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Notes from the Ground

CVT World, Mar. 2024

Published March 12, 2024

Welcome to the March 2024 issue of CVT World, CVT’s periodic compilation of the latest news, stories and public activities from our team.

Tala’s Story of Healing and Relief

Tala was a teacher in Syria when violent conflict broke out. She was detained and lost several beloved family members. She fled to Jordan and found CVT, noting that truly taking care of herself included receiving the help she needed. She said, “CVT not only taught me how to carry this burden, but joined me in carrying it.” Today she works with other refugees and children. Read her story here.

CVT not only taught me how to carry this burden, but joined me in carrying it.”

Tala, former client in Jordan

CVT Welcomes New Members to the Board of Directors

CVT is delighted to add three new individuals to our board of directors, each bringing unique skills and perspective. Kate Barr has extensive leadership experience in the nonprofit, banking and arts fields; John Habich has a lengthy background as a journalist and is an editor of award-winning nonfiction books; and Ann Huntrods is a long-time employment law professional with experience in state, federal and appellate court cases. “These accomplished individuals have exceptional leadership experience that spans business, journalism, law and nonprofit work, all with a core commitment to human rights,” said Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO. Read the press release here.

CVT Commemorates International Women’s Day, March 8

For Int’l Women’s Day 2024, Zuri White-Gibson, CVT communications strategist, looked at the ways that investment in women and gender equality show up in CVT’s work. In this article, she speaks to Noor Zada, New Tactics global program manager, and Sandra Githaiga, clinical program director for CVT Ethiopia, about how these issues appear in their work. Sandra noted that our clinical work brings women together in ways that are safe and where they build community. “They express gender-specific challenges and talk about the vulnerabilities that they have collectively. It is a safe space for them to share their experiences and to seek support from each other,” she said. Noor said, “International Women’s Day is a reminder for all of us about the injustices that women are facing in different locations in our world.”

In addition, CVT participated in a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol in support of women prisoners of war in Russia and Iran. Our colleague spoke at the event, saying “From our decades of work with female survivors of torture at CVT, we have heard many times over horrifying stories of different governments’ extreme violations of human rights. Today, we are here to support Russian and Iranian women who have bravely stood up to demand their fundamental human rights.”

U.S. State Department Honors Nine Nicaraguan Women Who Were Released from Prison

Nine women among the 222 Nicaraguans who were flown to the United States last year received the Madeline Albright Honorary Group Award in recognition of “their defense of human rights, democracy and freedom in Nicaragua.” As part of the U.S. State Department’s 2024 International Women of Courage Award, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden presented the award to the group, who were exiled to the U.S. and assisted by CVT during that transition. “Women on this stage have refused to bow to those who wanted to take away their voice,” the first lady said. Read the article here.

CVT Endorses Congressional Push to Restore UNRWA Funding

CVT endorsed this letter to congressional colleagues by U.S. Representatives Andre’ Carson and Pramila Jayapal, urging the United States to continue funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows ever more desperate. They write: “This humanitarian crisis, if unchecked and exacerbated, will further destabilize Gaza, further increase tensions all across the Middle East, and continue to embolden Hamas and other terrorist groups.”

Pushing for Workforce Access and Opportunities for Refugees in Georgia, U.S.

CVT Georgia worked with partners on a major push to support global talent within the state, with a day-long event titled, “Maximize Global Talent.” Darlene Lynch, head of external relations for CVT Georgia, worked with partner organizations to hold discussions about ways to streamline the path for licensure for new Americans who are medical professionals but unable to practice in the U.S. Darlene commented, “We also have amazing clients who were doctors, journalists and business people and they come here and they’re not always working in the areas where they have expertise and where they have a passion.” Read the article here by Zuri White-Gibson.

The U.S. Must Support Refugees or End Policies Perpetuating Their Misery

Yumna Rizvi, senior policy analyst, wrote this opinion piece in The Hill about how the U.S. refuses to support refugees yet continues militarized polices that create more refugees. “As Congress negotiates between bad versus worse in the supplemental, two things are clear: Militarized policies are not going anywhere and marginalized communities, both at home and abroad, remain collateral damage,” she writes.

As Congress negotiates between bad versus worse in the supplemental, two things are clear: Militarized policies are not going anywhere and marginalized communities, both at home and abroad, remain collateral damage.”

Yumna Rizvi, senior policy analyst

Middle East Aid Threatened after Governments Suspend Pay to UNRWA

In this above-titled broadcast appearance, Simon Adams spoke to CGTN about funding cuts to UN Relief Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. He commented, “Let’s be very clear as well, Israel has had a vendetta against UNRWA for a very long time, precisely because of their presence, the life-saving support they provide to Palestinian refugees.”

Addressing Barriers to Mental Health Care for Black Communities

Image of a Black person with short, blonde hair and hoop earrings shown from the side. An orange background is characterized with white, illustrated squiggles.

In honor of Black History Month in the U.S., Zuri White-Gibson wrote this article titled, “Mental Health Accessibility by Leaning into Culture: How CVT and BEAM Center Lived Experience of Black Communities Through a Healing Lens.” She spoke to Yolo Akili Robinson, founder and executive director of Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), and to Dr. Adaobi Iheduru, CVT clinical psychologist and program manager with CVT Georgia. Adaobi commented, “I believe it’s really important to center the mental health of Black communities, but I think it’s also important to just have open conversations about mental health within the community.”

The U.S., Too, Must be Held Accountable for Abuses in its “War on Terror”

As the European Court of Human Rights holds Lithuania accountable for its participation in the CIA’s post-9/11 secret detention program, Yumna Rizvi writes that the United States must also be held accountable. She writes, “The US remains unwilling to face accountability for acts of torture, as it continues to detain 30 men in Guantánamo in conditions that amount to ongoing cruel treatment. It is long past due for a reckoning. The US is not above international law and must not be allowed to continue dodging justice.” Click here to read her op ed in Al Jazeera.

Working in Coalition with Partners

Working with partners brings strength to CVT’s policy advocacy. In recent weeks, we participated in numerous actions that support survivors of torture. Below are some of these coalition and partner actions.

  • CVT Georgia signed this press release with a coalition of immigrant rights and allied organizations, condemning the new Georgia House Bill 1105 (HB 1105). The authors write that this bill will impact immigrants and asylum seekers by having local law enforcement “entangle themselves with ICE in dangerous ways that are unconstitutional and will result in racial profiling, targeting of people of color, and family separations, all while discouraging communities from seeking help from law enforcement or reporting crimes.” Darlene Lynch commented, “The Center for Victims of Torture provides healing care to refugees and immigrants who have endured war and conflict and seek to live peaceful and productive lives in the state. HB 1105 is a discriminatory bill that would unfairly target these individuals while doing little to stop the violence we all abhor.”
  • CVT joined more than 150 organizations in signing this letter to President Biden, urging him to change course on immigration and abandon anti-asylum and anti-immigration proposed policies. The authors write, “Your first year in office restored much needed hope that U.S. border policies need not be defined by cruelty and punishment. Your recent comments and actions have marked a radical shift away from such hope—leaving little daylight between your administration and others who demonize Black, Indigenous, and Brown people, including particularly vulnerable groups like women, children, and LGBTQ+ people.” This letter was covered here by Politico.
  • We signed this letter to President Biden and leadership with the Department of Homeland Security, calling for an end the use of solitary confinement for immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. A new report from Physicians for Human Rights shows that the practice was used more than 14,000 times in the last five years. The authors write, “ICE has failed to respond effectively to the mountain of evidence that it is keeping people in solitary confinement in both unnecessarily and dangerous, and at times life-threatening, conditions. We know the profound physical and mental health deterioration caused by solitary confinement.”
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