Raif Badawi: Symbol of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Abuses

The following is from Amnesty International:

Faced with rising calls for political reform, Saudi Arabian authorities have responded with repressive measures against those suspected of taking part in or supporting protests or expressing views critical of the state. Protesters have been held without charge and incommunicado for days or weeks at a time, and some are reported to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Nearly 20 people connected with protests in the Eastern Province have been killed since 2011 and hundreds have been imprisoned.

Other human rights concerns include the death penalty, with more than 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2013; the arrest, imprisonment and harassment of large members of the Shi’a Muslim community and other minority groups.

33-Badawi
Imprisoned Saudi Arabian Blogger Raif Badawi
Symbolic of this repression is Raif Badawi, whose plight has come to light because of the efforts of his wife Ensaf Haider to publicize his condition. She describes her husband’s “crimes” and punishment in her own words:

Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws. Then this January, in a show of cruelty, the authorities lashed Raif 50 times. He still faces 950 more lashes and seven more years in prison. I didn’t think there could be anything worse than watching a shaky cellphone video of my husband being publicly beaten in front of a mosque thousands of miles away. But recently I learned of efforts to retry Raif on a charge of apostasy — that he has abandoned or renounced Islam. This information chilled me to my core because, under Saudi law, such a charge is punishable by death — usually by beheading.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-should-press-for-release-of-saudi-blogger/2015/04/02/d49280aa-d62e-11e4-b3f2-607bd612aeac_story.html

http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/freeraif-us-should-press-for-release-of-saudi-blogger/

Raif Badawi is but one of many, and there are so many we do not know. Activist Fadhil al-Manasif was sentenced to 15 years in prison; human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair was also sentenced to 15 years in prison; activist Fowzan al-Harbi had his seven year sentence reduced to one year if he agrees to cease any future political activism; human rights advocate Mikhlif al-Shammari was sentenced to five years in prison.

According to Human Rights Watch 2015 Report:

Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.Judges can order arrest and detention, including of children, at their discretion. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if physical signs of puberty exist.Saudi Arabia applies Sharia (Islamic law) as the law of the land. Judges decide many matters relating to criminal offenses pursuant to Sharia in accordance with established rules of jurisprudence and precedent.

The nine million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are also the victims of human rights abuses. Much of the abuse stems from the kafala system which makes migrant workers essentially indentured servants to employers which “sponsor” them. According to the Human Rights Watch 2015 Report:

Saudi Arabia deported 163,018 Ethiopians between November 2013 and March 2014, and 458,911 Yemenis between June 2013 and June 2014. There were reports that prior to deportation some deportees were placed inovercrowded detention conditions, denied adequate food and water, and physically abused by guards. Between December and March 2014, Saudi Arabia deported 38,164 Somalis to Mogadishu, including hundreds of women and children, without allowing any to make refugee claims.

This in a nation in which two young women were recently released after spending ten weeks in prison for driving cars, as reported by Amnesty International UA: 308/14

Saudi Arabian women drivers Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi were released on 12 February after spending 10 weeks in detention. The conditions of their release and their legal status are unclear. Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi, both supporters of the campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, were released on 12 February. They had been detained since 30 November and 1 December 2014 respectively. Both women had been brought to trial before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, a court set up to deal with terror cases, on a list of charges related to their driving and online activism in support of the campaign for women to be able to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Such occurrences are every day in a nation in which male guardianship is legal. Women are unable to obtain a passport, to marry, to travel, or to go to college without the approval of a male guardian.

Join thousands of Americans in tweeting or otherwise contacting the State Department for the release of Raif Badawi, Fadhil al-Manasif, Waleed Abu al-Khair, Fowzan al-Harbi, and Mikhlif al-Shammari.

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