News / Middle East

HRW Urges Support for Arab Democracies

Anti-Syrian regime protesters gather at a square as they hold an Arabic banner, center, reading, 'hey, the miserable, the tyrant, what else,' during a demonstration at the mountain resort town of Zabadani, Syria, near the Lebanese border, January 20, 2012
Anti-Syrian regime protesters gather at a square as they hold an Arabic banner, center, reading, 'hey, the miserable, the tyrant, what else,' during a demonstration at the mountain resort town of Zabadani, Syria, near the Lebanese border, January 20, 2012

A human rights organization is urging Western powers to support the rights of Arab Spring protesters to build real democracies after ousting strongmen once backed by the West.

In its World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Western policy toward Arab countries traditionally has been "one of containment," backing an array of Arab autocrats to guarantee stability in the region, "even as democracy spread in other parts of the world."  

The New York-based group said the reasons so many democratic governments made an "Arab exception" include fear of political Islam and terrorism, the need to keep oil supplies flowing, and a policy of reliance on autocracies to maintain Arab-Israeli peace and to help stifle migration to Europe.

HRW's Executive Director Kenneth Roth said "the people driving the Arab Spring deserve strong international support to realize their rights and to build genuine democracies."

In the report's chapter on Iraq, HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said Iraq is "quickly slipping back into authoritarianism," despite U.S. claims that it helped establish democracy in the country.

Human Rights Watch said the U.S. essentially left behind a "budding police state" in Iraq, where security forces "abuse protesters, harass journalists and torture detainees."  The rights group pointed to the discovery last year of a secret prison run by forces controlled by the prime minister's military office.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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