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President Obama Visit

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President Barak Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Your visit to Saudi Arabia today is attracting the attention of global media, large number of the US Congress and human rights groups from around the world. You will be meeting with the Saudi oligarchs whose agenda will consist of four major topics: The situation in Syria, US-Iran rapprochement, the Israeli-Palestinian issue and support for the Egyptian military to ensure its victory over the Muslim Brotherhood.

While these issues are top priority for the Saudi rulers and of great concern to the US, they don’t necessarily coincide with the US’s long term best interests. For example, the Saudis want the Syrian regime toppled at any cost while your Administration is concerned about who would replace it. The Saudis want the US to invade Iran and destroy its economic and military capabilities while your Administration is pursuing a diplomatic course, hoping that long term US interests will best be served by normal relations with Iran, a country of 80 million people.

The item that will be absent from the Saudis’ agenda is the topic of human rights in their autocratic kingdom. As widely documented, the Saudi regime is one of the world’s most egregious violators of basic human rights. Freedom of expression, religious freedom, a free press, political participation and even simple criticism of government and religious officials are all banned in Saudi Arabia. It is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, work or travel without a male relative’s approval.

As the President of the world’s most powerful and democratic society, it’s incumbent upon you, Mr. President, not only to raise the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia, but to make clear to the Saudi oligarchs that the United States’ commitment to the defense of Saudi Arabia and America’s regional and global support depend upon the eradication of Saudi Arabia’s repressive policies toward women, religious minorities, peaceful pro-democracy activists and non-Muslims. This stand is not only a moral issue, one of the founding principles upon which the United States was established, but it is also in the best interest of America and the free world.

It is not accidental, Mr. President, that seventy members of the United States’ Congress and a myriad of human rights groups worldwide are asking you to challenge the Saudi rulers on their dismal human rights record.

Ali H. Alyami, founder and director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR.


The King and The President, Competing Ideologues, Women’s Status, Islam and Slavery

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

February 25, 2014

The King and The President, Competing Ideologues, Women’s Status, Islam and Slavery

Commentaries and Analysis

This Time, President Obama Does Not Have to Stoop

CDHR’s Commentary: When President Obama met Saudi King Abdullah in April 2009, three months after his inauguration as President of the United States, he was overwhelmed by the presidency itself, the US economy was on the verge of collapsing and America was involved in two mismanaged and draining wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans, their national security and interests at home and abroad were and remain the targets of Muslim terrorist groups who were, and still are, gaining the upper hand in the so called “War on Terrorism,” a phrase the President and his advisors considered inappropriate. Faced with these formidable challenges, President Obama needed all the help he could muster. Given their economic and religious influence regionally and globally and their country’s financing of extremists and terrorists worldwide, the Saudi oligarchs were in a position to help or hurt the inexperienced President of the United States, a country committed to the defense of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family.

However, positions of strength have been reversed since President Obama bowed to King Abdullah in 2009. Today, the Saudis are more vulnerable than in 2009. The Saudi rulers now are more isolated than ever and their influence is dwindling on all fronts. This is due to domestic, regional and global events the Saudis ignored or failed to thwart such as their failed opposition to the raging “Arab Spring.” Domestically, the Saudi people are challenging their rulers to implement political, social and economic reforms. For example, Saudi women are demanding the removal of the male-guardian system (modern slavery), defying the no drive prohibition and are publicly defying stifling religious restrictions. Saudi pro-democracy and human rights activists are promoting real political reforms, including a constitutional monarchy, free elections and development of independent civil society, thus far banned in Saudi Arabia. Even the core partner of the ruling family, the insolent religious establishment, is questioning the monarchy’s religious legitimacy to rule. Regionally, the assumed invulnerability of the Saudi ruling family was thrown into doubt by the unpredicted “Arab Spring,” which shook the foundations of and threatens the remaining Arab autocracies.

The Saudi position has been further weakened by other events in the region. The Saudi rulers lost America’s unconditional steadfastness to do their bidding throughout Arab and Muslim countries. For example, the Obama Administration rebuffed the Saudi rulers’ demand to topple the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad militarily and to invade Iran, the Saudis’ stated archenemy in the Middle East. Failing in their attempt to bully America, the Saudis went shopping, frantically, to find powerful replacement allies, but did not succeed in persuading anyone to support their policies. The Russians, the Europeans and even the worthless Arab League rejected the Saudi overtures, especially in regard to Syria. These realities reveal the Saudi monarchy’s artificial influence and showed that even America’s enemies and competitors are not willing to risk their long term interest with the US in favor of appeasing the Saudis.

As President Obama meets with the Saudi rulers in March 2014, he will be in a superior position than he was when he met with King Abdullah in London in 2009. This time, the US economic recovery and energy dependence are improving significantly. America’s friends and foes realized not too many global political, economic or military conflicts could be solved without direct US involvement, approval and or leadership as exemplified by the bloody civil and religious war in Syria.

Culturally, the Saudis always pretend that they are invincible and resistant to foreign interference in their affairs even when facts contradict their claims. As soon as the media confirmed a planned “fence-mending” visit to Saudi Arabia by President Obama in March 2014, King Abdullah immediately ratified a severely-criticized law ostensibly intended to deter and punish terrorists. While this is the Saudi rulers’ stated claim, Saudi reformers and human rights activists described it as catastrophe. “The law states that any act that ‘undermines’ the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It says that any Saudis and non-Saudis, both in the kingdom and abroad, can be tried under the new law for assisting in such acts. Police can also raid homes and offices without prior approval.”

This law reaffirms a decree issued by King Abdullah in 2011 which “…prohibits anything that violates the ‘reputation, dignity, or the slander or libel’ of the chief mufti, members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, or any other government official or government institution, and publishing proceedings from investigations or court trials without official consent. These restrictions extend to online expression.”

The law the absolute Saudi monarch decided to enact on the eve of a visit by the President of the United States, the world’s most powerful democratic country and thus far the most committed defender of the Saudi state and its monarchy, is not only an insult to President Obama, but poses a threat to freedom of expression. This so called anti-terrorist law criminalizes all forms of political, religious and anti-oppression expression by anyone including American citizens. This draconian law empowers King Abdullah’s nephew, Interior Minister Mohammed Bin Naif to decide arbitrarily (rather than via a normal judicial process) who is a terrorist, what kind of punishment and the length of prison sentences accused individuals and groups should receive.

This is not the first time the Saudi ruling princes have committed a contemptuous action on the eve of a high-ranking American official’s visit to their kingdom. On the eve of a visit by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in 2004, Crown Prince Abdullah, who was the caretaker of the Saudi state’s affairs at that time (he became king in 2005), and his Interior Minister, the late Prince Naif, rounded up Saudi pro-democracy reformers and threw them in prisons. Even though the Saudi decisions to carry out provocative actions on the eve of visits by representatives of the world’s leading democracy and the Saudi monarchs’ staunch defenders are intended to silence critics who accuse the Saudi ruling family of a life-long dependence on the US for its protection from foreign and domestic threats, it’s a slap on the visiting president’s face nonetheless.

Although President Obama was pursuing a conciliatory approach to the Saudis and Arabs in general in 2009, his inexperience, domestic and global afflictions and his lack of appreciation for the extent of America’s global political, economic and military might caused him to be over-humbled in his first official meeting with King Abdullah. However, due to transformative domestic and global events since 2009, President Obama will find the Saudis eager to bow to him, given their significantly weakened positions and unprecedented isolation. This is what the Saudis seem to be doing to appease the President.

By contrast, President Obama’s position has considerably improved, mostly due to two major factors: One is the improved US economy upon which the world’s economies depend and the second is the world’s realization that there is no substitute for America’s economic, military and idealistic leadership.

Given this setting, President Obama is in a superior position than he was in 2009 to engage the Saudis in serious discussions about issues that affect the interests of the US and the international community. As a committed military defender of Saudi Arabia, America’s President is charged with the task of potentially sending American troops to protect a government whose policies and practices pose a threat to American national security and way of life.

President Obama is in a position to make it clear to the Saudis that their continued support for Muslim extremists, the spread of intolerant ideology, the oppression of women and religious minorities, the imprisonment of peaceful pro-democracy activists and the lack of religious freedom for all faiths in Saudi Arabia are not acceptable to the US and to the international community. Will President Obama have the vision, courage and commitment to challenge the Saudis to embark upon transformational democratic reforms as demanded by an increasingly restless new generation of Saudi men and women and by the 21st century’s economic, political, religious and technological exigencies? Or will he continue to embrace an undemocratic and unpopular monarchy that has become a liability to the US due to its anti-democratic policies and destabilizing interference in many Arab and Muslim countries for which the US has to pay the price?

Blaming America for the Carnage in Syria?

CDHR’s Commentary: Despite the Saudi oligarchs’ burning desire to see US influence in Arab and Muslim countries disappears and be replaced with anti-democratic systems such as China and/or Russia, they know that only America and its western allies can change realities on the ground in Syria or anywhere in the world. The Saudi rulers also know that the only super power that can or is willing to protect them from external threats and internal uprising is the USat least for now.

In a recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, former head of Saudi intelligence and Ambassador to the US, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, belittled the US for what he described as a failure to stop the carnage in Syria either through military intervention or through the UN Security Council, for which his government has demonstrated utter contempt. Prince Turki, a severe critic of US policy in the Middle East, demanded that the US must do one of two things now, ‘I want the Americans to go to the Security Council and get a resolution that forces should be deployed to stop the fighting in Syria,’ but ‘If that is not available, then at least a humanitarian corridor to allow people not to starve.’

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf rulers arm and finance extremists in Syria, Prince Turki decried the presence of Iraqi and Persian Shiites in Syria as the source of killings and destruction. He called on the international community to expel Shiites from Syria. While Prince Turki, the front man for his ruling family, is correct in calling for the expulsion of foreign mercenaries from Syria, he seems to think that the international community is unaware that his government, by his admission, is playing a major role in terrorizing all Syrian ethnic groups, including Christians, Kurds and Shiites. How hypocritical can a person or a government be?

Islam, Muslims and Irreversible Trends

CDHR’s Commentary: It's not accidental that most Arabs and other Muslims are described as the utmost intolerant of other religions and their adherents. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I, like all Saudi youth, was fed hatred for Christians, Jews, religious minorities and even for the majority Sunni Muslims who accepted and embraced the concept of human evolution instead of continuing to adhere to the literal interpretation of Islam as it was practiced in the seventh century which the Saudi authorities continue to emphasize, enforce and export.

When tolerant, enlightened human rights activists and individuals like Majed El Shafie, an Egyptian promoter of religious tolerance and many others like Saudi Wahhabi former extremist cleric, Mansour Al-Nogaidan, who promotes reformation of Islam, speak up, they are accused of being apostate. They are either forced to flee their homeland or go to prison and in some cases receive the death penalty for tweeting an imaginary dream. Progressive Arabs who promote religious tolerance, social justice, non-sectarian political systems and freedoms of choice end up in Western Europe and/or in North America (the lands of “infidels”) where they can be free to express themselves and rally support for human rights activists and for their voiceless compatriots in the lands from which  they hailed.

Not only do political and other human rights activists flee their homelands to seek individual liberty and freedom of expression, but millions of Arabs and other Muslims migrate to the West to seek a better life for themselves and for their children. In the West, they enjoy freedoms of choice, unrestricted movements, respect and equality under the rule of law, rights denied them under the autocratic and theocratic tyrannical regimes and their punishing religious law (Shariah) in their homelands. Paradoxically and unfathomably, many of the latter category of immigrants demand implementation of the Shariah law that forced them to abandon their countries of origins in the first place. One can only assume that many of them become nostalgic to living under authoritarian systems where the state determines all aspects of people’s lives.

Additionally, many Muslims in the West, Arabs and non-Arabs, discover that living in a democratic society requires more individual responsibility and self-reliance than the regulated lifestyles into which they were born and raised. Many Muslim immigrants seem to prefer going back to their undemocratic religious and cultural traditions which regulate every aspect of their lives including personal relationships, interactions and perceptions, especially male and female relationships where men have full control over women. To justify their reversion, they convince themselves that their religion and cultures are superior to those of the societies which provide them with political, religious, economic and social freedoms and opportunities they cannot dream of, let alone achieve, in the lands they left behind.

Encouragingly, more Arabs and other Muslims, young and old, men and women, are not only questioning the ramifications of their authoritarian faith on their lives, but some see it as the root cause of their lack of political, social, economic and scientific progress. They are also realizing that their misfortunes are homegrown and their successes, security and well-being depend on being part of the international community as demanded by modernity, globalization and shared interests and values. Some Arabs and other Muslims believe that the problem is their faith itself and others argue that their faith has been used as a tool of oppression, corruption, discrimination and intolerance. The debate is gaining momentum mostly due to the utilization of social media by millions of Arabs and other Muslims. This is why the social media and its users are condemned by and is causing many autocratic and theocratic regimes to denounce the modern technologies and their users. Given the current global trends and predictions, the battle between modernity and those fighting it, it’s unlikely that the latter will ever have a chance to win.

Historical Context of the Saudi/Wahhabi/Muslim Brotherhood Conflict

CDHR’s Commentary: The public schism between the Saudi/Wahhabi and the Muslim Brotherhood ideologues is neither new nor surprising. It’s another chapter in a centuries-old conflict between the regressive, impoverished desert dwelling founders, users and propagators of the rigid Hambali-based Wahhabi doctrine and the founders of and adherents to the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood which sprang from one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The struggle between the adherents of these two opposing philosophical approaches to the practice of Islam is based on religious and geopolitical enmity dating back to the 19th century and represents a protracted contest for leadership of the Muslim World. The Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood ideologues differ only in degree as to how strictly the precepts of Islam should be observed and to what ends.

The Saudi/Wahhabi doctrine is based on the 18th century teachings of  the founder of the Wahhabi movement, Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who was a disciple of Ibn Taymiyya, a follower of Ahmed Ibn Hambal, the founder of the Hambali brand of Islam which is considered the most rigid, rejectionist form, allowing “no scope for reason or independent thinking.” The Saudi/Wahhabi clans espoused a literal interpretation of fundamentalist Islam, insisting that all Muslim advances between the 7th century and the beginning of their movement in mid-18th century constituted deviations from true Islam. The Wahhabis still consider modern technology as dangerous to their beliefs and values.

The Saudi/Wahhabi clans’ debauched adherence to their interpretation and application of their repressive brand of Islam can be attributed to their social, political and geographical environments. Born and raised in the inhospitable land-locked impoverished desert of central Arabia (known as Nejd), the adherents to the Wahhabi doctrine were isolated from other civilizations, tolerant cultures and the infusion of evolutionary ideas that might have broadened their rigid perspectives. Given their unforgiving isolated environment and unbending, survivalist mentality, it’s not surprising that the Saudi/Wahhabi allies embraced the constricted interpretation of Islam as an end in itself, the only means which they believed would guarantee their survival, potential for conquest and absolute political and social control.

Because Islam was founded in their desert land and in order to ensure their survival and control, the Saudi/Wahhab rulers (the Houses of Al-Saud and Al-ALShaikh) claimed ownership of the faith and designated the Quran as their constitution and the arbitrary Shariah (Islamic law) as the law of the land when they established their kingdom in 1932. Additionally, they designated themselves as the guardians (Custodians) of Mecca and Madina, the holy shrines of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims so that they can exert religious influence over Muslims worldwide.

In contrast to the founders of the Wahhabi doctrine, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Hassan Al-Banna, an educated Egyptian socialist/nationalist who declared that the Quran should form the basis for the legal system in Egypt because he alleged that social justice and moral purity cannot be achieved and maintained under any other system. Ostensibly, he was revolting against social injustices and immoral practices which he blamed on the infusion of Western values in the evolving Egyptian society of the 1920s and 30s. Based on his education and background, including exposure to different philosophies of Islam such as Sufism (Islamic mysticism), Al-Banna developed a less rigid Sunni interpretation of Islam as a means to achieve social objectives.

While the Saudi/Wahhabi rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood (aka Brotherhood) share a type of religious totalitarianism (the rule of Islamic law rather than secular law), the Brotherhood is more tolerant of some modern values such as educational equality for women, semi-secular constitutions and acceptance of non-Muslim faiths and houses of worship in Egypt. For example, under the Saudi/Wahhabi system “women are excluded from studying engineering, journalism, pharmacy, and architecture,” an exclusion that does not apply to the Brotherhood’s philosophy or practice. Furthermore, the Saudi/Wahhabi rulers reject all forms of non-Islamic laws and not only prohibit public practice of non-Muslim faiths in their kingdom, but advocate destruction of Christian churches in the Arabian Peninsula.

Despite their different outlooks (as discussed above), experiences, cultural dissimilarities and mutual abhorrence, the two groups have one thing in common: use of their respective ideologies as a tool to vie for leadership among Arabs and Muslims. The Saudis and the Brotherhood have always competed with each other for power and influence even when they seemed to be cooperating.

The Saudis have shrewdly manipulated their friends and foes to promote their interests and divert potential threats to their survival. For example, they publicly embraced Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and put him on their payroll in 1948. Presumably, they wanted to cultivate his goodwill and by doing so infiltrate and control or weaken his organization which they saw as a challenge to their ideological influence. The Saudis further manipulated the Brotherhood to combat the rise of secular Arab nationalism in the 1950s, 60s and 70s under the leadership of President Nasser of Egypt who considered Arab religious movements and monarchies reactionary and obstacles to Arab unity.  The Saudi rulers supported the Brotherhood’s efforts to undermine Nasser’s secularization of Egyptian society which the Saudis, like the Brotherhood, felt would weaken the appeal of both groups’ ideologies. When Nasser turned against the Brotherhood and hanged their spiritual thinker, Syed Qutb in 1966, Saudi King Faisal, a staunch enemy of Nasser, welcomed a large number of the Brotherhood to stay and conduct their anti-Nasser activities from Saudi Arabia. However, during their stay in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brothers converted many Saudis to their way of thinking. With the ascendance of friendly Egyptian leaders such as Sadat and Mubarak after Nasser’s death, the Saudis’ need for the Brotherhood diminished. The assassination of pro-Saudi President Sadat in 1981 by soldiers associated with the Muslim Brotherhood further fueled Saudi rulers’ distrust of that organization.

Saudi acrimony toward the Brotherhood mushroomed publicly into open accusations and blame after the September 11, 2001(9/11) terrorist attacks on the US by mostly Saudi nationals, led by an Egyptian affiliated with the Brotherhood. In a burst of emotion and anger, former Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif blamed the Brotherhood for destroying Arabs and Islam. In a passionate interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, Prince Naif was quoted as saying, ‘The Brotherhood has done great damage to Saudi Arabia.’ He went on to say, ‘All our problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood. We have given too much support to this group... The Muslim Brotherhood has destroyed the Arab world.’ He blamed the Brotherhood for a list of wars and terrorist activities including the attack on the US on 9/11, the takeover of Islam’s holiest shrine, Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979 by Saudi zealots/nationalists and Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. Even though Naif’s attack on the Brotherhood was meritorious, he was also hypocritical. The Saudi government and other wealthy Gulf rulers engage in subversive activities throughout the world. Naif’s accusations against the Brotherhood were presumably designed to deflect some of the global media’s unprecedented criticism of Saudi support for terrorists and extremists as well as to counteract the Brotherhood’s rising influence.

The Brotherhood’s recent geopolitical gains in Egypt and in other Arab countries due to the “Arab Spring,” combined with other events looming over Saudi Arabia had left its rulers more vulnerable, isolated and uncertain of their future than ever. Saudi failure to recruit support for their Syrian policy; their dwindling regional and global significance due to less dependence on Saudi oil and strategic location; the US and European Union’s flirting with Iran; likely ties between Israel and Iran and budding alliances between the Brotherhood and major Muslim states (e.g. Turkey, Iran and Qatar) have all coalesced to weaken the Saudis’ influence and threaten their sense of security. The Saudi/Brotherhood relations suffered a major blow immediately after the election of President Morsi due to his strategic outreach to Iran.  Furthermore, the current Administration of the US, the Saudis’ most staunch ally, had voiced support for the Brotherhood as the legitimate government of Egypt.

These worrisome developments left the Saudis with no options but to counter the Brotherhood’s growing power not only in Egypt, but in Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States and the Greater Middle East. Consequently, the Saudis joined with unlikely allies, secular and liberal Egyptians. Taking advantage of the anti-Brotherhood surge in Egypt, the Saudi rulers supported and financed the Egyptian military to depose the Brotherhood’s first elected government. This move halted the immediate spread of Brotherhood-instigated revolutionary movements in the Gulf States, as well as thwarting nascent alliances between the Brotherhood and major Sunni Arab and Muslim states.

While the Saudis have removed these immediate threats by using the Egyptian military to trample the Brotherhood, they may have only won a temporary victory. Like the Muslim Brotherhood’s colossal mistakes in governing Egypt, the Saudis may have made a perilous miscalculation by driving the group underground. Given their numerical strength in Egypt and throughout the world, their widely appealing social  philosophy among many Muslims and their delivery of significant social services, the Brotherhood will be in a stronger position to mobilize their imbedded cells, especially in the Gulf region, and do more damage to the autocratic Saudi and other Gulf monarchies than they would have, for pragmatic reasons, had they remained in power in Egypt.

Given their long history of enmity, as long as the Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood ideologues remain active, they will likely continue to struggle for leadership of the Sunni Muslim worldwide.

Saudi Women’s Lives are Expendable

CDHR Commentary: The loss of women’s lives due to misogynistic state policies is an unspeakable crime that should never happen in the 21st or any century. The tragic death of a university student, Amna Bawazeer, on February 6, 2014 in the Saudi capital was a direct result of the state’s demonization of women and repeats a pattern of women’s expendability. There are many examples of the rape, torture and murder of Saudi females. In February 2013, a Saudi cleric, Fayan Al-Ghamdi, suspected his 5-year old daughter of having sexual urges. He tortured her, raped her and then murdered her. He got away with it until social media users and bloggers like Eman Al-Nafjan exposed his repulsive crime. In 2002, 15 innocent school girls were incinerated alive because they were prevented by the government’s religious police from escaping their burning school because they were not covered from head to toe. None of those responsible for the young girls’ deaths was ever tried for their heinous crime.

In July 2009, a brother gunned down his 19 and 21 year old sisters after the religious police arrested them and placed them in a women’s shelter. The sisters were accused of being seen talking to unrelated males on a thoroughfare in the middle of the day. When their father was called to take his daughters home, his son followed him and shot his sisters as they were leaving the shelter. His father forgave him on the spot for protecting the family’s honor.

In 2007, a 19 year old newlywed woman, Bint Al-Qatif (girl of Qatif) , was spotted sitting in a car with a high school classmate whom she met to retrieve a photo before he used it to blackmail her. They were approached by seven men, taken out of their car and ganged-raped by the men. She was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes in a public square because she was accused of indecent conduct. It took a pardon from the king to spare her this additional dehumanizing punishment.

King Abdullah recently ratified a sweeping law whose intent is ostensibly to deter and punish terrorists and those who criticize the government and its institutions or tarnish the state’s reputation and security. The questions millions of Saudis and others would like to ask are, what constitutes defaming the state’s reputation and its institutions: Is it publicizing and politicizing the institutionalized justification for the murder, rape and torture of women or is it the public criticism of rampant corruption, lack of accountability, demands for a constitutional monarchy, social justice and freedom of expression? Who are the terrorists: those who murder and rape innocent women, the state’s institutions that empower murderers and rapists or those who practice freedom of expression?

Killing Women is Godlier Than Saving Their Lives?

CDHR’s Commentary: A week after the death of a female university student, Amna Bawazeer, that should never have happened, one of Saudi Arabia’s senior clerics, the death merchant Shaikh Qays Al Mubarak, “…has scolded women who visit male doctors without being accompanied by a male guardian,”  claiming that for a woman to be treated by a male doctor without guardian (chaperone) is forbidden because “a medical check-up could include” ‘a woman showing parts of her body to a doctor’ which Islam (the Saudi brand of Islam) forbids unless a woman is dying. In this case, one can assume the cleric has concluded that a dying woman would be in an emergency room which normally has more than male doctors.

According to this high governmental official cleric, a woman can be left to die if she cannot collect one of her male relatives to accompany her to an emergency room, if, in fact, she is coherent enough to remember she is a Saudi woman, and therefore needs a Mahram, a male guardian, to decide her fate. This cleric, similar to thousands like him in Saudi Arabia, are obsessed with women’s sexuality, virginity and assumed infidelity. Because of their daunting obsession with women’s comportment, the Saudi zealots insist that killing women (as exemplified by this cleric’s recommendation) is holier than saving their lives.

King Abdullah just ratified a globally denounced law whose stated intent is partially to punish anyone who tarnishes the state’s reputation. If that’s indeed the case, then the King and his Interior Minister should not run out of people to punish. There are thousands of Shaikh Qays Al Mubaraks who should be in prison instead of the many advocates of social justice, rule of law, equality and respect for human dignity and lives.

Slavery May Have Been Declared Illegal, But Racism is Still Alive

CDHR’s Commentary: One of Saudi Arabia’s many wrongdoings that Western officials, traditional media, most think tanks and learning institutions intentionally chose to overlook is the plight of black people in Saudi Arabia. Whether they are 10th generation Saudis, migrant workers or children of mixed marriages, black people are considered inferior by most Saudis. They are called Abeed (“slaves,”) despite the fact that slavery was declared illegal in Saudi Arabia in 1962. Based on ongoing private conversations with black Saudis whose parents and other relatives were owned by the Saudi ruling family and others, their status remains the same not only in royal palaces, but in the streets and sports’ arenas and more perilously, in the Saudi government schools.

Saudis have not discussed racism and condescension toward other Arabs and Muslims whom they consider impure because of their color, ethnicity or religious practices in the past, but there seems to be an embryonic acknowledgement of deeply rooted racism and ethnic slurs taking place in social media and some Saudi newspapers, one of which is owned Prince Khalid Al-Faisal who was appointed recently to head the Saudi educational system.

One of the newly appointed Minister of Education, Khalid Al-Faisal’s first priorities ought to be an establishment of a non-sectarian committee, staffed with educated patriots (loyal to the people not the system) and unbiased men and women to construct progressive, neutral and scientific oriented curricula and guidelines for all Saudi public schools. Focusing on eradicating the root causes of racism, genderism and on teaching sciences, respect for the individual’s right to choose, equality for women, religious tolerance and acceptance of and respect for other beliefs and their adherents, thus far missing from Saudi schools, are what Saudi society needs to debate freely and cure.

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