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Time to fight Trump's war on human rights

Last updated on: March 17, 2017 11:41 IST

'Responding with outrage is not enough,' says Aakar Patel.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Usually this column appears with the disclaimer that though the writer works for Amnesty India, these are his personal views. This column is Amnesty's view.

For those who watched appalled as Donald Trump bellowed to victory in the US presidential election on a platform of fear, xenophobia and hate, there was always the consolation that his poisonous campaign rhetoric might be a mere vote-winning strategy.

Style over substance. Just words. And the hope that his demonisation of entire groups of people would not have any real consequences.

Yet, in India, people have watched with concern reports of hate crimes against Indians and people of Indian origin in the past few weeks.

President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric has clearly contributed to an atmosphere of xenophobia in the country, spurring violence against people from minority communities.

The new President has also swiftly backed up his hateful discourse with a series of concrete policy decisions that pose a grave and immediate threat to human rights in the USA and beyond.

A series of repressive executive orders passed Trump in his first two months in office will have far-reaching, catastrophic, consequences. And this is not just a US problem -- far from it.

The policies of Trump's White House will have a ripple effect in all corners of the globe, with the most vulnerable hit the hardest.

It should come as little surprise that Trump's two main targets in the Oval Office are the same ones he singled out on the campaign trail: Muslims and refugees. If you are a refugee who also happens to be Muslim, so much the worse.

With the January 27 executive order, 'Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,' Trump declared war on Muslim refugees around the world. Its haphazard implementation swiftly sowed fear and chaos.

There was a brief reprieve on February 3, when a US district court issued a nation-wide order blocking the blatantly discriminatory measure, but it was short-lived.

On March 6, following weeks of suspense, the White House issued a revised executive order.

Despite the tinkering at the edges, it is a thinly veiled affront to the judiciary and remains a Muslim ban by any other name.

With the stroke of a pen, the President again shut the door to anyone -- including refugees -- from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Not only are these all predominantly Muslim countries; they are places where most people seeking asylum are fleeing conflict and human rights violations.

By slightly narrowing the scope of the new executive order, the Trump administration may have remedied some of its predecessor's constitutional flaws. But it remains blatantly discriminatory and reinstates many of the most repellent elements of the original.

Trump claims to be blocking the entry of 'terrorists' who would harm the USA. But in reality, there is no data to support the view that refugees -- Muslim or otherwise -- pose more risk of committing acts of terrorism than citizens.

Trump also imposed an annual refugee cap of 50,000. With Barack Obama's administration having already pledged to admit 110,000 refugees in the current fiscal year, this order will affect 60,000 vulnerable people in 2017 alone.

The fact that this comes amid a global emergency in which 65 million people are displaced due to war and persecution underlines its callousness.

But in the era of 'fake news' and trumped-up 'alternative facts,' the truth is clearly of no interest to the President.

Desis in
Trump's America

Maulik Pancholy:
When a seat at the White House table becomes meaningless

NYC Immigrant Affairs Chief:
I was in tears

Deepa Iyer:
Why Trump's immigration ban should worry Indians

Lakshmi Sridaran:
When they came for the Muslims, where were you?

Aseem Chhabra:
This American is worried

Arun Venugopal:
America in the Trump era and what desis must do

Mira Patel & Gautam Raghavan:
Trump is wrong for our community

Vishavjit Singh:
A Sikh Captain America in Trump's America

For the refugees and migrants facing real life-and-death decisions, pretense and fakery are not luxuries they can indulge in.

Since the travel ban first took effect, Amnesty International and others have encountered tales of terrible suffering in its wake in various countries around the world.

Families rent asunder, lives put on hold, hopes of new beginnings crushed overnight.

Like the man who went to Iran for his father's funeral and was suddenly faced with the prospect of not being allowed to return home to the US.

Or the Yemeni family in New York whose one-year-old baby is now stuck thousands of miles away in Malaysia because the travel ban forced them to leave her behind.

Or the persecuted Sudanese journalist living underground in Egypt, fearing for his life, who is now questioning how safe Trump's USA would be to seek asylum in.

Then there are large numbers of refugees in other countries -- overwhelmingly in the 'global South' -- who may now feel abandoned by the international community.

Will Trump's travel ban prompt a knock-on effect of those host countries increasing forcible expulsions of refugees?

Amnesty International's I Welcome campaign has been a powerful platform for millions of global citizens who choose to stand in solidarity with refugees.

Trump's border security policies, based on hatred and fear, are a direct confrontation to that movement.

In the six weeks since taking office, Donald Trump has waged all-out war on human rights. Responding with outrage is not enough.

It is the time, and the responsibility of all who hold those rights dear, to fight back.

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Aakar Patel