Today is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, which came into existence on 24th October 1945 at a congress in San Francisco. Three years later the UN General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
|Faisal Trad with Michael Møller|
A month ago, the Saudi ambassador to Geneva, Faisal Trad, was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council committee which appoints ‘independent experts’. Saudi Arabia has great expertise in human rights violations to offer. This year it has beheaded more individuals than ISIS, lashed blogger Raif Badawi for ‘apostasy’, and done absolutely nothing to prevent the Female Genital Mutilation rampant there.
I happen to be going to Geneva next week. If I bump into Trad I will be wishing the UN Happy Anniversary and reminding him of two articles in the Universal Declaration:
19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
|Edythe Olive, Suffragette Medea in Murray's translation (1907)|
I have been focussed on the UN since I was appointed chair of the Gilbert Murray Trust, which offers bursaries to support people promoting either the work of the UN or the study of ancient Greece (please do look at website and apply). Murray was a brilliant academic and Professor of Greek who never forgot that intellectuals have a responsibility to offer their brains to the world outside the academy as well as within it. He was one of the leading figures in the foundation of the UN’s predecessor organisation, the League of Nations, and of Oxfam.
Murray avidly supported the rights of women. He defended conscientious objectors. He collaborated in the first versions of Greek tragedy staged to make political protests, the first being a London production of Trojan Women which denounced the brutal treatment of Boer women and children by the British. The cynical appointment of the Saudi Arabian Faisal Trad to what is obviously seen not as a profoundly important responsibility but a plum position has undoubtedly made Gilbert turn in his Westminster Abbey grave.
If I have a scholarly hero (and I'm not necessarily sure that it's wise to do so), then Gilbert Murray is that person. I think his involvement in producing translations of drama for performance gave him insights that are lacking to many a scholar who simply concentrates on the text as a text. And his commitment to internationalism is admirable.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Tony. I agree with you one hundred per cent. Although I think his Oxford colleagues felt he spent too much time on the League of Nations and Oxfam and not enough at Oxford high tables.Delete
One day I will write up the article about the allocation of a few lines in Frogs, where Murray is right and Kenneth Dover is wrong, because where Dover goes with the strength of the manuscript tradition, Murray crucially sees the structure of the joke.Delete
Female genital mutilation is not prevalent in Saudi Arabia (see UNICEF report, http://www.childinfo.org/files/FGCM_o_res.pdf). Capital punishment is a human rights issue per se, regardless of the method of administration. From a classical scholar, one might have expected a little more than a facile restatement of popular sentiment.ReplyDelete
Thanks Moritz. I know about the thoroughly misleading UNICEF report, but its complacency is contradicted by other evidence, including that of private surgeons in the UK being hired by Saudi families. Is there any evidence that the Saudi government has actively initiated steps to prevent FGM?Delete
excellent piece, thank you for posting, yes the Saudi appointment would be laughable if it wasn't so disgusting.ReplyDelete
I wonder if Gilbert used Thucydides' funeral speech for the League of Nations core values?
Given how much he was horrified by the behaviour of the Athenians towards insubordinate islands such as Melos, as described by Thucydides, I think your proposal is more than likely.ReplyDelete