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The authors provide a systematic analysis of looking beyond the abuses of human rights in the Middle East with a view toward problematizing traditional doctrinal thinking and concepts in the region, ascertaining comparative and historical roots of human rights abuses in the Middle East.





There is unfortunately little prospect of eliminating all obstacles to protecting human rights in the twenty-first century. Applying universal human rights standards across the globe is a difficult and daunting task. Many problems and challenges lie ahead. One of the most formidable tasks facing the international human rights community is to establish whether a commitment to the full range of human rights is even feasible given the cultural diversity, unequal economic circumstances, and socio-economic priorities of the expanding globalized world. A related focus of this volume will be on the extent to which the dynamics surrounding the human rights challenges in the Middle East conform to or diverge from such dynamics in other parts of the world. Since the protection of all human rights requires perfection regardless of region, two sensible questions to ask regarding the Middle East are: (a) To what extent progress or improvement can realistically be made on the status quo? and (b) To what extent are the apparent or real features of such uniqueness a function of contemporary manifestations of Orientalism and Islamophobia?
Mahmood Monshipouri

Introduction I: Problems with the Current Frameworks


Chapter 1. Framing the Human Rights Discourse: The Role of Natural Localism and the Power of Paradigm

The major thesis of this chapter is that rights are local in origin and application and therefore not normally seen or accepted by states as natural or universal. Thus, there has always been a real-life difference between the application of rights (which in practice is almost always a local affair) and assertion of human rights (which can be a universal claim). One can see this when analyzing the precedents usually cited for our contemporary notion of human rights. For example, the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), and the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791) were all, despite occasional language to the contrary, local and specific in their intent and application. That is they were promulgated for the benefit of some humans, and not all humans.
Lawrence Davidson

Chapter 2. Islam and Human Rights: Ideals and Practices

The debate over compatibility of Islam and human rights has raged among theologians, scholars, intellectuals, and the public at large for generations in the Muslim World as well as in the West. This discourse, however, has become more intense since the proclamation of 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). That declaration pronounced that all human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and rights.1 Article 2 of the UDHR stipulates: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The rights entailed in the UDHR are indivisible and inalienable and include wide-ranging civil-political, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights. These universal rights include such rights as to life, liberty, and security of person; freedom from slavery and servitude; freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; right to education; right to work; right to a nationality; and right to own property. According to the UDHR, all people are entitled to these rights by virtue of their humanity.
Manochehr Dorraj

Chapter 3. Human Rights through the Lens of Islamic Legal Thought

The successful implementation of modern standards of human rights in the Muslim world depends on the extent to which they are regarded as not a product of the West but genuinely possessing Islamic legitimacy and authenticity. This chapter contends that the challenge is not simply to demonstrate Islam’s ability to adopt what are widely regarded as “Western” norms, but for them to be identifiable as legitimate and normative within the Islamic texts and traditions. It is a positive first step for Muslim states to agree to certain human rights conventions but it is far more meaningful if such standards were met on an “Islamic” basis through their integration into “Islamic” legal thought. This chapter presents a methodology for Quranic interpretation that concentrates on higher, universal objectives or maqasid in Arabic. This methodology is both grounded in the Islamic tradition and responsive to the need for Islamic legitimacy and authenticity in instituting human rights in the contemporary Muslim context.
Halim Rane

Chapter 4. Islamophobia, Defamation of Religions, and International Human Rights

Since 1999, under pressure from Muslim majority states, the United Nations passed a series of resolutions asking states to combat the defamation of religions. This initiative raises the question: Should there be an international norm against hate speech targeting a religion? In particular, is the United Nations Resolution “Combating the Defamation of Religions” a step forward in developing such a norm? So far these questions have polarized international society by setting Muslims against Western liberal democracies. After 12 years of campaign, the supporters of the Resolution decided not to pursue defamation resolution and joined major Western states to pass a joint resolution on religious tolerance and freedom.
Turan Kayaoğlu

Introduction II: Common Goals and Case Studies


Chapter 5. Human Rights and the Kurdish Question in the Middle East

The Middle East has undergone significant sociopolitical change since the end of the Cold War. In particular, the geostrategic map of the region has changed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Iraqi Kurds have gained a measure of political freedom that had eluded them for much of their recent history, and the Kurdish struggle in the rest of the region continues unabated. The notion of universal human rights has gained increasing currency as a pillar of the obligations that nation-states have come to accept since the end of World War II when the codification of these rights began to challenge the state-centric focus of international law. This chapter examines the modalities of enhancing the human rights of the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and examines the complexities of issues involved in this process.
Nader Entessar

Chapter 6. The Janus Nature of Human Rights in Iran: Understanding Progress and Setbacks on Human Rights Protections since the Revolution

There have been serious concerns raised both internally and externally about human rights violations in Iran over the past 30 years. Is there any reason to believe there will be an improvement in the protection of human rights in the future? Risse and Sikkink have suggested that states can be socialized to improve at least part of their human rights record. They argue that Western states, advocacy networks, and international norms can have a positive impact on rights of personal integrity in most if not all non-Western developing countries.1 Will Iran be socialized to improve its human rights record? This chapter examines both the progress on and the violations of human rights in Iran over the past 30 years. I want to explain why the Islamic regime has restricted the basic rights of its citizens, as well as what accounts for the progress made on some second generation rights. To see further improvements in the protection of human rights this chapter suggests that minimizing threats is a necessary step for further progress. Therefore, this chapter examines Iran’s human rights record in the framework of the interplay of international human rights norms and perceived threats.
Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan

Chapter 7. From Omission to Reluctant Recognition: Political Parties’ Approach to Women’s Rights in Turkey

Subordination of women in Muslim communities and states has been problematized by many, ranging from Muslim Feminists who focus on sociohistorical factors to Orientalists who essentialize religion and berate Islam. However, the secularist and republican regime of the predominantly Muslim-populated Turkey has been treated as an exceptional case. Although some improvements in the status of women in Turkey is undeniable, the country is far from granting equal rights to women and approaching gender equality (Arat 1994 and 1998). Major political actors have subscribed to traditional gender notions, and women face all forms of discrimination and human rights violations.
Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat

Chapter 8. Minorities and Marginalized Communities in the Middle East: The Case for Inclusion

To better understand the history and the heritage of ethnic and sectarian divides in the Middle East, it is essential to grasp the unity and diversity of Islam, as well as the region’s cultural mosaic. The issue of sectarian and ethnic divides lies at the heart of marginalized communities. Virtually all Middle Eastern countries have minority groups. Some are religious minorities; others are ethnic-linguistic minorities; and still others are a combination of both. Some minorities in the Middle East have aspired for a separate national home (the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey), while others are content with grants of equal rights within a country (the Copts in Egypt, the Druze in Lebanon). That some minorities have been overrepresented in power hierarchies helps explain their support for the maintenance of the status quo (the Sunnis in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion).1 Although broadly speaking all groups are minorities no matter who rules, in some countries minorities rule, such as the Maronites in Lebanon and the Alewites in Syria.
Mahmood Monshipouri, Jonathon Whooley

Chapter 9. Lessons from Movements for Rights Regarding Sexual Orientation in the Arab World

Controversies over rights regarding sexual orientation have been particularly contentious in the Arab world. But, while sexual orientation has been a flashpoint garnering media and academic attention, in fact such controversies reproduce political and intellectual debates over the legitimacy of a broad range of human rights that have taken place both globally and in the Arab world. These debates are particularly important in the wake of the Arab Spring, which has moved to center stage both movements for human rights in the Arab world and the political and intellectual backlash against such movements. In that context, questions regarding the source of human rights legitimacy have become particularly acute. Reflecting on controversies over sexual orientation, thus, gives a point of entry to thinking not just about the legitimacy of rights in that specific regard but, as well, the legitimacy of human rights writ large.
Anthony Tirado Chase

Introduction III: Strategies


Chapter 10. A Prospect of Democratic Uprisings in the Arab World

Throughout December 2010 and January 2011, political protest movements and uprisings shook the Arab world. The revolts began in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, when Mohammed Bouazizi committed suicide by setting himself on fi re, in protest against unemployment and the violation of his dignity. Before a month had passed, on January 14, 2011, the Tunisian people had forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali out of the country. On January 25, the Egyptian uprising began; within 18 days, on February 11, President Hosni Mubarak was compelled to relinquish power. And a mere six days later, the uprising of the Libyan people erupted. In the meantime, the Yemenis had risen up demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave, and in Bahrain political protestors sought to transform the existing autocratic monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. This same period saw successive political protests in Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent in Sudan and Oman.
Bahey eldin Hassan

Chapter 11. Counterterrorism, Nation-building, and Human Rights in the Middle East: Complementary or Competing Interests?

Nation-building has been a steady and conspicuous feature of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II, but since 9/11, it has become directly linked to the so-called war on terror. While the language of nation-building has been embraced by some policymakers who view it as an effective measure to fight terrorism, it has by now become abundantly clear that the imposition of altering alien political and legal structures is a problematic process at best that may yield an undesirable outcome. This is especially true regarding countries that are unwilling to easily accept the whims of foreign governments as their own. There has emerged a fundamental question about whether nation-building has become the ideology and tool of dominant political players. Similarly, invoking the use of force in the name of democracy promotion has become just as controversial.
Mahmood Monshipouri, Shadi Mokhtari

Chapter 12. Migrant Workers and Their Rights in the United Arab Emirates

Migrant workers have lived in the Arabian Peninsula for more than two centuries. Starting in the 1970s, however, the dynamics of migration flows to the Persian Gulf region took a new twist with the rise in oil prices and the development boom in the region’s newly independent countries. These changing dynamics were most notable in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).1 In 1968, the population of the UAE was 180,000, of which two-thirds were nationals and one-third migrants.2 By 2005, the UAE’s population had risen to 4.1 million, of which about 80 percent were migrants.3 The changing dynamics of migration flows to the region have triggered a debate over labor conditions and practices that violate the rights of migrant workers and subject them to modern day exploitation and abuse.
Mahmood Monshipouri, Ali Assareh

Chapter 13. Health and Human Rights in Palestine: The Siege and Invasion of Gaza and the Role of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

The linkage between human rights and health rights has been well established and documented. A consensus position has emerged that insists on the inextricability between health promotion and the protection of human rights. Violations of basic health rights are now considered violations of human rights. Within the larger global context of human rights violations, the occupation and colonization of Palestine stand out as an egregious example of how the denial of health rights can lead to devastating consequences. This chapter will describe the current context of human rights violations in Palestine and the impact of these violations on health rights. Special emphasis will be afforded to the siege and invasion of Gaza and its aftermath.
Jess Ghannam


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