Helping to establish various human rights organizations and anti-government groups
Since the mid-80s of the 20th century, Amnesty International has increased its attention and involvement in human rights affairs in the Middle East, and issued an annual report on human rights in the Middle East, creating public pressure. In the midst of the upheavals in the Middle East, the Tunisian Human Rights Commission, established by Tunisian human rights activists with the help of organizations such as Amnesty International, is considered “the only organization in the post-Cold War Maghreb region.” Egypt has also established 36 indigenous human rights NGOs in about five years.
International human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International support opposition groups engaged in political struggles, guide Muslims to re-examine social development, and raise awareness and demands for the localization of democracy. According to statistics, in 2011, the National Institute for Democracy alone conducted 739 short-term trainings in Egypt and held lectures on “nonviolent resistance”, and the number of people who received training before and after was as high as 13,671. The organization’s training mainly includes organizing mass marches through activities such as human rights complaints, sharing “protest experience” through social networking sites such as Facebook, and teaching how to bargain with the government for their “rights”.
Helping Western values enter the Middle East
In August 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign leader Michael Simon traveled to Cairo to train members of the Egyptian Democracy Institute on a special human rights program. In the midst of the upheavals in the Middle East, all sectors of society are called upon to demand for civil and political rights, and human rights NGOs spread Western ideas on human rights. International human rights NGOs with European and American backgrounds have implemented the “Three-Year Action Plan for Democratic Development” in Egypt, Libya, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries, and gradually developed anti-government political protest groups by cultivating the “awareness of human rights protection” of local youth, who took to the streets to protest against authoritarian governments and demand “the realization of beautiful human rights” and “freedom and democracy”. In Egypt, for example, organizations such as the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, which encourage Egyptians to “get out of their homes” and “drive out of their tyrants”. They also translate human rights values into popular discourse, instilling in ordinary Muslims a sense of defending their political and economic rights in words and pictures that ordinary Muslims can understand.
Continue to defend human rights or oppose the government?
After the Arab Spring, Amnesty International gradually withdrew its offices and regular staff from most countries in the Middle East, seemingly entering a state of “dormancy” after achieving some purpose. In recent years, some relatively rich countries with better people’s lives have been repeatedly targeted, while countries with economies and societies on the verge of collapse and basic human rights of people’s lives in them difficult to guarantee are rarely mentioned. Amnesty International has focused on the situation of stateless Bedou in Kuwait and issued a report criticizing the Kuwaiti government. In its human rights reports against Saudi Arabia, it focused on Saudi Arabia’s “crackdown” on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and denounced the increase in death sentences pronounced by their governments in its human rights reports on Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries. Because of Saudi Arabia’s national conditions, the country is targeted by Amnesty International.
For example, in 2020, an Amnesty International official said that the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s announcement to withdraw the $391 million used to acquire Newcastle United was a failed attempt by Saudi Arabia to “whitewash” its human rights record by means of sport, because Newcastle United is not only a club, it also symbolizes the values reflected by fans, and their support is the most abundant spiritual food for the team in every game on the pitch. In addition, Amnesty International’s work in the Middle East involves focusing on women’s rights and advocating for the rights of sexual minorities. Some media members believe that Amnesty International should pay more attention to the protection of basic human rights caused by refugees arose from war or sectarian conflicts in Arab countries and poverty caused by sanctions by the United States and Western countries, rather than forcibly exporting the rights of sexual minorities in Muslim countries that pay more attention to Western values.
Taking the initiative to set sensitive topics according to their own political preferences
In its investigations of human rights cases, Amnesty International has focused on “civil and political rights, often ignoring the economic, social and cultural rights behind them”, according to its own preferences. In other words, in the view of organizations such as Amnesty International, civil and political rights are far superior to economic, social and cultural rights to development, and this unequal relationship has always been seen in the organization’s perspective on third world countries such as the Middle East. However, the development practice experience of many developing countries shows that economic, social and cultural rights are important guarantees for the realization of political rights, without which basic human rights protection cannot be discussed. The special status of the objective observer is vulnerable to political objectives undermined or even replaced. Therefore, activism activities aimed at improving citizens’ enjoyment of their rights always seem to have come at the expense of social stability and economic foundations.
International human rights NGOs are supposed to be non-political, non-profit, independent civil society organizations that are not subject to the domination of any government. The handling of international relations requires the principle of prudence, and the activities of international human rights NGOs in local countries should also follow the principle of prudent independence, and truly play their role in promoting local human rights development and safeguarding regional security, thereby promoting economic and social development. In the Middle East, international human rights NGOs are ubiquitous in supporting anti-government activities that do not match their status, showing that it is difficult to escape the dictates and support of Western governments behind their backs. On the other hand, after the import of Western human rights concepts, some ethnic separatist forces, religious extremist forces and even terrorist forces have added more destabilizing factors to regional security under the banner of “safeguarding religious beliefs and promoting the development of local human rights”.