Head of CPVPV weeps, Head of NSHR talks

  • Sheikh Abdul-Latif Al-alsheikh, head of CPVPV, joins the growing crowd of weeping clerics, though unfortunately we don’t have a video of the incident. The tears were spilled during a meeting with his staff as he recalled a conversation with King Abdullah. Al-alskheikh said the king asked him to avoid using violence against citizens. Al-alsheikh also commented on the Nail Polish Girl issue, saying the story has been exaggerated. “The world is making airplanes and we are telling a woman to leave the mall because she is wearing nail polish,” he exclaimed.

Nail polish photo

  • Arab New interviews Moflih al-Qahtani, chairman of NSHR, to talk about the society’s latest report that was published yesterday. “Our report is in support of the Kingdom’s efforts worldwide to sustain its positive image among international human rights organizations,” he said. I thought the goal was to highlight the human rights situation in the country in order to improve it. Silly me.

NSHR new report, Crown Prince health, Madawi and Nail Polish Girl

  • The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) published their third report on the human rights situation in the country. Their previous two reports were well received, and this one will probably get the same reception. The report’s main theme is that the government executive bodies have failed to meet the ambitions of King Abdullah. At the end of the report, NSHR provided a list of recommendations including suggestions for partial elections of the Shoura Council as well as limiting transgressions by security forces and CPVPV members against citizens. Full text of the report in Arabic is available here (PDF)
  • Crown Prince Naif left the country last week for “routine medical checkups,” according to the state news agency. His deputy, Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, told local media Saturday that “Prince Naif is fine, I spoke with him last night. He is in good health and will come back soon.”
  • Madawi al-Rasheed says Nail Polish Girl is no hero because her confrontation with the Commission was not “grounded in demands for both personal freedoms and political and civil rights for men and women. Until then, Saudis and the rest of the world will continue to watch YouTube clips of futile disconnected incidents, grounded in sensationalism and imagined heroism,” she says. Rana Jarbou, on Twitter, disagrees: “I highly respect Madawi Al-Rasheed, but I find the ‘Nail Polish Girl’ more relevant to my plight as a ‪Saudi‬ woman.”

CPVPV in KSU, Discrimination at KAUST, Limits on Lashing

  • During a meeting between KSU female students and the spokesman of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an attendant asked the all important question: “When are we going to see female hai’a inside KSU?” It’s not like KSU is already dominated by hai’a sympathizers or anything. Let’s remember, the aforementioned meeting was conducted through the closed tv circuit of the university. The CPVPV spokesman was in one place, the students were in a different place, far far away from him. They could see him, he could not see them.
  • Nathan has a disturbing blogpost about discrimination at KAUST. “[T]he injustice and prejudice against foreign workers runs deep here,” he says. I agree. Saad Al Dossari has a good follow up.
  • I somehow missed this quote by Mufleh al-Qahtani, head of NSHR, who said there is a need to set minimum and maximum limits for lashing sentences. Obviously he is taking the typical Saudi approach of trying not to offend anyone. How about going 300 steps further and stop lashing once and for all, except for those very few cases explicitly specified in Quran?

On Alienating Opponents

I respect the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). Compared to the other human rights organization in the country, I believe that they have been doing a decent job. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised by their latest report. But even NSHR occasionally manage to get on my nerves too.

NSHR still lacks a stance on issues like women’s driving. One of the founding members of the Society was recently asked why they don’t have a stance on the issue and he gave an interesting answer. He said some members of NSHR supports women’s driving, while some other members don’t. We don’t want to alienate those.

Say what?!

I understand that women’s driving is a controversial issue. But I believe it shouldn’t be. To me, the issue boils down to this: freedom of movement is a basic human right. Therefore, you would think it’s obvious what kind of stance NSHR should be taking. Any member who has a different opinion can then express their reservation on this stance, or they can quit. It’s that simple, really.

But that’s just me. And I would gladly admit that I know very little about the inside politics of the few NGOs operating in Saudi Arabia. So people of NSHR, if any of you is reading this, please enlighten me.

Poor Job of HRC

I know some people think that human rights organizations in Saudi Arabia are a joke, and sadly sometimes they are, but I don’t think these organizations are useless. That’s why I feel so disappointed when I see that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is still doing a poor job, and that its new president Bandar al-Iban has so far proven he is not all that different from his predecessor. In today’s Arab News, he talks about how his organization helped a woman called Fatima to put her abusive husband in jail.

That’s well and good, but it is certainly not the kind of work that HRC should be doing. As a government commission with the responsibility of ensuring that other government bodies are respecting human rights they are expected to offer an organized effort on a much higher scale.

I understand that HRC is not exactly working in Sweden, but I always wish they would try harder and go the extra mile. They need not to look too far: their peers at the National Society of Human Rights have been doing a nice job with their reports and occasional statements. It is hardly enough, but at least it’s a start. Am I expecting too much of HRC? Maybe, and the reason is because I think they are in a position where they could, and should, get much more done.

Confusing Signals

More than two years after publishing their first report, the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) published their second report, and I have to say that I am impressed. The report is written in a simple, clean, and professional language that should promote human rights principles among Saudi citizens.

The report criticized many government departments for their abuses of human rights, and also criticized the slow pace of reforms in judiciary as well as the performance of the Shoura Council. The full text of the report is available here (Arabic PDF). Arab News provides some highlights from the report.

I don’t think I need to talk in detail about the report. I already said that I was impressed and I really think the report speaks for itself. But I would like to point out to one interesting tidbit here.

As part of the remarks on the Shoura Council performance, the report called for electing the members instead of the current method of selection. The report also said there is a need to take effective steps to protect and promote women’s rights. But soon after the report was released, Interior Minister Prince Naif came out to say that Saudi Arabia has no need for women members of parliament or elections. Yesterday, Prince Naif was appointed as second deputy premier.

Now this is exactly the kind of mixed signals that makes the world question the commitment of our country to its much publicized reform plans, not to mention how it leaves the people confused about where their nation is heading. So what’s going on here? Frankly, I don’t get it. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

Discussion Panel on Human Rights at KSU

human rights at KSUMany people in the KSU community have been excited about appointing Abdullah al-Othman as a new rector. Although I despised all the ass-kissing published in the university newsletter after he took the helm at Saudi Arabia’s oldest university, I must give the man some credit for many good initiatives that he’s been pushing. One of the these initiatives is opening the campus for new voices rarely heard around here.

As part of their regular weekly events, the student affairs deanship at KSU will host tomorrow a discussion panel featuring Mufleh al-Qahtani and Saleh al-Khathlan from the National Society for Human Rights. It should be a good chance to raise awareness among ignorant students — if they show up, that is — and also talk about the current state of human rights conditions in the country.

Unfortunately, I have a practical exam at the same time so I won’t be able to attend, but I will try to finish early and catch what’s left by the time I’m done with my exam.

This is an open event, so if you are interested I highly encourage you to come. Girls are out of luck because AFAIK this event won’t be transmitted to the girls’ campus in Olaysha. Unless, of course, you have the ovaries to come to the boys’ campus and try to find a seat there. A few female journalists were allowed to attend Prince Turki al-Faisal lecture last month at Hamad al-Jassir auditorium.

What: Human Right — Between Reality and Ambition
Who: Mufleh al-Qahtani, VP of NSHR; Saleh al-Khathlan, member of NSHR
When: Monday, April 21, 2008. 12:30 PM
Where: Building No.7, Auditorium 7A, opposite to the College of Arts