Posts Tagged ‘political reforms’

Lebanon: human rights defenders use graffiti to express hope

January 24, 2020

The blue graffiti reads: “Oh, my wonderful country.” Photo by Nohad Elhajj.

Since the 17th of October 2019, Lebanon has been in the grips of widespread public protests against the social, economic, and political conditions of the country. The protesters are holding the government accountable for degrading living conditions and demanding serious and drastic changes. ….. But something, equally alive, captivates the place: graffiti. Building walls, stone barriers, wooden panels, even the asphalt ground are all covered with graffiti. With their diverse slogans, creative motifs, and direct, uncensored political and social messages, the graffiti artists collectively illustrate the people’s discourse demanding a full-fledged social and political reform.

On 23 January 2020 Nohad Elhajj – a development practitioner and independent researcher – wrote an interesting piece on this aspect in Global Rights, with rich illustrations:

….. reflecting on the present status of human rights and the human rights movement is of utmost need. More importantly, we need to consider questions about the future of those rights and this movement. In his 2019 article, Thomas Coombes offers a new way to address the future of Human Rights with “hope-based communication” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/30/positive-communication-is-the-only-way-forward-for-effective-human-rights-work/]….

Graffiti is defined as “a form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group”. The definition by itself poses a duality; would unauthorized marking of public space become positive communication? Would it possibly shift perspectives? Maybe not all, but some graffiti certainly does convey political messages. The question here is not about authority per se but the disruption of this authority. The act itself is intrinsically disruptive and political whether graffiti is acceptable or not. Starting from this understanding, graffiti, as a visual act, then can be leveraged as a participatory and accessible medium to shift public perspectives on human rights issues. Yet, the human rights movement does not only need to shift the public opinion but also to shift the current governance structures, which is beyond the impact of graffiti. The graffiti in Riyad El Soloh Square is a good illustration of this.

Graffiti is not new to the Lebanese society, but revolution graffiti is particular and powerful because of its relevance, the messages it conveys, and the places it occupies to convey these messages. The graffiti artists practiced their right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, while communicating, directly and clearly, human rights demands from women rights, LGBTQ rights, economic and social rights to civil and political rights. (Shown in Pictures below).

……
The Lebanese graffiti artists have pushed and merged both boundaries of political participation and art. The graffiti imposes itself on the observer and on the spaces it occupies with wit and audacity. It overwhelms the observer with emotions of anger, despair, longing and revolt but also with hope. Much of this street art offers a thought-provoking mosaic of entangled messages and images. The graffiti above shows a white pigeon (a recurring image) combined with a strong slogan about workers’ rights; this combination conveys that those rights, and other demands, will be achieved in the future.

Similar to that, the graffiti at the beginning of this article offers another perplexing combination. The whole piece can be read as: “Oh my wonderful country, sectarianism burned us”. As much as it articulates a cry of despair with hurt and agony, it also retains the image of a wonderful country before civil war and a political system that has crippled it for the past 45 years. The generation who lived the war is still lamenting it and the following generations were still living in the resulting divisions and sectarianism—up until the 17th of October 2019. Akin to the protests, the graffiti captured a future hope of a country that will regain its glory after necessary social and political change.

The artists’ urge to mark every visible surface around Riad El Soloh square with spray paint and brushes placed them right in the middle of an already contested political and social scene, and it placed the rights discourse in the middle and around this scene. This graffiti proved to be a strong visual expression of all the protesters’ demands and a way to engage the public with it, both inside and outside Lebanon. Through their paint, these graffiti artists created a distinctive, unprecedented, and positive narrative about human rights in Lebanon: a narrative that more and more organizations and activists are now hanging onto.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/graffiti-creates-positive-human-rights-narratives-in-lebanon/

 

UK and European Human Rights Convention: soup not eaten as hot as served

May 31, 2015

In a post of 1 October last year [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/human-rights-watch-deconstructs-case-against-uk-withdrawal-from-european-human-rights/] I referred to the rather sad efforts of conservative politicians in the United Kingdom to engineer a withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. I am glad to refer now to a post by Ian Dunt on 27 May 2015 under the title “Cameron surrenders on human rights“.

In short, he says that the Prime Minister now sees that doing this would be politically very difficult and that he has shelved the issue at least until next year. Instead the Government will do another consultation, and – according to Dunt-  “lawyers will tell them what they have already been told: that the UK supreme court is already supreme, that we only have to ‘take account’ of Strasbourg rulings, that the Council of Europe will never tolerate an ‘advisory’ status, that the devolved assemblies will have to have a say on any changes, that the House of Lords will be within its rights to vote it down, that the Commons will probably defeat it and that even if it somehow got it through all those hurdles there’s a stream of legal recognition from Europe which could inject the European Convention of Human Rights into UK law anyway.”

The post contains a lot of interesting details on the inner-workings of the UK parliament and Cabinet and concludes that “in this case, it was a choice between his own inadequacy and the proper functioning of one of the greatest civilising missions in human history. So we should be grateful that, for now at least, his inadequacy won.”

Cameron surrenders on human rights.

Chinese Human Rights Defender Xu Youyu gets Olof Palme Prize

December 16, 2014

.Chinese activist wins Swedish rights prize

(Olof Palme – Photo: TT)

The Stockholm-based Olof Palme Memorial Fund said in a statement today that the Chinese pro-democracy activist Xu Youyu, who was among key signatories of a 2008 manifesto seeking sweeping political reforms in China, has won the Olof Palme human rights prize [http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/olof-palme-prize]. Born in 1947, Xu is a philosophy professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Science and was one of the most prominent signatories of the 2008 Charter 08 manifesto that urged a series of reforms in China. He was detained in May this year in a crackdown on dissent ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

He has worked consistently for a democratisation of Chinese society, while condemning any form of violence as a political method,” the Fund stated. “Through his research and dialogue-oriented debate articles, Xu Youyu has made a great contribution to the peaceful and democratic development in China.”

http://www.thelocal.se/20141216/chinese-activist-xu-youyu-wins-swedish-rights-prize