Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth says in the group’s annual report that the past year’s Arab Spring uprisings across the region have shown it is vital for the West to end its policy of backing ‘an array of Arab autocrats’ in exchange for supporting Western interests. So far so good.

But then the organisation and Roth fall for the same old affliction of the post-modernist left, which is that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Therefore, according to this sad piece of logic (or lack thereof) if the Islamists replace the bad autocrats, then they must be good. Really?

He says: ‘The international community must … come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference, he said. ‘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.’

I beg to differ. Even if a majority prefers something, it doesn’t necessarily make it good and right, nor does it mean that the new option is the ‘antithesis of autocratic rule’. Islamism is also autocratic and in many places supported by the West.

And the reality is very different. A majority don’t support Islamism unless you believe that people like to have their rights and freedoms limited and are different human beings from those sitting in the plush Human Rights Watch offices.

It isn’t rocket science to understand that after autocratic rule and the suppression of dissent and banning of political parties, it is impossible for secular forces and those representing the true spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’ to organise and win ‘elections’. It takes time for civil society to stand up again and have a real and visible presence. Also for elections to have meaning – even in the limited parliamentary sense – you need to have freedom of association, press, and expression and so on. If you hold ‘elections’ right after a dictatorship, and despite people (like in Egypt) demanding for it to be delayed, you create a situation where Islamists will come to power given their level of organisation, their access to power and the support they enjoy from reactionary forces and states in the region and elsewhere.

Roth says: ‘Wherever Islam-inspired governments emerge, the international community should focus on encouraging, and if need be pressuring, them to respect basic rights – just as the Christian-labelled parties and governments of Europe are expected to do’. Sounds fine but Christian labelled parties and governments in Europe are not calling for an inquisition and canon law. I’ve said this many times before but you cannot compare the two. Not because Christianity is any better but because it has been pushed back as a result of the enlightenment, making it possible to have Christian parties in secular societies. The same cannot be said about Islam. Islamic parties want to bring theocracy, sharia law and barbarity; they want an Islamic inquisition.

None of this surprises me of course. Human Rights Watch has always been a sucker for Islamism. It did everything it could to defend the ‘Reformists’ in Iran whilst they carried on killing and stoning people to death.

But isn’t it a bit embarrassing for a human rights organisation to defend Islamism and reduce its demand to ‘encouraging, and if need be pressuring them to respect basic rights’. Ah the racism of lower expectations.

Yes the sub-humans in the Middle East and North Africa don’t deserve the same rights and freedoms, do they Human Rights Watch?

It’s unfortunate (at least for them) that Press TV has lost its licence as Roth would fit in perfectly with Galloway and Booth in defending Islamism at all costs – particularly all human costs…

How shameful.

(Link via Marieme Helie Lucas)



  1. ”Not because Christianity is any better but because it has been pushed back as a result of the enlightenment, making it possible to have Christian parties in secular societies. The same cannot be said about Islam.”

    i think this is very important to mention!
    we’ve forgotten the real face of religion because we raised up with a christianity which has lost its completely political power.
    and then we do the mistake to give the islam the same face which is absolutely false!
    but if you are saying that than you are considered as a racist! even though you fight for human rights which is in my opinion the opposite of being a racist!
    plus it’s kinda hard in the west to be left and to be against islamism… 🙁

    it was karl marx who said ”religion is the opiate of the masses”

  2. …Talking about human rights, I got a little hint:
    There is an exciting documentary project:

    A film crew accompanies a human rights seminar for young adults from Belarus, Germany and Ukraine, where the participants get the necessary know-how to realize human rights campaigns.
    The documentary will show the progress of the project and portraits the generation, their living conditions in Central and Eastern Europe, and the limitations they have to face.

    The Project urgently needs financial support to finish the project. Here you can support it:

    I would be glad if you reblog this…

  3. I agree that the Enlightenment has made it harder for religion (and in this case I mean Christianity, in all it’s forms) to “control the message”, as the late Christopher Hitchens once observed, but, in America we are seeing a concerted effort to turn back the political and cultural clock by radical Christian fundamentalists!

    In fact, they are so intent on foisting this ideology on the rest of us, that there has become a cottage industry in such things as historical revisionism, and climate change denialism, and Creationsim (ie. I.D.). They must realize what the rest of us know already, that Reality is not their friend, and so, in order to win, they will have to resort to lies and tricks.

    In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was able to exert total control over the people and their ideas. Today, however, the Enlightment has forced religion to resort of dirty tricks of every variety, including murder (I refere to the cold-blooded murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, a Christian, by another Christian who hated him for his medical services as proof).

    Then, there is the recent “witch” burnings in Africa by Christians of those they believe are evil! So, it’s a little bit mistaken to say that Christianity is not capable of doing the sort of barbaric things certain members of Islam are doing. That’s why secularism MUST prevail. It’s the best hope for everyone, religious or not.

  4. Dear Maryam,

    As a long-time admirer of your writings it pains me somewhat that the first post I´m leaving on your blog is an objection to what you wrote, but I really think you are barking up the wrong tree here. I´m not sure if you wrote this piece based solely on the Reuters report you linked, but if you read Roth´s whole essay, I really can´t see how you could have read into it the positions you are implying. Nowhere in the essay does it say that the Islamists are “good and right” or that they actually are the “antithesis of autocratic rule”.

    Roth is indeed committing the widespread error of seeing extremism as a kind of fringe phenomenon attached to the by and large descent religious mainstream, but that does not merrit calling one of the largest and most deserving human rights associations in the world disgusting. All sentences you quote come from the section “The proper role of the international community” in Roths essay. I think it would be fair to quote another part of that section to put things into perspective:

    ” Looking forward, to promote democratic, rights-respecting governments, the international community should adopt a more principled approach to the region than in the past. That would involve, foremost, clearly siding with democratic reformers even at the expense of abandoning autocratic friends. There is no excuse for any government to tolerate Assad’s lethal repression, to close its eyes to Bahrain’s systematic crackdown, or to exempt other monarchs from pressure to reform. All autocrats should be dissuaded from using repression to defend their power and privileges.

    Such principled support for protesters can also positively influence the outlook of the new governments they seek to form. Revolution can be a heady experience, opening previously unthought-of possibilities for the majority to take control of its fate. But the revolutionaries must also accept the constraints on majoritarian rule that rights require, especially when it comes to the rights of minorities, whether political, religious, ethnic or social.

    Revolutionary zeal can lead to summary revenge or a new imposed orthodoxy. Continuing economic hardship can lead to scapegoating and intolerance. International affirmation of the importance of respecting the rights of all citizens can help to ensure the emergence of genuine democracies. Conditioning economic assistance on respect for those rights, just as the EU conditioned accession for Eastern European states, can help to steer new governments in rights-respecting directions.”

    In short, Roth argues that now that the Islamists have won the elections the Western government have not much choice but to respect the results, but – in a breach with custom and tradition – finally put human rights at the top of the priority list of international diplomacy where it belongs. As a person fundametally opposed to political Islam you might disagree with him on that, but that´s a tactical disagreement, not one of fundamental principles. Accusing HRW to support double standards for human rights for Arabs and Westerners is most certainly inappropriate when the whole topic of the essay is a call for an end of the “Arab exception” and for the same human rights for all.

      1. I’m most certainly looking forward to that and as a human rights activist myself who has enormous respect for the good work the people of HRW are doing I hope that that response will be a bit more nuanced and recognize that HRW and you are – or should be – on the same side.

        I think it can easily be argued that Roth underestimates the dangers posed by the political Islamic movement, but he is certainly not writing supportive of them or advising to go light on them in respect to fundamental human rights.

        And a minor complaint on form: You should have given the link to the essay in your response on it, so people might read what you are referring to. The full essay can be found under

  5. Upright Ape, you are wrong. You say that

    In a democracy the majority rules.

    This is a serious misunderstanding of what democracy is. Democracies are governed by constitutions, limiting and separating the powers. A polity in which a majority rules is simply a majoritarian autocracy so far as minorities, and those disadvantaged in ways that the majority prescribe, go. This is not democracy.

  6. Maryam, I haven’t commented here before, though I do receive emails from One Law for All, I was particularly taken by the careful way you have made your point. I too was a bit concerned about Human Rights Watch response to the Islamist win in Egypt’s elections. Does HRW not recognise that majorities do no necessarily make a democracy, and in fact can support a majoritarian autocracy? The failure to recognise this must in fact be a serious impediment to their effectiveness in monitoring human rights and their abuse. To suggest that Western nations must support these new governments, without waiting to see what they will do, is more than just a little premature. What Western democracies should do is to see how these governments will govern. That theocracy is what the majority seem to prefer is no encouraging either for minorities or for women. We should be on our guard, and warn these nascent theocracies that much will depend on their support for human rights, whether they will find welcome support from Western democracies.

  7. Roth appears to be referring to the fact that Islamic parties are popular at elections. We may not like the fact that they are but democracy means that if the majority chooses a representative we don’t like then we just get to live with it. The fact is that the people who vote for Islamic parties probably feel that their reasons for doing so are perfectly valid, and the fact that we don’t agree with or even understand those reasons doesn’t make them any less so. For instance I find the US preoccupation with the church-going habits of their leaders to be rather strange but I don’t think that people shouldn’t be allowed to take it into account when casting their votes, or that people who take such things into account should be barred from voting.
    If people in Arab countries wish to be ruled by Islamic parties then we have to respect their rights as rational beings to make that choice; this is not the same as accepting any atrocity that government might commit in the name of Islam but we should object to real violations of rights rather than mere accession to power.

  8. But Maryam, almost have of Egyptians voted fair and square for Muslim Brotherhood. Another 20% or so voted for the al-nur Salafis.
    Here is the inherent problem with democracy. In a democracy the majority rules. Yet a tyranny of the majority is inimical to democracy.
    I do not think that we should condone the violation of rights of women and minorities even if they are sanctioned by majorities in some nations.

    1. I was saying that it isn’t fair and square. I am not a believer in democracy anyway – I just think it is the political system for capitalism but for democractic elections – even in a limited sense – you can’t have fair and square elections immediately following a dictatorship. You need time for freedom of press and association to mean something. How can secular parties for example compete in such a situation. It is obvious the Islamists will win because they are organised and have resources and support from other Islamic states and parties. So I’m saying it’s not fair. And I think in hardly any ‘democracy’ is it a majority that decides. Other than of course in the Islamic Republic of Iran where Ahmadinejad gets all the votes even before they are counted! That’s not saying that a majority can get it right anyway, but what I’m saying is that this is no way a reflection of the majority or of the real desires of the Egyptian people or people of the region. This is even true here in Britain. The Tories and LibDems are meant to be antithetical to each other. They are in power together because none of them got a majority and they are cutting services and benefits left right and centre on behalf of society…

      1. “I am not a believer in democracy anyway –” No kidding, and I thought you just didn’t get it.

        Tells me everything I need to know about you.

  9. Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule

    Or the preferred flavor of autocratic rule for some adherents of Islam, anyway. I suppose all the residents of Egypt who don’t have the same mindset should “just get used to it” as well, right?


    I think this is why Maryam specifically mentioned Europe.

    Ali Alyami

    “Fair and square” is the critical operant phrase here. Modern democracies also (are supposed to) operate on majority rules with minority rights, which isn’t even part of the theory of some “democracies”. And if you want to go to a stripped-down definition of democracy, then the people should be able to hold elections when they want, how they want, and who they want. Change their minds next week and do it all again. And in that case, you don’t need permanent elected positions, you just vote on whatever issues come up.

    It’s better to have Islamic administrations ruling within a democratic system that doesn’t guarantee the continuity of their rule than a West-allied dictatorship that makes their lives miserable.

    Sure. If that is, in fact, what they have. But no party or administration should be so completely defining the character of a nation such as the prior autocrats did. This is precisely what we are worried about in the U.S. with respect to our elected officials. A loud and organized minority, in some cases, can have access to power beyond their actual numbers, while other minorities continue to suffer.

  10. I would suggest taking a closer look at what Kenneth Roth says in the report, he seems to suggest something very similar to what you did in you did in your blog post:

    ” Rather, wherever Islam-inspired governments emerge, the international community
    should focus on encouraging, and if need be pressuring, them to
    respect basic rights—just as the Christian-labeled parties and governments of Europe are expected to do. Embracing political Islam need not mean rejecting human rights, as illustrated by the wide gulf between the restrictive views of some Salafists and the more progressive interpretation of Islam that leaders such as Rashid Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia’s Nahdha Party, espouse. It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name. So long as freely elected governments respect basic rights, they merit presumptive international support,regardless of their political or religious complexion.”

    It is important to acknowledge that political Islam is not a monolith as it is often caricatured in the west, but rather a complex political movement.

  11. When there is a power vacuum like libiya, it will be filled by the most organised,not nessesarily the most popular, in the case of the middle east it is the islamist parties who have been waiting in the wings.They claim mass support and intimidate the population, or rely on the islamic indoctrination of the masses to gain power, they will never surrender it democraticaly.The west should of known better, when you saw any news footage, all you could hear was “alaah ackbar”(not sure of spelling)”god is great”,Surely,a bit telling about whats in store?Lets hope that when the dust settles, they actualy remember who helped them on their way to power, and above all, why.Theocracies have memories as long as it suits them,the future does not look all roses and cheery smiles to me.

  12. No middle eastern country will become an iota more rational because we keep telling them that they should be. In fact, this is seen as “western imperialism” and is a force against which islamism reacts and finds fertile ground in the minds of the people.

    The enlightenment began within an intellectual elite, and homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK only a few decades ago. Revolutions can happen overnight, but civilisations evolve over generations.

    1. You forget that the Middle East is not homogeneous. There are many rationalists there as there are religious bigots here in the west. The anti-religious enlightenment is bubbling from below there but the intellectuals and progressives are too busy appeasing and bowing down to Islam and religion. It’s not about western imperialism, it’s about showing people to people solidarity for real change not just more barbarism. As long as it’s not western backed barbarism, I suppose some can feel they can sleep easy but Islamism was also encouraged by western government policy during the cold war. Why is it now the demands of people in the region? The more reactionary it is, the more it is seen to be people’s demands… As I said, the racism of lower expectations. People in the Middle East are no different than people here. Many of them yearn for a life free from dictatorship and also Islamism.

  13. Democracy stands for “the rule of the people”. If Islamists win fair and square, then it must be the will of the people and their wish. Now whether you like it or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s time for the people in the Middle East to embrace democracy even if it brings Islamists up to the presidency and parliament. It’s better to have Islamic administrations ruling within a democratic system that doesn’t guarantee the continuity of their rule than a West-allied dictatorship that makes their lives miserable. If you wanna live by “ends justify means” kinda philosophy, that’s fine, but remember that doesn’t make you immune against it.

    1. Replace your specious “Islamists” with “Mafioso”, and be blinded by the glare of your logical fallacies, my friend.

    2. Of course whether we like it or not matters. Even if every person in the world chooses Islamism I will resist it as will I resist US-led militarism. That is how change happens by rejecting the status quo and demanding something better not just for yourself but for others. This is not moral imperialism but a moral imperative. I know racial apartheid is wrong no matter where I live or the colour of my skin and I know Islamism is wrong no matter where I live or my gender. The fact that you think there can be an Islamic democracy reveals the limitations of democracy. As long as a minority even have voted for something (however those votes have been gained: Corruption, free sandwiches, fraud, threats, what not) it’s fine by you. well it’s not fine by me. I go by what’s right.

  14. ‘Human Rights Watch’ can go the same way as The ‘British Humanist Association’ as far as I am concerned… and it is the way of the Dodo!

      1. Hi Martyn – I’m interested to know why you think the British Humanist Asasociation is a ‘sell-out?’ Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

        1. Hi David, apologies for the (long) delay in responding. I had missed your question to my post.

          Here is just one of the reasons why I feel the BHA has lost its way in recent times.

          Humanism (for me) is a doctrine that seeks to put the human individual above and before religion and beliefs, however the BHA along with the Church of England, the Catholic Church, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim faiths, are seeking to form a new ‘All Party Parliamentary Group’ with the aim of supporting the ‘teaching of RE in schools’.

          Now, forgive me, but what the church, muslim and other groups seek is nothing more than a propaganda campaign. They want the ‘niceties’ of their chosen religion taught in schools without the actual truth of the horrors that their religions bring.

          I expect this from these groups. I did not expect it from the BHA.

  15. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”

    Utter rubbish and logically, not to mention semantically, wanting; the enemy of my enemy is my ally.

    The Soviets were the allies of the Western powers during WWII, yet once the Nazi threat had been eliminated they became our enemies, and between us we brought the world as we know it to the brink of destruction!

    Saddam Hussein and the Mujaheddin were also our allies in this sense at one time, and look how those situations panned out. Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

  16. Um… Maryam, have you looked at the GOP and the Tea Party in the U.S. who desire that the U.S. Constitution reflect Xian law? I can only hope that the majority of U.S. citizens push back in the next election and do not vote them into office. If they have their way, women will not have control over their own bodies, being forced to into becoming baby making machines, Gays will not gain the right to marry, among many other things. Maybe they won’t stone people for adultery, but they do have plans, in some states and even have done so in at least one state in the South, arresting women for even having a miscarriage. *rolling eyes* The only thing that kept Mississippi from giving a zygote (fetus) personhood is that the people voted it down, but now Kansas wants to do the same, taking a different route than Mississippi did to get it done. IMO, if they succeed, then I would say that opens the door for Animal Rights activists to call for the fetuses of other animals to have personhood also, because up until a certain point, all fetuses look alike and even other apes look much like humans in the womb until they are born.

    My point is, before I digress too much, is that the Religious Reich, as I call them, are trying very hard to make the U.S. into a theocracy, much like Islamic nations. The only difference that the theocracy is not Islamic, but Christian.

    1. I couldn’t agree more with what- foundationist- said in part of that last comment! As Americans, we sometimes look at countries like Afghanistan, and at the wilder “tribal regions” there, and shake our heads and feel this warm glow of self-satisfaction that “we” could NEVER be like THAT! “We” are AMERICANS. “We” could never be like “those” people. Really? Well, then, how do you explain the massive industry of Christian Reconstructionists, and Dominion Theology, or, with noises coming out of Montana, where some people are actually advocating sessesion from the rest of the U.S.?

      This, I hate to say, is not some passing fad in American politics that we will look back on with a sense of smug humor in a few years, I afraid. These people are SERIOUS. These people have every intention of setting up a PEPETUAL theocratic system of government, that would rival that of it’s more secular form, Communism!

      Radical Islam seems to have, basically, the exact same sort of “agenda” as Christian Reconstructionists, only with Allah at the helm instead of Jesus. Both are waiting for their own versions of a “Messiah.” Both seem to me to be the bigger, more dangerous future for freedom-loving secularists (and the more “moderate” religious). We cannot afford to dismiss any of this with a wave of a hand.

      That’s what scares me the most, I guess: The assumption that this whole ugly thing is “just” temporary, “just” a bunch of ignorant rubes that will ultimately self-destruct. Though that might prove to be at least partly correct (the self-destruct part, that is), the damage done WHILE IT’S STILL GOING will be difficult to erase.

      This is going to be a long struggle (it will be for those in the Middle East, too, who are trying to create better forms of government for themselves and their children)! We here in the West are NOT immune from such dangers! Perhaps we have become so used to our freedoms that we have come to disdain them in some perverse way only free people can come up with? How ironic is that! To consciously CHOOSE to curtail our freedoms because of it’s incredible success’s. We will be the biggest group of dumbasses the world has ever seen if we do that.

  17. “Human Rights Watch” is brainwashed by liberalism. Liberalism is a disease, it corrupts peoples minds with ideas of equality. If all humans are equal then how come Arabs have literally never invented anything.

    Arabs are dogs.

      1. Sorry you two, but I removed PersianPower’s comments so it now seems yours are irrelevant. I had said that whilst I would not censor him, he will only be allowed one comment per day – a digest of all his fascistic rantings and ravings. These got through because he changed his IP address. Anyway, I am warning the fascist that I will remove any post that gets through here except those he posts waiting for my moderation after which I will copy paste them all in one comment and post one per day. That is all he gets. His right to speak is not restricted as I will post everything without censoring it but our right to not listen to bile and fascist garbage will be reduced to one per day. If PersianPower88 changes his IP again and posts anything here, I will remove it until I post a collection of his ‘works’. So basically if you comment when he manages to get a comment in here without my moderation, this is what will happen. Be warned!

  18. Face it, if the islamists get the Middle-East countries in their iron grip, HRW and other human rights organisations are assured of employment for many years to come. Provided they still get access to these countries, that is.

  19. The enemy of my enemy may or may not be my friend – but the friend of my enemy is almost certainly my enemy too.

  20. Oh LORDY how can a rights organization say “we must accept it because the majority says”?! The whole reason rights need to be defended is because majorities can’t be relied on to do so! Der!

    Well not the whole reason, but a huge part of it. It’s certainly central.

  21. Marjane Satrapi, the author of the Persepolis books and film, said once, in substance: “When the Shah was in power, we thought bringing the regime down would necessarily make things better. We didn’t imagine that what would replace this dictatorship could be even worse.”

    1. Here are fascist PersianPower88’s comments for the day. As I mentioned, whilst I am not censoring him – all his comments are published, they are being published once a day and in one comment so we don’t have to listen to his bile more than once a day.


      Post 1 to addressed to Irene Delse: You know absolutely nothing about Iranian society or culture. If you find parallels between the Arab Spring and the Iranian revolution you are incredibly uneducated and ignorant.

      Post 2 on blog Celebrate good times: How subhuman Western dogs debate: Making up lies about civilizations which they know absolutely NOTHING about and people they know absolutely NOTHING about. I truly DESPISE you Western dogs.

      In case anyone took his propaganda about Iranians and Jews seriously, I recommend the following, this DISGUSTING subhuman confuses ASSYRIANS with Iranians.

      Winterwind… as I said before be thankful we are not having this conversation in real life. My blood is my honor, my race is my nation.

      Post 3 in reply to winterwind:
      Winterwind, like most Western dogs, has no clue what he is talking about. You are the enemy of Iran and Iranians.

      Your knowledge of history is nothing. I despise and hate you more than you can imagine, be glad that we are not having this conversation in real life, dog.

      Post 4 in reply to winterwind:
      What the Arab Empire did to Persia is no different from what the Persian Empire did to the Babylonians, Greeks, Hittites, Jews, Hindus, Canaanites, Turks and Scythians, to name just a few”

      I immediately stopped reading right there. You have absolutely no knowledge of history, you refer to Arabs as “the Arab Empire”, you are clueless. “Persia” is a Greek word, we have never used that word indigenously. The Persian empire has always been benevolent, you have never studied history and your only idea of Persians comes from Hollywood. Cyrus the Great freed Jews from Babylonian captivity.

      You are my enemy and I now hate you and your family.

      Fuck off, dog.


      And that’s it for today. I wish I had done this earlier. BTW well done to winterwind for getting on his nerves!

      1. You’ve got to love guys like this who scream “IGNORANCE!”

        I don’t judge people by the colour of their skin, or their religion, or their politics.

        I judge them by their *actions*.

        So when you go on screaming “IGNORANCE!” in one breath then insisting that all westerners are subhuman the next, I read between the lines.

        I see that you’re a raging xenophobe yourself, ignorant of the outside world and shocked by what little you do know of it. You do this consciously it seems, in an attempt to reinforce your own fear of the outside world.

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