“Global indifference” to human rights violations across the Middle East has allowed repressive regimes to get away with crimes that they would not elsewhere, according to Amnesty International’s latest report on the region.
Amnesty’s annual report on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region contends many regimes continue to act with “generalized impunity across the region for both past and ongoing violations,” not just in war zones such as Syria and Yemen, but across the region as a whole.
“Across MENA throughout 2018 thousands of dissidents and peaceful critics have been victims of shameless government violations on a shocking scale, amid deafening silence from the international community,” the organization’s regional director Heba Morayef said in a statement.
One of the most heavily cited examples is Saudi Arabia, where under the rule of absolute monarchy, “virtually all human rights defenders” have been either imprisoned or forced to leave the country. Some of the most prominent cases include the detention and alleged subsequent torture of Saudi women’s rights campaigners, as well as the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasshogi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.
“It took Jamal Khashoggi’s cold-blooded murder inside a consulate to prompt a handful of more responsible states to suspend arms transfers to a country that has been leading a coalition responsible for war crimes and has helped create a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen,” Morayef noted. “Yet even the global outcry over the Khashoggi case has not been followed by concrete action to ensure those responsible for his murder are brought to justice.”
In Egypt, the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also stepped up its crackdown on political dissidents, with at least 113 people arrested last year “solely for peacefully expressing critical opinions.” The country has also experienced a decrease in civil liberties, with individuals arrested for “crimes” such as religious blasphemy and inappropriate sexual behavior.
Meanwhile, authorities in Iran also arrested over 7,000 individuals over the past year for their involvement in nationwide demonstrations against the regime. Others targeted have included student organizers, journalists, environmentalists, workers, and human rights activists.
However, the report also notes that the region overall has seen some “limited improvements” with regards to human rights, with countries such as Tunisia and Lebanon taking steps to decriminalize homosexuality.
“Against a backdrop of overwhelming repression, some governments have taken small steps forward,” Morayef added. “These improvements are a tribute to courageous human rights defenders across MENA, and serve as a reminder to those who regularly risk their freedom to stand up against tyranny and speak truth to power that they are planting true seeds of change for the years to come.”