Michael De Dora spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, on Saudi Arabia and the Istanbul Process.
The rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression remain nearly non-existent in Saudi Arabia. On January 9, Raif Badawi, the creator of an online forum devoted to discussion on religion and politics, received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah. He now reportedly faces retrial for apostasy, for which the penalty is death. On January 12, his lawyer, human rights advocate Waleed abu al-Khair, had his own prison sentence extended to 15 years. Meanwhile, women’s rights activist Samar Badawi — wife to Waleed, sister to Raif — has been banned from traveling, and restricted from visiting jailed family members.
More recently, on February 24, a young man was sentenced to death for renouncing his faith. And just last week, on March 11, Mohammed al-Bajadi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for human rights activism.
And these are only a few examples from the past 10 weeks. Saudi Arabia has a lengthy record of punishing any individual or community that differs from the government’s narrow version of authoritarian Islam.
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This is the state which, the OIC tells us, is governed by and centered on the values of justice, compassion, equality, and tolerance. Insulting, isn’t it. “Listen to us while we tell you a brazen lie.”
And yet, in the face of these human rights violations, last week we learned that Saudi Arabia will host, in
Jeddah, the next meeting in the Istanbul Process, which focuses on implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. This means that while world leaders meet to discuss combating religious intolerance, Raif Badawi and countless other dissidents will sit just blocks away, languishing in Jeddah’s Briman Prison. One assumes Saudi authorities will not arrange for diplomats and NGOs to pay these political prisoners a visit.
In fact, in a stunning example of hypocrisy, Saudi Arabia — like most OIC states — has not even come close to implementing 16/18.6 It is almost certain they will attempt to use this event to legitimize their position.
It’s just staggering, isn’t it? Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most religiously intolerant nation on earth, hosting a meeting to discuss combating religious intolerance, with Raif Badawi in prison a few blocks away.