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Year of calamity and misery for Middle East region in 2015: Amnesty

Annual report says state of human rights in the MENA region worsened amid intensifed warfare and government repression
Syrian children Haisem (back) and Vissam (front) bring garbage to a depot on 19 February 2016 in the center of Gaziantep, southern Turkey (AFP)

In a sombre annual report Amnesty International has described a calamitous year for human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, with 13.5 million people displaced by war and five million forced to flee their countries.

The 400-page long report said that 2015 “brought calamity and unremitting misery” for millions of people, as it summarised violations of human rights and worsening government policies across the region.

In countries such as Syria and Yemen, armed warfare carried out by government and non-state forces has been conducted with “little to no regard” for the lives of civilians.

According to the UN, the total number of refugees and asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya combined is more than five million, while the total for internally displaced refugees is over 13.5 million.

Government crackdowns on political dissent were also rampant in the Gulf countries and Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. Vague defamation laws were used by the authorities to prosecute or imprison activists, poets and former diplomats.

“By the end of 2015, the heady hopes of political and human rights reform that the mass popular uprisings of the Arab Spring had aroused across the region four years earlier had been all but totally dashed,” the report concluded.

“Yet amid the gloom and despair, thousands of valiant individuals showed through their actions that the hopes expressed in 2011 remain alive, deep-seated and anything but an empty dream.” 

The organisation’s secretary general Salil Shetty described the state of human rights across the world as being in “jeopardy”.

“[Your rights] are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” she said.

“Millions of people are suffering enormously at the hands of states and armed groups, while governments are shamelessly painting the protection of human rights as a threat to security, law and order or national ‘values'" Shetty continued.

Empty promises of government reform and economic advance gave way to tightening state repression, armed conflict, rampant abuse of rights and the threat of attack by armed groups.

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