Rights body urges end to West’s bias on Arab world

Rights body urges end to West’s bias on Arab world

CAIRO / ANKARA
Rights body urges end to West’s bias on Arab world

Egyptians take part in a protest against the military council in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Jan 20. A new report calls for an end to ‘Western bias’ regarding the Arab Spring. REUTERS photo

Popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world exposed biases by Western governments that supported Arab autocratic rulers for the sake of “stability” while turning a blind eye to their repressive policies, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.

The group urged democratic governments to adopt persistent and consistent support for peaceful protesters and to press both autocratic rulers and newly emerging democracies to avoid intolerance and seeking revenge.

The international community must ... come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference. 


It also proposes Western democracies to overcome their aversion to Islamist groups that enjoy popular support in North Africa and the Middle East. “The events of the past year show that the forced silence of people living under autocrats should never have been mistaken for popular complacency,” HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in the group’s 690-page annual report. “It is time to end the ‘Arab exception.’” 

In the report, Western governments also have been accused of being selective in supporting the protesters, with NATO airstrikes proving key to the ouster of slain Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the West has stood largely on the sidelines amid continued crackdowns in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

Islamists are the ‘majority preference’

Human Rights Watch pointed to five main issues that dominated the relationship between Western governments and their Arab autocratic friends: the threat of political Islam, the fight against terrorism, support for Israel, protection of the oil flow and cooperation in stemming immigration.

Even after the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia were toppled, Western governments remained hesitant to lean too hard on other shaky authoritarian leaders, the group said. As an example, the watchdog group singled out the United States, saying it has been reluctant to “press Egypt’s ruling military council to subject itself to elected civilian rule” nearly a year after the country’s longtime leader was ousted following an 18-day uprising.

The organization also blamed the Western hesitation in part on the ascendance of political Islam in most of the countries that witnessed the fall of their autocratic rulers like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. HRW urged the West to recognize that Islamists were the “majority preference,” while keeping pressure on the emerging new governments to respect human rights, especially regarding women and religious minorities.

“The international community must ... come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference,” Reuters quoted Roth as saying. “Islamist parties are genuinely popular in much of the Arab world, in part because many Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule.”

West, bias, orientalism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, Turkey, middle east