Sunday, October 30, 2011

Does the Arab spring need a bill of rights?

Protecting rights of minorities, women

"Evidence of the need for minority protection in the Middle East is already coming thick and fast: This month – eight months after the Arab Spring – 27 Coptic Christians were killed when Egyptian tanks rolled into a crowd of protesters. Yet there is little accountability in Cairo for the massacre of peaceful protesters, part of which was caught on YouTube.

Politically, there is agreement in Tunis and Cairo and elsewhere on "democracy." Yet this is mainly about voting and elections; conceptual rifts are deepening. Will states adopt a simple democratic "majority rule" system, or one that builds in rights that protect minorities ahead of time, a "national consensus" model?

Basic questions are unanswered: Will women be allowed positions of leadership? Will full participation by non-Muslims in politics, public office, and courts be assured? In states like Syria, with a plethora of minority groups and intra-Muslim divides, if change comes, will all Islamic family members receive full rights?"

Does the Arab spring need a bill of rights?

The hefty victory of an Islamist party in Tunisia's election kicks off a year of constitution writing. Urgently needed now is a bill of rights to guarantee freedom for all, regardless of creed or politics.

By Robert Marquand, Staff writer / October 28, 2011

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