Human Rights Watch (HRW) says rising intolerance in influential countries, including the United States, is encouraging authoritarian rulers around the world.
In its annual report on human rights, released on January 18, the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization said immigrant-bashing and other populist policies pose an "enormous threat" to minority rights in democratic countries.
HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth singled out U.S. President Donald Trump as a leader who “has broken all the taboos against racism, against misogyny, against xenophobia” with rhetoric and policies that Roth said have dangerous implications outside the United States.
Roth said that Trump has an “insatiable admiration for strongmen” like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
“This makes it much more difficult to stigmatize these authoritarian leaders when Trump says these are great guys,” Roth said.
The report urges democratic governments to focus on problems that have fueled xenophobia and Islamophobia and allowed populism to prosper – such as income inequality, growing migration, and fears of terrorism.
“What the authoritarian populists did is take these legitimate grievances and scapegoat vulnerable minorities to say, ‘It’s the migrants who are at fault’,” Roth said.
He says politicians and protesters who pushed back during 2017 by standing up for human rights have shown that authoritarian populist agendas can be weakened.