The Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, delivered a statement at the United Nations Security Council, asserting the UAE’s commitment to stand by all individuals’ human rights, regardless of religion or ethnicity at an open debate titled “The victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East” and chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Laurent Fabius.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, briefed the Council at the outset of the debate, followed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein. His Beatitude Louis Rapha?l Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, and Ms. Vian Dakhil, an Iraqi Yazidi parliamentarian, were invited to make statements.
In his remarks, Secretary-General Ban announced his intention to convene a Middle East Advisory Panel on interreligious and intra-sectarian dynamics as well as an action plan to prevent violent extremism, which will be launched during the 70th UN General Assembly this September. He also announced that a high-level meeting on interfaith dialogue is planned for April in cooperation with the office of the President of the General Assembly.
High Commissioner Zeid noted that deliberate and systematic repression in Syria as well as protracted conflict in the region has forced formerly tolerate societies to retreat into ethnic and sectarian identities. Zeid further elaborated that fanaticism grows in states that betray their people and those which attack civil society activists. He denoted Daesh as proponents of a totalitarian Takfiri world view that wished to take the region into darkness. He urged that the situations in both Iraq and Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court.
In her statement, Ambassador Nusseibeh shed light on the horrific acts that are perpetrated by extremist groups such as Daesh, who cynically exploit religious and ethnic differences in order to further their brutal and violent agenda.
She also recalled that, although the youth of the Middle East have only witnessed turmoil in recent history, the people of the region previously formed “a vast interwoven mosaic of communities – characterized by different faiths, tribes and ethnicities living in harmony side-by-side”. She highlighted that, contrary to the image portrayed by Daesh, the religion of Islam holds respect for all religions. She continued, “As long as Daesh continues to survive, all communities are under threat – violent extremism knows no boundaries”.
She said, “Islam recognizes and honours the great faiths that preceded it. Throughout our history, religious minorities have been protected in Muslim communities from those who sought to harm them”.
Ambassador Nusseibeh described Jerusalem at various times in its history as an example of this peaceful coexistence of different peoples: “Jerusalem is a symbol not only of our shared history of spiritual coexistence – but also a shining beacon of hope that peace and tolerance can be achieved in the holy land once again”. The Palestinian question remains the biggest unresolved injustice in the Arab region and beyond and provides fuel to the recruitment efforts of extremists. She thanked the French Presidency of the Security Council for their efforts to lead in the resolution of this critical issue, and urged the Council to play its part.
Citing the UAE as an example, Ambassador Nusseibeh declared that it is possible for the “rich cultural tapestry of the Middle East” that once existed to be revived. “More than 200 different nationalities live and work and worship their own faiths freely in the UAE”, she continued.
The existence of such multi-ethnic, multi-religious diversity in harmony, she explained, is possible in the UAE due to visionary leadership and strong institutions. Further, these “pillars of stability” are reinforced by “educational opportunity, economic development, and respect for human rights, the rule of law and the prominent role of women as partners in this endeavor”.
In her closing remarks, Ambassador Nusseibeh offered several recommendations: She called on the Security Council to “consistently condemn the systematic persecution of minorities wherever these take place” and urged Member States to seek solutions through the Charter of the UN, “the paramount document of common principles” that the international community has at hand. She added, “Member States must have the courage to do what is right, and not only what is politically convenient”.
She also asserted that the states of the affected region must be consulted by the international community in finding solutions. She added that “secure and stable societies are the cornerstone of good governance, and we must help our region to stabilize during this turbulent period”. “Strong institutions and mechanisms that protect human rights and provide early warning to prevent and respond to violations must be built and maintained”, she concluded.