Issue 233: Spanish PM Aznar & Afghan women’s equality advocate win UN Watch human rights awards

Aznar: ‘Nuclear bomb in hands of ayatollahs poses threat to stability of whole world’ (full speech below)

Dr. Massouda Jalal: ‘Women’s rights key to fighting extremism and militarization’



Spanish ex-PM Jose Maria Aznar (left) receiving UN Watch’s 2010 Guardian of Freedom Award; community leader Joe Tugendhaft (center); Executive Director Hillel Neuer (right). UN Watch annual gala, Geneva, May 27, 2010.
Photo: Oliver O’Hanlon

GENEVA, May 31, 2010 – Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Afghan women’s rights advocate and former cabinet minister Dr. Massouda Jalal were awarded human rights prizes by UN Watch on Thursday night, at the non-governmental group’s annual gala in Geneva, in the presence of more than 150 ambassadors, U.N. officials, human rights activists and community leaders.

U.S. Ambassador Betty King, the Obama administration’s representative in Geneva, delivered warm greetings, along with her colleague from Israel, Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar. Also in attendance were Ambassador Javier Garrigues of Spain, current holder of the EU presidency at the UN Human Rights Council, as well as Rwandan Ambassador Venetia Sebudandi.

  • Click here to watch new “Global Impact” video of UN Watch screened at the dinner. 

Mr. Aznar, who headed Spain’s government from 1996 to 2004, was awarded UN Watch’s Guardian of Freedom Award “for his leadership and courage in defending liberty, confronting tyranny and terror, as a champion of democracies united and strong.”

In his remarks, Mr. Aznar highlighted the threat posed by the Iranian regime to global security, saying “their pursuit of a nuclear weapon is not acceptable.”

While agreeing that “all diplomatic means must be explored in order to avoid conflict,” Mr. Aznar said that “doing the same over and over again while expecting a different outcome is proving rather ineffective. A psychiatrist may call it delusion. This is not the perfect state of mind when dealing with the brutal regime of the ayatollahs.”

“A nuclear bomb in the hands of the ayatollahs poses a threat not only to Israel but to the stability of the whole world… We should not forget that Iranian missiles can already reach the heart of Europe.”  (See full speech below or click here.)
elka_jalal_award_-_webDr. Massouda Jalal, the first woman in Afghanistan to run for presidential office and to later serve as its Minister for Women’s Affairs, was given UN Watch’s Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, a prize named after the late founder of UN Watch, whose historic role as an advocate in the U.S. civil rights movement was noted during the dinner by Ambassador King.

The UN Watch award was dedicated to Dr. Jalal for her “courage and dedication in fighting discrimination against women in Afghanistan. You give hope to your nation, inspire women worldwide, and are a hero for the cause of equal rights for all.”

Her personal story as a presidential candidate was documented in the 2004 film, “Front Runner.” (See film trailer here.)

Today, Dr. Jalal heads a women’s rights organization in Kabul that provides training and resources to women and girls in the areas of nutrition, education, job skills training and domestic violence.

“It is not the sole responsibility of the international community or the UN to ensure our freedom. But how can it be that under their watch, we women, and many men too, have seen their freedoms eroded so substantially?” asked Dr. Jalal.

“Women’s rights are the key to fighting dictatorship and extremism, militarization and warlordism. Women are the key to the future.”

As part of the award, over the next year UN Watch will promote and assist the human rights work of Dr. Jalal, which it has already begun to do by arranging high-level meetings for her with officials in Geneva and Ottawa. Dr. Jalal will visit Canada soon to testify before its parliament.

Last year’s recipients of UN Watch human rights awards were Esther Mujawayo, an activist for victims of the genocide in Rwanda, and Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the founder and president of Stop Child Executions.

 Dear Ambassador Moses,

Dear Ambassador Leshno-Yaar,
Dear Ambassador King,
Dear Massouda Jalal,
Dear Mr. Tugendhaft,
Dear Guests,

Thank you very much, Mr. Tugendhaft, for your kind words of introduction.

First of all, I would like to thank UN Watch for organizing this wonderful Gala, and to express my deepest appreciation for being recognized today as an advocate of freedom and democracy.

UN Watch is indeed an indispensable organization that deserves high credit for its work. The United Nations was created with a high moral ground in mind, though unfortunately its members have not been always up to the task envisioned by the founding fathers.

We also need strong leadership to face up to the challenges of global terrorism; leadership to update the security structures that for decades have guaranteed our freedom, such as NATO. We need a solid and renewed alliance to fight and defeat global terrorism.

It is also worrisome to see the growing alliance of authoritarian regimes and theocratic tyrannies around the world. We should pay more attention to what is going on in Latin America, where old dictatorships and their new disciples are taking advantage of our weaknesses to advance on their populist and socialist agendas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To meet all these challenges it is crucial to believe in the values that underpin civilization: the respect for the individual, their life and dignity, open democracy, tolerance and freedom.

Believing in the universal dignity of the individual and their fundamental rights is the only plausible answer to two major challenges to civilization: fundamentalism and relativism. Both are traps we should carefully avoid.

On the one hand, we have the trap of fundamentalisms, where ideologies based on closed and excluding identities want to drag us. That risk is present both in the Islamic world as well as in a significant part of other societies.

On the other hand, there is the trap of relativism, which leads to fragmented societies, lacking the firm principles necessary to set limits to power.

Relativism is corroding the international system from within, starting from the UN. The enemies of freedom have so many times perverted international bodies that somehow we have lost our moral clarity.


Ambassador Betty King, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, and UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

UN Watch annual gala, Geneva, May 27, 2010. Photo: Oliver O’Hanlon

It’s not fashionable to speak about Israel in Europe. To speak in defense of Israel only provokes negative reactions. Yet it shouldn’t be that way. The State of Israel was created by a decision of the United Nations and enjoys full legitimacy to exist.This is particularly true when talking about Israel.

To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace and within secure and defensible borders requires a moral clarity that has mainly gone lost in Europe—this spectre is also looming over the United States.

To place Israel as a key component of the West’s fate means to acknowledge that enemies aren’t chosen according to one’s liking and that the enemies of freedom are out there, hoping to carry out their plans.

To state that Israel has the right to live within secure and defensible borders means to acknowledge the right to have at one’s disposal the necessary tools to ensure one’s own defense since the world in which we live isn’t, unfortunately, the Garden of Eden.

Ambassador Venetia Sebudandi, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN in Geneva. UN Watch annual gala, Geneva, May 27, 2010.
Photo: Oliver O’Hanlon

To say that Israel, with virtues and flaws, has the right to be treated as is any other liberal democracy, requires that we acknowledge as our own the values and trademarks in which we have been forged throughout the centuries.

At the present time, the West is going through a period of enormous confusion regarding where the world is heading to, and what we want to be in the future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by the masochistic questioning of our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by rampant multiculturalism, which forces us to fall to our knees before others; and by an exacerbated secularism, which blinds us when facing the most radical eruption of faith known as jihadism.

To abandon Israel to its fate at this moment would clearly illustrate our inexorable and deeper sinking into that confusion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These hard times call for strong leadership. Leadership based on principles, values and vision, but also on the intelligence to use the tools that are at our disposal. It may be pertinent to remember here in Geneva that the United Nations was an organization designed precisely to serve these purposes.

It is time to go back to basics and to be truthful to that wonderful vision that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill set out back in 1941 near the barren shores of Newfoundland.

Thank you very much.

  • Click here to watch new “Global Impact” video of UN Watch screened at the dinner.
UN Watch