In a perfect world, the money generated from a country’s natural resources would benefit the citizens rather than the politicians — but we don’t live in a perfect world. In fact, for some reason, countries that have a ton of oil have a tendency to completely ignore human rights. Maybe once you realize you’re sitting on a fortune, you start to think you can do whatever you want. Hell, for the most part, countries with large oil reserves can do whatever they want — and they’ll do it with the help of their best friend: the United States.
Some sort of international pressure needs to be put on the countries that treat their citizens poorly. There are some restrictions on citizens that can be overlooked, but threatening same-sex couples with 14 years in jail if they kiss in public? Refusing to allow your citizens to peacefully protest? It’s despicable.
Yes, every country in the world needs oil — but at what cost? Are Western nations going to continue to overlook the atrocities committed in these oil rich countries just because they lucked out with the placement of their borders? Probably.
But, not every country on this list is completely despicable. There are a few that have taken steps to prevent previous human rights violations from happening again. Unfortunately, others are showing no signs of improvement. Here’s hoping that changes.
When Libya was beginning to develop itself as a nation, the Libyan government decided that they needed to mimic Western countries by giving Libyans rights. The country was headed in the right direction until a man named Muammar Gaddafi tried to boost political participation and change the country for, what he thought, was the better. Gaddafi created “Revolutionary Committees” to get communities to vote and participate in the political process. A few years after their creation, the committees started to gain a lot of power in small communities, which led to them abusing that power. People were being killed, tortured, and harmed by members of the revolutionary committees if the person was against the idea of having said committees.
At one point, 10-20% of Libyans worked in surveillance for the revolutionary committees. The people working in surveillance would report to the committee on people that were speaking out against them or had unfavorable views of the committees, which would lead to those people being executed or tortured. Bounties were posted for Libyan critics, and people that criticized the revolutionary committees were publicly executed, the executions being broadcast on television.
The fourth-greatest oil producer in the world, the People’s Republic of China is the most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion people. There are talks that China will surpass the United States as the largest economic superpower in the world. It’s possible that this could happen in the near future. But for a country on the rise, China has a terrible human rights record.
In order to combat their rising population, China introduced a one-child policy. This led to parents, who favored boys over girls, to abort female babies or put them up for adoption. It was an incredibly short-sighted policy that put a restriction on reproducing — something that everyone should be allowed to do freely, so long as their body allows them.
China is no stranger to violating labor laws either. The reason that a vast number of products are made in China is because workers in China don’t have too many rights. They can be forced to work long hours for little pay and in ridiculous conditions. The factories are crowded, overheated, and lack proper ventilation. Some factories that offer accommodations for their employees have placed nets on the apartment buildings to prevent people from jumping to their death. If you need to go to severe lengths to stop your employees from killing themselves, you need to rethink your business model.
Afghanistan, like Iraq, has had a rough history. Insurgent groups have struggled for power in Afghanistan over the last two decades, which has created instability in the country. While human rights have improved since the Taliban have been booted out of power, conditions for Afghani citizens still aren’t great.
The media in Afghanistan is primarily government-owned, which, as stated before, is a problem. Afghanistan is also a religious country and punishes apostasy (atheism/political protesting) by death. Like many Islamic countries, Afghanistan doesn’t allow homosexual acts. Being a homosexual or a cross-dresser is against the law and is punishable by lengthy prison sentences. Under the Taliban, homosexuality was punishable by death.
In 2009, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the Shia Family Law, which essentially made it acceptable for men to rape their wives in addition to allowing grown men to have child brides. Put those two things together and you’ll realize that Afghanistan is more than deserving of its spot on this list!
Brazil is home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest oil discovery in the past 30 years — but Brazil is also a very corrupt country. These issues gained international attention during the preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The pockets of politicians were filled with cash, multi-million dollar stadiums were built, and majority of the country was living below the poverty line. It was a gross mismanagement of money that turned Brazilians against their government whom they no longer trusted. And, it turns out, Brazilians can’t trust the police either.
One of Brazil’s largest issues as a country has been addressing police brutality. There have been instances of the police torturing and executing suspects and failing to protect witnesses who speak out against organized crime. Many Brazilian militia groups use police officers as enforcers because who is going to stop police officers?
Nigeria used to be a lot worse. It’s still bad in comparison to the rest of the world — but it used to be a lot worse. The country began to turn itself around under a constitution that was created in 1999. There are some issues with free speech in Nigeria, but the primary human rights violations come from the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.
You may remember Boko Haram from 2014, when the group kidnapped 230 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok. These girls were taken to be used as sex slaves or sold for as little as a handful of American dollars. The group has also attacked secondary schools, forcing young men to join them or face certain death. The group is considered one of the deadliest terror groups, killing 20,000 people and displacing another 2.3 million since 2002.
There’s a reason that Egypt went through a revolution in 2011. Egyptians were tired of police brutality, electoral fraud, corruption, low wages, and many other infringements on their human rights.
The Egyptian government was notorious for putting a cork on expressions of free speech and protests. They were essentially outlawed. If you voiced your dissatisfaction with the government, you risked being thrown into prison, being tortured, or disappearing altogether. Criticisms of the president can result in imprisonment or crippling fines. If people can’t discuss what they are unhappy with, how can you expect your country to get better?
Russians are always seen as the bad guys. If you picture the bad guy from any 1990s action movie, he’s either Russian or working with the Russians. It’s probably because of that whole “cold war” thing that happened a few years ago. While you have to take criticisms against Russia with a grain of salt (because of the bias of Western media against Russia), there are a number of human rights infractions that Russia is truly guilty of.
To start, Russia is incredibly against the LGBT community. A number of athletes refused to participate in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics because of laws in Russia banning same-sex couples. Sharing propaganda of “nontraditional” (non-heterosexual) sexual relationships is punishable by 15 days in prison and possible deportation if the convicted person is a foreigner.
There have also been a number of journalists who were anti-Putin and have mysteriously died. The deaths were always ruled as suicides, but the circumstances around the deaths were questionable. Every year, a journalist critical of Putin turns up dead. It’s like clockwork. The press is primarily controlled by the government, so when someone goes against the grain, it raises a red flag. We should expect more from a first world country.
Finally, there are also allegations from that Russian troops abducted, tortured, and killed civilians in Chechnya. Journalists reporting on the Russian military activity in Chechnya were killed as well.
Conflicts in Syria have been on the rise since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011. The country is a war zone, and as you are aware, millions of Syrians are seeking refuge in countries around the world.
The human rights violations began when a state of emergency was put in effect in Syria from 1963 until 2011. Essentially, security forces were able to arrest and detain anyone that they wanted, for however long they wanted.
Recently, Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad stepped on the toes of the United States by using chemical weapons on his own citizens. Through an airstrike, the Syrian military released a chemical on the town of Khan Shaykhun, killing 74 people and injuring more than 557. It’s the deadliest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War since 2013. Three days after the attack, President Trump ordered 59 cruise missiles to be launched at Shayrat Airbase, which was believed to be the base for the aircraft used in the chemical attack.
7. The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is one of the flashiest countries in the world. If the world was a high school, UAE would be the kid who inherited a fortune from his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. The capital of The United Arab Emirates, Dubai, tries to present itself as one of the most luxurious cities in the world. You can buy gold bars in vending machines, people. They built an archipelago known as The World Islands that consists of 300 islands, which have essentially turned out to be a giant waste of money. But Dubai doesn’t care — because they have oil money.
Like a few other countries on this list, UAE has a tendency to make journalists disappear. To say they lack freedom of the press is an understatement, and the country is appallingly far behind in LGBT rights. Furthermore, kissing in public is illegal and can lead to deportation for foreign travelers. To top it all off, like most of the seemingly luxurious areas of the world, Dubai was built by migrant workers who are subjected to lax labor laws. Oftentimes, these migrant workers have their passports withheld, so they cannot leave the country, are denied payment from their employer, and are forced to work long hours.
6. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is ranked as one of the worst countries for political and civil rights, according to Freedom House. It’s a little offensive that a country with such a horrible human rights track record is such a close ally of the United States, but that’s what happens when a country has oil. They can do pretty much whatever they want.
Public executions are still a regular event in Saudi Arabia. They are one of four countries around the world that still execute criminals publicly. People found guilty of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug use, apostasy, adultery, and witchcraft (yeah, seriously) may find themselves executed in public by stoning, firing squad, or beheading.
In addition to public executions, rich Saudi men are known to set up temporary marriages with females from Yemen and Indonesia. I neglect to use the word “women” because girls as young as 7 are married off to wealthy Saudi men. These girls often become sex slaves, are forced into domestic labor, or are forced to prostitute themselves.
Canada has done a really good job at rebranding itself as a progressive country that is always improving the human rights of its citizens. However, if you know anything about Canadian history, you’ll know that this wasn’t always the case.
Starting in the 1800s, the Canadian government decided that they needed to assimilate the aboriginal people into Christian culture. Aboriginal children and teenagers were taken from their communities and placed in residential schools for majority of the year. While at these schools, the children were forced to speak English and not allowed to communicate with their families. The children were often subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse while attending the residential schools. In some instances, young children would return to their families and would be unable to communicate with their families because they had forgotten how to speak their native tongue. The last residential school was closed in 1996.
During WWI, 4,000 Ukrainians living in Canada were put into internment camps for the duration of the war. In WWII, Japanese Canadians were held in similar internment camps. They were told that their possessions would be returned to them after the war ended, but it was later revealed that their possessions had been sold at auctions.
Iran has been the subject of a lot of controversy in recent years. Primarily, the international community was outraged that Iran began experimenting with nuclear power and dabbled in the idea of arming themselves with nukes. The international community pressured Iran to stop their nuclear expansion. However, a lot of millennials don’t realize that the government in Iran has done some questionable things outside of nuclear energy.
In 1988, thousands of political protesters were killed inside Iranian jails. The protesters were said to have undergone unfair trials and had not been sentenced to death. It is well documented that Iran actively crushes political protests against the government. Removing a citizen’s right to criticize the government and the right to peacefully protest are among the most despicable things a government can do. It’s like getting your older brother to beat up a kid in your grade because that kid didn’t want to be friends with you.
The people of Iraq have had tough lives. The country has seemingly gone through power struggles every decade. Sometimes, it seems like there will never be stability in Iraq.
On top of struggling to find a government that the people can trust, there have been countless war crimes committed within Iraq. Some of these war crimes have been committed by insurgent groups, but quite a few of them have been committed by soldiers of the coalition of countries that said they were going to help the people of Iraq — you know, countries like the United States and Britain.
Some of these war crimes include, but are not limited to, torturing citizens for information, executing citizens (or anyone suspected of being an insurgent), and the murder of people under mysterious circumstances. For some reason, during the Iraq war, Western governments thought it was acceptable to torture the people of Iraq and wrongfully imprison them in the name of freedom. Oh, the irony.
Kuwait is a country that isn’t on the radar of a lot of people. Hell, most people probably couldn’t point out Kuwait on a map. However, Kuwait is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to human trafficking, according to the United States Department of State.
Many migrant workers are lured into Kuwait by the promise of high wages only to find out that once they started working, they rarely got paid. Additionally, the workers face physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats, and confinement to their home. Oftentimes, employers withhold the passports of migrant workers so that they’re unable to leave the country. Employers are essentially trapping migrant workers within the country, and the government is turning a blind eye. Don’t expect a foreign intervention any time soon — Kuwait is home to 10% of the world’s oil reserves. It’s amazing, really, considering that Kuwait is only slightly larger than Hawaii.
The government in Qatar claims that they are setting the benchmark for human rights when it comes to the treatment of laborers — and nobody believes them.
The appalling working conditions in Qatar attracted the attention of international media after a number of migrant workers died while building stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The fact that Qatar is hosting the world cup is despicable enough because it’s a blatant example of FIFA being bought — but that’s for another article.
It’s a country that seems great on paper. With 13% of all of the world’s oil, the country is one of the richest countries per capita. Allegedly, nobody lives below the poverty line, and less than 1% of the population are unemployed. That said, the reality is that a large portion of the population of Qatar, estimated to be as high as 50%, are migrant workers.
Migrant workers are lured into Qatar by the promise of high-paying jobs in a country with a booming economy. However, when they arrive, they are given low-paying, sometimes non-paying, jobs, and their lives are treated as disposable. The working conditions in Qatar are so terrible that an estimated 4,000 people will die while building the arenas for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
I sure as hell hope that Qatar isn’t setting the benchmark for the treatment of laborers. Because if they are, we’re screwed.