Saudi Arabia's human rights under the spotlight

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I apologise for not having been engaged with this blog over the last month. So much has happened, personally. My father has died. And after three ceremonies, clearing up his house, I have moved house too. All that has happened in three weeks. Now I'm looking for somewhere permanent to live. Now it's on to things Middle East.

What's struck me is what is happening in Saudi Arabia. In the past, we (that is a woman in Saudi Arabia and me) have targeted women in the country for an online journalism school. It has been subject to censorship.

I'm told that while the West trumpets Saudi's (and particularly the Crown Prince's, known as MBS) commitment to women's rights, that's not all true. Evidently, it's only women over 30 who can drive, for example. Allowing all women to drive would put some men out of work, according to my Saudi female source. She is based in Jeddah.

Another issue is highlighted below. Women in Saudi Arabia can now register for the hajj this year without a male guardian for the first time.

There is also the issue of minors still being subject to the death penalty even though this was outlawed last year. I have also attached an article from Amnesty International about this.

Saudi Arabia allows women to register for hajj without male guardian

June 14, 2021 in Al Monitor

Saudi Arabia will allow women to register for the hajj this year without a male guardian for the first time.

Registration for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca began June 12 and will be open until June 23. The hajj itself will take place July 17. Saudi authorities are allowing Saudi citizens and residents ages 18 to 65 to register this year. Pilgrims must either have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or have recovered from COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Hajj. Usually, Muslims from all over the world attend the hajj, which is a religious commandment, but Saudi Arabia has instituted restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Women will now be allowed to register for the Hajj this year without a "mahram," or male guardian. A mahram refers to a Muslim woman may not marry, ie a brother or father, that can also serve as her guardian. Women can register "along with other women" this year, according to the ministry, which seems to indicate potential female attendees must register in groups if not with a man. Saudi Arabia: Halt imminent execution of young man

8 June 2021, 14:58 UTC
Updated: 15 June 2021, 14:14 UTC 

Death penalty for Saudi minor

By Amnesty International

Update: Mustafa al-Darwish was executed on 15 June 2021. By carrying out this execution the Saudi Arabian authorities have displayed a deplorable disregard for the right to life. He is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed justice system which regularly sees people sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on confessions extracted through torture.

In response to the news that Mustafa al-Darwish could face imminent execution after his case was referred to the Presidency of State Security following the Supreme Court upholding his death sentence, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf said:

"Saudi Arabia's authorities must immediately halt all plans to execute Mustafa al-Darwish who was convicted on charges of participation in anti-government riots and sentenced to death after a deeply flawed trial based on a so-called 'confession' obtained through torture. Time is rapidly running out to save his life.

"Use of the death penalty is an abhorrent violation of the right to life in all circumstances. Going ahead with this execution will greatly undermine Saudi Arabia's recent progress on use of the death penalty which saw an 85% drop in executions in the Kingdom in 2020.

Use of the death penalty is an abhorrent violation of the right to life in all circumstances.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International

"International human rights law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty for people who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime. Given that the official charge sheet does not specify the exact month the alleged crimes took place, Mustafa al-Darwish could have been either 17 or 18 at the time.

"Instead of putting Mustafa al-Darwish to death the authorities must immediately quash his conviction and order a fair re-trial of his case."


In the last week of May 2021, Mustafa al-Darwish's case was referred to the Presidency of State Security. In the absence of transparent information around judicial processes, it is Amnesty International's assessment that this referral could signal his imminent execution as soon as the King ratifies his death sentence.

Mustafa al-Darwish, 26, was arrested in May 2015 for his alleged participation in riots between 2011 and 2012. During his detention, he was placed in solitary confinement and held incommunicado for six months and denied access to a lawyer until the beginning of his trial two years later, violating his right to a fair trial. In March 2018 he was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court on a string of charges including "participation in armed rebellion against the rulers, blocking roads and sowing discord"; "forming… an armed terrorist network and firing at security officials" and "seeking to disrupt national cohesion through his participation in more than 10 riots."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence, or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used to carry out the execution.

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Tuesday, 03 August 2021