As per the 28th Human Rights Watch Report that reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries, this is the right time for Middle East and North African countries to act on the popular demands that have become voice of the youth in the region.
As people today are more aware and exposed to various government systems and mechanisms they expect relative changes for betterment of quality of life, on the humanitarian grounds. They understand their rights well and now are not patient to compromise their rights further. Hence it is important to make necessary changes in the existing regime structures by ensuring that citizens get their due respect, liberty and dignity essential to do it’s over all development overcoming the traditional biases.
The major five reforms that are immediate implementation in the existing MENA regimes include Rights of Women, who are generally have to suffer the most of injustice given the laws that curtail their freedom to make decisions of their life, ranging from dress code to choosing a life partner to moving friendly. They need to experience the equality that women around the world experience. Moreover they must not be treated as a dependent but a strength that have the ability to contribute to country.
MENA women made some advances on nationality issues in 2017. Tunisia repealed a decree that prevented Muslim women – but not men – from registering marriages with non-Muslims; it also passed a landmark law on violence against women, instituting measures to prevent violence, protect survivors, and punish their abusers. In response to Qatari women’s demands to pass nationality onto their children like Qatari men, Qatar pledged to grant residency to children of Qatari women, providing most but not all rights that non-citizen children have.
Notably, Qatar for the first time allowed women in its ‘Shura’ Council which was another change towards providing equal status to women and Saudi has also taken few steps in this direction but there is still a dire need to dismantle the entire system. Governments of the MENA region must take ownership to abolish systemic discrimination in opportunities, divorce, child custody, and inheritance against women giving them equal status and dignity they deserve.
MENA governments nevertheless devoted extensive resources to prosecuting people for their adult, consensual bedroom activities. Young people in the Middle East are well aware that their governments enforce morality but that will no more prove to be successful in covering inefficiency of governments. They need to understand that they cannot impose moral principles and must allow the due liberty to the residents.
MENA government officials jailed people for alleged insults to them or to loosely defined notions of the country’s “reputation,” “national interest,” “culture,” or “religion.” Saudi Arabia went so far as to define “insulting the king,” crown prince, or head of state as a terrorist offense for which the punishment is five to 10 years imprisonment. Bahrain jailed human rights activists like Nabeel Rajab for an “insulting” tweet. Kuwait sentenced a writer to seven years in prison for insulting the state of Qatar. Blocking Doha News in Qatar was another breach of freedom of expression. MENA governments should abolish any law that even uses the word “insult” in its definition of a crime. Limiting freedom of speech is like hampering chances of a country to develop further. The governments need to understand that criticism are required to be accepted and reforms needs to be undertaken for progress.
MENA governments have treated their countries – and sometimes the countries of others – as massive jails, arbitrarily denying people the right to leave or the right to enter. Saudi Arabia has imposed arbitrary travel bans on many Saudis, and detained visiting foreign government officials like Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Yemen President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, while Israel has refused to allow Gazans to exit even for urgent medical treatment or education abroad. Bahrain stripped hundreds of its nationals of their citizenship to punish families of activists. Israel refused entry to people – including Jews – whose political views it doesn’t like, and blocked human rights workers and journalists from accessing Gaza. Governments needs to stop treating their citizens like property to be held on to or disposed at their will and need to act like custodians not bosses.
It is important that these changes are not ignored further as they are already under the vigilance of international organisation demeaning their role in the country and international community. Making these reforms is bound to push progress of the countries and respect in the world.