Left or right, I want my human rights.
Watching the protests around the world as Donald Trump assumed the Office of President of the United States, I was impressed with the huge numbers that turned out. But as I watched, I noted that the message was being lost. Officially it was about making womens rights human rights, but when watching clips I saw mixed messages. I also saw many on both sides of the political spectrum and points in between jumping up and down, criticizing something none of them were actually at.
When one looks at the pet issues or sacred cows – as they were first described to me when I was first becoming interested in politics – it becomes obvious to me that each part of the political spectrum has their own core interests. On the right we hear about how important it is for the Government to get out of peoples lives; how we need to have a tax cut, a strong justice system and large expenditure on the military (whether it is needed or not). And on the left, we hear about the need for a cradle to grave social welfare system; social justice and an inclusive society for minorities.
Some people say human rights are a leftie-liberal pet cause. These are often – but not always – people on the right who have viewed human rights activism at work, and drawn an opinion (which they are entitled to, however misinformed it might be)that these people do not go to work, are .
Others (often, but not exclusively from countries such as China, Russia and Iran) say it is a western pet interest, insinuating that human rights are not universal. This could not be further from the truth as some of the people incarcerated in jails around the world at the moment are from those very countries – lawyers, activists, people who had suffered injustice and decided enough is enough. Without looking at anything I can name four people right now who fit in this category – Nasrin Soutoudeh and Ghoncheh Ghavami (Iranian, British-Iranian), Wafae Charaf (Morocco), and Su Changlan (China).
But some from the right also use human rights as a way of justifying their stance. One of the arguments Republicans put forward for supporting the invasion of Iraq was to get rid of a tyrant – who just ironically another Republican administration (Ronald Reagan) had propped up – as it waged a brutal war against Iran. Yes, Iraq had an appalling record of abuses under Saddam Hussein – being dunked in acid vats; use of chemical weapons among other things.
It is the radical fringe, where militant tactics are often the norm rather than the exception. Deliberate interference with property and lives, which brings out the ire – usually quite justifiably – of most people, if that is what will make their agenda achievable, is the way to go. But it runs a risk of self immolation. These groups claim to support human rights, but often get regarded as not being trustworthy because their tactics suggest an intolerance.
And then there is perhaps another group, which I belong to. Not comfortably sitting in either the left or the right, and more interested in just making the world a better place, I find that political parties are in all honesty a vehicle to achieve an end. You stay on board and help with the navigation, but if it is going in the polar opposite direction to where you want, you get off. In my case I am staying on, because to make the world a better place, I apply a common approach of thinking globally, but acting locally.
So, left or right, I want my human rights. And so does my Amnesty International group Prisoner of Conscience Su Changlan. #FreeSuChanglan