Archive | Human Rights

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Saudi Authorities Free 25 Shiites Detained During Demonstrations

Posted on 10 March 2011 by hashimilion

Saudi Arabian authorities released 25 Shiites arrested during protests in the Eastern Province earlier this month, according an activist.

The detainees were released yesterday, Ibrahim Al- Mugaiteeb, president of the Human Rights First Society, based in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, said today in a phone interview.

Shiites in al-Qatif held a demonstration on March 3, attended by about 100 people and heavily policed, to demand the release of prisoners. Another rally of a similar size took place in the eastern village of Awwamiya the same day, while on March 4, protesters in al-Hofuf demanded the release of Shiite cleric Tawfiq al-Amir. Activists said he was freed two days later.

Activists have called for a nationwide “Day of Rage” on March 11, and a Facebook Inc. page advocating the plan has more than 30,000 followers. The kingdom’s Council of Senior Islamic Scholars this week condemned protests as forbidden, and the Interior Ministry warned that demonstrations, marches and sit- ins are “strictly” prohibited.

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Indonesia Petitions Saudi Arabia to spare maid

Posted on 04 March 2011 by hashimilion

Indonesia said on Wednesday it had appealed to Saudi Arabia to commute the beheading of a maid convicted of killing her employer in what she called an act of self-defence.

A court in the Saudi capital of Riyadh sentenced the maid, Darsem, to death for murdering her Yemeni employer in December 2007, foreign ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir told AFP.

‘We’ve lodged an appeal against the sentence to the court there through our embassy in Riyadh and Darsem’s lawyer. We hope she could be freed or at least get a lower sentence,’ she said.

‘Darsem said she acted in self-defence as the employer had tried to rape her.’ Indonesia is also raising compensation or ‘diyat’ of two million riyals (S$673,000) for the employer’s family, she said.

‘Darsem could escape the sentence if she receives a pardon from the family.

The family forgave her in January on the condition that she pays the compensation,’ Mr Habir said. — AFP

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Three Saudi Shi’ites Released After Rare Protest

Posted on 21 February 2011 by hashimilion

Three Shi’ites held in prison for over a year were freed in Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing Eastern province, a Shi’ite preacher and a local journalist said on Sunday, days after a rare protest demanding their release.

Shi’ites staged a small protest on Thursday in the town of Awwamiya, near the Shi’ite centre of Qatif on the Gulf coast, to demand the release of the three, who had been held without charges.

“They were released today,” preacher Khoder Awwami told Reuters on the sidelines of a ceremony in a small mosque where the three were welcomed.

“I am so happy,” said Muneer al-Jasas, a blogger and one of the released men.

Officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority mostly live in the Eastern province, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world’s top crude exporter.

The province is near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi’ites against Sunni rulers.

Saudi Arabia applies an austere Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and Shi’ites say that, while their situation has improved under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face restrictions in getting senior government jobs.

The government denies these charges.

Awwamiya, a town visibly less affluent than the rest of the country, was the scene of protests for weeks in 2009 after police launched a search for firebrand Shi’ite preacher Nimr al-Nimr, who had suggested in a sermon that Shi’ites could one day seek their own separate state.

The secessionist threat, which analysts say was unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution provoked anti-government protests, followed clashes between the Sunni religious police and Shi’ite pilgrims near the tomb of Prophet Mohammad in the holy city of Medina.

Since then, Shi’ites say the situation has calmed down but they are still waiting for promised reforms to be carried out.

Officials say Shi’ites make up 10 percent of the Saudi population, although diplomats put it closer to 15 percent.

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Saudi Detainees Refuse to Sign Pledge

Posted on 19 February 2011 by hashimilion

The new political party founding members, arrested by Saudi authorities, refuse to compromise in withdrawing their demands for reforms.

The Umma Islamic Party, formed earlier this month by 10 university professors, political activists and business people, have asked the country’s rulers to start a dialogue on reform, including improving the status of women.

The initiative for forming the party was taken as pro-democracy movements have been spreading across Arab and African countries in recent weeks. The move came despite the kingdom’s ban on forming political parties.

It is not clear how many members were arrested on Wednesday, but party officials said that the detainees have declined to sign a pledge asked by the authorities’ on Friday to withdraw demands in return for their release.

One of the founders, Sheikh Mohammed bin Ghanim al-Qahtani, in a statement emailed to AP, said that he and the others have committed no crime to justify the arrest and that they were exercising their legitimate political rights.

The arrests will only “increase the political tension among the Saudi people who, like other Arabs, aspire to real political reform based on their right to freely express their opinions, hold political gatherings and elect their lawmakers,” he said.

On Thursday, Saudi Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz warned that his oil-rich country might be next in being swept over by a popular uprising if it does not act on reforms.

He said that it is not too late for the government to avoid a popular uprising if it adopts measures to step up the pace of reforms.

Saudi Arabia does not have a parliament. Instead, it has a consultative Shura Council, which is an entirely appointed body, merely aimed at providing the king with consultations on policies, laws, and other matters.

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Migrant Worker Abused by Saudi Employer

Posted on 31 January 2011 by hashimilion

Armayeh binti Sanuri, an Indonesian migrant worker from Pontianak, West Kalimantan, has become the latest victim of abuse in Saudi Arabia.

The Indonesia Migrant Worker Post of Struggle (Posper TKI) reported that Armayeh suffered wounds to her head, and her ears were infected after her employer stepped on her and scalded her with hot water.

Armayeh was sent to Saudi Arabia last year by a migrant worker placement firm, PT Aji Ayah Bunda Sejati. Posper TKI’s report claims Armayeh was abused almost daily and that she escaped from her employer’s house when the door was left unlocked.

She was found by neighbors and brought to the Al Anshar Hospital in Medina. Due to her condition, Armayeh was transferred to King Fahd Hospital in Medina in Jan. 26, where she is receiving assistance from the Indonesian consulate general.

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Saudi Arabia suppresses rights of millions: Human Rights Watch

Posted on 24 January 2011 by hashimilion

Saudi Arabia suppresses or fails to protect the rights of millions of women, foreign workers and Shiites, and reforms have so far been largely symbolic, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

“Authorities continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shiite citizens,” HRW said in its annual report for 2010.

And “each year, thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention,” said the report released in Brussels.

It listed individual curbs on freedoms affecting residents, particularly on women, whose ability to work, marry, study or travel lies in the hands of male guardians.

The group criticised the kingdom’s failure to fulfill a 2009 pledge to the UN Human Rights Council to end the male guardianship system, saying human rights remained poor in Saudi Arabia.

“Reforms to date have involved largely symbolic steps to improve the visibility of women and marginally expand freedom of expression,” the New York-based group said.

It cited one case of a court refusing to remove as guardian the father of a medical doctor in her 40s after her father refused to let her marry and had confiscated her income. The doctor now lives in a women’s shelter.

Another woman, Sawsan Salim, was sentenced to 300 lashes and 18 months prison for appearing in court without a male guardian, it added.

“The government has not yet set a minimum legal age for marriage, but in June issued new marriage contracts noting the bride’s age,” the report said, adding that one newspaper reported a divorced father marrying off his daughter, 12, for 80,000 riyals (21,300 dollars) because his ex-wife had gained custody.

“Asian embassies report thousands of complaints each year from domestic workers forced to work 15-20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries,” the report said.

“Domestic workers frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse,” HRW said, adding that 8.3 million migrant workers legally live in Saudi Arabia. Shiites in the kingdom are also a target of discrimination, it said.

“Official discrimination against Shiites encompasses religious practices, education, and the justice system. Government officials exclude Shiites from certain public jobs and policy questions and publicly disparage their faith.”

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Saudi Rights Group Calls for Hunger Strike to Protest against Arbitrary Detention

Posted on 20 January 2011 by hashimilion

A Saudi human rights group is urging activists to join a 48-hour hunger strike next month to protest the practice of arbitrary detention in the oil-rich kingdom.

The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association says in a statement posted on its website Wednesday the strike is designed to raise awareness of the plight of those held on such a basis and demand their release.

The group says arbitrary arrest has become “the norm without legal basis,” especially for Saudi human rights activists, foreign workers and individuals who have feuds with members of the royal family.

It says it plans to begin the two-day strike on Feb. 10.

Last month, the Saudi Interior Ministry refused to grant the group permission for a sit-in in the capital to demand political reform.

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Group calls on legislator to probe OFW deaths in Saudi Arabia

Posted on 14 January 2011 by hashimilion

A migrant workers’ group has called on Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello to probe into the unsolved deaths of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.

Gerry De Guzman, Migrante-Saudi Arabia Vice-Chairperson for the Eastern region, said that during a dialogue with Bello, head of the House committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA), OFW leaders discussed the worsening condition of OFWs amid numerous complaints of abuses and maltreatment.

De Guzman also said they presented to Bello a copy of the signature campaign initiated by Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia demanding the government’s action and intervention on the numbers of unsolved cases involving mysterious deaths and sexual abuse of OFWs.

One of the mysterious OFW deaths documented by Migrante was the case of Al-Khobar-based Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez, 22, who was found soaked in blood.

She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition but died hours later.

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