“The eyes of the world are watching,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last Saturday when he announced a curfew in Ferguson, MO. Ever since the controversial officer-involved shooting death of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, police, National Guard troops, protesters, and a handful of violent agitators have clashed in scenes that remind viewers of footage from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarized police response in Ferguson has been widely criticized by American politicos, both on the left and the right, inspiring a national conversation over the militarization of domestic police forces.
According to ABC News, political figures from around the world have also piled on to condemn the harsh crackdown on protesters and journalists in Ferguson. Quite ironically, some of the voices calling for restraint come from Egypt, China, and Iran, nations that have often been criticized by US officials over human rights abuses. Though Russia did not join other nations in criticizing the US, anti-Putin activists in Russia did, fearing that Putin himself would point to police tactics in Ferguson to justify future escalations against demonstrators.
Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, tweeted, “Today like previous years, African-Americans are still under pressure, oppressed and subjected to discrimination. #Ferguson.” The barrage of tweets from his account continued, saying, “Racial discrimination is still a dilemma in the U.S. #Ferguson,” and also pointing out, “Look at how US govt treats black community! It’s not about 50-100 years ago but it’s about today!”
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency released an article condemning the US response to Ferguson protesters. “The Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if in a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home,” reads the op-ed. It also said, “…it is undeniable that racial discrimination against African Americans or other ethnic minorities, though not as obvious as in the past, still persists in every aspect of US social lives, including employment, housing, education, and particularly, justice.”
The Xinhua commentary also touched on the NSA controversy, “…the US human rights flaws extend far beyond racial issues. As revealed by famous whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US government has hacked into emails and mobile phones of ordinary Americans as well as leaders of other countries, including traditional US allies.” Criticism of US drone strikes came next in the commentary by China’s press agency, “What’s more, Uncle Sam has witnessed numerous shooting sprees on its own land and launched incessant drone attacks on foreign soil, resulting in heavy civilian casualties.” The piece concluded, “Each country has its own national conditions that might lead to different social problems. Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.”
Egypt’s foreign ministry also capitalized on the opportunity to criticize the US over Ferguson, saying it would keep an eye on the situation and urging restraint. A recipient of US aid, Egypt’s government was widely criticized, even by the US, for its own crackdowns on demonstrators during tumultuous protests in 2011 and 2013.
US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf defended America’s human rights record, claiming that the Ferguson crisis has been dealt with “openly and honestly” despite the realities on the ground that journalists have been jailed by police and authorities declared a no-fly zone over the protests, preventing news helicopters from providing coverage. She also slammed comparisons by reporters between the US and nations like Egypt, China, and Iran.
Additionally, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reminded American officials to respect the free speech rights of protesters in Ferguson, and Amnesty International responded to the controversy by deploying human rights observers to the US for the first time in world history.