US President Donald Trump’s attacks on Muslims and his support for strongman leaders are exacerbating an already dramatic rights decline in the Arab world, two Arab Spring champions said Thursday.
Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki told reporters in Geneva that the respect for human rights in Arab countries “has never been worse than now,” pointing to a harsh backlash since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Marzouki, who oversaw Tunisia’s sometimes troubled transition to democracy, pointed to crackdowns to foil revolutions in places like Egypt, Yemen and of course Syria that have left hundreds of thousands dead and forced millions to flee their homes.
“Rights have shrunk immensely,” he said, speaking through a translator on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council.
While governments in the region are to blamed for the downward spiral of rights since the Arab Spring, Marzouki stressed that “the future looks even darker because the Trump administration is adding insult to injury”.
He accused Washington under Trump of “supporting all the dictatorships” in the region, pointing to his backing of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief who overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013.
And Trump’s attacks on the media are seen by less-than-democratic governments around the world as a green light to do the same, he said.
“The US will lose all the moral leverage over these dictatorships, and this will lead to an increase in terrorism, not a decrease,” he said.
Tawakkul Karman, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her role in the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen, agreed.
She slammed Trump’s often repeated phrase “Islamic terrorism” as “a racist and discriminatory slogan” that if anything is bolstering the Islamic State group.
“It serves the purpose of IS that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims. It serves terrorism and it serves dictatorships, and it weakens the power of the moderate people and those who are seeking freedom,” she warned, speaking through a translator.
Karman also criticised the West in general for not doing enough to support the Arab Spring uprisings, including the one in Yemen which forced the ouster of strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in power, only to see the country slide into a brutal civil war.
“Unfortunately the West let down the Arab youth who had aspirations and dreams of freedom and democracy, and allowed them to be devoured by both dictatorships and terrorism,” she said.