Saudi Arabia is “a beacon of light”

Oh, that’s how you want to play it, Saudi Arabia? It might backfire. I certainly hope it does.

Adam Taylor at the Washington Post blog.

You know how Margot Wallström was going to give a talk at the Arab League, a talk that included some praise for the idea of women’s rights, and how Saudi Arabia blocked her from giving that talk and recalled its ambassador and generally threw a huge tantrum.

The feud has sparked an intense domestic debate, with Sweden’s king even stepping in. Part of this is because of the considerable economic pressure Saudi Arabia is able to put on Sweden (Sweden exported $1.3 billion to Saudi Arabia last year). But perhaps even more powerful has been the rhetorical pressure — Saudi Arabia has succeeded in making the argument not about human rights, but about Islam. [Read more…]

Your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

Here’s another thing we can sign – a call to political action to Free Raif and Waleed.

So far 12 MPs, 9 MSPs, and 4 members of the House of Lords have signed. Scores of prominent human rights activists, writers, lawyers and journalists have also signed as well as hundreds of others (see below). Please continue to add your name to this statement. Further action will be necessary.

Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar has just written to us about this letter.
“I am very grateful for your action in support of my husband’s freedom– please help me get my husband back. His children need him” [Read more…]

Bumped up again

There’s a report in Stern, in German, that Raif Badawi’s case has been sent by the Jeddah Criminal Court to the High Court. Elham Manea took it seriously enough to share with Ensaf Haidar, and Ensaf shared it with everyone.

That could be either good or bad; it’s unknown which.

But don’t worry – the OIC just told us that

Islam, which Saudi Arabia – a founding member of the OIC – is governed by, is centered on the values of justice, compassion, equality, tolerance and the notion of human vicegerency.

So obviously Saudi Arabia isn’t going to behead Raif for expressing an opinion about religion that the Saudi rulers don’t share. That wouldn’t be just or compassionate or egalitarian or tolerant.

One assumes Saudi authorities will not arrange a visit

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. [Read more…]

What upsets Saudi Arabia and the OIC

Let’s look at that OIC statement on Margot Wallström’s remarks about Saudi Arabia.

First, you’ll want to refresh your memory of her talk. (The article is in Swedish but the talk is in English, just scroll down.) Here are the horrific three paragraphs that have Saudi Arabia and the whole OIC so distraught and furious:

Human rights are a priority in Swedish foreign policy. Freedom of association, assembly, religion and expression are not only fundamental rights and important tools in the creation of vibrant societies. They are indispensable in the fight against extremism and radicalisation. So is a vibrant civil society. [Read more…]

Going for a new record

Saudi Arabia is working hard at being more horrible this year than it was last year. Every day in every way it gets worser and worser. The Telegraph reports via AFP:

A man convicted of murder was beheaded in the Saudi capital on Monday, amid a steep rise in the number of executions in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom this year.

The beheading of Saad bin Abdullah al-Jadid, who had shot dead fellow Saudi Abdullah bin Faraj al-Gahtani, took to 45 the number of executions since January 1, according to an AFP count.

[Read more…]

Excellencies,

Sweden has published online the address that Foreign Minister Margot Wallström planned to give in Cairo on Monday.

This is the part – the only part – where she touches on human rights and women’s rights, in a way that Saudi Arabia calls “offensive” and “blatant interference in its internal affairs.

I include the first three paragraphs only so that you can see what led up to the human rights and women’s rights part.

Excellencies,

Democracy, security and economic development are interrelated. Without progress in one of these fields, sustainable results in the other cannot be expected. [Read more…]

Adjö Saudi Arabia

Sweden has actually dropped an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The Swedish government this week decided to scrap an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, effectively bringing to an end a decade-old defence agreement with the kingdom. The move followed complaints made by the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom that she was blocked by the Saudis from speaking about democracy and women’s rights at a gathering of the Arab League in Cairo. [Read more…]

Guest post: If you have the connections or cash

Originally a comment by lorn on Saudi Arabia has expressed “surprise and dismay”.

Saudi Arabia is well acquainted with duplicity. Many publicly devout men have a wet bar, mistresses, and engage in decidedly unislamic activities behind closed doors. They also are quite willing to lavish huge sums of money to smooth over discrepancies and conflicts.

As a matter of policy they have a very generous welfare state to help smooth things out.

I had a job offer there and the list of things allowed in the contractors’ compound was slightly more libertine than what is allowed in most US red light districts. The understanding was that none of this was done, or spoken of, in public and taking it over the fence would subject you to punishment up to and including death. As long as one of the main clans doesn’t object, western contract employees are routinely given an opportunity to flee the country after you pay a $100,000 to $500,000 fine.

A friend accused of off compound excesses was dragged into a police station, given a light thrashing and threatened with death. The contractor quietly paid $150,000 and the man found that after another questioning the door to his cell was left ajar. Taking advantage of this he slipped past a police officer who seemed deeply distracted by paperwork and out the front door where he found a friendly but insistent taxi driver who insisted he get in. He was driven to the airport where he was drive past customs and directly to the boarding ladder. He was the last person to board an airliner that had been delayed. Once in the US he learned he had been declared persona non grata by SA and if he ever went back he would be beheaded.

It is clear that SA might be hell for the poor who are unwilling to comply, or work very hard to keep their non-compliance under wraps. But if you have the connections or cash, the rules, or at least the punishment, might be sidestepped.