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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - January 20, 2009

Newsletter - January 20, 2009

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Special Issue: Women, Courts, and Trafficking

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami

The Wrenching Saga of Maids

Director’s Comment: While the Saudis, like the rest of the perturbed and voiceless Arab people, are intensely occupied with the tragic events in Gaza, Israel, Iraq and other parts of the Arab and Muslim world (events that the Arab regimes helped create and have used for decades to deflect their people’s attention from the multitude of self-inflicted and home-grown problems), defenseless maids (mostly Asians, but also Africans and others) serve in Saudi homes under slavery-like conditions and practices, according to international human rights groups. They have no rights, no defense and are either laboring or on call around the clock for as little as 150 to 200 dollars a month. Their eyes can be gouged (as described in the attached article), and their employers (masters) can beat, starve and sexually abuse them without any legal ramifications. Ironically, such abuses happen in a country (Saudi Arabia) that prides itself on being a beacon of true faith, justice and tolerance. Read Original Article

Saudi Share of Human Trafficking

Director’s Comment: CDHR has written extensively about different forms of human trafficking in Saudi Arabia. The most prevalent trafficking is the importation of poor foreign maids, whose passports are confiscated by their future employers as they arrive in Saudi Arabia. This begins a process that has been described, by international human rights groups and some Saudis, as enslavement and abuse by modern standards and labor laws. Paradoxically, human trafficking (slavery) is said to be against the spirit and teaching of Islam. If Islam prohibits human trafficking, the Saudi government-ruling family is breaking its own governing rules. This is because Islam’s holy book, the Quran, is designated by the Saudi government as its constitution and the Shariah (Islamic law) is the law of the land that governs the Saudi courts, which sanction human trafficking. Read Original Article

Different Forms of Human Trafficking

Director’s Comment: One of the most cruel forms of human trafficking is that which involves children. Children are sold, enslaved and sexually abused in different ways and for many reasons, none of which can be justified, regardless of tradition or religion. In many communities and societies, children are sold because of dire financial needs. However, in some societies, as in Saudi Arabia, human trafficking is justified in the name of God by religious men who claim it is God’s command. Saudi Arabia is considered an international pariah because of the country’s theocratic and autocratic ruling family’s discriminatory and segregationist policies toward women, whether they are citizens or expatriates.

The Saudi religious establishment is entrusted with the interpretation and application of the Muslim holy book (the Quran) and the Shariah (Islamic law) as they see fit. No group in Saudi society is more afflicted by religious policies than women, especially the most helpless and vulnerable, young girls. As the attached article portrays, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, the Mufti, is reported to have accused the opponent of children marriages of denying ten-year-old girls “justice”: “…it is permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry and those who think they’re too young are doing the girls an injustice.” Some clerics have said that there is nothing in Islam that prevents girls from marrying as early as one year of age. Read Original Article

When the Rope broke, he finished her off

Director’s Comment: Violent acts against women in Saudi Arabia are committed frequently and in different forms, and are hardly reported. This is due to the lack of legal recourse for women, as well as the designation of women by the Saudi political and judicial institutions as less than full human beings and citizens. The Saudi courts are staffed and operated by religious judges who consider women to be the property of men, and who deem that men can decide a woman’s fate as they wish. As the attached account shows, a man roped his wife, tied her to his SUV and dragged her in the streets of their neighborhood, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. When the rope broke off, the husband stopped, reversed his vehicle and finished her off. Her brother seemed to feel sorry for the husband: “Her husband used to drop her at our house after her work at school everyday,” he said. “But his mental health seemed to be deteriorating over the past week,” he said. This is an elaborate excuse that the Saudi religious cou rts consider reasonable because the victim is a woman. If the victim were a man, he would be sent to the chopping square after Friday prayers, a historical tradition to remind people what is awaiting them if they misbehave, especially against the ruling family. Read Original Article

Despite Religious Prohibition, Slavery Lives On

Director’s Comment: According to the Saudi government’s Basic Law (Governing Guidelines), Saudi Arabia is being governed according to the teachings of Islam, as were dictated to Prophet Mohammed by God and recorded in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, years later. If Saudi Arabia is truly ruled according to God’s words, then why is a form of modern slavery, as defined by international human rights declarations and labor laws, still being practiced and institutionalized in Saudi Arabia? Many Saudis and some other Muslims feel that Islam has become a tool in the hands of those who are in positions to use it to justify whatever they deem necessary to control, exploit or oppress people. Many Muslims are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the ways in which their religion has been used by ruling elites, religious extremists and suicide bombers. Muslims should not be offended or surprised when non-Muslims criticize Islam. People judge Islam by what they see and hear is done in the name of Allah. Read Original Article

By any standard, it is a sale of young girls

Director’s Comment: After a father arranged for his clueless eight-year-old daughter to marry a fifty-eight-year-old man for 30,000 Saudi Riyals ($8,000), her mother tried to petition her local court to emancipate her child from her new enslavement status, but was told by the presiding judge to take a hike. The judge argued that “…the woman does not have the right to file such a plea on behalf of her daughter and ordered that the petition should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty…” Here lies the bizarre contradiction in the Saudi court system: The eight-year-old girl was not consulted, she did not even know she was married, but when her mother tried to save her, the judge said the only person who could speak for the child is the child herself, when she grows up. Read Original Article

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The Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization based in Washington, DC. CDHR provides new and accurate information for the benefit of the public, the business community and policy makers about the current situation in Saudi Arabia. CDHR’s goal is to help bring about a peaceful democratic transition from a single-family autocratic rule to a participatory political system where the rights of all Saudi citizens are protected under the rule of civil laws.

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