Human Rights in the Middle East

Figure 1.--Here an Israeli volunteer during 2007 works with a refugee from the Arab genocide in Darfur. They are in the Rose Garden in Jerusalen. Photographrer: Moshe Milner.

Israel is one of the few democracies in the Middle East. It is a Jewish state, although one does not have to be Jewish to be a citizen. There is a wide range of individual human rights guaranted to Isreali citizens of all ethnic and religious affiliations. The rights guaranteed in Israel stand in sharp contrast to those afforded citizens in many other Middle Eastern countries. Yet we notice that the Arab and Irnian press acuse Israel of Fascism and racism. These charges are also echoed in the Westrn press in recent years, especially the left-wing press. Often the term Aparthaid is used to describe Israel. It is thus to hve a look and some of the basic human rights and to assess how they are guaranteed or denied in Middle Eastern countries. Many of these were indeed violated by Fascist regimes as well as Communist regimes. The question is where is Fascist principles most entrenched. And where are the rights enshrined in the U.N. Charter most respected and adhered to. A factor here that needs to be considered is the different religious traditions.

U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Honarable individuals can disagree on what constitutes a basic human right. That is a worthwhile topic tp consider, but to persue the topic at hand, we think it is best to use the U.N. Declaration of human rights as a fair basic statement of essential rights and a basis for our discussion here. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948). Following the adoption, the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories. The full text of the Declaration can be found here.

Religious Traditions

The Middle East has three primary religious traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in addition to several other religions tht are now of minor importance. The religious situation is further complicated by the existence of different denominations or movements within these different religions. Human rights are to a large degree based upon values, often of religious origins. Thus the different religious traditions have played an important role in the development of the basic human rights enshired in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitutions of Western democracies. Christianity in the history of the West has often violated basic human rights and the achievement of democracy only came with the establishment of secular states in the 19th century. Even so it is the importance of the individual and his rights steming from both the classical and Judeo-Christian tradition that account for the emergence of democracy and the concept of basic human rights in the West. The Islamic tradition is fundamentally different. The individul and his rights are of fae less importance in Islam. The essence of Islam is sumission of the individual. Another problem is that many Muslims see the Holy Koran as the perfect word of God to be taken literally. And in the Koran are a range of passages which violate basic principles of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and modern Western standrds. We note passages in the Koran that both justify and promote religious intolerance, especially agianst Jews, as well as descrimination against women and homosexuals. There are also passages which justify violence. There is also an acceptance of slavery. And a judicial system making no provision for juveniles and accepting capital punishment. The New Testament is not only more in keeping with modern values, but Christians are less committed to a literal interpretation and more committed to a secular judicial system.

Totalitarian Systems

We find terms like Fascists, NAZIs, Communists being glibly used to denegrate individuals or countries. Thus it is important to understand just what is meant by these different terms. The 20th century was noted for the emergence of two totalitarian political systems in the aftermath of World War I and the disolution of the ththree great European empires (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia). They were normally depicted as left and right--the two extremnes of the political spectrum While there were significan differences between the two systems. In fact there were great similarities between the two system, most notably the absencev of the rule of law and individual systems. Power in both lay in the hands of an elite which dictated to the general public. >nr>

Totlitarian Influences in the Middle East

Basic Human Rights

There are a wide range of human rights which should be assessed when comparing counties around the world. These include religious freedom, political rights, corruption, women's rights, sexual orientatin rights, judicial rights, educatinal opportunities, and other basic rights. A major concern in any assessment of these basic rights are the extent to which minority rights are protected. We will be glad to consider any other basic rights that readers believe should be considered.

Country Trends

The Middle East streaches from Iran west to Morocco and includes about 20 different countries, depending on just how it is defined. The countries involved are all countries with a Muslim majority, except for Israel. In most cases there are only small Christian minorities, with the exception of Lebanon and Sudan that have a larger Christian minority. Several of the countries also have ethnic minorities (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Turkey). Whle most of the countries are largeky Muslim, there are substantial political differences. There are only two democracies (Israel and Turkey). The other countries range from authoritarian regimes, many with monarchies, to the theocratic regime in Iran. Assessing all of these countries is a very difficult undertaking. We welcome reader input helping us to understand the human rights situation in their country.


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Created: 6:44 AM 6/20/2007
Last updated: 3:31 PM 6/13/2014