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H.G. Wells and Human Rights

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, Literature, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on January 21, 2023 at 8:42 PM

By René Wadlow

2023 will see a year-long effort leading to December 10, 2023, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The effort carries the title “Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All”. Thus, it is useful to look at some of the intellectual preparations both within the League of Nations and among individual thinkers for the Universal Declaration. One of the most widely read was that of Herbert George (H.G.) Wells’ “Declaration of the Rights and Duties of the World Citizen” which is found in his book Phoenix: A Summary of the Inescapable Conditions of World Reorganization published in 1942. The Declaration of the Rights and Duties of the World Citizen had been translated into 10 languages and sent to 300 editors of newspapers in 48 countries.

H.G. Wells was concerned from the 1930s on with the ways the world should be organized with a world organization stronger than the League of Nations. Such a world organization should be backed up and urged on by a strong body of public opinion linked together worldwide by the unifying bond of a common code of human rights and duties.

At the end of the First World War, H.G. Wells was a strong advocate of the League of Nations, but as time went on, he became aware of its weaknesses. He wrote in 1939, “The League of Nations, we can all admit now, was a poor and ineffective outcome of that revolutionary proposal to banish armed conflict from the world and inaugurate a new life for mankind… Does this League of Nations contain within it the gem of any permanent federation of human effort? Will it grow into something for which men will be ready to work for and, if necessary, fight – as hither to they have been willing to fight for their country and their own people? There are few intimations of any such enthusiasm for the League at the present time. The League does not even seem to know how to talk to the common man. It has gone into official buildings, and comparatively few people in the world understand or care what it is doing there.”

Thus, there was a need for a clear statement of world values that could be understood by most and that would be a common statement of the aspiration on which to build a new freedom and a new dignity. Wells had a strong faith in international public opinion when it was not afraid to express new and radical thoughts that cut across the conventional wisdom of the day. He wrote in 1943, “Behind the short-sighted governments that divide and mismanage human affairs, a real force for world unity and order exists and grows.”

Wells hoped that the “Declaration of the Rights of the World Citizen” would become the fundamental law for mankind through the whole world – a true code of basic rights and duties which set out the acceptable shape of a just world society.

Wells set out 10 rights which combined civil liberties already common to many democratic states with economic and social rights which were often considered as aspirations but not as rights. Thus, among the 10 rights we find the Right to Participate in Government, Freedom of Thought and Worship, the Right to Knowledge, Freedom from Violence including Torture, along with the Right to Education, the Right to Medical Care, the Right to Work with Legitimate Remuneration, the Protection of Minors, Freedom of Movement about the Earth.

The drafters of the United Nations (UN) Charter in 1945 included a pledge by member states “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small.” Much of the debate from 1946 when the UN Commission on Human Rights was created until December 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed concerned the relative place of civil liberties and of economic, social, and cultural rights.

While the text of H.G. Wells is largely forgotten today, he had the vision of the strong link between freedom of thought based on civil liberties and the need for economic dignity set out in the economic, social, and cultural rights.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

UN Human Rights Rapporteurs Concerned by Rape, Forced Conversion and Marriage to Rapists in Pakistan

In Asia, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, Track II, United Nations, World Law on January 21, 2023 at 8:41 PM

By René Wadlow

The Human Rights Council, building on the earlier practice of the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, has a number of Special Rapporteurs devoted to certain themes – usually specific violations of human rights – or to specific countries. These Special Rapporteurs are independent experts selected by the Council. They usually report their findings at each session of the Council. When violations concern more than one issue, there can be joint Reports to the Council or joint Appeals to a government. Such a collective Appeal to the government of Pakistan sent on October 26, 2022 was made public on January 15, 2023.

The joint Appeal by six Special Rapporteurs concerned the sequence of rape of young women, forced conversion to Islam, followed by marriage to the rapist. The Appeal was led by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Exploitation of Children, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls, and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. The subject of the Appeal is not new, having been raised previously by Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), including by the Association of World Citizens (AWC).

However, the Appeal by the Special Rapporteurs clearly identifies a systemic problem on which the Pakistani government has failed to act. The girls raped are usually minors under 18 years of age and belong to Hindu and Christian minorities of the country, often rural and poor. Most Christians in Pakistan are converts from low caste or “untouchables” (Dalit) Hindus. Seeing no future within the Hindu-influenced caste system, they converted to Christianity which has no caste structure. Most of the Pakistani Hindus and Christians are illiterate and have little or no political influence.

A peace tour arranged by different social activists and minority rights activists in Lahore, Pakistan, with the participation of Muslim, Christian and Hindu youth. (C) RedMiNote

The Pakistani police and the court employees are agents of these human rights violations. Illiterate parents sign with a thumbprint document that they do not understand and are then filled in by the police to attest that the girl is older than 18, the legal age for marriage. If the girl or her family agrees to the marriage with the rapist, the rapist cannot be arrested and tried for the rape. As the practice takes place usually in rural areas, there are few if any NGOs to take up the specific cases. Urbanized Christian groups in Pakistan have made some protests of the practice but are often unaware of the specific rural cases.

NGOs have brought evidence of the practice to the attention of the Geneva-based Special Rapporteurs. When a human rights violation is given to the UN human rights secretariat, it is sent on to the Geneva-based Ambassador of the country mentioned. The Ambassador may not reply at all or more usually will reply saying that the facts are incorrect or deliberately misleading. However, as in the Pakistani case, the evidence piles up. In this current situation, there is, two months ago, a newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, formerly UN Undersecretary-General for Policy. The Special Rapporteurs may have wanted to see how he will act on violations of a powerful country. The situation in Pakistan merits close watching.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

World Citizens Strongly Protest Public Executions of Demonstrators in Iran

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, World Law on January 8, 2023 at 8:46 PM

By René Wadlow

“I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for death. I am not on his payroll. I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my enemies either”.

–Edna St-Vincent Millay, U. S. poetess.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has repeatedly called upon governments for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty – a penalty that extensive research has shown has little or no impact on the level of crime and too often opens the door to judicial errors and injustice. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, usually carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have State-sponsored “death squads” – persons affiliated to the police or to intelligence agencies that kill “in the dark of the night” unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision.

The January 7 hanging of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22 years old, and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, 39, by the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran is an obvious effort to crush dissent and demonstrations which have shaken the authorities, set off by the death of Mahsa Animi in September at the hands of the morality police.

The January 7 hangings follow the December hangings of Moshen Shekari and Majidreza Rahmavd, both 23 years old. 14 other persons have been sentenced to death and are at imminent risk of execution – mostly young men. More than 40 persons are facing charges that could carry the death penalty. The four persons hanged did not have fair trials, and the court-appointed lawyers had no time to prepare a defense. The AWC is devoted to universal application of human rights law which includes fair trials and adequate defense – trials carried out with established international norms.

A public execution in Parsabad, Iran on September 20, 2017. (C) Mohsen Zare/Tasnim News Agency

Kenneth Patchen’s (1911-1972) clear words have been a credo for the AWC, opposed to executions on moral grounds:

    “This is a man

     he is a poor creature

     you are not to kill him

     This is a man

     he has a hard time

     upon the earth

     You are not to kill him”

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Vital Role of NGOs

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 20, 2022 at 9:07 AM

By René Wadlow

When the Convention on the Rights of the Child was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989, governments took a major step forward in establishing a framework of world law to protect the basic dignity and rights of children in all parts of the world. Thus, on 20 November, we remember with gratitude those who worked to develop the concepts and reality of the Rights of the Child but also to measure the tasks that are before us, especially as members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This universal framework is based on the principle that each child should have the possibility to develop into an active and responsible member of society. The way in which a society treats its children reflects not only its qualities of compassion and protective caring, but also its sense of justice, its commitment to the future and its urge to better the human condition for continuing generations.

The effort to create a legal framework for the welfare of the child began early in the League of Nations efforts with the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 which was largely based on a text written by the then newly established NGO “Save the Children International Union”. Child welfare has always been a prime example of cooperative efforts among governments, scholars highlighting the conditions of children, and NGOs working actively in the field. The Geneva Declaration served as the basis for the UN General Assembly resolution on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted also on November 20, 1959. The 1959 Declaration was followed with more specific provisions of the Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, and the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict.

In 1978, some representatives of both governments and NGOs in the UN human rights circles in Geneva felt that it was time to bring together these different declarations and provisions into a single text that would have the legal force of a UN convention. The Polish delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights took the lead in this effort, but some governments felt that the different declarations needed to be closely reviewed and measured against changing realities. Thus, a Special Working Group on the Rights of the Child was created in 1979 under the chairmanship of the Polish representative, the legal specialist Adam Lopatka. Government and NGO representatives worked together from 1979 to 1988 for a week each year. There was a core group, including the Association of World Citizens (AWC), which worked steadily and represented a wide range of different beliefs, values and traditions, as well as a wide range of socio-economic realities.

As a result of serious discussions, the Convention covers a wide range of human rights which can be summarized as the three “Ps”: provision, protection, and participation. Each child has the right to be provided with certain things and services, such as a name and a nationality, to health care and education. Each child has a right to be protected from certain acts such as torture, exploitation, arbitrary detention, and unwarranted removal from parental care. Each child has a right to participate in decisions affecting their lives as well as in community life.

The Working Group managed to come to a consensus on the final version in time for the General Assembly to adopt it on November 20, 1989, the anniversary date of the Declaration. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is meant to provide guidance for governments to review national legislation and policies in their child-related initiatives. It is by examining national law and policy and the effectiveness of government structures and mechanisms that progress can be measured. The Convention also provides a framework of goals for the vital activities of NGOs. NGOs work on two lines simultaneously: to remind governments of their obligations through approaches to ministries, elected officials and the media and to undertake their own operational efforts.

To help governments to fulfill their obligations and to review national practices, a Committee on the Rights of the Child was created as called for in article 43 of the Convention. The Committee is composed of 10 independent experts elected for a four-year term by the States which have ratified the Convention. The Committee usually meets three times a year for a month each time in Geneva to review and discuss reports submitted by governments, once every four years. The sessions of the Committee are largely carried out in a non-confrontational dialogue with an emphasis on “unmet needs”. The discussion usually lasts six to nine hours for each country. The Committee members have received information and suggestions from NGOs in advance. The Committee members ask many questions and, based on the government’s responses, make suggestions for improving the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the country.

By creating a common legal framework of world law, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has increased levels of governmental accountability, bringing about legislative and institutional reforms, and increasing international cooperation. As James P. Grant, then UNICEF’s Executive Director, said, “Transcending its detailed provisions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child embodies the fundamental principle that the lives and the normal development of children should have first call on society’s concerns and capacities and that children should be able to depend upon the commitment in good times and in bad, in normal times and in times of emergency, in times of peace and in times of war, in times of prosperity and in times of recession.

(C) UNICEF ROSA

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

UN Highlights Rape as a War Weapon in Ukraine

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on November 16, 2022 at 8:41 AM

By René Wadlow

Pramila Patten, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on sexual violence in times of conflict reported mid-October 2022 that rape is increasingly used in the armed conflict in Ukraine as a weapon to humiliate and discourage the populations. There had been an earlier September 27 report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights setting out many of the same facts and calling for international action.

In the past, sexual violence had often been dismissed as acts of individual soldiers, rape being one of the spoils of war for whom rape of women was an entitlement. However, with the 2001 trials of war crimes in former Yugoslavia by the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, the first convictions of rape as a crime against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war were handed down against Bosnian Serb soldiers. Bosnian Serb fighters were charged with mass rape and forced prostitution involving dozens of Muslim women and girls, some only 12 years old. The case had taken five years of investigations and more than 30 witnesses for the prosecution. The three soldiers being tried were given a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

Since then, we have seen patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law, and since 2002 one of the crimes that can be prosecuted within the International Criminal Court. (1)

There have been reports of systematic rape in Ukraine since 2014 with the creation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk by both Ukrainian and separatist soldiers. However, little international attention was given to these reports. It is only with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on February 24, 2022 that international attention has focused on reports of rape especially in areas that were for a time under the control of the Russian military or the militias of the two People’s Republics. (2)

Unfortunately, it would seem that the armed conflict in Ukraine will drag on. There are few signs of a willingness for a negotiated settlement. International Humanitarian Law moves slowly. Rape as a war weapon is used in other armed conflicts such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Sudan, and Syria. Strong nongovernmental pressure is needed to keep governmental and UN efforts going on.

Notes

1) For a good overview of both specific armed conflicts and the slow but steady international response, see Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (Eds), Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2012)

2) See Amnesty International “Ukraine 2021”: http://www.amnesty.org, Secretary-General’s Report, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, http://www.osce.org

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Protecting the Environment in Time of War

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, Sustainable Development, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on November 6, 2022 at 9:01 PM

By René Wadlow

November 6 is set by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/56/4 as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Throughout history, in armed conflicts, water wells have been poisoned, crops set on fire, forests cut down, and animals killed to gain military advantage. Today, many armed conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources such as timber, diamonds, and fertile land and water.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has stressed that protection of the environment needs to be an important part of conflict prevention. The resource base that people depend upon for their livelihood needs to be safeguarded. Most recently, the AWC has highlighted the deliberate destruction of food-related resources in the armed conflict between the Ethiopian federal forces and the opposition movements in Tigray.

Humera in Tigray near the border with Sudan and Eritrea (C) Jnyssen

Since November 4, 2020, fighting has gone on in Tigray with the deliberate destruction of crops and agricultural infrastructures. UN-led humanitarian food relief was prevented from entering the area. Fortunately, at the start of November 2022, a ceasefire and a peace agreement facilitated by the African Union (AU) was signed in South Africa where the negotiations had been held. The AU has designated a team of 10 persons to follow up the process. However, the restoration of the agricultural infrastructure will be a lengthy process. It is not sure that all the factions involved will agree to the ceasefire. The situation merits a close watch.

There are currently other conflicts linked to natural resources, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The International Day must serve as a reminder, but efforts of protection need to be permanent. The AWC will continue its efforts.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Women as Peacemakers

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Human Rights, NGOs, Nonviolence, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on November 1, 2022 at 6:10 PM

By René Wadlow

Seeing with eyes that are gender aware, women tend to make connections between the oppression that is the ostensible cause of conflict (ethnic or national oppression) in the light of another cross-cutting one: that of gender regime. Feminist work tends to represent war as a continuum of violence from the bedroom to the battlefield, traversing our bodies and our sense of self. We glimpse this more readily because as women we have seen that ‘the home’ itself is not the haven it is cracked up to be. Why, if it is a refuge, do so many women have to escape it to “refuges”? And we recognize, with Virginia Woolf, that ‘the public and private worlds are inseparably connected: that the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.

Cynthia Cockburn, Negotiating Gender and National Identities

October 31 is the anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peacebuilding, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership. This historic Security Council resolution 1325 of October 31, 2000 provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support. Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the UN General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

Since 2000, there have been no radical changes as a result of Resolution 1325, but the goal has been articulated and accepted. Now women must learn to take hold of and generate political power if they are to gain an equal role in peace-making. They must be willing to try new avenues and new approaches as symbolized by the actions of Lysistrata.

Lysistrata, immortalized by Aristophanes, mobilized women on both sides of the Athenian-Spartan War for a sexual strike in order to force men to end hostilities and avert mutual annihilation. In this, Lysistrata and her co-strikers were forerunners of the American humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow who proposed a hierarchy of needs: water, food, shelter, and sexual relations being the foundation (see Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature). Maslow is important for conflict resolution work because he stresses dealing directly with identifiable needs in ways that are clearly understood by all parties and with which they are willing to deal at the same time.

Addressing each person’s underlying needs means that one moves toward solutions that acknowledge and value those needs rather than denying them. To probe below the surface requires redirecting the energy towards asking “What are your real needs here? What interests need to be serviced in this situation?” The answers to such questions significantly alter the agenda and provide a real point of entry into the negotiation process.

It is always difficult to find a point of entry into a conflict. An entry point is a subject on which people are willing to discuss because they sense the importance of the subject and all sides feel that “the time is ripe” to deal with the issue. The art of conflict resolution is highly dependent on the ability to get to the right depth of understanding and intervention into the conflict. All conflicts have many layers. If one starts off too deeply, one can get bogged down in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. However, one can also get thrown off track by focusing on too superficial an issue on which there is relatively quick agreement. When such relatively quick agreement is followed by blockage on more essential questions, there can be a feeling of betrayal.

Since Lysistrata, women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations begin, women are often relegated to the sidelines. However, a gender perspective on peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution entails a conscious and open process of examining how women and men participate in and are affected by conflict differently. It requires ensuring that the perspectives, experiences and needs of both women and men are addressed and met in peace-building activities. Today, conflicts reach everywhere. How do these conflicts affect people in the society — women and men, girls and boys, the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the urban and the rural?

There has been a growing awareness that women and children are not just victims of violent conflict and wars −’collateral damage’ − but they are chosen targets. Conflicts such as those in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have served to bring the issue of rape and other sexual atrocities as deliberate tools of war to the forefront of international attention. Such violations must be properly documented, the perpetrators brought to justice, and victims provided with criminal and civil redress.

I would stress three elements which seem to me to be the ‘gender’ contribution to conflict transformation efforts:

1) The first is in the domain of analysis, the contribution of the knowledge of gender relations as indicators of power. Uncovering gender differences in a given society will lead to an understanding of power relations in general in that society, and to the illumination of contradictions and injustices inherent in those relations.

2) The second contribution is to make us more fully aware of the role of women in specific conflict situations. Women should not only be seen as victims of war: they are often significantly involved in taking initiatives to promote peace. Some writers have stressed that there is an essential link between women, motherhood and non-violence, arguing that those engaged in mothering work have distinct motives for rejecting war which run in tandem with their ability to resolve conflicts non-violently. Others reject this position of a gender bias toward peace and stress rather that the same continuum of non-violence to violence is found among women as among men. In practice, it is never all women nor all men who are involved in peace-making efforts. Sometimes, it is only a few, especially at the start of peace-making efforts. The basic question is how best to use the talents, energies, and networks of both women and men for efforts at conflict resolution.

3) The third contribution of a gender approach with its emphasis on the social construction of roles is to draw our attention to a detailed analysis of the socialization process in a given society. Transforming gender relations requires an understanding of the socialization process of boys and girls, of the constraints and motivations which create gender relations. Thus, there is a need to look at patterns of socialization, potential incitements to violence in childhood training patterns, and socially-approved ways of dealing with violence.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed that it is important to have women directly involved in peace-making processes. The strategies women have adapted to get to the negotiating table are testimony to their ingenuity, patience, and determination. Solidarity and organization are crucial elements. The path may yet be long, but the direction is set.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

1989, l’affaire Salman Rushdie : Quand la France célébrait sa Révolution sous les feux croisés de l’obscurantisme

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on August 15, 2022 at 1:02 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Après les Etats-Unis en 1976, les Français ont célébré en 1989 le Bicentenaire de la Révolution qui a créé leur république, avec pour traits d’union entre les deux pays le Marquis de la Fayette, «héros des deux mondes» en France comme le deviendrait plus tard Giuseppe Garibaldi en Italie, et le fameux «Ça ira» de Benjamin Franklin, Ministre des Etats-Unis d’Amérique à Paris mais francophone malhabile qui, lorsqu’on lui demandait des nouvelles de son pays, répondait par ces deux seuls mots que les sans-culottes avaient fini par reprendre à leur profit. Mais en France, l’année 1989 fut loin d’être placée sous le seul signe des idéaux de la Révolution française tels que résumés en sa devise officielle – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Depuis le début des années 1980, la France était régulièrement frappée par le terrorisme lié au conflit israélo-palestinien, comme lorsque fut frappé voici quarante ans ce mois-ci, le 9 août 1982, le restaurant Jo Goldenberg dans le quartier juif de Paris. Depuis les élections municipales de 1983 et dans des proportions sans précédent depuis la Libération, l’extrême droite reprenait pied dans la politique française avec les succès électoraux du Front National, dénoncés ainsi que la complaisance du reste de la classe politique par Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne.

C’était déjà beaucoup, évidemment trop. Mais ce n’était pourtant qu’un début, et bientôt une France déjà en proie à ses propres démons allait se trouver prise au cœur de luttes d’envergure mondiale, luttes qui, bien que jamais vraiment disparues, viennent aujourd’hui se rappeler tragiquement au souvenir non seulement de la France mais du monde entier, avec l’agression de Salman Rushdie le 12 août dans l’État de New York.

La Dernière Tentation du Christ : la Contre-Révolution contre-attaque

Le réalisateur américain Martin Scorsese (C) David Shankbone

En août 1988, le cinéaste américain Martin Scorsese sort son nouveau film, La Dernière Tentation du Christ, d’après un roman de Níkos Kazantzákis. En rupture directe avec les récits bibliques, Scorsese y dépeint un Jésus vivant comme tout mortel, peu soucieux du péché ou de la foi, et qui prend soudainement conscience de sa mission divine puis entame un parcours messianique en s’opposant aux dirigeants mêmes du peuple juif dont il est issu. Devant les caméras de Scorsese, c’est Jésus lui-même qui demande à Judas, son premier adepte, de le dénoncer aux Romains afin d’être arrêté et mourir en martyr. Mais, alors qu’il attend la mort sur sa croix, Jésus se voit offrir le salut par un ange qui vient lui dire qu’il est Fils de Dieu, mais non pas le Messie, et doit vivre en homme normal. Sauvé par l’ange de la crucifixion, Jésus épouse Marie-Madeleine et fonde avec elle une famille heureuse.

A la fin de sa vie, Jésus appelle auprès de lui ses anciens disciples et Judas lui avoue que l’ange qui l’a sauvé était en réalité Satan, dont lui est venue cette «dernière tentation» de vivre en homme ordinaire et non en Messie. Mourant, Jésus rampe jusqu’à la croix dont Satan l’avait jadis extrait, dans une Jérusalem en flammes puisque n’ayant jamais été pacifiée par son enseignement. Il implore Dieu de le replacer sur la croix, afin de pouvoir enfin accomplir sa destinée. Crucifié une nouvelle fois, il sait sa mission menée à bien et meurt.

Cette uchronie religieuse soulève la fureur chez les Chrétiens à travers le monde entier, d’abord chez les Protestants aux Etats-Unis même puis, en France, chez les Catholiques, l’Archevêque de Paris Jean-Marie Lustiger parvenant même à faire plier le Gouvernement socialiste de François Mitterrand qui, d’abord partenaire du film, finit par jeter l’éponge.

A sa sortie en France en septembre, le film réveille un mouvement catholique intégriste que l’on croyait décapité depuis l’excommunication au printemps de Monseigneur Marcel Lefebvre et la mise au ban par le Vatican de sa Fraternité sacerdotale Saint-Pie-X traditionaliste et hostile à Vatican II. En octobre, un cinéma projetant La Dernière Tentation du Christ est incendié dans l’est de la France et, à Metz, la visite du Pape Jean-Paul II donne lieu au retrait du film des salles locales. Bientôt, le film est déprogrammé partout ailleurs ou projeté sous protection policière. Le 23 octobre, un commando catholique intégriste attaque l’Espace Saint-Michel à Paris, dernière salle projetant encore le film, blessant quatorze personnes dont deux grièvement.

En pleine célébration de sa Révolution et de l’Être suprême, divinité laïque sous les auspices de laquelle était adoptée le 26 août 1789 la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, la France découvre que l’esprit vengeur des Chouans de Bretagne et des royalistes de Vendée qui refusaient la fin de la monarchie de droit divin était toujours là, et que, comme leurs ancêtres révolutionnaires, les Français républicains de 1989 allaient devoir y faire face. Et à l’intégrisme catholique menaçant le Bicentenaire allait bientôt s’ajouter l’intégrisme issu des rangs d’une autre religion majeure de France – l’Islam.

Allah et Les Versets sataniques : les «intégristes musulmans» à l’assaut de l’Être suprême

En 1989, la France ne parle pas encore d’islamisme. Ce terme n’apparaît que l’année suivante, lorsque les premières élections libres et multipartites en Algérie voient non pas la victoire courue d’avance du Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), jusqu’alors parti unique, mais du Front islamique du Salut (FIS), parti prônant une application stricte de la loi coranique dans tous les domaines de l’administration et de la vie publique. Pour l’instant, en cette année 1989, la France parle d’intégrisme musulman. Jusqu’à présent, cet intégrisme s’est surtout manifesté à travers le terrorisme, non dans une moindre mesure en lien avec l’Iran comme en témoigne l’affaire Wahid Gordji. Mais la France est sur le point de découvrir que cet intégrisme peut aussi frapper là où elle l’attend le moins, sur un terrain où, ceinte de ses idéaux révolutionnaires, elle se croit inexpugnable. Le terrain de la culture.

Dès 1987, la chanteuse Véronique Sanson envisageait une chanson contre l’intégrisme religieux, racontant l’histoire d’un couple maghrébin se muant en auteurs d’un attentat-suicide par l’explosion d’un camion. Alors qu’elle entend intituler sa chanson Dieu, le chanteur Michel Berger, son ancien compagnon qui produit pour elle l’album devant contenir la chanson, lui suggère de l’intituler Allah en référence à l’extrémisme musulman qui, à travers le monde, s’affirme alors de plus en plus comme une «troisième force» entre les Etats-Unis de Ronald Reagan et l’URSS de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev. C’est ainsi que la chanteuse enregistre Allah, où elle s’en prend directement au Dieu de l’Islam pour les attentats commis en son nom par des fanatiques.

Véronique Sanson

Alors qu’elle s’apprête à donner un concert à l’Olympia, Véronique Sanson reçoit des menaces de mort lui enjoignant de ne pas chanter Allah. Le 14 février 1989, une fatwa est lancée contre elle avec ordre de la tuer. La carrière de la chanson s’arrête là. Mais pas celle de l’extrémisme se réclamant de l’Islam, car bien sûr, Rushdie est le prochain sur la liste.

C’est en septembre 1988 que l’écrivain britannique d’origine indienne, naturalisé américain, publie son quatrième roman, Les Versets sataniques (The Satanic Verses). Les protagonistes, deux artistes indiens vivant en Angleterre contemporaine, se trouvent pris dans un détournement d’avion et, alors que l’appareil explose en plein vol, se voient miraculeusement y survivre puis prendre pour l’un, la personnalité de l’Ange Gabriel et, pour l’autre, celle d’un démon. Ce dernier réussit à ruiner la vie, notamment sentimentale, de son comparse qui le lui pardonne toutefois en bon ange que, selon lui, il est devenu. Tous deux rentrés en Inde, le premier tue sa compagne avant de se suicider, et le second, jusqu’alors brouillé avec son identité indienne ainsi que son propre père, se réconcilie avec les deux et reste vivre dans son Inde natale.

Salman Rushdie

Mais derrière cette histoire de deux Indiens frappés d’une maladie mentale, servant de trame au roman de Rushdie, d’autres parties du roman s’avèrent plus problématiques, du moins pour les Musulmans les plus dogmatiques.

A l’instar de Scorsese mettant en scène un Christ détourné de sa mission salvatrice par un Satan habilement déguisé, Rushdie dépeint Mahomet, le Prophète de l’Islam, adoptant trois divinités païennes de La Mecque en violation du principe islamique du dieu unique, les trois divinités ayant dicté à Mahomet de faux versets du Coran en ayant pris l’apparence d’Allah. Le récit romancé de Rushdie amène ensuite des prostituées de La Mecque à se faire passer pour les épouses du Prophète, puis l’un des compagnons de Mahomet à douter de lui en tant que messager de Dieu et l’accuser d’avoir volontairement réécrit certaines parties du Coran en occultant le verbe divin.

Rushdie poursuit avec le récit, toujours fictif, d’une jeune paysanne indienne affirmant recevoir des révélations de l’Archange Jibreel («Gabriel» en arabe). Elle convainc son village entier d’entreprendre un pèlerinage en marchant jusqu’à La Mecque, affirmant qu’ils pourront tous traverser la mer à pied. Mais les pèlerins disparaissent tous, les témoignages discordant sur leur noyade pure et simple ou leur traversée miraculeuse de la mer comme l’aurait promis l’Archange Jibreel.

Puis Rushdie présente un chef religieux fanatique expatrié, «l’Imam», chef religieux en lequel est aisément reconnaissable l’Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, Guide suprême de la République islamique d’Iran, exilé en France jusqu’à la révolution islamique de 1979.

Après le tollé chez les Chrétiens contre Scorsese, c’est au tour de Rushdie d’enflammer le monde musulman. Au Pakistan, Les Versets sataniques sont interdits et, le 12 février 1989, dix mille personnes manifestent contre lui à Islamabad où le Centre culturel américain et un bureau d’American Express sont mis à sac. L’Inde interdit l’importation de l’ouvrage et des autodafés se font jour en Grande-Bretagne.

En février 1989, c’est au tour de Khomeini d’ajouter à la polémique en édictant une fatwa, littéralement une «opinion juridique», facultative en Islam sunnite mais ayant valeur contraignante chez les Chiites, appelant au meurtre de Rushdie et de ses éditeurs ainsi qu’à faciliter ce meurtre à défaut de le commettre soi-même. En Grande-Bretagne, le Gouvernement conservateur de Margaret Thatcher prend fait et cause pour Rushdie, qu’il place sous protection policière, mais un jeune député travailliste nouvellement élu organise dans sa circonscription une marche pour l’interdiction des Versets sataniques et un ancien leader du Parti conservateur, Norman Tebbit, sans aucun lien personnel avec l’Inde ou l’Islam par ailleurs, condamne et injurie publiquement Rushdie.

Là où Martin Scorsese continue d’aller et venir librement, Véronique Sanson ayant tôt fait de sortir de nouveaux titres et faire oublier Allah, Rushdie se trouve désormais prisonnier d’une alternative qui résume tout son sort – la clandestinité ou la mort.

Héritage humaniste contre héritage de haine

Devenu invisible et introuvable, Rushdie publie en 1995 un nouveau roman, Le dernier soupir du Maure (The Moor’s Last Sigh). Mais, pour avoir perdu en intensité, la menace de Téhéran n’en a pas pour autant disparu. Loin des regards, c’est désormais par procuration que Rushdie continue d’être attaqué.

En 1991, les traducteurs italien et japonais de Rushdie sont assassinés. Deux ans plus tard, un traducteur norvégien des Versets sataniques échappe de peu à une tentative de meurtre par balles puis un traducteur turc manque de succomber à un incendie volontaire qui le visait.

En 1998, l’Iran de Mohammed Khatami, Président se voulant réformiste, annonce la fin de la fatwa contre Rushdie qui, à son tour, abandonne sa vie en clandestinité. Mais en 2006, le conservateur nationaliste Mahmoud Ahmadinejad qui a succédé à Khatami fait marche arrière ; pour lui, une fatwa ne peut être annulée que par la personne qui l’a édictée, et puisque Khomeini est décédé, la fatwa est irréversible. Dix ans plus tard, la prime promise par l’Iran pour le meurtre de Rushdie dépasse les trois millions de dollars, notamment sous l’impulsion des médias iraniens.

Et le 12 août dernier, alors qu’il s’apprête à donner une conférence à la Chautauqua Institution dans l’Etat de New York, Rushdie est poignardé au cou par Hadi Matar, Chiite d’origine libanaise dont les réseaux sociaux grouillent de messages de soutien au régime iranien et d’admiration pour Khomeini. Hospitalisé en urgence, placé sous assistance respiratoire, il est menacé de perdre un œil ; le 14, son agent annonce qu’il se rétablit et respire normalement. En Iran, la presse conservatrice couvre de louanges Hadi Matar qui, ensuite amené devant la justice, plaide non coupable.

En France, d’aucuns convoquent aussitôt le souvenir de l’attentat terroriste du 7 janvier 2015 contre la rédaction de Charlie Hebdo, régulièrement accusé de s’en prendre systématiquement à l’Islam et aux Musulmans, en particulier depuis la publication dans ses colonnes, en 2006, de caricatures de Mahomet parues dans un journal d’extrême droite au Danemark. C’est toutefois après avoir critiqué non l’Islam mais l’islamisme, incarné par le parti tunisien Ennahda et une partie du Conseil national de Transition en Libye, que Charlie Hebdo avait connu en 2011 l’incendie de ses locaux à Paris. Quant à l’attentat ayant décimé sa rédaction, Charlie Hebdo le devait bien à deux terroristes résolus, deux frères membres d’Al-Qaïda en Péninsule Arabique, Cherif et Saïd Kouachi. L’Islam ne tue pas, l’islamisme oui.

Pour les Français, immanquablement, le souvenir de l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo en appelle un autre, celui de l’assassinat de Samuel Paty, professeur d’histoire-géographie victime d’un autre attentat terroriste à Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, en région parisienne, le 16 octobre 2020 alors que se tenait justement à Paris le procès des auteurs présumés des attentats de janvier 2015 dont celui contre Charlie Hebdo, en dehors des frères Kouachi et d’Amedy Coulibaly qui avait attaqué l’Hyper Cacher de la Porte de Vincennes. Samuel Paty avait été dénoncé par certains élèves musulmans comme ayant utilisé des dessins parodiques de Mahomet parus dans Charlie Hebdo, ce qui avait fait de lui une cible du seul fait de son enseignement, non contre l’Islam mais en faveur de l’esprit critique.

Étrangère à l’univers anglo-saxon de l’Amérique de Scorsese ou de l’Angleterre de Rushdie, la France qui célébrait sa Révolution s’était retrouvée victime collatérale des deux épisodes mais n’en avait pas connu de semblable pour ses propres artistes, notamment pas pour Véronique Sanson contre laquelle la fatwa aura fait long feu. Inspirée par le Bicentenaire de la Révolution, Isabelle Adjani, l’une des actrices françaises les plus en vogue à l’époque, n’en avait pas moins lu à haute voix un extrait des Versets sataniques lors de la cérémonie des Césars en 1988. Malgré tout, la France républicaine avait bien dû se faire une raison, constatant que les idéaux qu’elle célébrait et voulait universels ne l’étaient pas tant qu’elle le croyait et que, dans cet Occident qui regardait de haut un «Tiers Monde» auquel il imputait l’intégrisme religieux comme une conséquence de son sous-développement, ce même intégrisme existait aussi, non du seul fait de migrants musulmans mais aussi de citoyens de lignée locale depuis des siècles, non du seul fait d’un Islam qui, ailleurs, avait pris les armes mais aussi du même catholicisme qui, le dimanche matin, rassemblait les fidèles devant Le Jour du Seigneur sur la télévision d’État.

Triste préfiguration d’un monde qui, en quittant les années 1980 et par miracle la Guerre Froide, (r)entrait successivement dans la guerre «chaude» avec la campagne militaire internationale pour la libération du Koweït envahi en août 1990 par l’Irak, les guerres balkaniques avec camps d’internement et purification ethnique rappelant sombrement la Shoah, le terrorisme généralisé, ici islamique du fait d’Al-Qaïda et ailleurs d’extrême droite comme à Oklahoma City, et l’extrême droite au pouvoir, fût-ce en coalition gouvernementale, comme en Italie.

D’aucuns en France voudraient penser que tous les chemins mènent non à Rome, mais à Paris, et donc que tous les chemins en partent aussi. En 1789, la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen avait bel et bien résonné, pour sa part, loin par-delà les frontières du Royaume de France. Là où les textes constitutionnels américains avaient été scrutés principalement par les ennemis britannique et espagnol de la jeune Amérique indépendante, la proclamation française «en présence de l’Être suprême» avait permis au monde entier de comprendre qu’une nouvelle ère commençait. Deux cents ans plus tard, la fête de ce légitime moment de fierté pour le peuple français lui offrait tout le contraire, l’obscurantisme et la violence venues d’ailleurs convergeant vers Paris pour ternir ce moment de joie et ouvrir la voie à une fin du vingtième siècle qui ne pouvait que laisser craindre le pire.

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen adoptée le 26 août 1789 (C) Musée Carnavalet – Paris

Aucun respect du droit sans respect de l’écrit

Et le vingt-et-unième siècle n’a pas manqué de tenir les terribles promesses de son prédécesseur. Pire attentat terroriste de l’histoire en 2001, extrême droite au pouvoir dans deux pays d’Europe et ayant manqué de l’être aussi en France en 2002, invasion de l’Irak cette fois sans mandat international en 2003, tortures de civils dans ce même Irak l’année suivante …  La liste serait bien trop longue. Mais une chose est sûre, ce qui était au vingtième siècle le futur ressemble horriblement à ce qui était vu, à l’époque, comme un passé révolu.

Des écrivains comme Rushdie, tous les pouvoirs tyranniques en ont toujours emprisonné, interdit, torturé voire tué. Dans le contexte individuel de 1989, plus encore en France, Rushdie était devenu le symbole vivant d’un mal nouveau, menaçant un monde où le Mur de Berlin était toujours debout même si l’URSS vaincue en Afghanistan semblait à genoux. Mais avec le nouveau siècle est venue l’expansion de la nouvelle technologie, et avec elle, la possibilité d’être auteur sans plus devoir passer par un journal ou une maison d’édition, avec l’apparition des blogs et, pas toujours pour le meilleur, des réseaux sociaux. Et qui dit nouveaux moyens d’expression dit nouvelle peur pour les régimes répressifs, et avec cette nouvelle peur, de nouveaux motifs de répression. Publié sur papier ou autopublié sur Internet, qu’importe aujourd’hui, vous risquez tout autant de payer cher le moindre de vos mots contre qui veut régner en imposant le silence.

Active au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, l’Association of World Citizens ne s’est jamais limitée pour autant à cette seule enceinte genevoise, ayant toujours porté la défense des Droits Humains partout où elle le peut.

En Tunisie où, depuis un an, les initiatives du Président Kaïs Saied mettent à mal l’héritage de la Révolution de janvier 2011, le journaliste Salah Attia en a fait les frais pour avoir dénoncé ces dérives autoritaires en direct sur la chaîne Al Jazeera. Jugé sur ce seul fondement par des militaires en uniforme, il s’est retrouvé détenu à la prison de Mornaguia près de Tunis. Dans la Libye voisine qui n’a jamais su trouver sa voie nouvelle depuis la révolte populaire contre Mu’ammar Kadhafi, hélas devenue intervention militaire franco-britannique aux motifs plus qu’incertains, c’est Mansour Atti, journaliste lui aussi, mais également blogueur et dirigeant local du Croissant-Rouge, qui fut enlevé en juin 2021 par un groupe armé réputé proche des Forces armées libyennes.

Toujours en Afrique mais plus au sud, dans la Corne du continent, en Somalie où l’État central ne s’est jamais vraiment reconstitué depuis 1990 et la désagrégation du pays après la fin de la dictature de Mohamed Siad Barré, un journaliste indépendant nommé Kilwe Adan Farah fut arrêté en décembre 2020 dans la région autonome de facto du Puntland où il venait de couvrir une manifestation contre les autorités locales. Jugé lui aussi par un tribunal militaire, il fut condamné à trois ans d’emprisonnement pour avoir «répandu des fausses nouvelles et incité au mépris envers l’État». A ce jour, il purge encore sa peine.

Kilwe Adan Farah

Le terrorisme jihadiste en France et ailleurs l’a prouvé : ce qui menaçait Salman Rushdie n’a jamais disparu, tout au plus changé de forme. Mais aujourd’hui, là où un interdit fanatique peut toujours frapper quelqu’un qui s’exprime par l’écrit, l’interdit peut venir également des forces armées dans un pays cherchant sa voie constitutionnelle et, dans le meilleur des cas, démocratique. Quitte à oser vouloir faire croire qu’un écrit public dénué de toute intention malveillante peut menacer un pays tout entier de ne jamais (re)trouver une vie libre et paisible.

En France, en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis, mais bien sûr pas seulement, la loi permet de saisir la justice contre un écrit public et obtenir soit réparation si l’on est visé à titre personnel, soit condamnation pénale dans le cas d’un abus de la liberté d’expression internationalement reconnaissable comme tel, par exemple à travers la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Et ce sera toujours, dans ces trois pays et partout ailleurs dans le monde, une infaillible indication du respect de l’État de droit par opposition à la loi de la jungle ou à celle du talion. Quiconque se reconnaît Citoyen du Monde doit défendre sans faille ces principes, sachant que là où un écrit peut valoir la mort, il n’est aucune responsabilité envers sa communauté locale, a fortiori envers la communauté humaine mondiale, que l’on puisse entendre assumer à moins que ce ne soit, au bout du compte, en vain.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Garry Davis: “And Now the People Have the Floor”

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, Migration, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States, World Law on July 24, 2022 at 6:14 PM

By René Wadlow

Garry Davis, who died on July 24, 2013, in Burlington, Vermont, was often called “World Citizen N°1”. The title was not strictly exact as the organized world citizen movement began in England in 1937 with Hugh J. Schonfield and his Commonwealth of World Citizens, followed in 1938 by the creation jointly in the USA and England of the World Citizen Association. However, it was Garry Davis in Paris in 1948-1949 who reached a wide public and popularized the term “world citizen”.

Garry Davis was the start of what I call “the second wave of world citizen action”. The first wave was in 1937-1940 as an effort to counter the narrow nationalism represented by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and militaristic Japan. This first world citizen wave of action did not prevent the Second World War, but it did highlight the need for a wider cosmopolitan vision. Henri Bonnet of the League of Nations’ Committee for Intellectual Co-operation and founder of the United States (U. S.) branch of the World Citizen Association became an intellectual leader of the Free French Forces led by General de Gaulle from London during the War. Bonnet was a leader in the founding of UNESCO — the reason it is based in Paris — and UNESCO’s emphasis on understanding among cultures.

The Second Wave of world citizen action in which Garry Davis was a key figure lasted from 1948 to 1950 — until the start of the war in Korea and the visible start of the Cold War, although, in reality, the Cold War began in 1945 when it became obvious that Germany and Japan would be defeated. The victorious Great Powers began moving to solidify their positions. The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1991 with the end of the Soviet Union. During the 1950-1991 period, most world citizen activity was devoted to preventing a war between the USA and the USSR, working largely within other arms control/disarmament associations and not under a “world citizen flag.”

The Third Wave of world citizen action began in 1991 with the end of the Cold War and the rise again of narrow nationalist movements as seen in the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The Association of World Citizens with its emphasis on conflict resolution, human rights, ecologically-sound development, and understanding among cultures is the moving force of this Third Wave.

The two-year Second Wave was an effort to prevent the Cold War which might have become a hot World War Three. In 1948, the Communist Party took over Czechoslovakia, in what the West called a “coup”, more accurately a cynical manipulation of politics. The coup was the first example of a post-1945 change in the East-West balance of power and started speculation on other possible changes as in French Indochina or in 1950 in Korea. 1948 was also the year that the UN General Assembly was meeting in Paris. The United Nations (UN) did not yet have a permanent headquarters in New York, so the General Assembly first met in London and later in Paris. All eyes, especially those of the media, were fixed on the UN. No one was sure what the UN would become, whether it would be able to settle the growing political challenges or “go the way of the League of Nations”.

Garry Davis, born in 1921, was a young Broadway actor in New York prior to the entry of the U. S. in the World War in 1941. Garry Davis was a son of Meyer Davis, a well-known popular band leader who often performed at society balls and was well known in the New York-based entertainment world. Thus, it was fairly natural that his son would enter the entertainment world, as a “song and dance” actor in the musical comedies of those days. Garry had studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, a leading technology institution.

When the U. S. entered the war, Garry joined the Army Air Force and became a bomber pilot of the B-17, stationed in England with a mission to bomb targets in Germany. Garry’s brother had been killed in the Allied invasion of Italy, and there was an aspect of revenge in bombing German military targets until he was ordered to bomb German cities in which there were civilians.

At the end of the War and back as an actor in New York, he felt a personal responsibility toward helping to create a peaceful world and became active with world federalists who were proposing the creation of a world federation with powers to prevent war, largely based on the U. S. experience of moving from a highly decentralized government under the Articles of Confederation to the more centralized Federal Government structured by the Constitution.

At the time, Garry had read a popular book among federalists, The Anatomy of Peace by the Hungarian-born Emery Reves. Reves had written “We must clarify principles and arrive at axiomatic definitions as to what causes war and what creates peace in human society.” If war was caused by a state-centric nationalism as Reves, who had observed closely the League of Nations, claimed, then peace requires a move away from nationalism. As Garry wrote in his autobiography My Country is the World (1) “In order to become a citizen of the entire world, to declare my prime allegiance to mankind, I would first have to renounce my United States nationality. I would secede from the old and declare the new”.

In May 1948, knowing that the UN General Assembly was to meet in Paris in September and earlier the founding meeting of the international world federalists was to be held in Luxembourg, he went to Paris. There he renounced his U. S. citizenship and gave up his passport. However, he had no other identity credentials in a Europe where the police can stop you and demand that you provide identity papers. So he had printed a “United World Citizen International Identity Card” though the French authorities listed him as “Apatride d’origine américaine”. Paris after the War was filled with “apatride” people, but there was probably no other “d’origine américaine”.

Giving up U. S. citizenship and a passport which many of the refugees in Paris would have wanted at any price was widely reported in the press and brought him many visitors. Among the visitors was Robert Sarrazac (né Soulage), a career military officer who had been active in the French Resistance and shared the same view of the destructive nature of narrow nationalism and the need to develop a world citizen ideology. Garry was also joined by the young Guy Marchand who would later play an important role in structuring the world citizen movement.

As the French police was not happy with people with no valid identity papers wondering around, Garry Davis moved to the large modern Palais de Chaillot with its terraces which had become “world territory” for the duration of the UN General Assembly. He set up a tent and waited to see what the UN would do to promote world citizenship. In the meantime, Robert Sarrazac who had many contacts from his resistance activities set up a “Conseil de Solidarité” formed of people admired for their independence of thought, not linked to a particular political party. The Conseil was led by Albert Camus, novelist and writer for newspapers, André Breton, the Surrealist poet, l’Abbé Pierre and Emmanuel Mounier, editor of Esprit, both Catholics of highly independent spirits as well as Henri Roser, a Protestant minister and secretary for French-speaking countries of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Davis and his advisors felt that world citizenship should not be left outside the General Assembly hall but had to be presented inside as a challenge to the ordinary way of doing things, “an interruption”. Thus, it was planned that Garry Davis from the visitors’ balcony would interrupt the UN proceedings to read a short text; Robert Sarrazac had the same speech in French, and Albert Crespey, son of a chief from Togo had his talk written out in his Togolese language.

In the break after a long Yugoslav intervention, Davis stood up. Father Montecland, “priest by day and world citizen by night” said in a booming voice “And now the people have the floor!” Davis said “Mister Chairman and delegates: I interrupt in the name of the people of the world not represented here. Though my words may be unheeded, our common need for world law and order can no longer be disregarded.” After this, the security guards moved in, but Robert Sarrazac on the other side of the Visitors’ Gallery continued in French, followed by a plea for human rights in Togolese. Later, near the end of the UN Assembly in Paris, the General Assembly adopted without an opposition vote, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which became the foundation of world citizens’ efforts to advance world law.

Dr. Herbert Evatt of Australia was the President of the UN General Assembly in 1948. He was an internationalist who had worked during the San Francisco Conference creating the UN to limit the powers of the Permanent Five of the Security Council. Evatt met with Davis a few days after the “interruption” and encouraged Davis to continue to work for world citizenship, even if disrupting UN meetings was not the best way.

Shortly after highlighting world citizenship at the UN, Garry Davis went to the support of Jean Moreau, a young French world citizen and active Catholic, who as a conscientious objector to military service, had been imprisoned in Paris as there was no law on alternative service in France at the time. Davis camped in front of the door of the military prison at the Rue du Cherche-Midi in central Paris. As Davis wrote “When it is clearly seen that citizens of other nations are willing to suffer for a man born in France claiming the moral right to work for and love his fellow man rather than be trained in killing him, as Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu, Tolstoy, St Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and other great thinkers and religious leaders have taught, the world may begin to understand that the conscience of Man itself rises above all artificially-created divisions and fears.” (2). Others joined Davis in camping on the street. Garry Davis worked closely on this case with Henri Roser and Andre Trocmé of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Davis was put in jail for camping on the city street and also for not having valid identification documents, but his place on the street was filled with others, including a German pacifist, an act of courage so soon after the end of the War. It took another decade before alternative service in France was put into place, but Davis’ action had led to the issue being widely raised in France, and the link between world citizenship and non-violent action clearly drawn.

Garry Davis was never an “organizational man”. He saw himself as a symbol in action. After a year in France with short periods in Germany, he decided in July 1949 to return to the U. S. As he wrote at the time “I have often said that it is not my intention to head a movement or to become president of an organization. In all honesty and sincerity, I must define the limit of my abilities as being a witness to the principle of world unity, defending to the limit of my ability the Oneness of man and his immense possibilities on our planet Earth, and fighting the fears and hatreds created artificially to perpetuate narrow and obsolete divisions which lead and have always led to armed conflict.”

Perhaps by the working of karma, on the ship taking him to the USA, he met Dr. P. Natarajan, a south Indian religious teacher in the Upanishadic tradition. Natarajan had lived in Geneva and Paris and had a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Paris. He and Davis became close friends, and Davis spent some time in India at the center created by Natarajan who stressed the development of the inner life. “Meditation consists of bringing all values inside yourself” was a motto of Natarajan.

It was at the home of Harry Jakobsen, a follower of Natarajan, on Schooly Mountain, New Jersey that I first met Garry Davis in the early 1950s. I was also interested in Indian philosophy, and someone put me in contact with Jakobsen. However, I had joined what was then the Student World Federalists in 1951 so I knew of the Paris adventures of Garry. After that, we would meet in Geneva, France, and the U. S. from time to time.

Some world federalists and world citizens thought that his renunciation of U. S. citizenship in 1948 confused people. The more organization-minded world federalists preferred to stress that one can be a good citizen of a local community, a national state as well as a world citizen. However, Davis’s and my common interest in Asian thought was always a bond beyond any tactical disagreements.

Today, it is appropriate to cite the oft-used Indian image of the wave as an aspect of the one eternal ocean of energy. Each individual is both an individual wave and at the same time part of the impersonal source from which all comes and returns. Garry Davis as a wave has now returned to the broader ocean. He leaves us a continuing challenge writing “There is vital need now for wise and practical leadership, and the symbols, useful up to a point, must now give way to the men qualified for such leadership.”

Notes

1) Garry Davis, My Country is the World (London: Macdonald Publishers, 1962)

2) Garry Davis, Over to Pacifism: A Peace News Pamphlet (London: Peace News, 1949)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Frantz Fanon: The New Humanism

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace on July 20, 2022 at 9:42 PM

By René Wadlow

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) whose birth anniversary we mark on July 20, was a French psychologist, writer, and participant in the Algerian struggle for independence (1954-1962). He was born in Martinique, then a French colony which now has the status of a Department of France. The bulk of the population are of African descent, having been brought to the West Indies as slaves. Although the basic culture is French, some in Martinique are interested in African culture, and as in Haiti, there are survivals of African religions, often incorporated into Roman Catholic rites.

In 1940, as France was being occupied by the German forces and a right-wing nationalist government was being created in the resort city of Vichy, sailors favorable to the Vichy government took over the island and created a narrow-nationalist, racist rule. Fanon, then 17, escaped to the nearby British colony of Dominica, and from there joined the Free French Forces led by General De Gaulle. Fanon fought in North Africa and then in the liberation of France.

Once the war over, he received a scholarship to undertake medical and then psychiatry training in Lyon. His doctoral thesis on racism as he had experienced it in the military and then during his medical studies was published in French in 1952 and is translated into English as Black Skin, White Masks.

In 1953, he was named to lead the Psychiatry Department of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria shortly before the November 1954 start of the war for independence in Algeria. He treated both Algerian victims of torture as well as French soldiers traumatized by having to carry out torture. He considered the struggle for independence as a just cause, and so in 1956 he resigned his position and left for Tunisia where the leadership of the independence movement was located. As a good writer, having already published his thesis followed by a good number of articles in intellectual journals, he was made the editor of the Algerian independence newspaper. There were a number of efforts by the French security services to kill him or to blow up the car in which he was riding. Although wounded a number of times, he survived.

In 1959, the British colony of the Gold Coast was granted independence and took the name of Ghana under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a pan-African, having participated in a number of pan-African congresses starting in the 1930s. He viewed the independence of the Gold Coast as the first step toward the liberation of all colonies in Africa, to be followed by the creation of African unity in some sort of federation. Ghana attracted a good number of activists of anti-colonial movements. Fanon was sent to Ghana to be the Algerian Independence Movement (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) ambassador to Ghana and as the contact person toward other independence movements.

From his anti-colonial activity, he wrote his best-known study of colonialism, the mental health problems it caused, and the need for catharsis Les damnés de la terre, translated into English as The Wretched of the Earth. The title comes from the first line of the widely sung revolutionary song L’Internationale. For French readers, there was no need to write the first word of the song which is “Arise” as in “Arise, you Wretched of the Earth” (“Debout, les damnés de la terre”). The meaning of the book in English would have been clearer had it been called Arise, Wretched of the Earth.

Fanon was very ill with leukemia, and Les damnés de la terre was written by dictation to his French-born wife that he had married during his medical studies. He received in the hospital the first copies of his book three days before his death. He had been taken for treatment to a leading hospital just outside Washington, DC by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The role of the CIA in support of, or just infiltrating for information, the Algerian independence movement is still not fully clear. Frantz Fanon was buried in a town in Algeria then held by the independence forces. The 1962 peace agreement with France granting independence followed shortly after his death. Fanon is recalled warmly in Algeria for his part in the independence struggle.

The final four pages of Les damnés de la terre are a vital appeal for a new humanism and for a cosmopolitan world society based on the dignity of each person. For Fanon, there is a need to overcome both resignation and oppression and to begin a new history of humanity.

Note

Two useful biographies of Fanon in English are David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York: Viking Press, 1970), and Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon. A Critical Study (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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