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Updated 10:00 AM February 18, 2005




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Former editor denounces human rights violations

There should be a universal standard for human rights in the world to eliminate oppression—not only his country, but also other parts of the Middle East and south Asia, Javed Nazir told an audience Feb. 10 during the Human Rights Fellow Lecture.

"If you allow them they are going to grow by leaps and bounds,'' said Nazir of groups and governments that promote violations. "And they will challenge a very sane idea of human rights."

His lecture was titled Human Rights: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism.
(Photo courtesy Javed Nazir)

Nazir, a former editor for a pro-democracy, English-language newspaper in Pakistan, is the University's first Human Rights Fellow. The position and lecture were sponsored by the International Institute and the Institute for the Humanities, under the auspices of the newly formed International Perspectives on Human Rights program.

Nazir invoked brutal images of human rights violations in countries—such as Afghanistan, where women were killed in a former football stadium, and Egypt, where female genital mutilation was highlighted in a CNN report in 1994—as evidence that cultural relativism is not an adequate argument to support inhumane practices.

He called the treatment of women in those countries ironic since their societies consider woman to represent the honor of families and communities.

"This is a very strange concept,'' said Nazir, who spent 25 years as a journalist in South Asia, writing primarily on politics and social issues. "It's very convoluted."

In recent years, radicalization of religion, and its impact on societies in South Asia and Afghanistan, have been the major focus of his research and writing.

Nazir noted that the Middle East and south Asia have made great strides, but that the international community must still continue to press governments to ban human rights violations.

"There is hope definitely,'' Nazir said. "How can we transform them? There is only one way, reach out to their society and find the voice of sanity. There is always a small group and we should promote them.''

Nazir came to U-M as a Michigan Journalism Fellow as a Journalist at Risk in 2001 after the Pakistani government targeted him for things that appeared in his paper, The Frontier Post. He came with assistance from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Knight Foundation.

He currently is a visiting professor with an International Institute sponsored appointment at the University, having served as the Marsh Distinguished Professor in Communications in 2002-03. His course, entitled "Human Rights and Democracy," was taught through the Residential College this past fall semester.

At last week's inaugural lecture it was announced that Paul Huth was named the Human Rights Fellow for 2005-06. Huth is currently a U-M political science professor, who is conducting research on a civil war's effect on civilians, long-term public health in countries where a civil war occurred and what happens when outside states intervene in such wars.

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