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During World War II, Europe experienced the systematic abuse of human beings on an unprecedented scale. However, this trauma also inspired a counter-movement, continuing to this day, which seeks to secure, protect, and nurture the human rights of individuals and groups against powerful governments and institutions that might seek to infringe basic human dignity. This human rights project now encompasses anti-discrimination measures and laws regarding gender, colour, creed, religion, and sexuality; it includes individuals who may threaten the security and wellbeing of society at large, or those who manipulate religion and ignorance to mobilise young men and women in extremist and violent movements. Wider movements have made significant gains towards including animals and the environment in the language of rights.
Such a revolution in culture, legislation, and attitude has not yet taken hold in many Arab countries, where human rights often pale before the power and will of the state, religion, or tradition. Yet there is no reason to doubt that the Arab world can make significant gains towards an integrated view that offers full respect for individuals and minorities by adopting and implementing a framework for human rights that complements the character of the region. After all, the European tragedy of World War II only took place seventy years ago; even a generation ago, discrimination against individuals because of their sexuality and ethnicity were still rife, and yet in that short time, great progress has been made to liberate people from the fear of discrimination, instead fostering a mutually beneficial and diverse coexistence. Europe achieved this turnaround thanks to the bravery of people who fought long and hard, suffering abuse and ridicule, until they succeeded in embedding their beliefs and ideas into the fabric of society. The aim of the AHRA is to nurture the growth of a peaceful, cultural, and social revolution at all levels across the Arab world.
The most startling result of the Arab upheavals of the past few years has been the irreversible invigoration of the oppressed masses: those who have scarcely had a voice for decades, or even centuries, have reclaimed that voice. As such, there is no possibility of ever returning to the previous state of docility towards dictatorship and corruption. The people of the Arab world have boldly overcome their fear of the state or ruler, as witnessed in their demands for accountability and transparency despite the countless threats of arrest and bullets. The time is ripe to begin to foster respect for basic human rights within universities, civil forums, legislative bodies, and the media – even within the family unit.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, military violence has, unfortunately, been perceived as the foremost means to resolving conflict in the Arab world. In an increasingly globalised world, we can no longer ignore the broader implications of such tactics for global peace and security. The AHRA supports the impending human rights revolution that is inevitably looming over the Arab world, facilitated through new media such as our website and growing social networks, as well as more traditional methods such as publications, educational resources, annual awards, academic chairs, conferences, and annual lectures.
There is no better time than now – in the aftermath of the uprisings that have taken place across the Arab world and the fall of dictatorships across the region – to support the movement for human rights, peace, dignity, tolerance, and accountability in Arab countries in an approach that is rooted in the desires and struggles of the oppressed themselves, not solely from politicised institutions. Our part in this story is only beginning; please join us to see it through.
Our staff and board members represent a broad yet specialised set of experiences, skills, and knowledge relating to human rights practice and theory in both international and Arab contexts, combining years of experience in human rights legal practice, scholarship, and activism. Most of us come from Arab countries but are now based in the UK which places us in a unique position with a privileged capacity to connect human rights discourses between cultures, faiths, and languages, thus facilitating the exchange of knowledge between Europe’s human rights community and the individuals and communities in the Arab world who today are actively struggling for recognition and institutional protection of their human rights. We hope to foster such dialogues and collaborative initiatives while instilling awareness amongst the European community of institutions of Arab perspectives on human rights as well as discouraging problematic Eurocentrism in human rights discourse.