Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, October 05, 2007

Middle East reforms critical of U.S. support for democracy in region

Although the United States sees itself as a beacon for democratic values, its policies in the Middle East are hurting the cause of Middle East liberals, according to Iranian and Arab reformers, Reuters reported Thursday.

Washington’s reputation in the Middle East has suffered due to its perceived selectivity concerning promotion of democracy and human rights, its support for Israel, and the invasion of Iraq. According to Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch, “The United States has lost a lot of its credibility on human rights because of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and renditions.” Houry goes on to say, however, that America’s shortcomings are no excuse for Arab governments to discredit democracy movements.

Repressive governments and Islamist movements exploit anti-American sentiment to accuse liberals of peddling a U.S.-Israeli agenda. Because of this, rights activists in the region try to distance themselves from U.S. policy in the Middle East.

In an open letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging the U.N. to condemn human rights violations in Iran, Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji wrote: “Far from helping the development of democracy, U.S. policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran.”

The same feelings are often shared by allies of the United States, who do not want to be too closely identified with their patron. Rami Khouri, a Beirut-based commentator, cites the boycott by the United States and Europe of Hamas after its election win in Palestine as being the “death knell” for western advocacy of democratic rule in the Arab and Muslim world.

“If you want to promote democracy, do it consistently, not promote elections in one country and not in another,” he said.

For the full story, click here.


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