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  July 23, 2017

Saudi Arabian Activist Calls Out U.S. For Ignoring Human Rights Abuses

Women's Rights Saudi Arabia activist Hala Aldosari calls for greater action as 14 protesters, including a disabled person and two people arrested as juveniles are scheduled to be executed in Saudi Arabia

By Michael Sainato

On July 11, ABC News reported that Saudi Arabia executed four individuals for participating in protests against the government. As the Saudi Government is scheduled to execute 14 more protesters, including a disabled person and two individuals who were imprisoned as juveniles, the American Federation of Teachers Union is pushing the Trump Administration to speak out as one of the protesters set to be executed, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was detained right before boarding a plane to the United States to begin school at Western Michigan University.

"The excessive punitive measures against protestors and critics and the unchecked political power of the ruling family fuels violence as the only course available for change," said Saudi Arabian activist Hala Aldosari in an interview with me, explaining that Saudi Arabia's tactics to suppress any form of dissent is creating political instability in the country that makes violence the only avenue toward change or progress for those who don't agree with the authoritarianism exercised by the Saudi royal family in power. She has been leading a petition to end male guardianship in Saudi Arabia. "The fact that the US was informed of the executions of protesters and dissidents beforehand is a testimony on the hypocrisy of the international system that views the region only through economic interests, which in turn is compromised when political instability is inevitable."

She added in a 2016 interview with me, "we are targeted by our own system because of the way we stand up to speak against those policies and human rights violations. In this type of regime, we do not have platforms to speak independently,” she added. “Everything is banned, so it is very difficult to mobilize people within this context. This is why the majority of activists are in prison and those who are speaking are outside.”

Saudi Arabia has a drastic human rights record in executing its citizens, and the government has shown no signs of reducing their high death penalty rates that are conducted in an inhumane fashion from public beheadings to subjecting those prosecuted to be stoned to death. One of the protesters, Ali Mohammed al Nimr, was sentenced to death by crucifixion after being arrested at the age of 17. He received no due process, but was sentenced anyways for "“encouraging pro-democracy protests using a Blackberry.” The corpses are often left on public display to serve to intimidate other citizens from expressing any form of dissent toward the government.

In January 2017, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention identified the country's youngest political prisoner, Murtaja Al-Qureyrees, who was arrested at the age of 13. Many of the protesters arrested have been tortured into signing false confessions. Activists are calling on the Trump Administration and the State Department to try to intervene to halt the mass executions.

Despite criticizing Saudi Arabia during his presidential campaign, President Trump has refused offer any criticism toward the country at all during his presidency. At a recent visit to the country he signed a deal to provide the Saudis with nearly $110 billion in weapons from the United States. For several years the United States have been providing Saudi Arabia with weapons that have been used to perpetuate human rights atrocities in a War on Yemen. A bipartisan effort in June 2017 attempted to block the weapons sale, but the Senate came up short to provide the required votes to do so. The United States Government under Trump continues to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's abhorrent record on human rights abuses within its own borders and abroad in Yemen to appease the special interests that profit immensely off of the relationship.

Meanwhile in 2017, the country has executed 57 people. In 2016, the Saudi Government put 154 people to death after executing 158 in 2015, the country's highest record since 1995.

The country was recently ridiculed globally for arresting a woman who videotaped herself defying strict religious laws by walking the streets in a skirt as women's rights activists around the world continue to try to pressure the Saudi Arabian government to end male guardianship that subjugates women to serve as property to men.

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