This week our Amnesty society decided to take a step back and address the question we are frequently asked – what right do we have to make a judgement or interfere in the way other cultures function?
15 year old Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban on October 9th in north-western Pakistan, whilst participating in a protest for women’s education in Pakistan. So we asked ourselves whether we have the right to interfere with Pakistani culture and demand that they allow women’s education, or whether this is imposing our own western values on others. Furthermore, is Britain and the United States’ involvement in eastern countries’ affairs cultural imperialism or the upholding of basic human rights?
The core conclusions we drew where these:
– Western involvement in eastern affairs is legitimate so far as they do not send troops in but simply attempt to end the violence: a human right is to live in safety and peace and without constant fear of attack, thus ending conflict (not fuelling it by providing more troops) is an action worth taking.
– Arms embargos and attempts at aiding diplomacy or protecting the people whose safety is in jeopardy are legitimate acts of defending basic human rights.
– Cultural imperialism only occurs when a culture is forcing its own ethics and beliefs onto another system. However there are basic human rights that exist beyond culture and are rooted in our integral needs as human beings.
- The right to choose the lifestyle we wish to lead
- The right to live free from oppression
- The right to not endure bodily harm from another person or governing body
- The right to practise our religion in the way we wish.
Malala’s argument for women’s education was supported by many others in her country (including two other girls who were also injured in the attack) thus proving supporting her cause is not forcing one culture onto another, but supporting a cultural change which the inhabitants of the culture believe necessary. The Taliban claims that they are the voice of the Muslim world, but Malala and her companions are Muslim and disagree with the Taliban’s decisions and therefore they cannot be accurately representing the entire Muslim conscience.
Our protection of Malala while she resides in Birmingham hospital recovering is a protection of her right as a human being to free speech and control over her own life. The Taliban has breached these human rights through their violent attack on a 14 year old girl.
It is a fine line to tread between cultural imperialism and simply protecting human rights but in order to defend these rights it is necessary to negotiate it.
In summary: every human has the right to not be shot in the face for requesting an education.