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The exceptional state


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October 17, 2011

Undergrad studies downfall of U.S. human rights record

By Caitlyn Spencer

For third year Zain Jinnah, a PURE grant meant furthering his study of a topic that’s fascinated him for years. In his first political science classes he began to learn in depth about the Iraq War, the War on Terror, and the resultant human rights violations by the United States. “It really struck a chord,” Jinnah says. “I wanted to explore it in more depth, in an academic framework rather than moral.”

“I came to the university to study political science,” he explains. “I was very idealistic about how I wanted the world to be. When I added international relations, I started to accept that the primary focus needs to be on how to navigate the existing framework.”

Jinnah spent the summer researching American treatment of human rights in the Muslim world since 9/11. He focused on binding legal documents to which the U.S. is a signatory, and which the U.S. has subsequently violated.

“If you look at the treatment of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the war’s moved there, there’s indiscriminate killing of civilians,” Jinnah says. “The War on Terror has taken place at the expense of human rights for the U.S.”

Though Jinnah’s foci in international relations have been security and strategy, and the Middle East, the issues in his research are of far more than academic interest. At various points a member of the campus chapters of Amnesty International, Journalists for Human Rights, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, and Muslims for Social Justice, Jinnah is passionate about human rights, and hopes to defend them by going into international law.

“I try to be objective in my research, though the U.S. position on human rights is one I’m critical of,” Jinnah says.

For all of the violations Jinnah has studied, however, he doubts the U.S. will be held accountable for its actions any time soon. “Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the U.S. has respected human rights when it wanted to,” he says. “They’re an exceptional state. They can do whatever they want.”

To find out how you can apply for a PURE grant, click here.