Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

Minority Rights in Saudi Arabia

Religious minorities in Saudi Arabia (non-Wahhabi Muslims and non-Muslims) face severe discrimination in employment and education, and are forbidden from openly practicing their religion. In cases involving the calculation of accidental injury or death compensation, a non-Muslim receives only half of the compensation that a male Muslim would receive, and in some cases only one-sixteenth of that amount, depending on intentionality. The testimony of non-Wahhabi Muslims can be disregarded, and non-Muslims are likely to receive harsher criminal sentences than Muslims. All verdicts are decided by the whim of partial Wahhabi judges.

The 2004 statistical report from the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning acknowledged that non-Saudis account for 67% of the Kingdom’s labor force. Other estimates set this figure as high as 85 to 90%. This translates to nearly seven million foreigners, or one-third of the population of Saudi Arabia, who live and work in the country without any rights or recognition under the strict Saudi-Wahhabi religious laws and practices. Without these workers, many of whom are non-Muslims, the Saudi economy would collapse. This hiring practice permeates the government and private employment sectors. Saudis are bypassed in favor of cheap labor, mostly from poorer Asian or African countries, who accept any terms without complaint due to their constant fear of arrest or deportation.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s dependence on its labor and expertise, foreign workers in the country are treated very poorly. Upon entry into the country, the passports of non-diplomats are confiscated by their employers or sponsors and the foreigner becomes a virtual hostage of his or her sponsor until departing the country. Foreign workers often face abusive conditions in the workplace, being denied breaks and meals while working unreasonably long hours, and in some cases not receiving pay for months or years at a time.

There are numerous reports of serious verbal and physical abuse, especially of foreign women working as domestic servants in Saudi households. There is no minimum wage, and workers do not have the right to organize or strike. There is no agency that recognizes the grievances of foreign laborers, and they may not access the justice system. Embassies of foreign workers often side with the Saudis for fear of losing Saudi loans, favorable trade deals, and access to cheap oil.

CDHR strongly urges the international community to condemn these abuses and the institutional discrimination against anyone in Saudi Arabia because of belief, ethnicity, race, or gender. The Saudi regime, with its intolerant religious institutions and abusive and dysfunctional economic infrastructure, must be held accountable for its discriminatory policies. The recognition and protection of basic and universal human rights constitutes an indispensable part of the democratization process. A policy of fairness and decency must replace the current government-sanctioned practice of discrimination and abuse in Saudi Arabia.


CDHR's campaign for minority rights in Saudi Arabia

More on minority rights in Saudi from CDHR's Blog

Religious Freedom in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government forbids the practice of any religion other than the state-sanctioned interpretation of Islam (Wahhabism). Worship for Muslims in Saudi Arabia is compulsory and during times of worship, all shops, restaurants, radio and television stations must close. Those who do not comply are subject to interrogation, humiliation, imprisonment and flogging. If non-Muslims are caught practicing their faiths in public, they are routinely taken to filthy detention centers and left to languish under harsh conditions. If they are foreigners, they remain in these conditions until they are deported. If religious prisoners come before a court, they face a biased judicial system staffed by extremist judges, who consider non-Muslims and religious minorities to be infidels.

The Saudi government uses religion as a tool of political, social, economic, and psychological oppression. Religion is used to justify tyrannical rule, reject democracy and impose severe censorship on the flow of information into and out of the country under the pretense of protecting Islam from the immoral values of “infidels.”

As host to the birthplace of Islam and the home of its holy shrines in Mecca and Medina, the Saudi ruling dynasty exerts disproportionate religious influence throughout Arab and Muslim communities worldwide. The official state religion, Wahhabism, advocates intolerance and depicts democracy as antithetical to God’s will and power. Unless the international community takes concrete measures to discourage the Saudi institutions from promoting religious hatred the consequences could be catastrophic.


CDHR's campaign for religious freedom in Saudi Arabia

More on religious freedom from CDHR's Blog

Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia are less represented in political, social, economic and scientific fields than women in any other Arab or Muslim country. Women were barred from participating in the only municipal elections in the history of the Saudi State in 2005. They are prohibited from studying certain subjects in schools, such as chemistry and biology. They may not legally drive and must obtain “permission” from a male “guardian” to travel within or outside the country. Women must ride in the back of public buses, even when the buses are empty. Saudi girls are not allowed to play sports in schools, which, by Saudi health official admission, is causing health problems and staggering expenses. All marriages are arranged by male relatives. If a Saudi woman divorces her husband, she loses custody of her children over age six. Women have little or no freedom to effectively prosecute sexual abuse cases, being required to produce four witnesses. In court, a woman’s testimony is equivalent to half that of a man’s. These conditions violate women’s human rights and have devastating personal and social effects.

These exclusionary policies have created a dangerously imbalanced environment that is hurting Saudi society and Muslim women across the globe. Such policies favor the views of extremist-leaning segments in the Saudi society. CDHR promotes the empowerment of Saudi women to become equal partners in the democratic development process in Saudi Arabia. As activists, elected officials, and constituents, the contributions of women are crucial to building a strong and vibrant society that embraces tolerance and rejects extremism and terrorism. Empowering women in Saudi Arabia is a moral imperative and a powerful path to promoting progress, tolerance and democracy in the country.

The alliance between the Saudi ruling dynasty and its extremist religious allies is at the heart of Saudi exclusion and mistreatment of women. The royal family has traditionally used a conservative brand of Sunni Islam (Wahhabism) to justify its rule. Present-day Saudi Arabia was founded by an alliance between Muhammad ibn Saud, great grandfather of the current ruling dynasty, and Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, the founder and father of Wahhabism in the middle of the eighteen century.

Wahhabi religious police have free reign to enforce their interpretation of religious law, and Saudi women face severe restrictions in the political, economic, and social spheres. Women cannot directly write freely, or assemble and organize against inhumane and stifling restrictions. The system has stifled the development of the country and kept its citizens divided.

Increased participation by Saudi women will tilt the balance in favor of tolerant policies that are in the best interest of all Saudi citizens and the international community. Women’s inclusion in political and civic life would unleash a wealth of talent that could increase domestic economic activity, empower competition, reduce unnecessary costs of social segregation, enrich cultural and civic development, and help foster democratic institutions, thereby weakening extremist influences in the country. With Saudi Arabia’s significant religious and economic influence regionally and globally, empowering women in Saudi Arabia will radically increase chances for democratic reforms in other Arab and Muslim societies worldwide.


More on Women's Rights from CDHR

Wajeha al-Huwaider, a courageous advocate for Saudi women's rights.

2008 Report from Human Rights Watch: Perpetual Minors

CDHR's campaign for women's rights in Saudi Arabia

Blog Archive


United States (14) Saudi women (13) Human Rights (12) women's rights (9) Wahhabism (8) Human Rights Watch (5) Saudi Arabia (5) extremism (5) male guardianship (5) religious freedom (5) women drivers (5) Amnesty International (4) Prince Naif (4) Saudi blogger (4) Twitter (4) censorship (4) conference (4) freedom of media (4) judicial system (4) political reform (4) Facebook (3) Fouad Alfarhan (3) Iran (3) King Abdullah (3) President Obama (3) Saudi royal family (3) Sharia law (3) democracy (3) demonstration (3) employment (3) royal family (3) Blogs (2) CDHR (2) Crown Prince Sultan (2) France (2) Freedom House (2) Hezbollah (2) Israel (2) Jeddah (2) Lebanon (2) Minority Rights (2) Syria (2) Terrorism (2) The Washington Post (2) U.S. Congress (2) Wajeha al-Huwaider (2) arrest (2) child brides (2) education (2) freedom of internet (2) freedom of speech (2) headscarf (2) religious police (2) torture (2) Abaya (1) About CDHR (1) Afghanistan (1) Ahmed Subhy Mansour (1) Al-Doumaini (1) Al-Faleh (1) Al-Hamid (1) BBC News (1) Boston Globe (1) Clare Lopez (1) Contact (1) Dan Burton (1) Economic Reform (1) Farzana Hassan (1) Hamas (1) Hariri Family (1) Iraq (1) Islamic Society of Boston (1) Jihadist (1) King Fahd (1) Mansour al-Nogaidan (1) Middle East (1) Ministry of Interior (1) Muqtada Al-Sadr (1) Muslim Brotherhood (1) Olympics (1) Pakistan (1) President Bush (1) Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (1) Prince Abdul Rahman (1) Prince Al-Waleed (1) Prince Talal (1) Riyadh (1) Sarah Leah Whitson (1) Sarkozy (1) Saudi Embassy (1) Shia (1) Sudairi Seven (1) Sue Myrick (1) Sunni (1) Taliban (1) The Stoning of Soraya M. (1) Thomas Farr (1) adultery (1) burka (1) child abuse (1) female comic (1) film (1) foreign workers (1) hijab (1) honor killings (1) khalwa (1) niqab (1) non-Saudis (1) oil (1) political culture (1) sex segregation (1) stoning (1) succession (1) voting (1) youtube (1)