From a Victim of Oppression to a Champion of the Rights of All
In the 1980s, Haetham Abdul-Razaq’s childhood was shattered by the sudden disappearance of his father. He was presumed dead. The young boy lived through the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran. He experienced the impact of the first Gulf War
In 2005, Abdul-Razaq had the opportunity to move to the United States. He was astonished by the freedom and democratic practices he witnessed. He moved to Texas, where he attended university and earned his Ph.D. in culture, literacy and language. Passionate about working with the community, he became a college professor, community service volunteer and human rights educator. Now he is also the president of the United for Human Rights Chapter of San Antonio, Texas.
“During my experiences with different cultures, systems and groups of people, I realized that one common and fundamental principle is crucial to the well-being and prosperity of people, as well as the protection of their dignity, differences and ability. That principle is believing, embracing and applying human rights to improve the world,” said Abdul-Razaq.
To make this a reality, Abdul-Razaq’s current strategy is to spread awareness of human rights to his inner circle, his community and the society. He does so by educating people about the meaning and the importance of the 30 articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the need to apply them, with the ultimate goal of embedding human rights in our daily behaviors rather than having them be just a luxurious topic of discussion.
The materials he uses? The United for Human Rights educational materials, which he incorporates into the curricula of his college classes to teach students about the UDHR. He uses these to draw a connection between social structure, social interaction and human rights. Through discussion, the 30 rights stop being simple words on a piece of paper but instead become colorful and vivid in the students’ minds.
“Of the 30 basic human rights, the one that stands out to me the most is the right to life,” said one of his students. “Under this most fundamental human right, we have the right to life, liberty and security of person. I think this right is even more important now than it ever has been, especially when looking at our country and its future.”
Another stated, “I believe the right of culture and art speaks to me the most. As a musician, this right has helped me personally when creating and releasing music. I have never had to worry about my work and my creation being taken from me. It is protected no matter what, and I believe this is an amazing thing in our society.”
One of the challenges Abdul-Razaq faces is how human rights are taken for granted. Some people are unaware of human rights violations, as they believe that human rights are identified and practiced in our society on a daily basis. To overcome this challenge, he identifies human rights abuses, whether subtle or significant, to explain the importance of protecting the rights of others.
Abdul-Razaq says, “The United for Human Rights materials are an excellent aid that facilitated my mission. The quality of the materials was amazingly accompanied by simplicity. We had no problem presenting the materials to experts, college students, youth or even a person with less information about human rights. The instructors’ manual was beneficial in training people to carry out a lecture, an event or a discussion about human rights.
“Humbly, we achieved so many great things. But, if I have to select one thing, that would be the establishment of a United for Human Rights Chapter in the San Antonio area—the Alamo Chapter of Human Rights!”
Through his community and nonprofit work, Abdul-Razaq collaborates with individuals, educators, officials, activists, groups and organizations to raise awareness about human rights, and encourages others to see the link between the UDHR and other important policies and practices.
To start a United for Human Rights Chapter in your area, visit www.humanrights.com/take-action/get-active.html.