In 2019, the people were back in the streets. From Algiers to Beirut, hundreds of thousands of citizens demonstrated to demand their basic human rights: social justice, dignity, and political freedom. Despite police brutality, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, assassinations and smear campaigns, young people across the region are determined to claim their future.
The years that followed the 2011 uprisings were marked by brutal repression that had crushed the dreams of a future of freedom and justice in the region. In Egypt and Bahrain, hundreds of political opponents, artists, journalists and human rights defenders were sent to jail for speaking up against their governments. In Syria, Yemen and Libya, devastating wars continue to reap the lives of hundreds of thousands, while pushing others to choose between forced exile or extreme insecurity and poverty. Countries that did not witness mass waves of protest in 2011, further intensified their crackdown of human rights. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two major opposing powers of the region, systematically silence dissident voices at home often resorting to executions – while carrying out proxy wars outside their borders and arming parties who perpetuate international crimes.
Amidst this grim picture that for the past five years had made the human rights battle in the region seem like a lost cause to many, the second wave of uprisings in 2019 has imposed a new reality that has broadened horizons and inspired new generations. Despite the specificity of each context, protesters in Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Egypt were determined to claim their rights at any cost, sending a strong message of defiance against their repressive governments.
The protests led by young women and men, share similarities in their demands; from an end to corruption, social and economic justice to political rights including freedom of expression. They echo the global outcry of a young generation, which from Chile to Hong Kong wants to reclaim its future that is threatened by rampant economic inequality, restrictions to individual liberties and climate change.
In 2019, protesters in the MENA region were met with significant government repression. The same patterns and tactics are repeated everywhere; police brutality, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, killings, and unfair trials. In Iraq and Iran, the crackdown took the bloodiest form, with hundreds of protesters killed and injured. In Lebanon, police brutality left hundreds severely wounded. In Algeria, activists were dragged to courts for offences related to their right to protest and to freedom of expression. While in Palestine, demonstrations against the Israeli occupation continue to be violently repressed by the Israeli government, as part of a decades-long crackdown on the Palestinian people.
Amnesty is committed to upholding the right of protesters across the region to express their grievances and ask for their fundamental human rights. We urge the authorities in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran to protect protesters and their right to peaceful protest.