Omaha Public Radio News
2:36 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

The 13th Annual Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights featured Sarah Leah Whitson

Omaha, NE –
UNO's 13th Annual Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights featured a presentation by Sarah Leah Whitson.

Whitson is the Director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division. Her talk was titled The Black Swan of the Middle East and focused on the Arab spring and what it will mean for human rights and the historic events taking place in the Arab world.

Whitson says the Arab uprisings are momentous because of the extreme lack of political freedom in the region. She says the fact that people are taking a stand and overcoming decades of oppression and fear is incredible.

"The nature of the uprisings in six countries in the region is the best feature about them and also the most challenging. The uprisings emerged without any organized political leadership. There were pockets of eruptions in various places led mostly by novice activists, bringing to the streets first-time protesters. They were and are modern uprisings, like the modernity of the Internet, bringing the voices of many without a central core, uncensored and profoundly without hierarchy."

Whitson says the upside to the uprisings is also the downside. She says the lack of clear leadership to guide the political transitions, creates openings for political opportunists.

Ultimately, Whitson says this may generate chaos, disorder and new fears about what lies ahead.