Human rights, citizenship and the Arab spring

“Human rights” in the Middle East is a very problematic issue. However, the state of human rights differs from one state to another. Some states within the region do have a record of progressive understanding of human rights and its implementations as the case of Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco.

On the other hand, there are some states within the region that do encounter grave violations due to authoritarian regimes and repressive measures that led to diminished social activism within the society.

Flickr User: Essam Sharaf (CC)

In 2010, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region witnessed unprecedented waves of protests; commonly referred to as the “Arab Spring”. The chain reaction of such a phenomena demanded thorough socio-economic change and in-depth political transformation. People in many countries of the region called for respect for their human rights, an end to repression, new social contract built on representation and Citizenship rights.

Citizenship within the state was always a controversial issue, in terms of citizens and citizenship concept as stated by Aristotle, “a citizenship is one who shares both shares in the government and also in his turn submits to be governed; their condition, it is true, is different in different states; the best is that in which a man is enabled to choose and to persevere in a course of virtue during his whole life, both in his public and private state”.

This in return would clarify two main aspects of citizenship. The first of which would be a “legal” definition establishing what would be called a formal relationship between the people vis-a-vis the government and secondly that role a person has to play in a certain manner that entails virtue. Furthermore, this conceptualization of citizenship entails distinguishing between what would be considered as public and private spheres that touches on the dichotomy of state and civil society.

Ideas of citizenship are thus derived from the theoretical framework of liberalism. In the political form of liberal theory, it ascribes to individual’s power in their own lives and an equal say in how the government is run.

The impoverished societies of the Middle East need more plurality in terms of ideas, less repression of peaceful dissent, more political participation, and more institutions that would in a way channel popular desire for change, and for a better future. This poses serious complexities when coming to think of it in the context of the MENA region. States within the MENA region are deformed since inception, fragmented, and carry a colonial heritage and colonial political institutions; states that deal with citizens as subjects, and carry among them the traits of authoritarianism.

I do believe that governments within the region for sure have roles to play in terms of negating some paranoid and prejudiced beliefs within the society. Education along with social activism would surely allow for a better perception of what has to be a relation between all citizens within the state.

 

 

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