Jeri Laber, Senior Advisor to Human Rights Watch, was formerly executive director of its Helsinki division. She is the author, with Barnett R. Rubin, of ‘A Nation is Dying’: Afghanistan Under the Soviets, 1979—1987. (January 1997)

Smoldering Indonesia

This past fall Indonesia was more frequently mentioned in the American press than ever before in its history. First, the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to an Indonesian bishop and an exiled human rights activist who had both worked to promote the rights of the people of East Timor, …

Is Cuba Really Changing?

Just before I left New York for Havana, at the end of February, I went to see the Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate. Shown to record crowds in Havana last year, the film is a moving and sympathetic portrait of the restricted lives of Cuban homosexuals, who have long been …

The Hidden War in Turkey

Grim and disturbing events are taking place in Turkey, where a large-scale, and under-reported, war is being fought against the Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country. Turkey is in a deep financial crisis, and there are persistent rumors of a military coup. Tourist sites have been bombed …

The Dictatorship Returns

“On September 15, they called me in again.… If you do [what we say], you’re our guy, they told me. If not, we’ll get you, and how we do it is our own business.… I refused. I will never compromise my conscience. I walked out. “I had crossed a barrier.

Bosnia: Questions About Rape

Marija, a twenty-five-year-old Croatian woman living in Bosnia-Hercegovina, set out one evening to visit a friend. She had been warned not to go out after dark: there were Serbian soldiers in the nearby villages and the war was not very far away. But she took a chance. Six soldiers dressed …

Slouching Toward Democracy

Albania, fifty miles across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, has the same beautiful coastline as Montenegro and Croatia to its north and Greece to its south. The 3.3 million citizens of this small, mountainous country roughly the size of Maryland suffered longer and more silently under communism than those of …

Witch Hunt in Prague

Two and a half years after the Velvet Revolution, throngs of people fill Wenceslas Square day and night, many of them tourists or foreigners who have come to Czechoslovakia to help rebuild the country or just to be where the action is. Much of the city’s center is being “gentrified”; …

The Baltic Revolt

A chilling photograph in the morning papers of January 14 showed a group of Lithuanians pushing against a Soviet tank in a desperate effort to stop its advance; under the tank one could see the limp legs of a woman wearing black leather boots. This photograph, which stayed in my …

Stalin’s Dumping Ground

As representatives of Helsinki Watch, a colleague and I traveled southeast in the Soviet Union, almost to the Chinese border, to visit the vast and little-known Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where serious abuses of human rights have occurred, not just in recent years but also in the past.[^1] Kazakhstan’s steppelands …

The Bulgarian Difference

Someone opened the suitcase in my hotel room in Sofia while I was out. I found nothing missing—only a suspicious traveler like myself would have noticed that it had been opened, presumably to see if I, as a representative of Helsinki Watch, was carrying anything compromising. [^1] Why did I, …

Cruel and Usual Punishment

In March of this year, soon after I arrived in Istanbul as a member of a human rights mission for Helsinki Watch,[^*] I found myself at a dinner party talking to the director of a liberal study center. He was skeptical about whether we could accomplish anything in Turkey. “You …

Fighting Back in Prague

The opportunity arose quite suddenly: a delegation organized by the International Helsinki Federation was offered a chance to meet with the ministers of justice and the interior in Czechoslovakia. We wanted to put to the ministers our concerns about the recent wave of arrests, indictments, and trials in Czechoslovakia affecting …

Mission to Moscow

An unprecedented meeting took place on Kropotkinskaya Street in Moscow last January at the headquarters of the Soviet Peace Fund. A group of Western human rights activists, known for their sharp criticisms of Soviet human rights practices, met for almost five hours with members of a newly established, officially approved …

Turkey’s Nonpeople

You see the same sign frequently in the Kurdish areas of eastern Turkey. Etched in bold white characters on bald brown mountain slopes, it is visible from great distances across the bleak terrain: the crescent and star of the Turkish Republic above a quotation from its founder, Kemal Atatürk: “How …

Afghanistan’s Other War

“The wounded I have treated here have a determination that I have never seen before,” a Moslem doctor said, describing Afghan patients who have been wounded by Soviet bombs, mines, or artillery. “I have never met a wounded or amputated man who is defeated, sad, or sorry, I have never …

A New Turn in Turkey

The atmosphere in Turkey today is very different from what it was when I was there two and a half years ago. There is a new, almost inexplicable, sense of freedom in the country, a freedom that seems to exist in spite of continuing repression. There are still terrible problems—political …

A Dying Nation

(The following is drawn from “Tears, Blood and Cries: Human Rights in Afghanistan Since the Invasion, 1979–1984,” a Helsinki Watch report issued in December.) “A whole nation is dying. People should know.” The terseness and directness of this statement befitted the speaker—Mohammad Eshaq, a resistance leader from Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, …