Harnessing the power of digital media against a rising tide of oppression
In the New Year, as humanity staggers from the pain of a global pandemic, the forces of oppression continue assaults on freedom and human rights around the world.
In China the Communist Party has locked a million Muslim Uyghurs in reeducation camps and subjected many to sterilization and torture. In North Korea, the CCP model has been perfected into a multi-generational system in which generations of children are now born and die inside a vast network of concentration camps.
In Iran, the government continues to ruthlessly crush and oppress all forms of dissent and resistance to the nation’s totalitarianism theocracy. The pattern persists around the globe — in Myanmar, in Turkey, in the Middle East.
The Middle East in particular is largely moving backwards into oppression. Across the region, religious minorities have been imprisoned, enslaved, raped, brutalized and murdered in rising numbers.
Of course, in the past decade, no single movement has more publicly and flagrantly assaulted the moral and legal norms of fundamental human rights than the Islamic State or ISIS. That is why there should be ISIS genocide trials — in order to reaffirm the commitment of civilized nations to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At the same time, we must confront the ideas and philosophies behind the mass violation of human life and dignity. Doing so offers the best hope of enduring victory against such forces of oppression.
The horrors which are so obvious to us are seen differently by the perpetrators. Certainly, many human rights abusers are oppressors seeking to gain power, grab resources, and expand their influence. But many of the worst abuses and conflicts are based on malign philosophies and theologies which demonize other human beings. In such cases, those responsible for the worst crimes believe they are doing good — or even doing the will of God. So, it is not enough to stop those who are committing crimes. It is necessary to displace their toxic ideas and values with those ideals that are the only enduring antidote to the collective disease of genocide, racism, violence and oppression.
This is the reason that we created the Universal Rights Academy in order to harness the power of digital media to spread the principles of freedom and human dignity in the digital age.
The term “universal rights” originates in the most widely known statement of human rights in human history. Translated into more languages than the Bible or the Koran, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created in 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust to help protect humanity from future outbreaks of totalitarian violence and oppression.
Universal rights are those rights without which we cannot experience our full humanity. Universal rights are so important that civilization and the future of humanity depends upon not tolerating the violation of these rights in any culture or society, for any reason. The Universal Rights Academy will teach digital natives around the world the timeless ideals that are the only enduring remedy for ideologies of oppression.
From Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. to Malala Yousafzai, universal rights is a dream that we need to understand, embrace, teach and practice so that it can achieve its full potential — for everyone everywhere.
Dr. Matthew Daniels is the Chair of Law and Human Rights at the Institute of World Politics. He is also the founder of Good of All, an international human rights education organization and creator of www.universalrights.org