If you think of the United Nations as a beacon of light and reasoning unto the nations of the world, perhaps you should think again.
The UN recently positioned Saudi Arabia as the head of a Human Rights panel. Yes, Saudi Arabia. The nation rich in oil and just as rich in human rights violations has been placed to judge other nations on their human rights abuses.
Think back to last summer, when a story broke about a blogger who spoke out against Islam and was rebuked with 20 weeks of public flogging, 50 lashes each time. They didn’t even make it to the second round, as the country came under serious international condemnation and the blogger was admitted for medical treatment.
During the first half of 2015, Saudi Arabia had already publicly beheaded 100 of its citizens. In 1995, the year end total of government beheadings in Saudi Arabia nearly cleared 200. Year after year, the government in this country continues to assert its dominance over its citizens by functioning as fear-mongering autocrats. And yet, they now get to play pretend as the one of authority figures on human rights.
In a curious deliberation in March 2015, the UN decided that of all the nations in its membership, the one who committed the most women’s rights violations was Israel. Israel, the only nation in the Middle East that grants equal rights to women! Israel, the only country in the world where both men and women are subject to conscription. Israel, one of the world’s nations with the most number of women in executive leadership positions, and the third country in the world to ever have a female prime minister. In Saudi Arabia, the women are not allowed to go anywhere without a male escort, and the only ones who can drive are American military personnel on US bases. Saudi women were only granted the right to vote last year.
Currently, the Saudis are under international pressure to stop the plans to behead and crucify a young man who was arrested originally in 2012 for having participated in the Arab spring protests, which called for political reforms in Saudi Arabia. There is debate as to whether the extent of his punishments are based on his being Shi’ite in a majority Sunni country. Regardless, the decisions that shape his fate are obscene, and simply put, show Saudi Arabia’s commitment to human rights violations.
In and of itself, the UN is a mess. The Commission on the Status of Women boasts the Sudanese president as one of its cabinet members – a man who has been indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide, among others. Qatar is also represented on the Human Rights council. Perhaps you’ve heard of Qatar; they’ll be hosting the World Cup in 2022. That is, if they protect the workers who are building the stadium, many of whom have died in masses from poor working conditions and construction accidents. Qatar also funds Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza and refuses to recognize the state of Israel. The trend of the UN to appoint absolutely preposterous leaders to its councils and boards is a widespread issue. How could an organization designed with good intentions become filled with such disgrace?
Most recently, the UN misstepped again in its decision to elect Venezuelan and Syrian leaders to top positions in a “decolonizing” campaign in the Falklands/ Malvinas Islands off the coast of Argentina. For starters, the idea that the UN needs to ‘decolonize’ the Islands is ludicrous, since a 2009 referendum in the Falklands’ government produced a 99.8% vote in favor of staying an overseas British territory.
The people of the Falklands Islands are not oppressed, nor are they subject to human rights abuses, unlike the dwindling population in Syria, where one of the heads of this ‘decolonization’ campaign is from. There, president-for-life Bashar al-Assad has taken measures against his people in organized massacres, chemical weapons attacks, and strategic bombings and altogether destruction of residential areas. Additionally, in Venezuela – a country generally ignored by the media – is in tatters. A serious drop in oil prices (the country’s main export) has depleted the economy, leading to a 700% inflation rate and robbing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans of their jobs. During Hugo Chavez’s 14 year reign as president, Venezuelans were subject to arbitrary arrests, censorship, and police brutality. Needless to say, the UN has once again chosen a state with a seriously flawed human rights record to serve as part of a mission that aims to better the lives of the citizens of the world.
Perhaps these appointments will have little effect on the world, or perhaps they will leave a great mark. One can only hope that with its newfound place in a position of leadership in promoting human rights that internal Saudi politics will adjust to treat their own people better. Maybe some day, the UN will appoint leaders who are genuinely committed to the positions in which they serve. Maybe one day they will stop needlessly condemning Israel while rewarding its neighbors. Until then, the UN will continue to lose credibility.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.