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Egyptian Elections and the Importance of Human Rights

Islamist parties, as expected, secured Saturday a majority of seats in the lower house of Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament, setting the stage for intensive political dealmaking before the legislature meets at the end of the month. Why has the United States been mostly silent on this issue? More importantly where do human rights come from and why are they important? Egyptian soldiers and police stormed pro-democracy offices on Thursday, targeting groups critical of the military rulers while reinforcing activists’ charges that the military’s harsh tactics are no different from those of the deposed regime of Hosni Mubarek. For businesses to operate efficiently, they need to know that basic human rights will be respected.

In theory, the development of human rights can be seen as a manifestation of man’s desire for fairness, order, and freedom. The protection of human rights, both domestically and internationally, is critical to the success of an independent state. Today, human rights come from the binding social contracts within and between modern governments, whether of a capitalist, socialist, fascist, or communist nature. Originally, however, human rights came from the first legal documents, such as Hammurabi’s Code and The Magna Carta, as well as from the first religions, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Following the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, human rights emerged in The English Bill of Rights (1689), the U.S. Bill of Rights (1791), and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789). Moreover, human rights come from the legacy of individuals like Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Simon Bolivar, and the Dalai Lama.

With the power of post-Industrial technology to engage in large-scale genocide, e.g. the Holocaust, it became imperative to study and understand the history and function of human rights more diligently. Thanks to American Exceptionalism, human rights continued to evolve after WWII through America’s foreign policy leadership, particularly in the adoption of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Despite the gruesome attacks on 9/11, the importance of ensuring human rights based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire should not be forgotten. Given current abuses in places like Sudan, China, North Korea, Iran, and Egypt, human rights should play a prevalent role in the 2012 presidential election. Unfortunately, the human condition requires constant protection of human rights, as exemplified by the Abu Ghraib fiasco.

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