Protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have led to the United States being condemned for racism and oppression in often-oppressive rival countries, including Iran, Russia and China.
Various foreign agencies publicized the widespread protests over the non-indictments of police officers Darren Wilson, in the killing of Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Daniel Pantaleo, for killing Garner in Staten Island, New York. They also expressed grave concerns over the police’s mistreatment of protesters, though many of the countries sponsoring the coverage are themselves notoriously heavyhanded in their suppression of dissent. (RELATED: UN Official Criticizes US On Ferguson)
On Sunday, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a rebuke of America’s “racist, inhumane crackdown on blacks,” with spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham asking that the U.S. “show respect for human rights and set aside its politically-tainted view on the issue.”
Iran is responsible for the imprisonment or execution of its citizens for such offenses as insulting Muhammad, attending a volleyball game and performing charitable work in the name of Jesus Christ. On Saturday, Iran denied bail for U.S. citizen and Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, imprisoned there on unspecified charges.
Elsewhere, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency quoted the Russian government’s human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov, who said that “this signals that the split in the American society and lines of tensions do not disappear but increase.” The agency also cited Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukashevich, who “would like to remind Washington of the need to strictly comply with its commitment to guarantee democratic standards and civil liberties.”
This was in line with the reports appearing in the Russian-language press, with Izvestiya reporting that the protestors “are demanding the protection of ethnic minority rights and comprehensive reform of the national police system,” and Rossiyskaya Gazeta highlighting New York police’s arrest of 30 demonstrators who “behaved themselves peacefully,” while noting that public reactions in Ferguson were more violent. Izvestiya also took the opportunity to publish an interview with Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of government-owned television channel RT, who airs concerns about freedom of speech in America, citing the imprisonment of RT-affiliated journalist Denise Reese in Ferguson.
Egypt took a similarly patronizing tone, with that country’s parliament proposing the formation of an Egyptian investigative committee to review America’s handling of human rights. Al-Monitor.com reported that this was likely a calculated political move, echoing American critiques of Egypt’s arguably heavy-handed treatment of protesters following the military’s expulsion of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last year. (RELATED: White House Inaction On Muslim Brotherhood Fuels Bizarre Conspiracy Theories)
China Daily asserted that the American justice system is “widely perceived to unfairly target and African Americans and other minorities,” and quoted a Staten Island protester who angrily exclaimed, “A black man’s life just don’t matter in this country.”
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera highlighted creative protests and slogans from protests around the country, including “No justice, no peace,” “Don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe,” and quoted at length from President Obama’s statement that racism is deeply rooted in American society.
Online supporters of the Islamic State got in on the action too, with one Twitter user comparing the modern mistreatment of blacks to the old practice of including them in zoo displays, saying, “It happens only in America.” Another posted photos of fires set by protesters in Los Angeles. Despite claiming to unite all Muslims regardless of race, ISIS has been seen to discriminate against Indian recruits, forcing them to clean toilets rather than fight. (RELATED: Indian ISIS Recruit: They Made Me Clean Jihadi Toilets)
Responding to poor human rights conditions by pointing out perceived racism in America is an old tradition in many countries . An old Soviet joke involves a man calling into a state-controlled radio show, and asking “What is the average wage of an American auto worker?” After a long pause, the host retorts, “But over there, you’re lynching blacks!” In Russian culture, the phrase (A u vas negrov linchuyut in Russian) has become a stand-alone punchline, an idiom amounting to “the pot calling the kettle black.” The Economist has described how “whataboutism” remains a key tactic of Russia’s to this day.
American outlets have also discovered some pointed international comparisons. Trevor Noah, a new South African contributor to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, made his debut in a segment on Thursday, joking that “I never thought I’d be more afraid of police in America than in South Africa — it kinda makes me a little nostalgic for the old days back home.” Noah went on to compare the apartheid system, under which he suffered as a mixed-race child, to America’s wealth gap between blacks and whites: “For South Africa to achieve that… we had to construct an entire apartheid state. But you did it without even trying!”
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