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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - September 24, 2008

Newsletter - September 24, 2008

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Saudi News

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami

Gross Violation of Basic Human Rights

Director’s Comment: Abdurrahman Al-Lahem is a law abiding Saudi lawyer who defends his fellow citizens in Saudi courts. Mr. Al-Lahem is known for his courage to challenge the Saudi courts’ arbitrary deliberations and the heavy handedness of the ferocious Saudi Arabian religious police. He defends democratic reformers, rape victims, and religious minorities. Mr. Al-Lahem does his uphill work according to the Saudi religious law. Due to the severity of the cases he undertakes and the victims involved, Mr. Al-Lahem has become a hero in Saudi Arabia and amongst regional and global human rights NGOs. This hard earned acknowledgment of his courage to speak the truth to power is not a practice the Saudi system approves of or wants to encourage for fear of more demands in other areas by other Saudis.

Because of his peaceful insistence of seeing the law applied fairly and equally, as written in Saudi books, Al-Lahem has been in and out of prison for many years. In addition, his right to practice law has been revoked, and so has his right to travel to receive awards bestowed upon him by human right groups. Like other non-royal Saudi personalities who gained prominence and were dismissed from their jobs (i.e. former oil ministers, Sheikhs Ahmed Zaki Yamani and his predecessor, Abdullah Hamood Al-Tarayki), Mr. Al-Lahem is perceived as a potential threat to the Saudi ruling family. The ruling elites fear that prominent citizens could overshadow them and gain grassroots support.

Therefore, they believe that these people must be dismissed, imprisoned, placed under house arrest or stripped of anything that gives a person’s life meaning, as in the case of Mr. Al-Lahem. CDHR calls on the U.S. and European governments, as well as all human rights NGOs, to censure the Saudi government for its unjustified restrictions on Mr. Al-Lahem and the dozens of other Saudi human rights advocates of free movement, including travel outside of the country. Read Original Article

Saudi Government’s Religious Fundamentals Issue Death Fatwa as they wish

Director’s Comment: Saudi Arabia is ranked among the nations with the highest beheading rate per capita in the world. This is due to the Saudi government’s austere religious establishment’s interpretation of the Quran and application of its severe Shariah law. As illustrated in the attached article, issuing death sentences by religious government officials depends upon the mood of the issuer. Sheikh Saleh Al-Lohaidan is a notorious religious radical who occupies a very powerful position in the Saudi religious system. He is known for encouraging young religiously brainwashed Saudis to travel to Iraq and kill Americans and others in the name of Islam.

Although this ostensibly religious man and his like use Islam to justify whatever harm they wish to inflict upon others, their end goal is power on their behalf and on behalf of the Saudi ruling family. The intended objective of forbidding people to partake in any recreational indulgences, as highlighted in the attached article, is designed to keep the population focused entirely on religious rituals and traditions that emphasize their total submission to God, as well as to the rulers and religious men like Al-Lohaidan. Read Original Article

Attempt to Weaken Abdullah’s Support

Director’s Comment: It is public knowledge that the relationships between King Abdullah and his senior brothers, especially Interior Minister Prince Naïf, Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman, and to a lesser degree, Defense Minister and Crown Prince Sultan, have been tense and less cordial than between previous kings and their siblings. King Abdullah, whose ascendance to the throne in August of 2005 was considered sheer luck rather than family preference, has had thorny relationships with his half brothers, the powerful and long time power wielders known as the Sudairi Seven. Many Saudis speculated that Abdullah’s predecessor, King Fahd, was kept alive on heavy medications and on a life support system for ten years (1995–2005) so that Abdullah would not ascend to the throne.

According to Saudi analysts and people close to Abdullah, his relations did not seem to improve when he became king. Many Saudis believe that if it were not for Abdullah’s control over the fierce and powerful National Guard, he may have been either deposed or eliminated. Recent reports hinted at an attempt to get rid of Abdullah by removing his supporters in the National Guard, but this plan was discovered and aborted. If this had happened, the consequences could have plunged the country into chaos and forced the United States to intervene militarily in order to stabilize the country and ensure the preservation of the large quantities of oil, as well as its production and delivery. Saudis are increasingly convinced that the biggest threat to the stability of Saudi Arabia may come from within the royal family. Read Original Article

Protesting Capricious and Unjustified Arrests

Director’s Comment: Many Saudis, especially intellectuals, but also people across the board, are pushing for better governing systems to replace their present dormant institutions. The Saudi government’s reforms have been put on hold and in some cases things are going backwards. Incarcerations of reformers for their simple recommendations, such as improving prison conditions, are common practice.

Illegal and unjustified arrests are rising, and the authorities are fighting amongst each other as to what is permissible and what is not. Censorship remains very high and perceived violators of strict political, social and economic codes are taken to prisons without specific charges. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression, as well as religious tolerance, remain severely restricted and citizens’ self-regulation is as high as ever. Unemployment rates are very high, as is inflation, which makes it difficult for the majority of the population to make ends meet. King Abdullah speaks of reforms and some people believe he means to implement them, but he has been rebuffed by his senior brothers, according to reliable sources in and outside the country. Read Original Article

The Resilience and Courage of Saudi Women

Director’s Comment: “Ruwaida al-Habis, right, sits next to her two injured brothers Muhammad, center, and Al-Hassan at a Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. When Ruwaida al-Habis’ father and two brothers were burned in a house fire, she had no choice but to break Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers – getting behind the family car’s wheel to get them to a clinic fast.”

Under normal conditions and in modern societies, the story of this courageous woman would have been the normal, logical and right thing to do. Saudi Arabia is the only nation on this planet where women are officially banned from driving, even in life or death situations. Such a destructive, unnatural and costly policy is blamed on tradition and religion, when in fact there were no cars when Islam was founded. The means of transportation fourteen and a half centuries ago consisted of camels, horses and donkeys. Like everyone else, women rode these animals to get from place to place.

The costs to the Saudi people, on all fronts, are high as a result of excluding women from the decision making processes and denying them their basic natural and divine rights to explore their full potentials and use them to build a prosperous, safe, tolerant and stable country. Even under formidable man-made conditions, Saudi women never cease to demand their rights and to advocate tolerance, transparency, accountability, and equal rights for all citizens. They deserve our admiration, gratitude and support. Read Original Article

Discrimination Against the Ismailis of Najran

Director’s Comment: Saudi Arabia has become synonymous with terrorism, extremism and religious intolerance, especially against non-Muslims. What is not known to religious freedom activists, government officials and many NGOs, and unknown even to many Saudis, is the exclusion and condemnation of a sizable Saudi citizen minority, the Ismaelis. Tucked in the agriculturally and archeologically rich foothills of the Saudi-Yemeni boarder, in Najran, the Ismaelis are considered “infidels” and consequently punished by any means their majority Sunni compatriots deem appropriate for non-“true Muslims.” It is estimated that there are about one million Ismaelis in Saudi Arabia, the majority of which live in Najran.

According to a newly-released and thoroughly-researched report by the highly respected Human Rights Watch group, the Ismaelis are treated in ways that should be reserved for criminals. Najran was annexed by the Saudi-Wahhabi establishment in 1934. Despite their ethnic and religious minority status, the Saudi-Wahhabi men of the Najran were and still are the dominant power due to their control of the national wealth, support from the government and their compulsive appetite to use brutal force to make sure loyalty is secured.

CDHR promotes Saudi national unity, security, equality and access to jobs at all levels for all citizens, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religious orientation, lifestyle or origin. To ensure these necessary values, decentralization of power, religious freedom, distribution of the national treasure and empowerment of women must be implemented in Saudi Arabia. Discriminating against minority Muslims because of religious rituals and orientations will only push a sizable and strong segment of Saudi society to seek support from their counterparts in Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world. Additionally, religious oppression and intolerance at home and incitement against non-Muslims will bring harm to Saudi Arabia including external intervention no Saudi would like to entertain.

Read Original Article

Read Original Article (Arabic)

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