Last night the DI hosted Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch (HRW). The event was opened with remarks by Sultan Barakat, Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Action (CHS).
During her lecture, Whitson highlighted the work of HRW in the Arab region over the past few years, which she said faced many challenges especially in areas of armed conflict. This has been particularly obstructive to the work of HRW when it involved dealing with oppressive regimes.
She summarized the human rights situation in 3 different areas of armed conflict in the Arab world: Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Syria, she said the situation started with popular demands for reform, which later transformed to a sectarian civil war exacerbated by interference of foreign actors on both sides of the conflict. HRW was the first and only organization that published evidence that chemical weapons were used in the suburbs of Damascus by the Syrian regime.
In Iraq, the speaker showed a video of Iraqi victims of sectarian militias in several areas where armed conflict is taking place. She mentioned that HRW issued a report on February 20, 2017 about cases of rape of Iraqi women by ISIS.
She ended her lecture with a warning that the human rights situation in the Arab is dim and that opportunity for change is very difficult but not impossible.