Saudi Arabia: A rogue state with unending history of human rights violations

American Herald Tribune | Marwa Osman: “The country is a monarchy with a legal system based on Islamic law (Shari’a). Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The Government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. The Government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however, it does not always respect this right in practice and does not define this right in law.” That is a quote not from a writer opposing Saudi Arabia’s horrendous actions against their own people, but rather the first paragraph of an article describing Saudi Arabia in the website of the United States Department of State. No I am not joking.

Saudi Arabia has committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law not only in neighboring countries like Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain but inside its own territories as well. Saudi Arabia continued to repress pro-reform activists and peaceful dissidents. In 2016 over a dozen prominent activists convicted on charges arising from their peaceful activities were serving long prison sentences. Prominent activist Waleed Abu al-Khair continued to serve a 15-year sentence imposed by Saudi Arabia’s terrorism court that convicted him in 2014 on charges stemming solely from his peaceful criticism in media interviews and on social media of human rights abuses. Prominent blogger Raif Badawi served the fourth year of his 10-year sentence, but authorities did not flog him in 2016, as they previously did in January 2015. Unfortunately, that would be the highlight of his 10 year sentence.

On January 2, 2016, Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution of 47 men for “terrorism offenses.” 43 were associated with Al-Qaeda attacks in the 2000s, and four were Shia allegedly involved in protest-related “crimes” in 2011 and 2012. It was Saudi Arabia’s largest mass execution since 1980. Basically they crackdown on peaceful protestors and decided they were “terrorists” for daring to say NO to the Saudi “fair and just” ruling and therefore killed them. Among those executed were Ali Saeed Al Ribh, whose trial judgment indicates that he was under 18 when he allegedly committed some of the crimes for which he was sentenced to death, and Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric sentenced to death in 2014 after a Saudi court convicted him on a host of ambiguous charges, apparently based largely on his peaceful criticism of Saudi officials.

According to its own Interior Ministry statements, Saudi Arabia executed 144 persons between January and mid-November, mostly for murder and “terrorism-related” offenses. 22 of those executed were convicted for non-violent drug crimes. Most executions are carried out by beheading, most of the time in public, because how else would you terrorize your own citizens into bowing to your orders without a question.

As of September, Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher remained on death row for allegedly committing protest-related crimes while they were just young children in 2011 and 2012. Saudi judges based the capital convictions primarily on confessions that the three defendants retracted in court and said had been coerced, and the courts did not investigate the allegations that the confessions were obtained by torture. Ali , Daoud and Abdullah might be executed at any moment without any fair trial or chance of having a lawyer defend their cases.

Saudi Arabia also continues to discriminate against women and girls. Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to “abolish” it. Under this system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son, to travel, marry, or exit prison (!) They may be required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare (!) Women regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions without a male relative, from renting an apartment to filing legal claims. All women remain banned from driving cars in Saudi Arabia.

Domestic workers, predominantly women, faced a range of abuses including overwork, forced confinement, non-payment of wages, food deprivation, and psychological, physical, and sexual abuse without the authorities holding their employers to account. Workers who attempted to report employer abuses sometimes faced prosecution based on counterclaims of theft, “black magic,” or “sorcery.” Two crimes in the KSA punishable by death (!)

Shia citizens face systematic and pervasive official and legal discrimination, including in education, employment, the military, housing, political representation, the judiciary, religious practice, and media. Primary reasons include the widely-held view that Shia are polytheists and that they commit apostasy by practicing some of their worship activities, historical Sunni-Shia animosity, and “suspicion” of Iranian influence on their actions. The monarchs of Saudi Arabia are so bad in geography, they accuse Iran, which is 1,841.3 km away and which has no possible access to the kingdom, of influencing the actions of civilians demanding their basic rights.

Starting May 10, 2017, the Saudi government forces have been continuously bombing, shelling, firing and bulldozing houses in their own eastern province of Qatif in the Awamiyah town. The operation remains ongoing and is being carried out by a large number of armored military vehicles accompanied by demolition vehicles whose purpose is the destruction of the historic Mosawara neighborhood, despite UN Rapporteur calls to halt the demolition.

According to the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), Saudi authorities say the narrow streets of the historic Mosawara neighborhood, which is slated for “redevelopment”, have allegedly become a hideout for Shia militants to carry out attacks on Saudi security forces. This is not the first military action Saudi authorities have undertaken in Awamiyah and the neighboring town of Qatif. Awamiyah, which was the home of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, is known as a center for opposition. When the Arab Spring swept through the region, residents of Qatif and Awamiyah protested against the government. Police met the demonstrators with live ammunition that injured 24 men and three women. In 2015, authorities clashed with residents in Awamiyah and street battles reportedly continued for several hours.

This animosity dates back to the late 70s. Since Al-Hasa and Qatif provinces were conquered and annexed into the Emirate of Riyadh in 1913 by Ibn Saud, Shia in the region have experienced state oppression. Unlike most of Saudi Arabia, Qatif and much of the eastern province has a Shia majority. The region is also of key importance to the Saudi government due to it both possessing the bulk of Saudi oil reserves, as well as the main Saudi refinery and export terminal of Ras Tanura, which is situated close to Qatif.

This will continue to happen. Saudi Arabia will continue to be a rogue power clamping down on anyone who would dare rise against its tyranny and bigotry. Saudi monarchs believe that with petrodollar they can erase all the human rights violations they have been committing ever since they were appointed in power in the Arabian Peninsula by the British colonials. Indeed, they did lately buy the US President Donald Trump with a 400 billion dollars arms deal, but they still are not able to erase their true color and history from the US state department’s official website, nor will they be able to erase the hatred and repressions from the hearts and minds of all humans who have suffered, still suffer and will suffer because of their blind hunger for control and chauvinism.