FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Intolerance, Saudi-Style

 Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

— Voltaire

Meanwhile, back in Saudi Arabia. . . .

For a brief time it seemed that our friends and allies, the Saudis, might be on the verge of getting one thing right. In early November it was reported that King Abdullah’s advisory council had recommended that the government ease its ban on female drivers. Women are banned from driving by religious edicts issued by senior clerics who believe permitting women to drive encourages licentiousness.  Under the proposed action, the ban would have been modified.

The council recommended that (a) women over the age of 30, (b) wearing no lipstick or other makeup, (c) conservatively dressed and, (d) with the permission of a male relative, be permitted to drive from 7 AM to 8 PM Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 PM Thursday and Friday.  When driving in the city a woman would not have to be accompanied by a male relative.  Outside the city, however, a male relative would have to be in the car.  No sooner was this development reported than it was denied by an official.  Events taking place shortly after his denial proved that his denial had more substance than the original report.

On December 1,2014 two Saudi women were arrested after driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. After a one-week’s detention authorities announced they would be held until December 25th. On December 25th the two women were referred to a court in Riyad created specifically to try terrorism cases.  At the time of the arrest there was no suggestion that either of the women was a bad driver so the referral to a court created to try terrorists made little sense. As of this writing they remain confined and have been confined longer than any other Saudi woman for the offense of driving. As things go in that fair kingdom, however, that is a minor issue. How some Saudi citizens are dealt with, apart from the ban on women drivers, came into sharp focus following the mass killing in Paris that was in retaliation for what the murderers believed was a literary assault on Mohammad by those they murdered.  Yemen was the country in which the murderers were reportedly trained.  Yemen is not our ally.  Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor, is.

On December 18, 2014 we learned that Saudi Arabia had passed a new law that imposes the death penalty on anyone caught trying to smuggle a Bible into the country.  The new Saudi law brings Jeffrey Fowle to mind. Jeffrey was imprisoned in North Korea from mid-May 2014 to October 21,2014 because he left a Bible in a nightclub in North Korea. Owning a Bible in North Korea is a capital offense punishable by death.  North Korea is not our ally.  Saudi Arabia is.

Raif Badawi is a Saudi citizen who started an Internet forum called “Free Saudi Liberals” that discussed the role of religion in Saudi Arabia.  He was arrested by authorities in July 2012 and charged with cyber crime and disobeying his father.  According to Human Rights Watch he founded his website in 2008 to “encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia.  Articles on his website were critical of senior religious figures. At his first trial he was sentenced to 7 years in jail and 600 lashes.  In July 2014 an appellate court ordered a new trial.  At the second trial Badawi was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined one million riyals for creating his website and an additional five years in prison and 1,000 public lashes for “blasphemous phrases on his Face book page and disobedience to his father. He doesn’t get all the lashes at one time.  There will be 20 sessions of 50 lashes each.  Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Ab al-Khair, didn’t have a better summer than his client.

As reported by Human Rights Watch, on July 2014 al-Khair received a 5-year prison sentence because he criticized Saudi human rights abuses in media interviews and on social media.

The same day Badawi was sentenced, the same court sentenced the administrator of a website to six years in jail and a 50,000 riyal fine.  His crime was “supporting Internet forums hostile to the state. . . which promoted demonstrations.” Another website administrator got a five year sentence for publishing a column written by a Sh’ite Muslim cleric.

Fahdil al-Manasif helped international journalists who were covering protests that occurred as a result of Saudi treatment of Shia Muslims in the eastern province of the country.  He will spend 14 years in prison for his efforts. On November 3, 2014 Mikhlif al-Shammari was sentenced to two years in prison and 200 lashes.  One of his crimes was visiting a prominent Shia figure in the eastern part of the country as a goodwill gesture. What all of those victims of the Saudi criminal justice system have in common is that their offenses related strictly to intellectual activities and not physical violence. What all of them have in common is that none of them was writing satire.  One can only guess how our Saudi allies would react to a satirist making fun of Saudi authorities.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney in Boulder, Colorado.

 

More articles by:

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail