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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi.

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Readers might remember the case of Manal al-Sherif, a young Saudi woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia?

Well, more women are fighting back against petty restrictions and the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, France 24 reports:

“Several Saudi women got behind the wheel on Friday in a “Suffragette-level” protest against rules that ban them from driving cars in the conservative, male-dominated country.

A Facebook campaign page titled “Women2Drive”, as well as the reactions from thousands of Twitter users, have helped push this small act of civil disobedience onto the international stage.

The campaign was inspired by the arrest last month of 32-year-old Manal al-Sherif, who posted a video of herself driving on YouTube.

On Friday there were reports of “several” women driving. But in an ultraconservative country where such behaviour is virtually unknown, it was still a significant act of defiance – even if all the reports were of women driving with a male relative. Saudi women are required by law to be accompanied by a male relative when they venture out.

Microblogging site Twitter was flooded with messages of support on Friday and triumphant comments on those staging these acts of defiance.

Times of London columnist Janice Turner tweeted: “Today, women in Saudi will challenge the driving ban, risking arrest, loss of jobs & children. This [is] Suffragette-level bravery.”

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtan, a Saudi rights activist, said he had been driven by his wife Maha through the streets of Riyadh.

“My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive, she was the driver through Riyadh’s streets,” he tweeted, adding later that she “has taken her necessary belongings, ready to go to prison without fear!” “

Update 1: Time covers it too:

“The beginning of the trip was uneventful. I tried to keep my camera discreetly in my lap and shoot the occasional frame, so as to not draw attention to us. We rode through Friday afternoon traffic, attracting some double takes and a few stares, but overall much less reaction than I would have anticipated. Her eyes, all that could be seen from underneath her all-encompassing hijab, darted in and out of the rear view mirror.

We coasted along King Fahd Road in Riyadh. The traffic seemed to grow more dense by the minute. She was nervous and her husband was giving her directions. “Don’t change lanes, slow down, you are going too fast!” he said. Then, turning to me in the back seat, he declared proudly, “She’s a good driver!”

The backseat driving made me smile—so universal between husbands and wives, no matter where in the world you are.

Given the longstanding prohibition against women drivers, I wondered if the police would stop us. I flashed back to the cramped prison cell in Sirte, where I was held by the Libyan government in March along with three male colleagues from the New York Times. There we were splayed out on soiled foam mattresses, a bottle of urine in the corner of the cell, a box of dates on the floor. I was sure the Saudi prison would be cleaner.

I took the discs out of my camera, hid them in my bra, and put the camera back into my backpack. “

Update 2: This is the Facebook page of Women2Drive.

No Update On Khaled al-Johani.

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Been asked to produce an update on Khaled al-Johani, but sadly I can find very little on the web that is current, the best is BBC News from 24 May 2011:

“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.

Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.

His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.

“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”

Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.

On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.

The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.

“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “

Free Manal al-Sherif.

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The Washington Post reports that Manal al-Sherif was re-arrested after being released recently:

“CAIRO — Saudi authorities have re-arrested an activist who defied a ban on female drivers in the conservative kingdom, a security official said Monday.

Manal al-Sherif was accused of “violating public order” and ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.

The 32-year-old al-Sherif launched a campaign against the longtime ban last week by posting a video clip on the Internet of herself behind the wheel in the eastern city of Khobar.

Through Facebook, the campaigners set June 17 as the day all women should drive their cars. The page, called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for the call. The campaign’s Twitter account also was deactivated.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Al-Sherif was initially detained for several hours on Saturday by the country’s religious police and released after she signed a pledge agreeing not to drive.

She was re-arrested on Sunday at dawn, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “

Update 1: The 17th June 2011 could be an interesting day in Saudi Arabia:

“This law is simply a backward, visceral objection to the thought of a woman behind the wheel, a physical embodiment of a volition which is too offensive to enact. It is about maintaining some semblance of control, the erosion of which it is thought would be complete if women were allowed to drive.

There is this odd view of women in the kingdom as being always on the cusp of dissolute behaviour – reminiscent of an attitude towards slaves who would rebel and murder their owners if not kept perpetually oppressed. This is a ghastly spiral, where the worse the victim is treated, the worse they are likely to be pre-emptively repressed. When arguing against allowing women to uncover their heads or faces in public, some (men and women) respond that if that if this were to pass, women would surely walk around in semi-nudity.

It doesn’t occur to these people that public codes of dress do not exist in most other Arab countries, and women still manage to dress in a culturally appropriate way. Women are allowed to drive throughout the conservative Arabian Gulf, and these societies have not imploded in moral degradation.

The Saudi driving ban is a social, rather than political, issue, over which the authorities would rather not incur the religious establishment’s wrath or create controversy. But if there is one lesson Arab rulers would do well to heed, it is that withholding rights raises the chances of an explosion of dissent.

The arrest of Sharif certainly appears to have done nothing to dissuade the Women2Drive campaign from going ahead; if anything it seems to have garnered it more publicity. There are reports that the religious police are teaming up with traffic forces to patrol and stymie the campaign. If these are to be believed, then Saudi Arabia is in for a first-of-its-kind confrontation on 17 June. “

Driving In Saudi Arabia.

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Women in Saudi Arabia can’t even drive their own cars, without a driver or a relative to do that job for them. Many are effectively prisoners in their homes, still some brave women are fighting back:

This is their channel on YouTube, ksawomen2drive.

Update 1: Manal al-Sherif has been detained for driving herself, AP has more:

“RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Authorities detained a Saudi woman on Saturday after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her.

Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience.

“This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country” learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video. “At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?”
Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif was detained by the country’s religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom’s rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed.

Al-Sherif was released hours later, according to the campaign’s Twitter account. The terms of her release were not immediately clear.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, and no woman can sit on the kingdom’s Cabinet. Women also cannot travel without permission from a male guardian and shouldn’t mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers. “

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2011 at 21:42

Free Khaled al-Johani.

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In an oppressive dictatorship, like Saudi Arabia, only the boldest dare to speak out, Khaled al-Johani was one of them.

Now he’s been arrested and has vanished, Dana Kennedy reports:

“Khaled al-Johani, who teaches religion to elementary school students in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is neither a revolutionary nor an activist, according to his brother. But even though no one in the country knew it at the time, the 40-year-old father of a 5-year-old autistic boy was imprisoned and cut off from his family after speaking out at last month’s planned “day of rage.”

His frustration over repressive Saudi laws and a lack of help from the government for his autistic son led him to show up at the “day of rage” one month ago today and let loose his anger in front of a BBC television crew, according to his brother. Because of the heavy police presence that squelched the March 11 protest, Khaled al-Johani was almost the only person there, Ali al-Johani told AOL News via Skype from Riyadh today.

“I’m here to say we need democracy, we need freedom,” Khaled al-Johani said to the surprised BBC crew, which wasn’t expecting him and didn’t find his name on the list of activists from Riyadh.

We need to speak freely. We will reach out, the government doesn’t own us. I was afraid to speak, but no more. We don’t have dignity, we don’t have justice! I have an autistic child, and they didn’t provide me with any support,” he said.

Khaled al-Johani said on camera that he knew he’d be arrested — and he was correct. After he returned to the home he shares with his wife and four young children, Saudi police arrived and arrested him in front of his family, Ali al-Johani said. He hasn’t been heard from or seen since. “

Listen to more at the Where is Khaled channel on YouTube.

Written by modernityblog

08/04/2011 at 23:26

Bahrain, Libya, Saudi Arabia and The West.

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In Bahrain we are witnessing Saudi Arabian imperialism as dictators join forces to shoot peaceful demonstrators, the video below is just one example.

Elsewhere, in Libya Gaddafi’s air power has proved decisive as his mercenaries and loyalists advance on Benghazi.

The West’s failure to aid the rebels or provide a counter to Gadaffi’s air power has sealed the fate of the rebels.

In all probability we will see a bloodbath in Benghazi as Gadaffi kills as many as possible to prove a point, and the West’s stupid sanctions will not stop him. Gaddafi was afraid of losing power and fought with that in mind, freezing his assets in the West was annoying but not uppermost in his thinking. He doesn’t care what the West thinks of him, rather what could have happened, his overthrow and demise.

That is unlikely to happen now, as any opposition will be brutally dealt with, after 42 years as a dictator he’s learnt a trick or two, to murder or exile his opponents and ignore what people say.

In Saudi Arabia, there are protests according to Bloomberg:

“About 1,000 people in Saudi Arabia’s eastern city of al-Qatif defied a ban on demonstrations yesterday and protested peacefully to demand the country’s troops end their incursion into Bahrain.

Protesters chanted and held signs that called on the government to stay out of Bahrain, according to Ali Hassan, 26, who took part in the march. He said the march veered away from security forces to avoid a confrontation. A separate protest was held in the city of Awwamiya, according to Jasim al-Awwami, 27, who participated in it.”

Protesting in Saudi Arabia, Live Fire.

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If you listen to this clip you will hear the sound of live fire, real bullets being shot at people in Saudi Arabia.

On the Atlantic Wire:

“According to several news wire reports, Saudi Arabian police opened fire on Thursday at protests occurring in the kingdom’s east, specifically in the city of Qatif. The hundreds of mainly Shiite protesters were confronted with gunfire and stun grenades as police tried to clamp down on activists calling for democratic reforms. Groups had pegged this Friday for a “Day of Rage” aimed at bringing awareness for greater freedom in Saudia Arabia, even though the nation banned public protests last week.

As of this morning, western media outlets noted that the impact of the Saudi protests on oil prices has so far been minimal. “Here’s What The Market Thinks About Your So-Called ‘Day Of Rage,'” noted Joe Weisenthal’s headline at Business Insider, Weisenthal pointing to rising stocks and falling oil prices. That all changed in the afternoon as the price of crude oil jumped in what appeared to be a response of the scattered reports coming from the police shootings.”

BBC News covers yesterday’s protests in the city of Katif.

Written by modernityblog

11/03/2011 at 16:48

Shot, Protesting In Eastern Saudi Arabia.

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Events have reached Saudi Arabia as the Washington Post reports:

“DAMMAM, SAUDI ARABIA – Three people were injured when police opened fire during a protest in eastern Saudi Arabia on Thursday, according to a witness and a Saudi official.

The witness, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals by authorities, said police at first fired over protesters’ heads but then began shooting directly at them during a march in central Qatif, a predominantly Shiite town in oil-rich Eastern Province.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said police fired over the heads of protesters after demonstrators attacked them, the Reuters news agency reported. He did not say how the injuries were caused but said one of those hurt was a policeman.

At the time of the shooting, “the police were maybe 50 meters away” from the protesters, who were calling for the release of prisoners, the witness said. It was not immediately clear whether the bullets were live or rubber.”

The BBC adds:

“Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, which has had an absolute monarchy since its unification in the 1930s. “

Bloomberg has more background information:

“Saudi Arabia has seen protests in the kingdom’s Eastern Province this month, though nothing approaching the size witnessed in Bahrain and Egypt.

Shiite Muslims held two demonstrations on March 3 to call for the release of prisoners. About 100 people staged the first protest in the Shiite Muslim village of Awwamiya in the Eastern Province, while a similar number of people later demonstrated in the neighboring city of Qatif.

Security forces broke up another protest yesterday in Qatif. Police fired above the crowd of 120-150 people to end the rally after a policeman taking video to document the event was attacked, Major General Mansour al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said in an interview. Three people were injured, two protesters and one policeman, he said. “

Written by modernityblog

11/03/2011 at 02:12

Union Coverage.

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One of my regular readers has reminded me that I don’t cover trade unions enough.

I thought I would have a look at trade union rights in the Middle East, as it’s not a topic covered much in the Western media.

In the West, we take for granted what we have, and what others fought for, 8 hour working day, holidays, etc, the basics, so the Middle East, with its untold wealth and resources is a good starting place.

Despite a massive population, maybe as much as 300 million, we hear little news of the situation of ordinary people and workers in the Middle East.

Not unsurprisingly trade unions and trade unionists have many difficulties in the Middle East, their legal rights are often nonexistent, they are persecuted, attacked and even assassinated.

Attitudes towards trade unions and the treatment of workers is always a good indicator of the health of a society and we find a rather mixed picture when we consider the Middle East.

More often than not ordinary people in the Middle East don’t even have the basic right to join a free trade union, defend their working conditions, let alone strike.

In the end, the picture of workers’ rights in the Middle East is frequently bleak, as the International Trade Union Confederation 2009 survey relates:

“In Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, the political tensions and violence are having a negative impact on trade union activities. The offices of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, and some of the houses of its members, were destroyed by bombardments. In Lebanon, the government called on the army after a general strike was called in May that coincided with the aggravation of internal political tensions.

Changes in legislation have continued, but rather slowly. The effective exercise of union rights has accordingly been restricted or non-existent. In Iran, a new law enabling the establishment of free trade unions is being discussed. Promises of new laws guaranteeing increased trade union freedom have still not been kept in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. In Iraq, the new labour code has not been presented to the Parliament; as a result, laws dating back to the former regime that severely restrict trade union activities remain in force. As a general rule throughout the region, migrant workers have no trade union rights. In Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, the governments have brought in measures or proposed reforms aimed at improving the lot of migrant workers, however.

Trade unions are still banned in Saudi Arabia (where only the national workers’ committees are allowed to be set up in companies with over 100 workers), Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Despite the fact that trade union rights are enshrined in constitutions, restrictions remain and trade union pluralism and collective bargaining are virtually non-existent in the region. In Bahrain, for instance, although the government committed itself in 2007 to adopting a law allowing collective bargaining, the law has still not been adopted.

The right to strike remains limited in Oman, Qatar, Syria and Yemen, whilst it is totally banned in Saudi Arabia and banned in the public sector in the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait and Qatar. In addition, in many cases the list of essential services in which strikes are banned goes beyond the ILO definition.”

More later on.

Hunting Witches.

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Just heard about this on the radio and I thought that hunting Witches had stopped in the 16th century, but apparently Ali Sibat has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for sorcery, the Guardian explains:

“Once again, the spotlight is on Saudi Arabia for all the wrong reasons. This time, the kingdom is attracting criticism for condemning a self-styled psychic to death on the vague charge of “witchcraft”.

Ali Sibat, who is Lebanese, was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s notorious moral police at his hotel room in Medina on May 7 last year, while in town for a pilgrimage. After languishing in jail for a year and a half, he was sentenced to death in November for reportedly practising witchcraft. His lawyer has said Sibat was told that if he confessed to witchcraft, he would be released and allowed to return home.

Sibat was known for his appearances on a Lebanese satellite television station, where he offered callers advice and predictions about the future. Human rights organisations and media reports allege that these TV appearances were the only evidence used to condemn Sibat to death. This is a point worth emphasising: Sibat didn’t kill, torture, terrorise or kidnap anyone, or commit any crime that put anybody else’s life at risk. He told the superstitious whether they would find happiness or have children, and as a result, he has been condemned to death.”

Amnesty International’s take on it.

Written by modernityblog

19/12/2009 at 04:44