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Contesting Human Rights

Norms, Institutions and Practice

Edited by Alison Brysk and Michael Stohl

Illustrated with case studies from across the globe, Contesting Human Rights provides an innovative approach to human rights, and examines the barriers and changing pathways to the full realisation of these rights. Presenting a thorough proposal for the reframing of human rights, the volume suggests that new opportunities at, and below, the state level, and creative pathways of global governance can help reconstruct human rights in the face of modern challenges.
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Valentine M. Moghadam

The Arab Spring reflected aspirations for new relations between states and citizens and between women and men. In most cases these aspirations were not realised, but in some countries women have continued to strive for empowerment and equality. Doing so requires overcoming outdated legal frameworks and social norms, along with limited opportunities for salaried employment. In turn, enhancing women’s economic participation through key social rights will have broader economic and societal benefits. Offering an expansive definition of citizenship, this chapter reviews the obstacles to women’s labour force participation and suggests a pathway toward their economic citizenship.

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Zeineb Alsabeehg

The chapter examines the sectarian nature of the politics of citizenship of inclusion and exclusion in Bahrain. After the eruption of the Arab Uprising in the tiny Gulf state in 2011, an increasing number of individuals have been stripped of their citizenship. They are predominantly dissidents belonging to the Shi_i majority population. The chapter looks into the causes and consequences of citizenship revocation, including the consequence of statelessness for the individual whose citizenship has been revoked and his descendants. Particular attention is paid to the death sentencing of stateless individuals, three of whom were executed in January 2017. Moreover, the chapter sheds light on the inclusionary policy of naturalisation of foreigners from Sunni-dominated countries. The chapter highlights how the authorities’ understanding of citizenship is centred on the idea of personal loyalty to the ruler, in contrast to a rights-based definition expressed by protestors during the Uprising in 2011.

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Mariwan Kanie

The main argument of this chapter is that both the state and society of Iraq have failed to create a common notion of Iraqi citizenship as a framework of moral and political identification. This structural failure is the result of specific technologies of rule and governmental techniques based on social, cultural and political discrimination, the denial of the politics of rights, the perseverance of systems of patronage and clientelism, the excessive use of violence, the unbalanced distribution of resources, uneven representation of Iraqi’s diverse population, and the near-absence of the language and discourse of citizenship, except in rare instances and among small groups of intellectuals. These technologies of rule were linked to various grand political dreams, such as pan-Arabism, Communism, one-party and one-man rule, mixed with more traditional forms such as clientelism.

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Zoltan Pall

This chapter examines how participating in the Salafi movement might influence the individual’s relationship to the state and his/her belonging to a political community defined by the modern concept of ‘nation’. Salafism on the discursive level offers a deterritorialised version of citizenship in the global umma, where membership is based on the purity one’s adherence to Islam rather than territorial and/or ethnic belonging. This chapter looks at how this idea of deterritorialisation translates in two localities where Salafism has gained significant foothold. In Lebanon, Salafis claim to be the vanguard of the Sunni community. Therefore, they need to negotiate how they envision the place of Sunni Muslims as constituents of a multi-sectarian state and as parts of the deterritorialised umma. Kuwaiti Salafis regard their country as a centre of Islam whose material wealth can be used to unify the umma through spreading the uncorrupted form of Islam. A faction of Salafis here ally with the ruler in order to gain the possibility to ‘Salafise’ official Islam in Kuwait. Furthermore, Salafis also emphasise the need for allegiance to the person of the Emir rather than belonging to a modern Kuwaiti nation.

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Peter Seeberg

The chapter analyses the challenges for Turkey and the EU in dealing with the migration crisis in a citizenship perspective, arguing that the migration crisis has resulted in a higher level of interdependence between Turkey and the EU. The main Turkish interests are to integrate the refugees in society in order to avoid social problems and conflicts with the Turkish population, and to acquire funds from the EU to cover the expenses related to the work. The EU shares the Turkish interest in maintaining an inclusion strategy, since this ideally leads to a situation where the majority of the refugees stay in Turkey. In a short-term perspective, the lack of a clear and well-defined status for the refugees in Turkey is seriously affecting their citizenship rights. In the long run, the external dimensions become more striking, where the lack of solidarity between the EU member states has consequences for the citizenship regime.

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Nathalie Bernard-Maugiron

The Egyptian Constitution of 2014 has been widely praised as a secular document that enshrined greater rights for Egyptian citizens. The Constitution of 2012, by contrast, was labelled as that of an authoritarian Islamist state, at odds with international standards of human rights. A thorough comparison of the two documents, however, challenges the binary narratives that surround them: there are more similarities than differences between the two constitutions, even though the religious provisions in the Constitution of 2012 received much attention. This chapter analyses the status of the citizen in the Constitution of 2014 by studying its drafting process to assess whether it was inclusive and allowed representation for a large number of citizens. An analysis of citizens’ rights and implementation mechanisms established by the Constitution will then follow. If the Constitution of 2014 enshrined greater rights for citizens than previous texts, they have so far remained as theoretical as they were under the 1971 and 2012 constitutions.

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Sylvia I. Bergh and Salima Ahmadou

Since October 2016 and starting in the northern Rif region, Morocco has witnessed popular protests fuelled by a widespread sense of hogra, i.e. deprivation of dignity due to nepotism, corruption and marginalisation. These protests can be considered a revival of the spirit of the February 20 Movement (F20M) of 2011, which led to the adoption of a new Constitution. Based on interviews with activists in Rabat, Casablanca and Tangier, this chapter addresses the following questions: How did these activists keep the spirit of the F20M alive? How are their ‘acts of citizenship’ (Engin Isin) helping them to claim public spaces? How do they understand the concept of citizenship as compared to how it is used in the state’s discourse? What are the state’s reactions to their activities, and how do the groups in turn respond to them? Finally, what, if anything, does the 2011 Constitution mean to these activists?

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Zahra Babar

Serving as a means of determining who belongs to the nation, and equally importantly who does not belong, citizenship is an integral part of modern state-citizen relations. Citizenship in the GCC states, however, has long been viewed as largely devoid of political meaning. Instead, it is often seen through a socio-economic lens that sees state-citizen relations as solely based on resource rents exchanged for citizens’ allegiance, despite the limited political rights accrued to them. This chapter will challenge this perception and argue that negotiations of citizenship arrangement in Gulf nations have always been political and a site of contestation for regimes and residents alike. In support of this argument, the chapter will examine the recent surge in citizenship revocations in the aftermath of the 2011 Uprisings, which served to revitalise and strengthen old arenas of contestation over the politics of belonging to the nation.

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Ruth Hanau Santini

The chapter investigates how conceptual models of state-society relations are formulated and translated into practice by the EU in its bilateral relations with the southern Mediterranean countries. It looks at the evolution of European foreign policy since the 2011 uprisings, empirically attesting the degree to which EU policies have been inspired by the new EU strategies. Different visions of democracy and citizenship can be extrapolated from EU documents, which are only partially then translated into practice. Among the different possible models the EU could have adopted in its democracy and citizenship approaches, rather than shifting from protective to developmentalist models, the EU has continued to focus on elections, procedural democracy, rule of law, civil society, restraining the more egalitarian and participatory aspects of democracy, and sacrificing the empowerment of both political and socio-economic rights on the altar of minimum advances in its human rights and procedural democracy agenda.