FEMENA‘s Director, Sussan Tahmasebi, contributed to POMED’s Expert Q & A -Beyond Rhetoric: How Should the Biden Administration Support Human Rights and Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa?
The Biden administration has made support for human rights and democracy around the world a prominent rhetorical focus of its foreign policy. Soon after taking office, President Joseph R. Biden pledged to center U.S. foreign policy “on the defense of democracy and the protection of human rights” and to pursue “diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.” Following up on these presidential commitments, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised that the Biden-Harris administration will “prioritize” human rights in U.S. foreign policy and “stand against human rights abuses wherever they occur, regardless of whether the perpetrators are adversaries or partners.” Other senior administration officials have echoed these themes.
What should this professed new emphasis on rights and democracy mean for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), home to so many authoritarian regimes, including U.S. “partners” notorious for their human rights abuses, and to several countries mired in violent conflict? To spotlight perspectives from the region itself, POMED invited 15 human rights defenders, democracy advocates, independent journalists, and civic activists from 15 MENA countries to respond briefly to the following question:
What are the most important steps for the Biden administration to take, or the most crucial issues on which the administration should focus, in order to improve the human rights situation, support democratic values and institutions, or push back against authoritarianism in your country?
We are pleased to publish their responses below. These contributions represent a variety of perspectives and address an array of issues facing the countries of the region. We hope that the Biden administration will take seriously the recommendations presented here as it seeks to implement policies in line with its stated commitment to support human rights and democracy.