State-sponsored hate spurs new era of social activism
New Delhi: 22 February 2018 2:27 pm
Image credit: SATISH BATE/Hindustan Times /Getty Images
- Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018]
- Demonization of civil society and religious minorities
The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.
Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.
The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.
“The transparently hateful move by the US government in January to ban entry to people from several Muslim-majority countries set the scene for a year in which leaders took the politics of hate to its most dangerous conclusion,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“We saw the ultimate consequence of a society encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar,” said Salil Shetty.
World leaders abandon human rights, igniting protest movements globally
“The specters of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times. Instead, leaders such as al-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions,” said Salil Shetty.
“The feeble response to crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen underscored the lack of leadership on human rights. Governments are shamelessly turning the clock back on decades of hard-won protections.”
Signs of regression cited in the report include clampdowns on rights to protest in France, and attempts to roll back women’s rights from the USA to Russia and Poland.
With the report launching in Washington D.C., Amnesty International warned that President Trump’s backward steps on human rights are setting a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow.
Regressive policies have inspired many people to join long-standing struggles, and the report details many important victories that human rights activists helped to secure. These include lifting the total abortion ban in Chile, achieving a step towards marriage equality in Taiwan and securing a landmark victory against forced evictions in Abuja, Nigeria.
A vast Women’s March centered on the USA and with offshoots around the world showcased the growing influence of new social movements, as did the #MeToo phenomenon and Latin America’s “Ni Una Menos” – which denounced violence against women and girls.
“The indomitable spirit of the women leading powerful human rights movements reminds us that the desire for equality, dignity and justice will never be extinguished. There is a palpable sense that protest movements are on the rise globally. If governments stand against such movements, they will erode their legitimacy,” said Salil Shetty.
Governments must address the burning injustices fueling protest movements
The report also notes that millions of people worldwide are facing increasingly precarious access to basic goods and services such as housing, food and health care. Amnesty International warned that unless governments tackle the underlying causes of poverty and inequality then there is huge potential for even greater unrest.
“Across the world people are being forced to live an intolerable existence because they are being denied access to adequate food, clean water, health care and basic shelter. If you take away these human rights, you breed despair with no limit or end. From Venezuela to Iran, we are witnessing the formidable spread of social discontent,” warned Salil Shetty.
Instead of trying to silence people when they speak out, governments should address their concerns, said Amnesty International, and start by loosening restrictions on the media, civil society and other key checks on power.
“We are witnessing history in the making as people rise up and demand justice in greater numbers. If leaders fail to discern what is driving their people to protest, then this ultimately will be their own undoing. People have made it abundantly clear that they want human rights: the onus now is on governments to show that they are listening,” said Salil Shetty.
South Asia: Demonization of civil society and religious minorities
In South Asia, governments invoked law and order, national security and religion as they engaged in attacks against religious minorities, criminalized freedom of expression and subjected civil society to a campaign of intimidation, threats, smears and violence
“Over the past year, the region was marked by assaults on civil society. Journalists, bloggers, activists and others human rights defenders have been vilified and subjected to threats and violence. Meanwhile, online, invasive new cybercrime legislation has been used to criminalize freedom of expression and subject people to unlawful surveillance,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
“South Asia also remains one of the most dangerous regions to be a member of a religious minority. Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, Shi’as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Hindus in Bangladesh have all come under attack over the past year. In each case, the governments have either failed to protect them, been indifferent to their fate, or even encouraged a climate of hostility.”
For more information or to request an interview please call Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on +94 72 422 8242 / [email protected] or Amnesty International India’s Media and Advocacy Manager, Smriti Singh, at [email protected]
For more information please contact:Nazia Erum
Email: [email protected]