to be part of.

Launched this September, Independent World Report is a bimonthly print magazine – a global briefing on human rights, international politics, peace and justice. A newsmagazine that celebrates and advocates freedom and liberty. Our mission is to highlight the forgotten and untold stories of the world through in-depth reportage and critical analysis.

The need for such a publication at this hour is to be assessed in a broad context. For that we need to look at the international human rights establishment first.

This is a typical example of how the establishment works. This March, in a bizarre game of international politics, some of the worst human rights abusers in the world — Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others — ganged up at the United Nations Human Rights Council and through a non-binding resolution declared that any kind of criticism of religion is to be deemed as human rights violation.

Among other things, the resolution (a) claims that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations;” (b) “deplores the use of [the media] to incite acts of violence, xenophobia, or related intolerance and discrimination against any religion, as well as targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons;” and (c) “calls upon all states… to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols are fully respected and protected…”

So, when a teenage girl in Pakistan is flogged as per the shariah; when young men are executed in Iran for the anti-Islamic crime of homosexuality; when people’s wrists are chopped off in Saudi Arabia or eight-year-old girls are married off to forty-seven-year-old men as per divine prescriptions; we are not supposed to question the role of religion in those societies, because, that will be a human rights violation. And while the Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan and Indonesia, Bahais in Iran, Shias in Bahrain, Uyghurs in China or Chechens in Russia are persecuted, we must hold the Western media responsible for violence, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination.

Of course, all of these make sense as the Human Rights Council now propagates the notion that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols shall enjoy respect and protection, while we – the mere mortals – are left to the worst forms of abuses and oppression.

Now, when it comes to human rights abuses and trampling of freedom and liberty, governments and institutions across the globe remain the major perpetrators or sponsors. Given this, we need to question the merits of the efforts by organisations advocating rights and freedoms. How much are we really going to achieve by lobbying with the United Nations, the European Union or the White House? What results are we trying to get by petitioning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran or Islom Karimov of Uzbekistan? Why is the human rights question most often dealt in an exclusively legal discourse, inaccessible to most of us who are not experts on international law, conventions, treaties or agreements?

In a way, Independent World Report is founded in response to these questions. A magazine of humanist and internationalist journalism for the people who care and want to be informed about the state of human rights, freedom and liberty around the world. Governments and international agencies are not our audience. We are not funded by George Soros et al. and have no plans for trips to Saudi Arabia for fund-raising with the elites there.

That is why you are a crucial part of the equation. Independent World Report is a reader-supported publication as we are supported directly and only by our readers who buy yearly subscriptions to the magazine. If you like this new magazine and want us to succeed in our editorial mission please consider subscribing. Your subscription alone will support this independent publication.

As a subscriber, you will get each new issue of the print magazine – 52 pages printed in full colour – posted to you. For €45, you can buy a yearly subscription, 6 issues. That is 50% off the cover price and postage. By subscribing, you will directly contribute to our mission of reporting the forgotten and untold stories of the world.

Our subscribers are our supporters. We recognise this by publishing the names of our subscribers in our website and the magazine. To ensure that your name appears in the next issue of the print magazine please subscribe before November 10.

As we are trying to build a new global platform of independent journalism, we hope that you will join us.

Tasneem Khalil – a Bangladeshi journalist now in exile in Sweden – is the Editor & Publisher of Independent World Report. For story tips, feedback or submission queries write to

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