Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

It’s like praying in the red light district | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Only “perfect” states have the right to criticize the shortcomings of others in certain areas. For example, I do not mind if Switzerland criticizes Mexico on topics related to pollution and urban cleanliness, Singapore has the right to criticize the Philippines on topics relating to the judiciary and corruption, and the Scandinavian countries are entitled to criticize certain African states for the way in which they deal with matters of fraud. But I find it the height of political audacity when Russia criticizes Saudi Arabia today for its erroneous practices when it comes to human rights, as one Russian official put it. This kind of rhetoric coming from Russia is farcical.

Today, when Russia talks about human rights, with its notorious record in this field, this is like a prostitute giving a lecture on the glories of virtue. The human rights record of Russia alone (I will not include the defunct Soviet Union) is full of astonishing scandals and abuses.

In Russia, racist and neo-Nazi gangs have emerged, intimidating the minorities who live in Russian cities under the eyes of the police without punishment or deterrent, due to the collusion of these criminal gangs with the underworld and organized crime syndicates, which have become known as the Russian mafia.

We cannot talk about human rights in Russia without addressing the authorities’ brutal dealings with Russian citizens of Chechen, Dagestani, Georgian, Belarusian or Central Asian origin. These “citizens” are treated in a blatant discriminatory manner. Likewise, there is widespread discrimination against Muslims in general, who are prevented from obtaining the licenses required to establish new mosques, forcing them to carry out their religious duties on the roadside in what is an extremely cold climate.

This is not all; the states bordering Russia also suffer, especially if certain groups within their communities opted to remain in Russian society after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ask the Afghans and the citizens of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan for example, for there are numerous stories of “official” practices against them with regards to access to education and employment, marriage, medical treatment and judicial matters. It is known that numerous protests and demonstrations have been organized by these persecuted groups within Russian society, yet they are suppressed on the grounds that the activists are “rebel gangs and outlaws, driven by rogue states that want to destabilize Russia and its promising future”. This tone is familiar and indeed very close to the same preamble used by Russia’s allies in the Arab world today, such as Iraq, Libya before that, and al-Assad’s Syria. These statements were met with contempt when they were used in the past, yet now they are being rehashed today.

Russia is run today by a brand of political thuggery that spawned from the womb of the Soviet Union’s repressive intelligence service known as the “KGB”. The Russian leadership ensures its control through a brutal, capitalist, mafia economy where anything goes, and likewise it plays on the rules of the political game and takes advantage of the democratic aspects of the media, political parties, parliament, the constitution and elections in order to consecrate dictatorship. A large group of Russian citizens have realized the damage and danger of this phenomenon, and they now know that they have fallen into a trap by the name of Putinist Democracy.

Yet after all that, despite the brand of political prostitution that Russia is flaunting with its shameful humanitarian record, the country today advances itself as a defender of human rights. Indeed, Russia’s laughable defense of human rights is likes someone who prays in the red light district!