Arab Government Human Rights Abuses in 2010

As our updated mission statement reflects, Ikhras monitors, mocks and ridicules not only House Arabs and House Muslims here in the US, but also those who run states.

The Department of State just published 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (yes, it’s ironic for the US to present itself as a judge of human rights). Following are some noteworthy highlights on major US ally, Saudi Arabia.

First, the standard abuses:

no right to change the government peacefully; torture and physical abuse; poor prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention; denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; restrictions on civil liberties such as freedoms of speech (including the Internet), assembly, association, movement, and severe restrictions on religious freedom; and corruption and lack of government transparency. Violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women, violations of the rights of children, trafficking in persons, and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. The lack of workers’ rights, including the employment sponsorship system, remained a severe problem.

On July 10, the daily newspaper Arab News reported that a diabetic prisoner confined to a wheelchair lost his eyesight after being whipped in a prison in Mecca. The prisoner reportedly had been charged with fraud and sentenced to six months in prison and 150 lashes.

Evidence of “progress”:

Unlike in the previous year, there were no judicially sanctioned amputations reported.

The Saudi state is known for its hospitality towards guests:

On August 25, the daily newspaper Al-Watan reported the deaths of five Ethiopians resulting from suffocation due to overcrowding in the Jizan Deportation Center. On August 30, the Arab News reported that the NSHR’s supervisor general found the health conditions of many inmates in the deportation center to be poor.

Isn’t this moving?

During the year the king continued the tradition of tempering judicial punishments. The details of the cases varied, but the demonstration of royal mercy sometimes included reducing or eliminating corporal punishment, for example, rather than wiping the slate clean. However, the remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to his release. There were pardons or grants of amnesty on special occasions. On August 12, the Saudi Gazette reported that the king pardoned 60 inmates from prisons in the Al-Baha region. On September 2, the king reportedly pardoned 60 prisoners in Al-Ahsa Prison as part of his traditional Ramadan pardon.

Saudi Arabia is a shining beacon of religious equality:

judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported that judges sometimes completely ignored testimony by Shia.

On August 2, according to the NGO Arabic Network for Human Rights, members of the MOI’s investigation service raided the farm of prominent Shia preacher Muhammad Muhammad Ali al-Emary in Medina, confiscating materials with Shia slogans and arresting al-Emary and his son, Kazim. Al-Emary’s ranch includes a mosque and is considered a prominent Shia religious center in Medina.

More “progress”:

On April 6, the Ministry of Culture and Information permitted a public “blues” music concert at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh. Approximately 1,000 men and women attended the mixed-gender event.

Saudi Arabia does important Palestine solidarity work:

On June 14 and on December 22, according to the ACPRA, the MOI prevented a public sit-in in Riyadh demanding that Israel lift the Gaza blockade and protesting prolonged detentions of human rights activists. On December 21, the MOI summoned the sit-in organizers for questioning but released them.

Feminism Central:

Generally the government enforced the law based on its interpretation of Sharia, and courts punished both the victim and the perpetrator. The government views marital relations between spouses as contractual and did not recognize spousal rape. By law a female rape victim is at fault for illegal “mixing of genders” and is punished along with the perpetrator.

There were no laws criminalizing violence against women.

The law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, but men may marry Christians and Jews.

According to the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, girls as young as 10 years old may be married. The press reported marriages between children and of girls as young as nine years old being married to men older than 60 years old. On October 6, Al-Watan reported that a man in his 50s registered his marriage to a 13-year-old girl in Najran.

Even more “progress”:

On September 13, Okaz reported that women were allowed to attend Eid-al-Fitr celebrations at a football stadium in Hail. Football stadiums previously were completely off-limits to women.

Labor rights flourishing:

The labor law does not address the right of workers to form and join independent unions, and there are no labor unions in the country.

The law does not protect collective bargaining, and it did not take place.

De facto slavery:

There is no national minimum wage. The unofficial private sector minimum wage for citizens was 1,500 riyals ($400) per month

During the year hundreds of domestic workers sought shelter at their embassies fleeing sexual abuse or other violence, and embassies received many reports of abuse. Some embassies from countries with large domestic employee populations maintained safe houses for citizens fleeing situations that amounted to bondage.