WASHINGTON–On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District) and James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd District) have sent a bipartisan letter to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman. The letter urges the new King to free all prisoners of conscience—including blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair—and to allow women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia.
The letter garnered 67 congressional signers and endorsements from 17 women’s, human rights, religious freedom, and advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch.
“Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners of conscience such as blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu Al-Khair,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Sixty-seven members of Congress have already raised their voices in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Now, Secretary Kerry must do the same when he visits the Kingdom tomorrow.”
The imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as the ban on women driving, the restrictions of the male guardianship system, and so-called “anti-terror” laws that have criminalized peaceful expression, have all brought Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to the forefront of the U.S.–Saudi relationship. By signing this letter, U.S. representatives are urging King Salman to end the imprisonment of peaceful critics, violations of women’s human rights, religious persecution, and the crackdown on advocates and reformers.
Well good. Let’s hope the Saudis don’t just throw it away and forget about it.
Amnesty International USA, International Christian Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK, In Defense of Christians, Human Rights Watch, Project on Middle East Democracy, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, US National Committee for UN Women, Women’s Action for New Directions, Women Thrive Worldwide, Peace X Peace, Equality Now, PEN American Center, Center for Inquiry, National Organization for Women Foundation, Universal Muslim Association of America, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
The letter can be read at: