Saudi flight academy opens applications to women as mobility restrictions lifted
- Oxford Aviation Academy has received hundreds of applications from women at its flight school branch in Dammam.
- The change comes as the government has lifted a decades-old ban that prohibited women from driving or traveling without permission.
- Despite the legal relaxations, women still face a number of mobility obstacles, including many derived from the country’s guardianship laws.
“Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots” (Reuters | July 2018)
“The ban on Saudi women driving is ending: Here’s what you need to know” (CNN | June 2018)
“How Guardianship Laws Still Control Saudi Women” (The New York Times | June 2018)
Bahrain government bars opposition groups from elections
- The Shura Council, the upper house of Bahrain’s parliament, approved legislation that prevents members of dissolved political groups from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
- Such groups include al-Wefaq, tied to Bahrain’s politically and economically marginalized Shiite majority, and the National Democratic Action Society (Waad), a secular movement.
- Last year, courts ordered the dissolution of the two primary opposition groups, arguing that they fostered violence and terrorism in the country.
“Bahrain bars members of opposition groups from standing in elections” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Bahrain bans members of dissolved parties from running in elections” (Middle East Monitor | February 2018)
“Election ban on members of dissolved political societies approved” (Gulf Daily News | April 2018)
The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists
Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)
With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
“The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)
“Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)
Atheist Asylum Program
U.A.E. airline issues travel ban on Tunisian women
- Emirates, the U.A.E.’s national airline, barred Tunisian women from its flights, necessitating Tunisian government intervention to help stranded passengers.
- A presidential spokesperson indicated that the Emirati government had issued the directive in response to information indicating women with a Tunisian passport would attempt a terrorist attack.
- In response, Tunisia banned Emirates from landing in its capital, Tunis.
“Attack fears prompted UAE-Tunisia female passenger row” (BBC News | December 2017)
“UAE has information Tunisian women may commit ‘terrorist acts’, Tunisia says” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Tunisia suspends Emirates flights over security measures targeting women” (Agence France-Presse, via The Guardian | December 2017)
Bahrain strips Shiite leader of citizenship as anti-dissident campaign continues
- The Interior Ministry stripped Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Shiite cleric, of Bahraini citizenship, stirring protest among the Gulf country’s Shiite majority.
- The denaturalization took place soon after a court ordered the suspension of Bahrain’s main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which has led pro-democracy protests in the country since 2011.
- The Sunni-led government has accused Shiite leaders of promoting foreign interests (namely Iran’s) and fomenting sectarian division and extremism in the country, leading to their denaturalization and expulsion.
“Bahrain strips Sheikh Isa Qassim of nationality” (Al Jazeera)
“Bahrain’s Sunni Rulers Revoke Citizenship of Top Shiite Cleric” (The New York Times)
“Bahrain strips top Shi’ite Muslim cleric of citizenship” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: AP via Al Jazeera)
Indonesian women continue migrating to Middle East for work despite government ban
- A new report from Migrant Care has found that more than 1,000 women have traveled to the Middle East for domestic work despite government moratorium.
- The Indonesian government announced a ban on any new labor-based migration to the Middle East in May 2015 after several high-profile reports of abuse.
- The revelation comes amidst ongoing efforts by the government to formalize labor practices in the domestic services industry both at home and abroad, with an estimated 2.3 million Indonesian domestic workers abroad and an additional undocumented population.
“Indonesian women defy ban to work as maids in Middle East: survey” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)
“Indonesia plans to stop sending new live-in maids abroad” (The Straits Times)
“Six Gulf countries informed of Indonesia domestic workers ban” (Gulf News)
UAE acquits Libyan-Americans and Libyan-Canadian of militancy charges
- Two Libyan-Americans and a Libyan-Canadian have been detained in the country since their 2014 arrests carried out in the wake of the passage of the UAE’s Anti-Terrorism Law, initially accused of supporting Libyan terrorist groups.
- The men had been held in secret for months, with reports indicating torture and deteriorating health during their more than 500 days of detention without a trial.
- The three businessmen had reportedly traveled in and out of the UAE without incident for decades, but the UAE’s zero-tolerance policy towards extremism has made many with even tenuous connections to countries with designated terrorist groups vulnerable.
“Two American businessmen acquitted in the United Arab Emirates of supporting militants” (The Washington Post)
“UAE acquits two Libyan-Americans and Canadian of militancy charges” (Reuters)
“‘Nowhere close to a fair trial’: pressure to aid Americans and Canadian in UAE” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Family photo, via The Washington Post)
Iranian pilgrims denied travel rights as diplomatic row between Iran and Saudi Arabia continues
- Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization announced that Iranians would not be allowed to make the annual trek to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
- Relations between the regional rivals have deteriorated in the wake of Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric, which led to violent protests at the Saudi embassy in Tehran and Riyadh’s severance of diplomatic ties.
- In September 2015, hundreds of Iranians were among the thousands killed in a stampede in Mecca, and the continued absence of an official Saudi report has exacerbated tensions between the two countries.
“Iran says its pilgrims will not attend haj in Saudi” (Reuters)
“Iran pilgrims to miss Hajj amid row with Saudi Arabia” (BBC)
“Iranians will not perform Haj this year” (Gulf News)
(Image Credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters)
Lebanese immigrants in the Gulf fear deportation as GCC-Lebanon relations deteriorate
- Relations between Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council have deteriorated after Lebanon refused to condemn attacks on a Saudi ambassador in Iran.
- Sunni Gulf countries have targeted those viewed as sympathetic or connected to Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, though Lebanese immigrants fear what constitutes “sympathy” or “connection” may be broad and arbitrary.
- To date, Bahrain and Kuwait have deported Lebanese on the basis of Hezbollah sympathy, and Lebanese in other Gulf countries fear their visa-renewal process.
“Lebanese expats fearful as Gulf expels dozens accused of Hezbollah links” (Reuters)
“Bahrain sends home Lebanese citizens” (The National)
“Saudi Arabia’s bitter Lebanese divorce” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Saudi man arrested in Jeddah for flying rainbow flag
- The doctor was arrested by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia’s religious police, for displaying the international symbol of LGBT pride.
- The man claimed to be unfamiliar with the meaning, having purchased the flag online because his children enjoyed it, and was later released on bail after an investigation and the removal of the flag.
- His arrest comes as Saudi authorities have announced that “soliciting homosexual acts” via social media will be punishable by death.
“Saudi man arrested for flying Pride flag above home” (Middle East Eye)
“Saudi man arrested for flying ‘pretty’ rainbow flag, had no idea it represented gay pride” (Al Bawaba)
(CNN Arabic) طبيب يرفع علم “المثليين” على منزله بجدة.. والقتل تعزيراً قد تصبح عقوبة الشواذ المجاهرين إلكترونياً
(Image Credit: via Al Bawaba)
Bahrain revokes citizenship of dissidents as denaturalization campaign continues
- Five Bahrainis were stripped of their citizenship and sentenced to five to 15 years of jail time after being convicted of terror affiliation, public-institution disruption, and weapon possession.
- Political dissidents and human rights organizations have accused the Sunni monarchy of weaponizing citizenship for demographic redistribution and the suppression of dissent and rights advocacy among the Shia-majority population.
- Denaturalization is a controversial practice that leaves many effectively stateless and subject to deportation, with 208 Bahrainis having been denaturalized in 2015 alone.
“Manama Deprives Five More Bahrainis of Citizenship” (Tasnim News Agency)
“Bahrain: Stop Deportations of Nationals” (Human Rights Watch)
“Bahrain citizen expulsions ‘chilling’, says Amnesty” (Arabian Business)
(Image Credit: via Human Rights Watch)
As many as 200 Zimbabwean women caught up in Kuwaiti human trafficking scam
- The women were lured to Kuwait under the pretense of domestic and healthcare employment but found themselves subjected to terrifying work conditions including starvation, violence, and false imprisonment.
- While 15 of the women have been repatriated, at least 150 remain in Kuwait, caught up in a process that has seen a former Kuwaiti ambassador to Zimbabwe charged with human trafficking.
- Many Zimbabweans, facing an unfavorable labor market at home, have taken to working abroad, with some having become trapped in employment and scholarship scams by human traffickers.
“Zimbabwe: Former Kuwaiti diplomat trafficked 200 women” (International Business Times)
“Zim govt brings back 15 women trafficked to Kuwait – ministry” (News24)
“15 Zimbabwe women home after Kuwait trafficking scam” (Eyewitness News)
Saudi Arabia reduces sentence for poet from death to imprisonment and lashes
- Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, a refugee in Saudi Arabia, had initially been sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for apostasy, but was sentenced to death on appeal.
- Fayadh will now face 16 years in prison, receive 800 lashes, and must publicly apologize and disavow his work.
- Fayadh’s case stirred a fierce response from the international community, including artists, celebrities, nonprofits, and other human rights advocates.
“Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh’s death sentence quashed by Saudi court” (The Guardian)
“Saudi Arabia Reduces Ashraf Fayadh’s Death Sentence to Eight Years in Prison and 800 Lashes” (Global Voices)
“Lawyer: Saudi court revokes poet’s death sentence” (AP)
(Image Credit: AP, via The Guardian)
Execution of Saudi Shiite leader sparks protests throughout the Middle East and South Asia
- From Saudi Arabia to India by way of Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan, Shiite Muslims protested the Saudi government’s execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
- Nimr had been convicted of order followers to attack the police, a crime of “banditry” that carries an automatic death sentence.
- Before his arrest in 2012, Nimr had publicly called for nonviolent demonstrations to draw attention to the oppression of the minority Shia community in Saudi Arabia.
“Shi’ite Muslims worldwide decry execution of Saudi cleric” (Reuters)
“Protests in Kashmir, Bahrain and Pakistan over killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr” (The Guardian)
“Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr: Figurehead Shia cleric” (BBC)
(Image Credit: AFP, via BBC)
Imprisoned Saudi blogger wins EU’s top human rights prize
- Raif Badawi won the Sakharov prize for creating the secularist blog Free Saudi Liberals, which called for political reforms in the Arab world and criticized the illiberal effects of theocracy.
- Following his arrest on charges of apostasy in 2012, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, the first 50 of which led to injuries that required the indefinite deferral of the remainder.
- International authorities and advocates including U.S. officials and Amnesty International have condemned Badawi’s imprisonment and called for his release.
“Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Awarded Top EU Human Rights Prize” (BuzzFeed News)
“Jailed Saudi blogger awarded Europe’s rights prize” (Al Jazeera)
“A look at the writings of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to 1,000 lashes” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Facebook, via BuzzFeed News)