refugee camp
Refugee camp

Lecture Series Addresses Global Human Rights Issues

Human Rights Studies at UC Davis is presenting a four-lecture series of high-profile speakers addressing ongoing issues connected to war, indigenous rights, migration and refugees.

The series starts Jan. 19 with UC Davis Law Professor Karima Bennoune, who will give a talk titled "Defending the Right to Culture,” addressing attacks throughout the world on artists, writers and important cultural heritage sites, and what measures could be taken to better protect them. Bennoune is author of the 2014 book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Museum Fundamentalism and serves as United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

"UC Davis is committed to exploring the most crucial human rights problems facing our world today and helping our students and our community be prepared to find thoughtful and workable solutions,” said Keith David Watenpaugh, a professor who directs the UC Davis Human Rights Studies Program. “The speakers, who have extensive human rights experience around the globe, will help us better understand such diverse problems as threats to our shared cultural heritage, the killing of health care professionals in the war in Syria, and the systematic abuse of indigenous children." 

The talks, free and open to the public, are being held at the new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at 7 p.m. 

“We’re happy to partner with the new museum on the series as a way to give it a high profile and increase outreach to the region,” said Watenpaugh.

At UC Davis since 2012, Bennoune has served as consultant on human rights issues for the International Council on Human Rights Policy, the Soros Foundation, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). From 1995 to 1999, she was a legal adviser at Amnesty International. Her TEDx talk, “When People of Muslim Heritage Confront Fundamentalism,” has been seen by 1.3 million viewers.

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here is based on interviews Bennoune did with 300 people in 26 countries. Among the stories she relates are those of museum curators risking their lives to save Afghani cultural treasures; Algerian television producers threatened with death for showing a popular program; and a man who arranged basketball tournaments for Somali refugees in Minneapolis to counter attempts to radicalize them.

A Washington Post review stated that the book “should be required reading, not only for those of us who are professionally involved with Muslim-majority societies, but also for anyone who mistakenly believes that Muslims are doing nothing to end fundamentalist violence.”

Each presenter will give a talk and then take questions from a moderator and audience members. Speakers and topics have also been selected to fit with classes being taught. The lectures continue through early May.

Syria, doctors in harm's way, indigeous rights

Feb. 16: "As Aleppo Burns: Human Rights and International Justice in the Middle East” by Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director, Human Rights Watch. Whitson, a graduate of the Harvard School of Law, oversees work in 19 countries and has led dozens of advocacy and investigative missions focusing on issues of armed conflict, accountability, legal reform, migrant workers and political rights. She has published widely on human rights issues in the Middle East in The New York Times, Foreign Policy and the Los Angeles Times.

April 20: "Indigenous Children's Rights and Settler Colonial Wrongs: Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, Australia and the United States" by Margaret Jacobs, Chancellor's Professor of History and Chair, Women's and Gender Studies, University of Nebraska. Jacobs is author of A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World; White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia; and Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879‑1934. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from UC Davis.

May 4: "Killing Doctors in the War on Syria" by Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at Physicians for Human Rights. Sirkin oversees international policy engagement, including work with the United Nations, domestic and international justice systems and human rights coalitions. Sirkin joined PHR shortly after its founding in 1987 and created PHR’s initiative to stop sexual violence in conflict zones.

The Manetti Shrem Museum is located at Old Davis Road and Mrak Hall Drive. Parking is $9 in surface lots and a parking structure near the museum.

UC Davis Human Rights Studies draws faculty members from across many disciplines including history, Jewish studies, Spanish, law and gender, sexuality and women’s studies.

“UC Davis has emerged as a global leader in human rights research and education,” Watenpaugh said. “More students study human rights at UC Davis than anywhere else in the UC system.”

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science


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