Trump’s victory: a human rights threat

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© FIDH - Andrew Knobloch

Interview of FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos by Angeliki Kougiannou for the Huffington Post in Greek

What will be the impact of Trump’s victory on human rights? We all have heard his views on women, gays and immigrants?

Insecurity, danger and unpredictable circumstances: definitely Trump’s victory signals a retreat. On the other hand I am not sure whether we should position the president of the US on the same level with the president of Philippines or Turkey, because this might lead Trump to act in even more unpredictable ways. The “checks and balances” system in the US might prevent the worst outcomes, but we shouldn’t be complacent. In the early 1930s many, in Germany and across the world, underestimated Hitler and now we all know the outcome of this stance. Some politicians say things that they do not believe and there are others who say what they actually believe. If Trump falls in the second category it becomes apparent that we are facing a serious problem. And to be frank, I think we are already facing a serious challenge.

And what about consequences on a global scale? Is this a sad day for the world?

We can be sure of one thing: xenophobia and islamophobia are entering the arsenal of a superpower and this development potentially endangers the rest of the world. Think of Turkey and the impact of its policies in the region and just imagine the power of the United States in comparison. Racism infiltrating a society is a concerning development, but when racism becomes part of the state ideology then one should be really alarmed. This is why Trump is seen as the ideal president by the reactionary and xenophobic political movements in Europe- from Eastern Europe and Greece to France and the U.K. What is at stake here is not solely the rise of the extreme right. It refers to the direct relation between the leader and the masses, a relation that is based on passion in a way that has been forgotten by the established, and introvert, elites. This explains why they have been surprised every single time from Brexit to Trump. Who really believes that famous actors and stars can convince a society against Trump? I really wonder who thought of this strategy. People voting for Trump were fed-up with all this. When the establishment is trying to implement its will, the people react. You can call it populism or in any other way, but I think we have a message here: a painful, unpleasant and dangerous one. And before deleting this message, you are obliged to listen to it. Or to put it better, in order to delete it (and make sure you do not receive it again) you have to listen to it carefully. No matter how hard this is.

Is this a message for a return to the nation-state? To what extent are you concerned about the rise of nationalism?

The issue here is that the nation is becoming a suitable vehicle for promoting intolerance and fear that in turn lead to the extreme right. Europe has witnessed this in the past and has paid a heavy price. The United States has not realized (for historical and geographical reasons to begin with) the catastrophic consequences of nationalism. The extreme right though does not rely solely on nationalism: racism, sexism and xenophobia are equally important. We have to be alarmed and combat these –isms. I am not optimistic, but I still hope. There is no other way.

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