WASHINGTON – Last year's uprisings in the Middle East have motivated people around the world to demand more rights and could inspire closed societies like Iran and North Korea to do the same, the State Department said Thursday.
After years of denouncing rights abuses in Myanmar, the United States singled out change afoot in the Asian nation — also known as Burma — saying it is moving toward allowing greater liberties.
"From the revolutions in the Middle East to the reforms in Burma, they began with human rights, with the clear call of men and women demanding their universal rights," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at a news conference accompanying release of the report for 2011.
Clinton said the annual U.S. report, which have been issued by the department for decades, "make clear to governments around the world, 'We are watching and holding you accountable,' and they make clear to citizens and to activists everywhere, 'You are not alone, we are standing with you.' "
Chronicling rights developments in nearly 200 countries — improvements in some places and backsliding in others — the report highlighted the ouster of leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen as well as ongoing "heinous and widespread rights abuses" against those still agitating for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
"These still unfolding citizen uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have sent aftershocks rumbling around the world," the report said.
"Whether in grand movements or small acts," it said, "people in countries around the world are standing up and demanding their universal rights, dignity, greater economic opportunity, and participation in their countries' political future."
Calling the change "inspirational," the report noted that the evolving situation has created instability in many places. Thousands have been killed, others abused by security forces struggling to hold onto the status quo.
"In 2011 we saw too many governments crack down in the name of restoring order when their citizens demanded universal human rights and a voice in how they were governed," it said. "These acts of repression triggered more confrontation, more chaos, and ultimately greater instability."
After decades of repression, during which open political participation was not allowed, it will take time to create political parties, strong civil societies and other change, the report said.
Noting the release of political prisoners like Aung Sun Syu Kyi, the report said that 2011 "brought remarkable changes" in Myanmar, a country that it said was "long isolated because of the government's poor treatment of its own people."
The report said that Myanmar "offers an example of a government moving towards a model of greater openness, democracy, and liberty," adding that more is needed to address decades of violence against ethnic minorities and to implement reforms.
"But the size of the task ahead does not diminish the excitement of these first steps, or the sense of possibility they may inspire in other closed societies, such as Iran, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, or Sudan," the report said.
On the web:
The report www.state.gov/humanrightsreport.