Foreign Policy Blogs

The Era of Shame

The Era of Shame

In a discussion I had with a local Government official, I was shocked to see how many Constitutional rights she was justifying breaking against refugees coming to my country from Ukraine. As someone who has close ties to this group from the past, I am well aware of what fair, good faith treatment of refugees looks like, and have represented many refugees directly in legal proceedings. The complete erosion of rights in helping the vulnerable in society is not solely a local issue, but has come from abroad since 2009.

There are links between one absence of assistance against the vulnerable and atrocities that have followed. President Obama himself noted recently that he should have done more to help the protest movement in Iran in 2009, a policy decision that had lead to an ever increasing morass of Government oppression in the region. The strategy Iran used in 2009 and is now using in 2022 likely contributed to acts by Syria’s Government since 2014 and even acts against Venezuelan protestors. Russia’s involvement in Syria at the time came out of actions by the US to pull away from the resulting conflict in Syria and Iraq despite it becoming very clear that ISIS was not only taking large swaths of land, but using extremely brutal tactics against minorities and opponents in the region. Many of these groups are some of the oldest cultures on the planet, and atrocities against them were ignored up until the point where it was clear there would be a Rwandan type genocide conducted if actions were not taken. Since then, the attention given to the Yazidi genocide was quickly muted, and the Kurdish forces that fought diligently against terror in their region are being attacked as we speak after Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman, was beaten to death by Iran’s Government. Mentioning her name at the World Cup would get you removed from the World Cup it seems.

The absolute blindness of rights for those outside of our communities did not start with Governments being serene in their choice to run their citizens down with horses, but was a well coordinated silence on diminishing rights in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, for those who live in a Commonwealth country, had the same political and democratic roots as Britain, Canada and Australia, and are clearly our democratic cousins. The manner in which Hong Kong’s democracy is being dismantled is as shocking as the level of silence the fall of this democracy gets from their allies in the West. While during the genocide in Rwanda there was initial attention given with little actual help towards resolving the conflict, those in charge have learned that if the issue is ignored, they can still win the next election.

So if silence on an issue can perhaps resolve the issue in the minds of those who do not understand it, will it repair the situation? Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the shooting down of an airliner since 2014 came mostly with absent actions as those directly affected began a life of horror. Silence on Afghanistan and the continuing rights abuses taking place there likely showed Russia that there would be a muted response in 2022. After a few short weeks of reignited protests in Iran, the issue is mostly being ignored in the West despite the clear benefits a democratic Iran would have on most of the world. This includes the consistent attacks by Iran on Kurdish forces in Iran and over the border in Iraq despite Kurdish resistance against ISIS, their help in saving Yazidis and even their kinship with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

Recently protests in China have commenced after a relatively short amount of time where the world was celebrating the Winter Olympics in Northern China. Despite atrocities being conducted against their own religious minorities there, in the colder regions of the country where those groups live, little to no information was spoken about detention camps for the Uyghurs because, Olympics. Silencing the voice of protests in Hong Kong will be applied to protests in China. At a certain point, explaining the drop in fuel prices will become complicated when you are unable to discuss investment pulling away from China due to the spread of the Umbrella movement’s values from Hong Kong.

Further to that direct effect on those in the West, the lack of actions to sanction Russia from its oil profits is consistently blurred as North American energy is refused to Western Europeans despite severe energy shortages in NATO member nations coming this winter. The addiction NATO nations have to Russian oil and gas has kept the Ruble high despite sanctions, while dropping the value of the Euro to an all time low. Displacing Russian energy profits is worth more than much of the weapons being given to Ukraine, and the war likely will not cease in full until Russia runs out of money in their war chest. If Europe is to avoid future wars, oil must be displaced using energy from democratic nations. Fuelling regimes in Venezuela that has one of the largest refugee populations in the world, or via Iran, that is murdering their citizens for doing things we do freely in democratic countries, will just contribute to future horrific conflicts. Silence on these issues have consistently created worse problems since 2009. It should not take the obvious abuse of refugees from Ukraine in a Western country to open a dialogue on why our era is one of shame.

The future generations will look back at our time as an era that was blind to mass atrocities and one that ignored the fall of democratic nations. These values are being fought for in the streets of Iran, Venezuela and China right now, but will not be heard because we systemically tune out the voices of our future democratic cousins. The absence of morals towards our democratic allies protesting in regimes abroad will shows we live in an era with all of the capabilities to communicate for the benefit of human rights, but instead choose to promote silence. Future generations will learn that our era is an era of shame.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration