As if Yakin Ertürk, the special rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Violence Against Women, needed more issues to talk about during her 10-day visit to the Kingdom, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice have decided to give her one more reason to tell us how we should treat our women (and men for that matter), and gosh how they hate it when they do that.
This sorry incident involving a Saudi-American businesswoman arrested in Riyadh for sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop with an unrelated man occurred on the same day Ertürk arrived to meet government officials, members of the Shoura Council and academics as well as individual victims of violence against women. She will subsequently report her findings to the UN Human Rights Council.
I’m glad that the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) have decided to speak out and stand up for the woman. They described the manner in which she was strip-searched in prison as “inhuman,” but to me the whole ordeal from the moment she was arrested is inhuman.
After recounting the outrageous violations committed by the Commission member against the women, an NSHR official said they will raise the issue with the Governorate of Riyadh. Moreover, the official said that they will ask the governorate that the woman be compensated for the damages she sustained.
However, based on past experiences with incidents involving the Commission, I think it is very unlikely that the governorate will hold them accountable for their misbehavior. Actually, one of the main problems with the Commission is the magnitude of power given to them in Riyadh that allow them to violate basic human rights and invade people’s privacy. Compare the situation in the capital to that in Jeddah and you will see what I mean. I think we are going to hear the same old rhetoric about how the Commission is not responsible for the mistakes its members make even if it resulted in the death of citizens.
I have said it many times before and I will say it again: until the government is serious about setting clear guidelines on what this Commission can and can’t do, we will continue to hear about atrocities like this one. In the past, many things like these used to pass unnoticed because people were too afraid to speak out against them, but times have changed and it is up to the people now to stand up for their rights.
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