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Obama cannot continue shameful blindness to human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

EDITORIAL: US Government must not continue to overlook human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, other allies
by Editorial Board – 21 January, 2013 – The Oklahoma Daily

Policemen encircled a group of burka-clad women and their children peacefully protesting the unjust detention of relatives in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia two weeks ago. The women then were carted off to jail simply for asking for the release of their loved ones jailed without trials or hearings.

The U.S. is a strategic and economic ally of Saudi Arabia and has failed to speak out against human rights abuses in the country

In a country that has outlawed protests, citizens’ reaction to the arrests was shocking. In the incredibly conservative city of Buraidah, where the women were arrested, men took to the streets to protest their arrest and detention.

The protest by a small group of women sparked a rare expression of political dissent.

After the strong reaction, the government released the women and children but did not comment on the condition of their loved ones.

These protests are especially important given the Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws that legally define women as children under the care of their husbands or fathers.

Women, who are not allowed to travel without a male companion, risked torture and imprisonment to ask for simple information regarding detained relatives.

In October 2010, local journalist Fahd al-Jukhaidib, was arrested and lashed merely for reporting on a protest. Many others have been detained for years for participating in peaceful protests.

The U.S. has not taken direct diplomatic action to support the protests, despite being active in recent human rights efforts in Egypt and Syria. Ignoring violations in Saudi Arabia undermines our efforts in other Arab countries because we are seen as playing favorites with our allies.

The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has been strained by oil concerns and human rights violations. President Barack Obama took significant steps in advocating for greater human rights in the region during the Arab Spring.

In early 2011, Obama publicly called for the resignation of Egypt’s leader Hosni Mubarak and recently recognized Syria’s revolutionary government.

But Obama is in a dilemma over Saudi Arabia. As the kingdom is one of our trading partners, the U.S. has been wary of criticizing the Saudi regime and calling for increases in human rights.

We cannot afford to be passive any longer. When the people of a repressed nation call out for the most basic access to political and judicial liberties, it is our duty to join the call. …source

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