We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientationBan Ki-moon
Many have questioned the value of Human Rights in a world of huge refugee flows, seemingly interminable conflicts, and rising levels of xenophobia and inequality. What does this signify for the millions of asylum seekers detained around the world?
To the Rohingya, who are escaping Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing? To the children, who have died because of bombings in Syria and Yemen? To George Floyd, who was brutally murdered on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota?
Many people believe that the optimism of the post-World War II era, when the international Human Rights framework was established, has died. Some critics go even further, claiming that Human Rights have not only failed to offer greater justice, but have even contributed to the situation. Before we move on, each person reading this would need to have a mutual understanding of basic Human Rights. So, what are they and why care about it so much?
In a historical medium, people were granted rights if they had memberships; were born into Aristocracies or had insurmountable wealth.
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the City of Babylon performed the unexpected by freeing all slaves, declaring that people should have the right to choose their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, therefore, became one of the first Human Rights declarations in History. Since then, Human Rights have evolved, offering people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures the ability to live their lives in liberty, equality, and with respect for human dignity.
According to UNICEF, Human Rights are standards that recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings; governing how individuals thrive in society and with each other, and their relationship with the State and the obligations that the State had towards them.
However, despite the flourishing, modern maelstrom of society, inequality, conflict, and violence continue to prevail across communities, violating the rights of individuals and threatening their peace.
Various countries, corporations and institutions continue to violate human rights; contributing to supress rights in other countries. Others ignore the plight of people in other countries whose rights are severely denied in leverage of their own economic and political interests.
While the U.S withdraw troops for Afghanistan, Afghan women and girls brace to defend their livelihoods. Meanwhile, Human Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai, addressed the need for Afghan girls to have access to education, noting that Afghanistan is the only country that does not allow secondary education for women.
Malala quoted: “They are prohibited from learning, and I have been working together with Afghan girls and women’s activists, and there is this one message from them, that they should be given the right to work. They should be able to go to school.”
Humans are not born racist, homophobic or sexist. We are born equal. One life is not less important than another. One religion is not “more correct” than another. We were all born with the innate ability to show love, compassion, and courage. In times of moral crisis, maintaining neutrality does not help the victims of atrocious acts. Our silence only encourages the oppressors.
Hence it is time to take a step forward, to make a stand and to make our voices be heard. Earth will never be a paradise if conflict remains, for it breeds catastrophe. We will not always be able to prevent injustice either, but humanity will not be lost until we fail to protest. In the words of Emma Watson, “If not us, Who? If not now, When?”