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SAUDI ARABIA and HUMAN RIGHTS

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Unedited. Documents and classified communications. It must be questioned as to what educational level staff have obtained, as certain favourable remarks cannot be made in light of known facts. I.e social comment, when rape victims have been punished FOR daring to report.

1. THE FOLLOWING IS THE DRAFT OF THE UNCLASSIFIED HUMAN

RIGHTS REPORT TO THE CONGRESS FOR SAUDI ARABIA FOR

1978. EMBASSY COMMENTS, CORRECTIONS, AND ESPECIALLY

UPDATING ARE REQUESTED BY NEA/ARP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

THIS DRAFT HAS BEEN CLEARED IN ARP AND IS BASED ON THE

AGREED FINAL REPORT FOR LAST YEAR. ARP NEEDS EMBASSY

COMMENTS NOT LATER THAN COB SEPT. 12.

2. SAUDI ARABIA IS AN ISLAMIC MONARCHY IN WHICH RELIGIOUS

PRECEPTS AND TRADITIONS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN THE SOCIETY.

BY ORIGIN TRIBAL, IT IS BASICALLY EGALITARIAN AND INDIVIDUALISTIC. SAUDIS HAVE A FINELY DRAWN AND INTENSELY FELT

SENSE OF JUSTICE.

3. RESPECT FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE PERSON, INCLUDING

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FREEDOM FROM:

A. TORTURE

TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, TORTURE IS NOT OFFICIALLY

SANCTIONED OR PRACTICED IN SAUDI ARABIA. THERE ARE

OCCASIONAL ISOLATED REPORTS OF TORTURE, BUT NONE HAS BEEN


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014

CONFIRMED OR DOCUMENTED.

B. CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT

ISLAMIC LAW, WHICH IS THE CONSTITUTION" OF SAUDI ARABIA,

SANCTIONS THE PRACTICE OF SEVERING THE HAND OF CONVICTED

THIEVES. THIS PUNISHMENT IS NOT METED OUT TO FIRST OR

SECOND OFFENDERS BUT ONLY TO CLEAR RECIDIVISTS. CAPITAL

PUNISHMENT BY PUBLIC BEHEADING IS PROVIDED FOR BY LAW FOR

MURDER AND OTHER HEINOUS CRIMES, BUT IN PRACTICE IT IS

RARELY USED. PUBLIC FLOGGING IS OCCASIONALLY USED AS A

PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER CRIMES BY THE SAUDI COURTS.

PRISONERS LIVE UNDER DIFFICULT CONDITIONS, PARTICULARLY

DURING THE HOT SEASON, BUT ARE NOT WANTONLY MISTREATED.

C. ARBITRARY ARREST OR IMPRISONMENT

ARBITRARY ARREST AND DETENTION ARE NOT CONDONED OR

PRACTICED BY THE GOVERNMENT. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT

INDIVIDUALS ARE PRESENTLY INCARCERATED IN SAUDI ARABIA

FOR THEIR POLITICAL BELIEFS. FOREIGNERS ACCUSED OF

BREAKING THE LAW ARE FREQUENTLY DEPORTED AND PROHIBITED

RE-ENTRY INTO THE KINGDOM.

D. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL

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SAUDI ARABIA'S JUDICIAL SYSTEM IS BASED DIRECTLY ON

ISLAMIC LAW. THE ACCUSED IS TRIED BEFORE QUALIFIED AND

IMPARTIAL JUDGES. TRIALS ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, INCLU;DING

US CONSULAR OFFICIALS, EXCEPT WHEN THE SECURITY OF THE

STATE IS DEEMED TO BE AT STAKE. SUCH CLOSED TRIALS HAVE

OCCURRED RARELY IN RECENT YEARS. EXTENSIVE POLICE INVESTIGATIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEFICIENCIES FREQUENTLY LEAD TO

DELAY OF TRIALS, DURING WHICH TIME, IN CRIMINAL CASES,

THE ACCUSED NORMALLY REMAINS IN JAIL. SHOULD PARTIES IN

A CRIMINAL TRIAL BE DISSATISFIED WITH THE VERDICT, THEY

HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPEAL.

E. INVASION OF THE HOME

SAUDI LAW AND CUSTOM REQUIRE RESPECT FOR PRIVACY. HOWEVER,

SAUDI LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES DO NOT HESITATE TO

SEARCH PREMISES WITHOUT A WARRANT IN CASES WHERE THEY

HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE ILLEGAL ACTIVITES ARE TAKING PLACE.

SUCH CASES ARE NOT COMMON.

4. GOVERNMENTAL POLICIES RELATING TO THE FULFILLMENT OF


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014

SUCH VITAL NEEDS AS FOOD, SHELTER, HEALTH CARE AND

EDUCATION

THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT IS USING ITS OIL REVENUES FOR THE

BENEFIT OF THE POOR. FREE EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE

FACILITIES ARE BEING DEVELOPED AS RAPIDLY AS POSSIBLE.

IF ADEQUATE MEDICAL CARE IS NOT AVAILABLE WITHIN THE

KINGDOM, THE PATIENT AND ONE FAMILY ESCORT WILL BE FLOWN

ABROAD AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE. A REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT

FUND, WHICH PROVIDES INTEREST-FREE 25-YEAR LOANS, HAS

BEEN CREATED TO FINANCE THE ACQUISITION OF HOMES BY SAUDI

CITIZENS. THE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZES BASIC FOODSTUFFS.

IN ADDITION TO ITS CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF ITS OWN

PEOPLE, THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT IS A MAJOR SOURCE OF FOREIGN

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AID TO POORER COUNTRIES.

5. RESPECT FOR CIVIL AND POLITICAL LIBERTIES, INCLUDING:

A. FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, SPEECH, PRESS, RELIGION AND

ASSEMBLY

SAUDIS ARE GENERALLY FREE TO SAY WHATEVER THEY WISH;

INDEED, CITIZENS ARE INVITED TO TAKE THEIR GRIEVANCES TO

HIGHER AUTHORITY. THE PRESS IS NOT CENSORED PRIOR TO

PUBLICATION BUT IT DOES KEEP WITHIN BOUNDS IT PRESUMES

ARE ACCEPTABLE TO THE GOVERNMENT. THUS, CRITICISM OF

POLICIES AND SENIOR OFFICIALS IN THE PRESS IS RARE.

THERE IS FREQUENT CRITICISM OF THE NEGATIVE EFFECT OF

DOMESTIC POLICIES, PARTICULARLY IN THE ECONOMIC SPHERE,

AND THE PRESS OFTEN WRITES OF THE FAILURE OF MIDDLE-LEVEL

OFFICIALS PROPERLY TO DISCHARGE THEIR DUTIES. THE FOREIGN

PRESS IS CENSORED PRIOR TO DISTRIBUTION IN ORDER TO EXCISE

PICTURES AND STATEMENTS THAT ARE THOUGHT OFFENSIVE TO

THE TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC VALUES OF SAUDI SOCIETY.

UNIONS OR OTHER FORMS OF LABOR ORGANIZATIONS ARE PROHIBITED.

OFFICIAL INSTITUTIONS HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED TO PROTECT

THE RIGHTS OF LABOR AND HEAR GRIEVANCES. ALTHOUGH THERE

IS NO EXPRESS PROHIBITION ON ASSEMBLY, ANY MEETING OF A

POLITICAL NATURE WOULD FALL UNDER THE MORE GENERAL

PROHIBITION AGAINST POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND ORGANIZATIONS.

ISLAM IS THE ESTABLISHED RELIGION OF SAUDI ARABIA AND

SAUDIS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO PRACTICE OTHER RELIGIONS,

ALTHOUGH NON-MUSLIM FOREIGNERS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HOLD

PRIVATE AND DISCREET RELIGIOUS SERVICES.

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WOMEN IN SAUDI ARABIA OCCUPY A SOCIAL POSITION QUITE

DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF WOMEN IN THE WEST. BY TRADITION

AND, TO SOME EXTENT, BY ISLAMIC LAW (AS THE SAUDIS INTERPRET IT), WOMEN ARE SEGREGATED FROM ALL MEN EXCEPT CLOSE

RELATIVES. THEIR PRIMARY FOCUS IS ON HOME AND FAMILY,

ALTHOUGH WITHIN THAT CONTEXT THEY CAN BECOME VERY INFLUENTIAL. WHEN THEY LEAVE THEIR HOMES, THEY ARE EXPECTED TO

BE VEILED AND WITH A MALE ESCORT. THEY CAN BE EASILY

DIVORCED (BUT CANNOT EASILY DIVORCE THEIR HUSBANDS).

MEN CAN HAVE UP TO FOUR WIVES. WOMEN'S OPPORTUNITIES FOR

EMPLOYMENT ARE LIMITED TO CERTAIN OCCUPATIONS WHERE CONTACT WITH MEN IS MINIMAL. IN RECENT YEARS MAJOR CHANGES

HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN THE ACTUAL SITUATION, IF NOT

THEORETICAL STATUS, OF WOMEN. AN INCREASING NUMBER ARE

BEING EDUCATED, AND SOME HAVE STUDIED FOR ADVANCED DEGREES

ABROAD. DIVORCE IS LESS COMMON IN SAUDI ARABIA THAN IN

WESTERN COUNTRIES, AND POLYGAMY HAS BECOME RARE. MORE

AND MORE SAUDI WOMEN ARE APPEARING IN PUBLIC WITHOUT

VEILS AND AT SOCIAL EVENTS IN THE COMPANY OF THEIR

HUSBANDS.

B. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT WITHIN THE COUNTRY, FOREIGN

TRAVEL AND EMIGRATION

SAUDI MALES ARE GENERALLY FREE TO MOVE ABOUT THE COUNTRY

AND TRAVEL ABROAD. NOR ARE THERE OBSTACLES TO

EMIGRATION BY THEM. BY SOCIAL CUSTOM, HOWEVER, THE

MOVEMENT OF WOMEN IS VERY RESTRICTED. THEY CANNOT DRIVE

CARS AND THEY MUST OBTAIN THEIR HUSBAND'S OR FATHER'S

PERMISSION TO TRAVEL ABROAD OR TO EMIGRATE.

VISAS FOR TRAVEL INTO SAUDI ARABIA HAVE AT TIMES BEEN

REFUSED BY SAUDI AUTHORITIES ON THE BASIS OF RELIGION,

BUT SUCH CASES ARE NOW RARE AND LIMITED TO ATHEISTS AND

PERSONS THE SAUDIS CONSIDER TO BE A POLITICAL OR

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RELIGIOUS THREAT TO THE SAUDI STATE.

C. FREEDOM TO PARTICIPATE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS

SAUDI ARABIA IS AN ISLAMIC MONARCHY WHOSE KING IS CHOSEN

BY CONSENSUS OF THE SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY.

THE KINGDOM DOES NOT HAVE AN ELECTED ASSEMBLY, AND


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014

POLITICAL PARTIES ARE PROHIBITED. THE ACCESSIBILITY OF

OFFICIALS AND THE FACT THAT ANY CITIZEN HAS A FAIR CHANCE

FOR REDRESS THROUGH PRESENTATION OF PETITION OR GRIEVANCE

TO THE KING AT HIS WEEKLY PUBLIC AUDIENCE FUNCTION AS

RESTRAINTS AGAINST ARBITRARY USE OF AUTHORITY.

6. GOVERNMENT ATTITUDE AND RECORD REGARDING INTERNATIONAL

AND NON-GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATION OF ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF

HUMAN RIGHTS

TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT HAS

NOT BEEN ASKED TO ACCEPT OUTSIDE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATIONS

OF ALLEGED HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. FREEDOM HOUSE, IN

ITS 1978 REPORT, DESCRIBES SAUDI ARABIA AS "NOT FREE".

CHRISTOPHER


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Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014


Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014

LINK TO ORIGINAL

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  B. DHAHRAN 8

     C. JEDDAH 85

     D. DHAHRAN 14

     E. DHAHRAN 46

 

RIYADH 00000824  001.2 OF 002

  

Classified By:

CDA Ambassador Richard Erdman for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

 SUMMARY

- - - -

 

1. (C)  Saudi human rights activist Ibrahim Mugaiteeb told

Poloff that the Kingdom's most pressing human rights issues

were the status of women and the deteriorating situation of

the Shi'a.  Founder of Human Rights First Society, Mugaiteeb

urged the USG to press the SAG to recognize non-governmental

organizations.  End Summary.

 

 WOMEN'S RIGHTS: LEGAL STATUS VS. THE RIGHT TO DRIVE

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

2. (C)  Saudi human rights activist Ibrahim Mugaiteeb met

with Poloff on June 17 to discuss the current human rights

situation in the Kingdom.  Mugaiteeb identified what he

considered the two most pressing human rights issues: the

status of women and the deteriorating situation of the Shi'a.

 Noting that women comprise slightly more than 50% of the

Saudi population, Mugaiteeb opined that the Saudi women's

movement needed to focus on gaining independent legal

identities equal to those of men.  Mugaiteeb feared the right

to drive, which attracted a lot of media attention, was a

dangerous distraction.  Western governments would likely view

a change in this policy as a major success for Saudi women.

In Mugaiteeb's opinion, however, the right to drive would

have very little impact on the majority of Saudi women, since

it would not eliminate the legal requirement for the

permission of a related male that most women need to travel,

work, own a business, etc. Changes to recognize and protect

the legal status of women, on the other hand, would empower

women to make basic choices about their lives.

  

SHI'A SITUATION WORSENING

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

3.  (C)  Mugaiteeb, himself a Shi'a, averred that the

situation of the Shi'a (who comprise about 10% of the Saudi

population) had worsened in the past eighteen months.

Mugaiteeb pointed to a number of incidents of religious and

political discrimination:

 

-- The recent closure of three Shi'a mosques/places of

worship in al-Khobar which, although technically illegal due

to a lack of government approval, had been in use for over 20

years.

 

-- The arrest of a prominent Shi'a cleric, Abdullah Saleh

al-Muhanna, arrested in May for leading Friday prayers in a

prayer place attached to his own home.

 

-- The frequent jailing of Shi'a, including leading clerics

such as Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, for the "offense" of adding

the name of the Caliph Ali to the prayer call.  (NOTE: The

call to prayer includes a declaration of Muslim beliefs i.e.,

"There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger."  The

Shi'a like to add the phrase "and Ali is beloved of God,"

which many Wahhabis believe is blasphemous. End note.)

 

-- The King's failure to appoint any Shi'a to senior

positions during his February 14 cabinet reshuffle.

 

-- The charge by an influential Sunni imam, Sheikh

al-Kalbani, that Shi'a who did not agree with the Sunni view

of the correct succession to the Prophet Muhammad were

"infidels," which led to an outcry among Shi'a demanding his

dismissal.

 

Other recent events included the Baqi'a cemetery incident

(Ref A, B, C and D) and protests in Awamiyya (Ref E), which

have resulted in heightened tensions, especially in the

Eastern Province.

 

 NGO'S MUST BE LEGITIMIZED BY LICENSING

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  

RIYADH 00000824  002.2 OF 002

  

4. (C)  Mugaiteeb raised the issue of the Saudi government's

refusal to license NGO's in the Kingdom as a major roadblock

for advancing human rights.  Mugaiteeb's organization, Human

Rights First Society (HRFS), is a widely-recognized private

human rights organization, but it lacks legitimacy and

struggles for funding because the Saudi government refuses to

issue the organization an official license.  HRFS applied for

a license on three separate occasions, and on each occasion,

the Saudi government denied the license.  Mugaiteeb, who is

in very poor health, expressed his worry that no member of

HRFS is willing to step forward and help shoulder the

responsibility of running the organization out of fear of the

Saudi government since HRFS is not a legitimate organization.

 Mugaiteeb also claimed that although many EU countries have

been very active in supporting HRFS and human rights in the

Kingdom, he noted that "the U.S. is the only country that has

the power to really do something."  Mugaiteeb asserted U.S.

support is essential if HRFS is to be successful in obtaining

a license, thereby legitimizing the work of the organization

and the human rights movement in the Kingdom.

 

COMMENT

- - - -

 

5. (C)  There is an atmosphere of distrust amongst activists,

and fear of the Saudi government, which hampers the

development of an effective human rights movement.  Until

organizations such as HRFS are officially recognized by the

Saudi government, ordinary Saudis will be reluctant to engage

openly to advance human rights.

 

ERDMAN


Secret_report_Saudi_terrorism_HUMAN_RIGHTS

LINK TO ORIGINAL

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LINK TO ORIGINAL

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Secret_report_Saudi_terrorism

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  B. C) 08 JEDDAH 00415

 

RIYADH 00000346  001.3 OF 002

  

Classified By: Political Counselor Lisa M. Carle

reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

 

1.  KEY POINTS

 

-- (U) Saudi security forces clashed February 20 with between

500 and 2000 Saudi Shi'a pilgrims in Medina after Saudi

police denied the pilgrims access to Baqi'a cemetery opposite

the Prophet's Mosque.

 

-- (U) Shi'a unhappiness escalated into a confrontation

resulting in several arrests and the use of water cannon by

security forces to disperse the crowd.

 

-- (C) Saudi authorities apparently tried to prevent Saudi

media from reporting on the incident, or from identifying the

protesters as Shi'a, and have acted to defuse a larger

reaction among the Shi'a community in the country's eastern

province.

 

-- (C) Shi'a community leaders in the Eastern Province told

post that the SAG approached the influential Qatifi Sheikh,

Hassan al-Saffar, to request his assistance in preventing a

public protest in Qatif.  No protests have so far taken place

in Qatif in response to the Medina incident.

 

 

2.  (C) COMMENT:  The Shi'a community's long-simmering anger

over historical grievances (see below) occasionally boils

over in such demonstrations (reftels).  Trusted members of

the small Shi'a minority in Jeddah recently reported to post

that resentment and discrimination against their community is

on the up-tick, indicating that the Shi'a are vulnerable even

in the usually more tolerant Hijaz (ref C).  However, the

anger is unlikely to result in protests that the Saudi

security forces cannot contain.  Efforts by Saudi authorities

to play down the incident in the press and head off

demonstrations in Shi'a communities appear to have calmed the

situation for now.  Nevertheless, respected Shi'a community

leaders have publicly and privately conveyed their growing

impatience with perceived religious persecution by the SAG in

the aftermath of the Baqi'a incident.

 

3. (C) BACKGROUND:  The ancient Baqi'a cemetery, located next

to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, is the final resting place

of many important figures from the early days of Islam,

including relatives and Companions of the Prophet Muhammad,

his daughter Fatima, the 3rd Caliph Uthman, and Hasan bin Ali

and several other early Shi'a Imams.  The Shi'a venerate

these graves, and hold a historical grudge against the Al

Saud for the destruction of the tombs that occured when King

Abdalaziz conquered Medina in 1925. The King and his zealous

followers, the Ikhwan, considered grave markings idolatrous

and destroyed many such tombs throughout the country.  Shi'a

throughout the world still mourn this destruction and refer

it as a "Day of Sorrow."   The cemetery is still used for

burials.

 

4. (U) WHAT HAPPENED (REPORTED VERSION):  A Medina police

spokesman gave the following description of events to the

Arabic daily Al-Watan:  "At Friday evening, and after the end

of Baqi'a graveyard visiting hours, a group of visitors

gathered in front of the graveyard asking for permission to

go inside. The security guards told them that the graveyard

is closed.  That led to a huge mess in the place including

the raising of voices and shouting."  Al-Watan added that the

Shi'a blocked the entrance to the Prophet's Mosque,

inhibiting evening prayers, and that five "visitors" were

arrested, which allowed others to enter the mosque for

prayers.  Other newspapers reported "emergency security

forces" formed a "human shield" to stop the protesters from

clashing with the religious police, but that after protesters

began throwing shoes and cans at them, the security forces

moved to disperse the crowd. Four children were reported

trapped in the incident and hospitalized for minor injuries.

 

5. (C) WHAT HAPPENED (SHI'A VERSION):  An Eastern Province

contact told Dhahran PolOff the confrontation began at 5:00

PM and lasted three hours.  Following closure of the

graveyard, the Shi'a, many of whom were women, stood outside

considering the refusal to let them enter as an insult.

Saudi security officers then elbowed their way through the

women, which resulted in a scuffle and caused some of the

women to "lose some of their coverings."  At this time, a

security official climbed a wall to videotape the women, at

 

RIYADH 00000346  002 OF 002

  

which point the women began throwing shoes at the officer.

Then, security forces began "waving their batons at the

protesters, thereby prompting the women to stand up and

confront them using their fists and by shouting denunciations

and calls for divine interventions."  After an hour and a

half of shouting, the security forces used water cannon (and

according to one source tear gas) to disperse the women, and

then arrested two women and one man, all Shi'a from Qatif in

the Eastern Province.

 

6.  (U) A video of the incident available February 23 on the

website www.Shi'atube.net showed a man, who from his

appearance could have been an agent of the religious police,

standing above the cemetery gate dodging shoes and filming

the restive crowd below.

 

7.  (U) NOTHING TO REPORT HERE, FOLKS:  On February 21, the

private Saudi organization "Human Rights Watch in Saudi

Arabia" circulated a message via Facebook alleging that

Interior Minister Prince Nayif sent a "note" February 20 to

the editors of Saudi newspapers and internet sites forbidding

them to write about the incident.  The Arabic language press

reported the story February 21 and 22, but without

identifying the protesters as Shi'a.  Newspapers on February

23 carried no mention of the Baqi'a events.  Saudi Arabia's

English daily newspapers, which are targeted at the business

and diplomatic communities, have not carried any coverage of

this story.  The head of the religious police in Medina has

publicly denied his organization was involved.

 

8. (C) STAMPING OUT THE SPARKS:  The blog Moltaqaa reported

on February 21 that Shi'a leaders in Qatif were planning a

"peaceful demonstration" to protest the Baqi'a incident, but

subsequent reports indicate this demonstration did not take

place, and that the Qatif police called community leaders and

the Governor of Qatif to help stop the demonstration.  The

blog Al-Weam.com claimed on February 22 that Shi'a leaders

were planning protests in both Qatif and Safwa, and that the

Interior Ministry had allowed them to take place, but post

has no reports that any demonstrations actually occurred.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Saif (strictly protect), a highly respected

Shi'a community leader in the Eastern Province, told Dhahran

PolOff there would be protests in response to the Medina

incident on February 22 at 3:00 PM.  He said authorities had

approached the influential Shi'a Sheikh Hassan Al-Saffar to

try to prevent any protests.  However, Dr. Al-Saif said the

Shi'a in Qatif, and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, remain very

upset about the incident in Medina.

 

9. (U) SAUDI BLOGS TAKE UP THE ARGUMENT:  Blogs are debating

the cause of the altercation.  Conservative Sunni sites

al-Saha.com, al-Weam.com, and Sabq.org supported the security

forces' actions against the Shi'a as "just" because of the

Shi'a's "religious and legal violations."  The Shi'a website

Rasid.com called the incident another example of "Saudi

government persecution against the Shi'a."  Rasid claimed

that the government has always opposed Shi'a rituals at sites

such as Baqi'a, which the Salafi Sunni establishment

considers to be blasphemous idolatry.  But intolerance runs

both ways - Rasid also recalled an episode in Baqi'a cemetery

three years ago involving a Shi'a man who apparently relieved

himself on the grave of Uthman, the third Islamic Caliph (AD

644-656), who is despised by Shi'a as a usurper.  This

defilement outraged the religious police and contributed to

tension between Shi'a worshippers and those who protect the

Baqi'a sites.

 

10.  (U) This is a coordinated message from Riyadh, Jeddah,

and Dhahran.

 FRAKER

FRAKER

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Secret_report_Saudi_terrorism_HUMAN_RIGHTS

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1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Embassy POLOFFs  met with Dr. Mufteh

Al-Kahtani, the Vice President of the National Society for

Human Rights (NSHR) on July 21.  We received a briefing by

Al-Kahtani on the NSHR, including the role it plays between

citizens lodging human rights complaints and the SAG, as well

as its view on USG human rights policy and procedures in the

USG, which was negative.  There was particular criticism of

the Congressionally-mandated International Religious Freedom

and Human Rights Reports.  Topics discussed also included

continued detentions at Guantanamo Bay and religious freedom.

 END SUMMARY

 

RESPECT THE "ARAB MINDSET"

--------------------------

 

2.  (C) Al-Kahtani stated that one of the goals of the NSHR

was to "change the perception that a human rights agenda is

the West pushing its own  views on the Kingdom of Saudi

Arabia."  He was adamant in asserting that "all Muslims have

to respect human rights as it is a part of our faith,8 but

that it must be done in the Kingdom in an "Islamic context."

Al-Kahtani was firm in defending the accomplishments of the

NSHR, such as publications on prisoners, rights.  He

asserted that the reason for the "success" is that the NSHR

is not forcing certain moral precepts on the people, but

rather works within the Arab mindset, with methods

organically drawn from Islamic law.

 

GUANTANAMO:  USG "SETTING BAD EXAMPLE"

--------------------------------------

 

3.  (C) Al-Kahtani stated that the USG is an "example for

human rights and freedom," but the continued detentions at

Guantanamo are not only human rights violations but damaging

the legitimacy of the USG to pursue a human rights agenda.

Al-Kahtani also added USG support of Israel as evidence that

we "did not truly support human rights."  He opined that

Guantanamo Bay detentions "foster hate," and can actually

lead to future terrorism.

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:  "IMPROVING," BUT STILL NO CHURCHES

--------------------------------------------- ------

 

4.  (C) Al-Kahtani showed a keen knowledge of the

International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report.  He stated that

the IRF Report tends to "criticize Saudi Arabia without

noting the positive developments."  Al-Kahtani stated

continuously that the purpose of the human rights report

(HRR) and IRF Report is important, but that the method of

implementation is wrong.  He also stated that Embassy Riyadh

should contact his office regarding violations of religious

freedom, so that he may "work to correct the situation."

 

5.  (C) When asked about the possibility of non-Muslim places

of worship in Saudi Arabia, such as churches, Al-Kahtani

stated quickly that there &are no mosques allowed in the

Vatican," implying that discrimination against certain

religious groups is not unique to the Kingdom.  He then

explained that all citizens of Saudi Arabia are Muslims, and

all non-Muslims in the Kingdom are simply "temporary"

residents.  He stated, in quite confusing and contradictory

logic, that because of this, non-Muslim residents, such as

Christians, are only in the Kingdom "temporarily."  Hence if

churches are going to be built, there would be "no one to

take care of them when the temporary residents leave."

Al-Kahtani seemed very sincere in making this argument,

despite its dubious nature.

 

COMMENT

-------

 6.  (C)  COMMENT.  Al-Kahtani seemed more interested in

stating his own views on sensitive USG policies rather than

listening to the often less-publicized reasoning behind such

controversies, such as detentions in Guantanamo Bay.   Even

so, it became clear that Al-Kahtani took issue not with USG

human rights policy, but rather procedure.  This reflects the

acute Saudi sensitivity to criticism of their society and

internal policy, which many Saudis view as sacrosanct.  His

argument justifying the absence of churches in Saudi Arabia

 

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 was extremely illogical.  There are millions of non-Muslims

living (and working) in the Kingdom, with many residing here

for decades with their entire families.  Entire sub-societies

of ex-patriots composed of east Asians, westerners, and Hindu

South Asians are settled in Saudi Arabia, with many permanent

societal structures firmly established.  The reasoning that

non-Muslim houses of worship would fall into disuse because

the original members would ultimately depart ignores the

long-term nature of the large third-country populations here.

 

7. (C) While Al-Kahtani responded with some useful

information on the specific human rights cases we inquired

about, it became clear that  Al-Kahtani,s vision for the

NSHR was not necessarily working just for human rights within

the Kingdom, but also for what he defined as his view of

human rights issues around the world.  His  explicitly

raising continued detentions in Guantanamo Bay and USG

support of Israel was less sincere constructive criticism,

but rather a way to deflect attention from the actual  human

rights issues that persist in the Kingdom. That Al-Kahtani so

vociferously  raised the Congressionally-mandated IRF and HRR

reports reflects how sensitive the Saudis are to these types

of external criticism.  In an indirect and perhaps unintended

fashion, his criticism was a tribute to the reports'

effectiveness in highlighting human rights to religious

freedom shortcomings in the Kingdom.  END COMMENT.

GFOELLER

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