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April 2, 2012
Interview with Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International: On Respecting Human Rights, from Bahrain to Guantanamo Bay
Posted by Cara Solomon
Last month, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, drew more than 100 students for a fascinating lecture entitled “Ending Double Standards: Human Rights in the World Today.”
Clinical student James Tager, JD ’13, later followed up with Shetty in an interview about everything from the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to the need for strong human rights advocacy in the United States. Below is an edited version of that interview, which is also posted in the Harvard Human Rights Journal.
JT: In your lecture, you said that “the clear cut division that the purists sometimes like to make in the human rights world—between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic social and cultural rights, on the other—was exposed as meaningless” by the Arab Awakening. Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
SS: Let’s take Tunisia, for example, and look at the case of Mohamed Bouazizi. Bouazizi was the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in protest, an action which then set Tunisia on fire, which set Egypt on fire. If you were to ask: Was he unhappy about his unemployed status, and the fact that he didn’t have a livelihood? Or was he protesting against the fact that he couldn’t express himself freely, and he had no way of getting any redress? And the answer, obviously, is both. Bouazizi’s actions were a graphic illustration of that.
There are other graphic illustrations. In Egypt, 40% of the population in Cairo lives in slums, with very uncertain tenure. I visited many of the slums in Cairo—Manshiyat Naser and others—where people are forcibly evicted. Then, when they go to the government to complain, they are further repressed, and there is massive corruption. So there is really a combination of factors at play here.Continue Reading…
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