Saudi Activists Face Long Fight for Human Rights

By Hiel, Betsy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 27, 2007 | Go to article overview

Saudi Activists Face Long Fight for Human Rights


Hiel, Betsy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia -- In this oil-rich desert kingdom where public beheading, flogging and stoning remain punishments, Ibrahim Al-Mugaiteeb has his work cut out.

He's been imprisoned and barred from travel for condemning human rights abuses. Yet the president of the independent Human Rights First Society won't be quiet.

"My youngest grandchild is 3 years old," he says. "She deserves to live in a better Saudi Arabia.

"They can throw me in jail, they can shoot me, but I cannot stop my activity. There are no human rights here."

Slight openings in this closed society have encouraged some Saudis. The news media are freer to report on official corruption and human rights abuses -- although journalists are careful not to criticize the royal family. King Abdullah has spoken openly of reform. The country held its first municipal elections in 2005.

Yet, when a group of reformers recently called for political and social change, including a constitutional monarchy, they were arrested.

"The Saudi people live a double life," says Najeeb Al-Khonaizi, a prominent Shia writer and activist. "Why? It's schizophrenia."

He refers to the strict Islamic rule imposed in the kingdom versus the hedonism of many Saudis when they travel to Cairo, Beirut, Bahrain or the West, and blames "a general atmosphere that is unhealthy."

Al-Khonaizi is one of an estimated 1,000 activists -- men and women, Sunnis and Shia -- who have petitioned the king for reforms. "I signed the petition because it is what our country needs. Our struggle ... is peaceful, not underground."

Such words got him jailed in the 1980s and in 2004. He spent six months in a 3-by-6-foot cell the first time.

"The last time, I had a room," he says.

Today he, too, is forbidden to travel abroad.

He supports gradual, not radical, reform. But unless life starts to improve, he says, "the country will explode."

'It is not that easy'

Two years ago, the government created a human rights commission reporting to the prime minister.

"Since we are at the beginning, we are expecting a lot of difficulties," says Dr. Zaid Al-Husain, a commissioner. "It is not that easy to go with a new enlightenment like this."

Commission chairman Turki Al-Sudairy insists human rights are a universal value, not exclusive to the West.

Al-Husain agrees: "There are clear and direct verses in the Koran that emphasize the dignity of man, the equality of people."

The commission is seeking authority to publicly criticize other government agencies, according to Al-Sudairy. It met with the head of the country's powerful religious police, he says, and fewer abuses have been reported as a result.

Yet he acknowledges the pace of change isn't swift.

"In 24 hours, you can't change women's condition in Saudi Arabia," Al-Sudairy says. "Saudi Arabia is only 75 years old. ... It was just tribes scattered all around the country, fighting amongst themselves."

'Three basic rights'

In 2006, the Saudi government allowed Human Rights Watch into the country. The group promptly criticized the travel bans on intellectuals.

"If Saudi Arabia wants to improve its image abroad, it should allow its leading intellectuals to travel abroad and share their visions of the country's future," says Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East director.

"The Saudi royal family should ask itself how long it wants to continue banning, firing and arresting its critics, and at what cost. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Saudi Activists Face Long Fight for Human Rights
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.