Our Branch in Yemen will strengthen the awareness about Human rights in the Gulf Area. [Archives:2000/37/Reportage]

September 11 2000

awareness about Human rights in the Gulf Area.
Human rights, today, is a universal issue whose importance is increasing everyday. Many people across the continents dream of a world of justice and freedom. The great technological achievements that have converted the whole globe into a small village have played an unquestionable role in making human rights calls reach all parts of the world.
Arab and Islamic countries must be first to respect human rights and not be stages of violations of and disrespect for human rights recognized by Islam before the world.
On the occasion of the training course on human rights organized by the Cairo-based Arab Institute for Human Rights in Sanaa, Hassan Al-Zaidi of the Yemen Times met Dr. Attaib Al-Bakkoushi, Director of the Institute and filed the following:

Q: What strategy does the institute adopt for the spread of human rights culture? Is the present training course in Sanaa part of it?
A: The training course is part of a three-year plan that was outlined last year within a media program. Realizing the great role media can play in the spread of awareness of Human rights we have conducted a field survey and made a study on the situation of Arab media. Results of this study were presented in Cairo last Autumn. We also came out with a number of recommendations concerning spread of human rights culture. In this context, we have held two training courses the first of which was in Morocco and the second was in Lebanon. The present course in Sanaa is a proof of the success of such courses. We have received a lot of letters from Journalists across the Arab world requesting organizing similar courses in their countries.
This course in Sanaa stemmed from the fact that media occupy a great part of the institutes attention. We, in the Arab Institute believe that what media can do is of no less importance than the role of human rights activists in teaching people human rights.

Q: How do you assess commitment to human rights in Arab countries in general, and in Yemen in particular?
A: Let me first say that the Arab Institute for Human Rights does not defend or protect human rights in a direct way. Therefore, it never judges the situation in any country. We do not take actions against what goes on in countries. This neutral stand of us enables the institute to cooperate with governments to develop awareness of human rights in the Arab countries. Defending human rights is the responsibility of organizations available in the respective country or the Arab Organization for Human Rights located in Cairo.
As far as Yemen is concerned, I can not give an opinion because I am not well acquainted with this country. This is my first visit to Yemen. However, through what I have read and watched on TV, I can say that their is an acceptance of opposition opinions and this is, in my opinion, a positive indicator because it can be a groundwork for strengthening principles of human rights and democracy. I have suggested establishing a bureau for the institute here and the suggestion was welcomed by the Prime Minister during our meeting with him.

Q: Will that be of great importance? what kind of work it will be assigned in case it is established?
A: I don not think objectives will differ from those of our bureaux in Beirut and Tunisia opened last year. Generally speaking, it will be a center for documenting human rights activities.
Yemens office will help the headquarters not only organize activities in Yemen but in the Gulf area as well. So far, in the Gulf area our work has been confined to Yemen. This is attributed to the fact that such activities are not welcomed in other countries in the area. Despite the fact that many participants from those countries attend our courses and different activities, none have invited us to organize such events in their countries.

Q: Do you think that it will have a role in the Gulf area?
A: I think it will strengthen the awareness that human rights do not oppose cultural peculiarities. This issue is very important and it should be thoroughly discussed. It is, in fact, an approach that can result in a good number of meetings, books and studies. We should also listen to all opinions in this regard in order to improve and develop respect for human rights in the Arab countries. Arab countries should not be spoken about as human rights violators. Many media means talk about Islam as a religion of violence and against human rights. We want to change this attitude.

Q: You have organized a number of courses for non-governmental organizations and now you have organized one for journalists. What about human rights violators such as security and judiciary offices?
A: They are included in our plan. But we cannot do that unless governments cooperate with us.

Q: Have you received any help from the National Supreme Committee For Human Rights which is a governmental organ?
A: Yes we have. Actually, it is one of the organizations supporting our Institute. Cooperation with governmental as well as non-governmental organizations is there in our future plans.