Reflections on three decades of human rights work in the Arab Region

Authored by: Fateh Azzam

Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138807679
eBook ISBN: 9781315750972
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613763


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It was a time of moderate optimism when the human rights movement began in the Arab region at the end of the 1970s. The political environment was as tense as it had ever been during the Cold War, the defeat of Arab armies by Israel in 1967 still smarting in people’s minds, and the tail end of successful and unsuccessful coups d`état and ‘reform coups’ that engendered a steady shift towards more repression and tightened control—in the new republics and old monarchies alike. But there was a prevailing sense of hope that it was still possible to effect change and to mobilize people around common causes. The Palestine Liberation Organization was lifting the spirits of Palestinians and Arabs more generally, demonstrating that it was possible to fight back and reclaim rights—never mind the means. Parties of various shades of nationalism and Marxism were still organized but failing to fulfill their promises with weak political impact. The oil monarchies had just made their first (and only) attempt to counter Western policies through the oil embargo of the early 1970s, which nevertheless proved entirely uneventful.

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