OP-ED: Having Faith in Fantasy: Why Universalism is the Future of International Human Rights

Source: 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

By Alisha Saxena
Contributing Writer

In the midst of extensive debates on how to actualize the power of international human rights law in the global community, two factions of thought have emerged: universalism and relativism. They differ not only in their definition of human rights, but also in their methodology to develop and execute human rights policies. As indicated in its name, universalism stresses that human rights are universal, in that they can and should apply to every individual in the world regardless of religious, cultural, or other differences; thus, its proponents believe in the power of international human rights legislation.

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Refugee Lives: Trauma, Celebrations, and Limbo

Photo by Alex Gunn showing graffiti art by refugees in the Zaatari Refugee Camp.
By Michael Murphy
Staff Writer

In 2011, the Syrian Civil War placed refugees on the global stage. Amid al-Assad’s barrel bombs, The Syrian Refugee Crisis was born. Videos depicting thousands of people fleeing their homes filled the airwaves. It wasn’t the first case of forced displacement, but European countries reeled from the sudden surge of humanitarian need all the same, with each country giving a kneejerk reaction on how to handle the hundreds of thousands of newcomers fleeing violence. Meanwhile, millions fled to neighboring countries–Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan—each already struggling with the refugees of the wars in the previous century. Before long, attention turned to North Africa. Images of rubber boats filled to the brim with desperate souls being tossed on the waves of the Mediterranean became unavoidable. Finally, in 2015, the image of Alan Kurdi, a young boy whose body lay on the beach after having drowned on the journey from Turkey to Europe, drew virulent international outrage.

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War, Sea, and Wall: The Triple Tragedy of Refugees Fleeing to Greece

Kara Tepe Refugee Camp on the Greek island of Lesbos by United Nations Photo

by Raafiya Ali Khan
Staff Writer

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sea as the continuous body of saltwater that covers the greater part of the earth’s surface. While the literal meaning of sea can be discovered easily by just a few clicks on the internet, it symbolizes much more than merely a body of water for those attempting to traverse its treacherous waves. The sea is a natural paradox; it is used as a means of survival for most, yet it can also lead to the ultimate end: a watery death. Refugees know the risk of maritime travel, yet choose to sail in dangerous conditions, hoping to arrive at lands that may promise them a better future, rather than the war-torn ones they have left behind. As of 2018, most refugees arriving on Greece’s shores and applying for asylum are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, escaping a civil war, as in Syria’s case, or violence resulting from domestic unrest and political crises. The most prominent example of the perils refugees face is encapsulated in the 2016 Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini’s story. 

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