Friday, September 28, 2012

The Need for Equality in Saudi Divorce Laws

The Saudi divorce laws remain absurdly unequal between men and women, even at a time when women are highly educated and capable of earning their own living and deciding what is best for them, including divorcing abusive spouses.

All a man has to do to divorce his wife is simply say “I divorce you” three times or in some cases even send a text message, to tell her that the marriage is over. But for a woman, divorce is a grueling, lengthy and expensive ordeal. A woman has two options, both of which are uphill battles. She can go to a Shariah court staffed by religious judges who consider women mentally incompetent, physically weak and emotionally unstable. She has to convince the court that her husband is abusive in order to obtain a divorce. The problem women face in this situation is that the judges consider men superior to women, even if they are abusive, of unsound mind, or are molesters.

Her other equally formidable choice is to “buy her freedom” from the unfit husband by repaying the original dowry money the father received from her husband for allowing the marriage. This is almost impossible for most Saudi women to do since the majority of them are not allowed to work and earn income.

All marriages in Saudi Arabia are arranged by and between men and there is no age limit according to the Islamic law. Eight-year-old girls could be forced into marrying men in their 70s and 80s.

The Saudi judicial system, which is based on unmodified Shariah law, is arbitrary and final decisions depend on the mood and judgment of the presiding judges. Despite the fact that there are debates about divorce, age limits and payments, abusive marriages are ubiquitous in Saudi Arabia. This is because of the arbitrary religious court system and the judges who consider women unworthy of respect and full citizenship.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Saudi Grand Mufti: Insulting The Prophet is Not All Bad

The Saudi Grand Mufti: Insulting The Prophet is Not All Bad 

CDHR’s Commentary: In what seemed to be a Saudi government dictated statement, the Saudi Grand Mufti (top religious authority), Abdul Aziz Al-Alshaikh, asked Muslims not to react violently against those who defame Islam and depict Prophet Mohammed negatively. At the same time, the cleric cautioned “…that all Muslims are willing to sacrifice their lives and properties for the cause of their dear Prophet (pbuh).” Inexplicably, the Mufti told Muslims that belittling Prophet Mohammed ‘… only helps in spreading the glory of the Prophet (pbuh) with greater vigor.’ 

While advising the infuriated Muslim protesters to refrain from violence, the Saudi Mufti asked ‘the international community to take steps to criminalize any act of abusing great prophets and messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them).’ It’s ironic that the head of the Saudi religious establishment, the Mufti, included the names of Moses and Jesus in the list of Prophets that must be glorified only. As per his divine instructions, Jews and Christians are not only forbidden from practicing their religious rituals publicly in Saudi Arabia, but if caught doing so privately, they can be punished and deported. In addition, this is the same Mufti who called for the destruction of Christian churches in the Arabian Peninsula.  

The Saudi Mufti’s advice to the mobs of trigger happy Muslim extremists has to be taken with a grain of salt. His overriding objective, which he shares with 56 Muslim countries that form the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is to abolish freedom of the press and all forms of expression worldwide. He considers and forbids all forms of assemblage (except praying in mosques) antithesis to content and teachings of the Muslim faith. The good news is that, the religious establishment is losing its credential in Saudi Arabia and around the world. This is due to the fact that clerics are using religion to justify repressive and backward state policies.

Saudi Restless Population Demands Justice

CDHR’s Commentary: Coinciding with Saudi state’s 82nd National Day, relatives of illegally incarcerated Saudi citizens held two peaceful demonstrations; one in the desert outside of the Tarfiya Prison in Qassim Province (Central region) and the other in the capital Riyadh, outside of the Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission. The orderly and peaceful protestors which consisted of wives, children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of the prisoners, were not chanting down with Saudi oligarchs or burning the Saudi flag; they were simply trying to find out as to why their relatives have been in Saudi dungeons without specific charges or opportunities to defend themselves in a court of law for years. One anguished, but determined protestor summed up the Saudi government’s arbitrary arrests and treatment of its prisoners in a blunt manner, "There are some prisoners who have been tortured, some who have completed their sentences, others who have not been charged and even some who have been found innocent but are still imprisoned." "We will stay here until we are heard."
Instead of listening to the grievances of the aggrieved protestors, the Saudi state’s security forces did what they are trained and instructed to do. They corralled and kept the protestors in the sizzling desert heat for one day without access to food or water as described by one protestor; "We are hungry and thirsty and looking for shade under vehicles." After the protestors’ entrapment for one day, they were told that they have been heard, their demands will be looked into and it was time for them to disperse. After they left the desert prison, the protestors were chased by the riot police who separated men from women and children, loaded dozens of men in government’s vehicles and took them to unknown locations.   
From these events and deadlier confrontations between authorities and peaceful justice and freedom seeking protestors in other parts of the country, it is obvious that the Saudi autocratic regime is still living in a political coma. The Saudi regime continues to depend on brute force, bribery, arbitrary detentions and state manufactured and controlled religious courts to justify its policies of exclusions, discrimination, intimidation and prohibition of basic citizens’ rights to express themselves peacefully.
In the pretext of national security and “War on Terrorism”, any individual or group of people who call for democratic reforms, women’s rights, religious freedom, an end to discrimination based on gender, race and religious orientation or constitutional monarchy can be imprisoned without charges or trials for years.  The Saudi regime’s continual failures to understand that a new generation of men and women are aspiring to a brighter, better and promising future. They no longer care about mosques and religious police. Like their counterparts in the Arab World and the rest of the world, they want freedom, emancipation from fear and a role in determining the future of their important country.  


Friday, September 21, 2012

Helping Saudi Women Work: More is Needed

A company that helps women to find employment in Saudi Arabia is a significant step forward for women’s rights in the Kingdom. However connecting women with potential employers is not the only change needed for women to find work; they need to have easy access to transportation in order to travel to work, and many women who are currently unemployed cannot afford a driver and are not allowed to take public transportation. Once at work, a woman may have trouble communicating with colleagues and superiors if she is unable to be in the same room as men working for the company. Significant changes are needed in Saudi Arabia for women to not only be able to find employment, but for them to be able to work effectively and without undue hardships. 



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