An Examination of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms in the Context of “Zombie” by Dolores O’Riordan | İlim ve Medeniyet

An Examination of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms in the Context of “Zombie” by Dolores O’Riordan

This study includes research on the contribution of art and the artist to the expression and cry for human rights and freedoms. I evaluated this contribution in the context of human rights clauses that I extracted from 3 essential texts (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights). While doing this, I commented on the artwork called Zombie, which was written for two children aged 3 and 12 who lost their lives during the IRA (Irish Republican Army) bombing. When you read the article, you will encounter human rights, freedoms, art, and the artist’s approach to human rights through the mass effect, especially the zombie piece.

Keywords: art, artist, human rights and freedoms

On art, human rights, and freedoms

            I think that public opinion should be formed in order to express and protect fundamental human rights and freedoms. Otherwise, these basic human rights and freedoms may possibly evolve into an area that people who hold power (political, social, economic) can exploit without being supervised (especially in the case of “monopoly of the legitimate power to use force” as revealed in the statement of the state).

In this sense, if we examine the importance of art and artist in the expression of human rights and freedoms; The influence of mass power on the formation of the aforementioned public opinion is an undeniable fact. The place and importance of art in reaching the audience are obvious. In other words, I would like to underline the great responsibility of the art community and express my belief in the current potential. Until now, human rights and freedoms have been shouted in various ways through art. It is possible to see traces of this in plastic, phonetic, rhythmic, architectural, sculpture, and painting arts.[1]

Because it passes through the individual prism of the art owner, it has awareness functions as it can be used for reflectivity and social benefits. This means that art, which is a bridge between the present and the future based on the past, can be used as a tool for human rights and freedoms in various ways.[2] For example; “Throughout the 20th century, reactions to racism, war, and social inequalities were heavily featured in blues, folk, pop, and rock music, and their derivatives.[3]

I would like to explain this effect through well-known examples: Dimitri Shostakovich composed the “Leningrad symphony number 7” during the Second World War. This work has become a symbol of hope and resistance and has had a great impact around the world.

Another famous example is Vedran Smailovic’s art during the Yugoslavian civil war (I mean the occupation and siege of Sarajevo). It reflects the drama of a society whose human rights and freedoms have been restricted and whose right to life has been taken away. The message he gave through his art found a serious place in the world’s public opinion and humanity was affected by this powerful message. In this way, the voice of the oppressed reached the masses of other artists, and many artists supported this with different compositions at that time.

In short, in this article, we will evaluate the work “Zombie“, which has become a cult work of art, in the context of human rights and freedoms. While doing this, we will both make explanations on this mass effect and emphasize the awareness of art.

Articles on basic human rights and freedoms from the three main declarations and the Zombie “masterpiece

Studies have been carried out on some essential texts to determine the basic human rights principles and establish a supranational standard. Three of these texts (UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR) will be examined in this article. “Zombie” will be evaluated within the framework of the articles on basic human rights and freedoms.

In general, the articles I have removed from the UDHR agreement regarding human rights and freedoms are as follows: The right to equality, the right to private property, the right to social security and guarantees, the right to education, the freedom of belief and religion, right to a nationality, freedom of opinion, freedom of interference with privacy, equality before the law, right to asylum in other countries from persecution, right to adequate living standards.[4]

The articles I have omitted from the ICCPR convention on human rights and freedoms are as follows: Have the right to self-determination, the equality of women and men, the right to life, the right to recognition, freedom of travel, and respect for the dignity of humans, every state should act based on laws, prohibit slavery, freedom of basic rights, using natural wealth without any obligations, security right, the presumption of innocence, right to the protection of the law, freedom of thought,  freedom of religion, right to acquire a nationality.[5]

The articles that I have removed from the ICESCR agreement are as follows: Self-determination, using natural resources, encouraging self-determination, undertaking a guarantee for everyone’s features, equality between women and men, limitation by laws, group can join in any activity, no restriction, fair distribution, joining trade unions, the right of social security, giving social rights to the families, right of health, protects the natural wealth and resources of all people.[6]

On March 20, 1993, the organization called the IRA placed a bomb in a trash can in the city of Warrington. When the bomb exploded, 12-year-old Tim Parry and 3-year-old Jonathan Ball died on the spot, and many suffered minor and serious injuries from the attack. When this terrorist attack, which was considered a major event at that time, is analysed in terms of human rights and freedoms, important topics emerge. First of all, there is a clear violation of the right to life and life. In this sense, the fact that the attack was carried out in a public space caused people to worry and fear. This means that the right to travel is implicitly denied.

In addition to this dimension, some evaluations can be made in the political context. There are conflicts that took its place in the literature as a Northern Ireland problem and caused the work called Zombie to be written. According to the subject of ethnic nationalism, one of these items can be emphasized on the subject of self-determination. In addition, situations such as the right to recognition and the right to citizenship are among the other human rights and freedoms that can be evaluated about the problem between Ireland and England.


            As a result, it can be said that art has an important place in the shouting for human rights and freedoms. In addition, as we did in this article, it can be determined in what respect the events that are the subject of works of art, based on internationally valid conventions, constitute a violation of human rights.


[1] Ahmet Şahin, “Sanat ve Sanat Türleri”, p.3-4

[2] Ahmet Makal, “İnsan Hakları / Sosyal İnsan Hakları, Sosyal Mücadeleler ve Müzik”, Çalışma ve Toplum, 2018/2, p.579

[3] Ahmet Makal, “İnsan Hakları / Sosyal İnsan Hakları, Sosyal Mücadeleler ve Müzik”, Çalışma ve Toplum, 2018/2, p.579

[4] 28.10.2022, “

[5] 29.10.2022, “

[6] 31.10.2022, “

Enes Bera Koşar

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Enes Bera Koşar

Istanbul Medeniyet Univ. Political Sciences Balkan Studies eneskosar00[at]


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