Human Rights Is a Global Fight | Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein | 2019


I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room
with so many trouble makers. The world’s trouble makers.
You naughty, naughty people. If in the resolute
defense of what is right if in the simple
refusal to give in if in the stunting of policies that
are oppressive and repressive. If in the promotion of human rights
and the movement for greater freedom we believe that we can
overturn injustice simply. I beseech you to think deeper
because the line that we draw when we know what we’re fighting against,
repression or oppression, is always easier to define than to understand exactly what is it
that we’re fighting for. I’ve always tried never to plunder human rights to take those rights which will benefit my arguments, my cause and then these other rights
which I may deem more sensitive because my culture is more sensitive,
I tend to ignore. How could I do that? How could I ask for others to support me
when I claim my own rights if I’m not really prepared to
support them in their struggles. A Jordanian doctor working in Boston,
who I thought was rather progressive called up a friend of my mine and
he was outraged because I said that the rights of the LGBTI community
in the Arab world had to be respected and he said to my friend,
“Zeid should go throw himself in a lake.” Actually it was much worse than that
but I saw some children around, so. The friend said to him, “well, what credibility
would he have if he ever did that? “But also doctor, if you
were performing a surgery” and he was a
cardiovascular surgeon “if you’re performing a surgery and in the middle of the surgery you discover your patient is gay, do you stop?” And there was complete
silence on the other side. You see, fundamental freedoms, the freedom to opinion, the freedom to expression, to peaceful assembly to association, they must be
applied universally. They must be. If we don’t do it, we will never have the density within the movement, the strength within the movement to overcome the dangers
that exist before us and we must think along two tracks:
thematically and geographically. Thematically, how could you possibly be a human rights defender if you support the rights of women in Saudi Arabia but you don’t want to stand up for the rights of migrants and migrant workers in Europe? How could I
geographically how could I geographically
stand against Islamophobia stand for the rights of the Uyghurs
who are suffering in Xinjiang or the rights of the Rohingya who are suffering
both in Cox’s Bazar and in Northern Rakhine. If I also don’t look at my own region, and stand up for the rights of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara or the rights of the Shia of Bahrain,
or the rights of the Yazidis in Iraq. We can’t play fast and loose
with the human rights agenda. We have to think clearly
because the danger is this: I was last week in Ethiopia and all of you will remember the Zone 19 bloggers
who were regularly detained for what they put online. Now Ethiopia’s changed. It
has a gifted prime minister. It’s opening up, the media
can exercise greater freedom. But what are we seeing? We’re seeing
ethnic tensions also emerge. Dangerous, no? One saw the same
thing happen in Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi was fighting for democracy, fighting for her political freedom and then what? She was installed as the leader of the government,
however imperfectly constitutionally and then she presided or became a spokesperson
for the activities of the military as they destroyed the
Rohingya in Northern Rakhine. So, I beseech you, all of you, activists especially,
are amazing people, courageous people By your action, you inspire us. By what you say, you prompt us. By your example, we follow you. I beseech you to bind together in
supporting the entire agenda everywhere because you don’t know
the meaning of retreat and in that you enliven within us a sense of humanity
that we can overcome all obstacles. Thank you so much.

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