A year of hope and despair The International community must let go of its double standards in dealing with human rights in the Arab region

In International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

The oral intervention delivered by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies at 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Delivered by: Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja

Thank you Madam President,

I am honoured to be addressing the distinguished representatives in attendance at the Human Rights Council today.  My name is Mariam Al-Khawaja, I am a Bahraini human rights defender, and the daughter of internationally known human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. My father was severely tortured, beaten unconscious and arrested last year. Despite numerous international calls for his release, and the BICI report documenting his case, my father today is between life and death in Bahrain’s prison on hunger strike, he may only have days left.

More than a year has passed since a wave of protest movements for democratic transformation and human rights reform began to sweep through North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.   Often these movements have been spear-headed by young activists:  A new generation, utilizing social media and the internet to spread their message, and drawing on great courage and an even greater capacity for hope in order to take to the streets, break entrenched barriers of fear, and demand dignity.  Today I would like to remind this Council and those gathered here – that these uprisings for democracy, this great revolution for dignity, despite coming under increasingly brutal attack, are far from over- in fact, we have only just begun.   In Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and the OPT the struggle to achieve real transformation and true governmental accountability through peaceful means continues.  Each passing day sees a growing number of men, women and children that are killed, disappeared, arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured because they have dared to demand their rights.  They are regular people who, inspired by one another, demonstrate the most extraordinary levels of courage and compassion, sacrificing their own safety to win a better future for their friends, family and nation.

It is to them I ask those gathered here to now look.  Please do all you can to use this session of the Human Rights Council to offer hope and protection for those who refuse to give up.   As they have not allowed themselves to become paralyzed with cynicism, fear or despair, so we ask you to do the same.    The stakes have never been higher.

Last September, this Council held a ground-breaking panel on Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests.  Yesterday, it held an equally important panel concerning Freedom of Expression on the Internet.  These two issues are at the heart of movements for democratic transformation and government accountability in the Arab region and throughout the world.  These two issues will only grow in importance in the years to come.  This Council has a historic opportunity to ensure that both initiatives result in strong outcomes that provide protection for those throughout the world that aspire to a more democratic and humane world.  We ask you to follow through – to not give up.

We ask you to speak out for protestors, democracy activists, bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders in Syria, who continue to be murdered in ever growing numbers, in Yemen and Libya, who continue to demand justice, in Egypt, where civil society is in a life and death struggle to survive, and in Bahrain, where voices for freedom continue to call for change in the streets and from behind prison bars despite the continuing violent crackdown by the authorities.

Thank you Madam President.


Watch the video of the oral intervention on the following link:

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