“Human Rights in the Gulf: Bashing the Wrong People”
The Economist, July 12-18, 2014, p.41
“Sandwiched between Iraq and Yemen, Saudi Arabia has reason to worry about terrorism. It recently sent 30,000 troops to its Iraqi border to protect itself from that country’s rampant new ‘caliphate’. On July 4th suspected al-Qaeda militants attacked a post on the kingdom’s Yemeni border, killing six. Yet recently enacted anti-terrorism legislation has so far been more enthusiastically directed at a different target: Saudi human-rights activists. On July 6th Waleed Abul Khair, a lawyer and founder of a local rights centre, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and a 15-year travel ban upon his release. According to his wife, who was at his hearing, the judge cited vaguely defined offences such as ‘distorting the kingdom’s reputation’ and ‘inflaming public opinion’. Mr Abul Khair had defended Raif Badawi, who was sentenced in May to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes for starting a Facebook page to talk about religion. The two men are the most recent of a string of activists convicted for doing little more than talking and sending messages. The misuse of such legislation raises concerns about plans by Saudi Arabia’s ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to rouse its national council from its summer break to pass a new anti-terrorism law.”
Quickie Analysis: With everything else going on in the Middle East, no one at home or abroad is likely to make much of a fuss about this, for now.