National Society for Human Rights FAQ

The welfare of the people is an important thing that needs to be protected all the time. It is the citizen of the nation that should always be given proper attention when it comes to delivery of services and aids or help. It is the responsibility of every state to ensure that each individual living on their territory should be guaranteed with the best services during the times that they need it the most. Monitoring of the community is a task that should not just be done on a yearly basis but should be undertaken daily.

Protecting the good and safety of the people should never be disregarded by the government and the state for without them. The law makers and legislators are nothing. National Society for Human Rights is an organization of Saudi Arabian Human Rights which was being funded by the government of the state. Saudi Arabia has gone into the realization of having a well defined institution that will embody all the things regarding the rights of every Arab. This was being established by the Saudi government in the year 2004, 10th day of March.

This society for people’s welfare advocates is being headed by their president Band Hajjar. This society is adhering to the international Human Rights Charter that is focusing on the preservation of human dignity as being ordered by their god Allah. The society aims to protect human rights and to ensure that their welfare is being given greater attention. This was being established to protect their citizens from any possible violations, kinds of abuse to life, and human dignity. This is not just about preserving the dignity and rights of the people but to contribute to the global human rights advocacy. In order to effectively serve its people the society has their other 4 branches which can be found at Jeddah, Makkah, Jizan, and also at the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. There society is composed of 41 founding members wherein six of them were ladies.

As a society being established for the people they have their objective to be achieved all the time. The following objectives below are what they are always working:

  • Protect the rights of the people according to the constitution of the state which is being based on their holy book and through the teachings of Mohammad. The law that was being carried by this society is made sure that this does not contradict to their Islamic Law.
  • Cooperate with the international organizations who are working on the same field.
  • To stand against any act of injustice, violence, torture and intolerance.

How Does The Society Functions?

Since the society is being established to promote the welfare of the Arabs they should be able to serve their purpose to the maximum limit. The society is the one that should always ensure that the laws being created are properly implemented to all without choosing any individual. Their obligations should be undertaken in the best way possible. Receiving of complaints and grievances and even the follow up should be done by the employees of the National Society for Human Rights to made the verification of claims with regards to the violations and abusive acts become easier and faster.

Information dissemination should be properly done in order to educate the public regarding their rights as a citizen of the state. Handling of the issues concerning to human rights should be dealt carefully and effectively so that the person who had been the victim will be satisfied by the result. Handling of these cases should be done by professionals in order to defend them from any misinterpretations that could have caused them to be accused. Studying of the documents which are being passed on their institution should be done properly so that the most accurate findings are to be gotten.

Part of their responsibility and function is to provide conferences that would enhance an individual’s understanding regarding the imposed law on human rights. Having published articles or documents regarding human rights is the best way to equipped people with the necessary information. To ensure that public is being guaranteed with the best service response, encouraging the people of the community or the state to become responsible individuals who are always willing to help people who are being abused.

How Does The General Assembly And Executive Council Of The National Society For Human Rights Functions?

As a society that is primarily concerned for the welfare of the Arabian People, they have their general assembly that functions in a more specific way. With the help of the general assembly the goal and vision of the society is to be achieved properly. It is the duty of the general assembly to elect the members of the Executive council who will be working for the common interest of the society. Monitoring is what the general assembly always does in order to make sure that the society is functioning well and is doing its purpose. Reports are being secured by to make sure that there is an improvement on the laws being imposed.

The executive council is consisting of the highest officials of the society wherein the membership is subjected to renewal. They are the ones who made proposals for internal regulations. It is the council that studies the finances of the society. Being a group of the highest officials of the society they have the power to suggest the amendment of the constitution of the National Society for Human Rights. They also carry out tasks which are entrusted to them by the general assembly.

Publishing of the periodic reports regarding the progress of the human rights in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is being done by the society to show that the estate is now having their improvement. The publish reports were all about people’s concerns and welfare and how it was being given enough attention. For more than couples of years it has been operating, it has helped lots of people in Saudi Arabia. They have been known for being very effective when it comes to responses on the cases and issues.

NHRA holds fruitful talks with Rights Watch

The National Human Rights Association (NHRA) spokesperson said a qualitative stride has been made in discussions with Human Rights Watch (HRW) representatives who were here recently on a five-day visit.
HRW representatives looked into NHRA reports on the activities of a number of government agencies, including investigation and trial proceedings, the trying of minors, women, and chaperons, house labor and the phenomenon of beggary.
The spokesman, Dr. Zoheir Al-Harethi, told Al-Watan Arabic daily that these reports were discussed in a transparent manner and that all information was disclosed.
Out of eleven government agencies invited to attend the meetings, eight responded to discuss issues relevant to their activities. Al-Harethi said it was in all a quality stride in dealing with HRW and other organizations. He described it as an unprecedented approach in the Arab region, since the reports were discussed in a scientific and objective manner.
Al-Harethi said that the discussions covered all items featuring in them and that all incorrect information was rectified.
He said visits by such organizations are important in order to keep direct communication channels open.
“In view of the international importance of the reports issued by these organizations, they should be apprised of current conditions in the Kingdom so as to preclude any need for seeking information from inaccurate sources,” he said.
Al-Harethi lauded the responsiveness of all government agencies taking part in the meetings.

UAE: Meetings Should Address Migrant Workers’ Rights

When labor ministers from 22 Asian and Middle Eastern countries meet in Abu Dhabi this week to discuss Asian contract migrant workers, they should address widespread violations of migrant workers’ rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Both labor-sending and labor-receiving countries benefit from migration, but abuse of workers’ rights remains rampant. These abuses include recruitment-related deception, unpaid wages, confiscation of passports, and, in some instances, physical violence.

On January 21 and 22, the United Arab Emirates will host the labor ministers in the latest round of the Colombo Process, a series of regional consultative meetings of government officials focused on issues relating to Asian contract migrant workers. On January 23 and 24, these discussions will continue in the Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labor. This is the first time a labor-receiving country is hosting the Colombo Process.

“It is encouraging that representatives from countries that send and receive migrant workers will sit at the same table,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher for the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “To make the talks successful, officials must tackle badly flawed immigration policies and gaps in labor laws that expose migrants to abuse.”

Tens of millions of Asian men and women work as fixed-contract migrant workers in both Asia and the Middle East, typically in domestic work, construction, manufacturing and agriculture. These workers meet the very high demand for cheap labor in countries such as Saudi Arabia, and send home billions of dollars in remittances to their home countries. For example, Indians living abroad sent home US$24.6 billion in fiscal year 2006. In Sri Lanka, remittances are the second-highest source of foreign exchange.

However, poorly monitored labor recruitment agencies may often overcharge migrants, leaving them heavily indebted. Many labor-receiving countries tie migrant visas to their employers, making it all but impossible to switch employers when they experience abuse. These countries also exclude domestic workers from the labor laws, leaving them open to abuse with few avenues for redress.

“Governments should establish regional minimum standards to avoid an unhealthy race to the bottom in labor conditions,” said Varia. “Greater cooperation is essential on a number of fronts, including creating mutually respected employment contracts and mechanisms to enforce them.”

“Too often, workers sign one contract in their home country, and migrate to find they have to sign a new contract with lower wages and worse labor conditions,” Varia explained.

On December 18, International Migrants’ Day, networks and organizations representing hundreds of migrants’ rights groups, women’s rights groups, and human rights groups across Asia, including Human Rights Watch, issued a letter to governments participating in the Colombo process, calling on them to implement key reforms. These include the following:

* Establish and enforce equal protection for domestic workers under labor laws. This includes provisions for at least one day off per week, limits to working hours, overtime pay, and other benefits. Outlining provisions for labor conditions through specialized employment contracts for domestic workers are not a substitute for equal protection under the law.

* Reform of the kafala (“sponsorship”) visa system. Employment visas that tie workers to their employers make it difficult for workers to change employers, even in cases of abuse, and sometimes require them to obtain their employer’s consent before leaving the country. Workers’ visas should not be linked to employers.

* Implement stronger monitoring of labor-recruitment agencies. Both sending and receiving countries should more rigorously regulate, monitor, and enforce minimum standards for labor-recruitment agencies. Governments should set clear standards for recruitment fees or eliminate these fees completely.

* Ensure that migrants have access to justice and support services. Migrants accused of committing crimes must have access to interpreters or legal aid. Migrants who suffer abuse should have access to shelter, legal aid, medical care, and temporary residence status. Governments should ensure speedy and transparent mechanisms to resolve wage disputes, and they must prosecute cases of abuse against migrants through the criminal justice system.

The labor-sending countries attending the Colombo Process include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The countries of destination include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Yemen, as well as Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore.

Saddam’s Undignified Execution

Saddam Hussein is more powerful in his grave than he ever was in his palace. Alive, he was a dictator. Dead, he is a martyr. The evil inherent in arbitrary power is in the process of being interred with his bones.

Strong men like to be associated with iron. Hence, an Iron Duke, or Iron Chancellor, or Iron Fist, an Iron Will. It is ironic that all it needs is an extra letter to turn iron into irony. If Saddam was full of iron when he ruled Iraq, his legacy is replete with irony.

To take the most obvious instance, in death he has become a symbol of justice denied. The inexplicable haste, and the brutal shoddiness with which he was hanged has become, thanks to a grainy video and millions of television screens, the final testimony in the first example of victor’s prejudice masquerading as law in this century. This is not an arbitrary interpretation. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, to stop Saddam’s execution because of doubts about the fairness of the trial.

Alive, Saddam Hussein was helpless against George Bush. Dead, Saddam could leave Bush helpless. His memory will pour fresh fuel on a hundred existing fires. The defeat and death of Saddam is a narrative with one author: George Bush. Saddam was the quarry, Bush was the hunter. The hunter changed the rules of this jungle when every reason was exposed as an excuse. When the quarry was trapped, all rules were abandoned in the pursuit of death.

Spin, passed on to the world’s most famous “embedded” reporters, the White House press corps, now seeks to distance Bush from the crude trial, premeditated judgment and barbaric execution. It is unconvincing. Bush’s formal statement welcomed the death of Saddam as an “important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself”.

There is an implicit admission in that sentence, that a “democratic” Iraq needs a dead Saddam. Why was Saddam, in prison and unlikely to get out, considered so dangerous for Iraqi democracy? Is there a semi-hidden fear that the consuming anarchy in Iraq is breeding nostalgia for the stability and order of Saddam’s regime? Nostalgia can so easily turn into votes.

It is inconceivable that the White House was not informed about every step on the way to the noose. State-owned media like the Voice of America had begun preparing obituaries and reactions a day before the execution. Baghdad and Washington did not do themselves any favors by hanging Saddam during Eid Al-Adha, while millions were bowing their heads before the Kaaba during Haj, an event redolent with the spirit of sacrifice for a higher cause. Bush and his one-eyed coterie do not understand either Islam or Muslims, and will not fathom the anger that injustice generates on the street. The bars of Saddam’s cramped jail would not have melted in thirty days.

In death, Saddam has become a symbol of resistance to American hegemony. This is perhaps the height of irony, since, for most of his time in power, his enemies accused Saddam of being an American pawn in the region. Facts tell a story. Saddam Hussein was trained by the CIA during his years in exile in Cairo, after the failed coup of 1959. It has been mentioned, in more than one account, that his mentors were privately pleased when he seized power from an ailing Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr in July 1979. They were certainly delighted when Saddam purged communists from the loose coalition in Iraq that was drifting towards the Soviet bloc at a time of heightening Cold War confrontation (the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would take place in December that year).

Saddam Hussein did America an incalculable favor when on Sept. 22, 1980 he escalated border skirmishes into a full-scale war by bombing ten Iranian air bases. The planes in his air force were not MiGs from the Soviet Union. They were brand new Mirages from France. America maintained an official distance from that war, but there was much unofficial help as well as massive funding from American allies in the region. In December 1983, President Ronald Reagan sent a special envoy to Saddam, Donald Rumsfeld, the same man who launched the current Iraq war and who resigned last November. American arms to fight Iran came through third party routes, and American credit more visibly. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher took the lead in re-supplying military hardware to Saddam under the cover of lies, which were exposed in the 1996 Arms to Iraq report.

Paradoxically, Saddam occupied Kuwait because of war debts, and his conviction that the Arab regimes whose interests he had served by going to war against Iran had become stingy with their check books once the conflict had ceased. He had overplayed a very weak hand. But his faith in Washington was surely restored when the senior George Bush refused to remove him from power after an international coalition had defeated his armies on the battlefield in 1991.

There is a great deal hidden in Saddam’s grave. Was this one reason why he was denied a trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a privilege granted to the Serbian butcher Slobodan Milosevic? Saddam and his lawyers would surely have had the freedom to assert a wider argument at The Hague, in a court devoid of kangaroos.

That kangaroo court in Baghdad is now an indelible America-inflicted scar across the face of the Middle East. A few lines from an editorial in the New York Times are appropriate: “Saddam Hussein deserves no one’s pity. But as anyone who has seen the graphic cell phone video of his hanging can testify, his execution bore little resemblance to dispassionate, state-administered justice… For the Bush administration, which insists it went to war in Iraq to implant democracy and justice, those globally viewed images were a shaming embarrassment. Unfortunately, all Americans will be blamed…”

It is not the defeat of Saddam, or his death, that has driven Iraq into chaos. It is a myth that Iraq needs despotism to keep it united. The Hashemite family of King Faisal ruled Iraq with a mild hand from 1921, when the state was formalized, to 1958. There was no talk of disintegration during the soft, albeit compromised, monarchy. Nor was there chaos during the two Baathist decades till 1979. The present havoc is a direct consequence of occupation, an inevitable insurrection against foreign troops on Iraqi soil, and a polity fractured by ethnic interests. The full account of this malfeasance will be written, but only after the occupation is over in a few years. “The enemies forced strangers into our sea/And he who serves them will be made to weep/Here we unveil our chests to the wolves/And will not tremble before the beast.”

As poetry that might not be the most memorable lines in Arabic, but these lines from Saddam Hussein’s last poem, written in jail, will resonate. Saddam’s grave in Tikrit has already become a memorial, where Iraq’s Sunnis are offering a prayer from wounded hearts. “I sacrifice my soul for you and for our nation,” he wrote. “Blood is cheap in hard times.” Blood flows, and each drop becomes a seed of future war.

Perhaps such poetry will be forgotten. But a line of prose he uttered at the end will certainly live longer. Palestine, he said on his way to the gallows, is Arab.

M.J. Akbar, Arab News, Sunday 7 January 2007

The Nightmare of Being a Saudi Woman

HERE WE go again and this time, it is official. A woman in Saudi Arabia has no right to choose her husband; she is forced to marry whomever her family chooses and, what is most shocking of all, a Saudi woman can be divorced from her husband against her will if that is the wish of her family. Add to this all the “normal” limitations in her life which if we start listing them, we’ll fall into a vicious cycle of repetition. But repetition or not, a serious crime is taking place in front of us and just because we have gotten used to hearing about it does not make it any less serious.

All our anger and frustration aside, the latest news concerning the much-written about Fatima is very unsettling. She is the woman who was happily married to a husband whom her father approved of; after his death, however, her half-brothers decided she should divorce Mansour since, in their eyes, he was not her social equal. And they set about going to the court and divorcing the couple even though Fatima and Mansour were happily married with two children. The court has ruled in favor of the half-brothers so the couple is now “legally” divorced. There is nothing in Islam or its laws that allows such a thing to happen but nonetheless, the court has issued its verdict.

Now Fatima is facing being forced into her brothers’ custody who are threatning to revive the accusation of “khulwa”, or being alone with Mansour, for which they were originally arrested. She now has to face being given over to her brothers, being charged for being alone with her husband (as the court ruled that they are divorced), and having to live with the feeling that her life has been taken away from her unjustifiably and by force.

Fatima no doubt feels that her life has been taken completely, unjustly and unjustifiably away from her. To take things a step further, we are facing a situation which could become the nightmare of every woman in Saudi Arabia. A woman is not secure in her marriage; she is at the mercy of her brother, or half-brother or any male relative who can tear her life apart and get a court to support the action. The question is clear: Where and when will this madness stop? One of my colleagues pointed out something that is definitely not encouraging — the verdict in this particular case was handed down very swiftly and very clearly. There are thousands of other cases involving husbands and wives in which a verdict is sorely needed but which has been delayed by maneuverings and machinations. Many women in Saudi Arabia are waiting for a verdict that will free them from an abusive husband, father or male relative; far too many of them have been refused justice since their sufferings have been deemed to be unimportant. The men continue their abuse and the women suffer. Other women have had their children taken away from them as there are no laws granting them visitation rights, let alone the right to take care of their children. Other women are beaten up and forced to go back to their abusers and still the courts do not intervene in the name of justice. In none of these cases has it been recognized that women have rights and that they are being threatened on a daily basis.

To look at the whole story, Fatima’s case also proves that men can also be caught in the same web. Her husband is as much a victim as she is, and maybe his case will widen the issue and make it more of a human rights case than one involving only a mere woman.

Fatima’s verdict was announced on the day I learned about a case that made me explode with questions and exclamations. Here are the details: A young Saudi woman living in the UK went to a hospital with injuries and it turned out that she had been beaten by her husband. The woman doctor at the hospital was very sympathetic and supportive and listened carefully to the details of the assault; she did not hide her anger or disgust at the man who did this. She then alerted the social services and also reported the matter to the police. The police began investigating and used the woman’s own statement. No one told her, “We can’t believe you because you don’t have proof” which had happened to her previously in the Kingdom. The police sent a team to arrest the husband and the woman was absolutely incredulous. “I can’t believe that they are listening to me, believing what I said and actually acting,” she exclaimed.

Her amazement increased with each passing day with calls from social services and the police, checking to see that she was living comfortably and that her children were all right and offering any help that she needed. All of this support occurred at the same time she began to get threats from her husband’s family in Saudi Arabia. You see, she had dared to complain. His family has threatened to take her children away from her as soon as she returns to Saudi Arabia. And guess what? They can do exactly that if they feel like it. Not because they have a right to but because as a woman, she cannot demand her rights in the Kingdom. If she returns, she faces a long humiliating process — probably coupled with social ostracism and disgrace — and the final result is by no means guaranteed.

Abeer Mishkhas – Arab News

Princess launches campaign against domestic violence

Princess Hissah Bint Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, a member of the Saudi Human Rights Association, called for legislation that protects victims of domestic violence and punishes the perpetrators.
“The Ministry of Justice ought to create mechanisms by which such laws are implemented to preserve victims’ rights and indict criminals,” said Princess Hissah.
Her comments came in a speech she delivered on Wednesday night at a press conference held on the occasion of launching a campaign to combat domestic violence, under the banner “Let’s protect them, not harm them,” at the headquarters of the Charitable Society of Feminine Revival (Annahdah Annesa’eyah Society).
Princess Hissah called on relevant bodies to contribute to the success of the one-month-long campaign and to keeping it alive throughout the whole year.
She also called on Imams and preachers to educate the society about the importance of family, in cooperation with universities and educational institutes.
The campaign targets 50 families living in Riyadh’s Manfoohah district and having various social problems. It will practically begin after the current week-long school vacation with holding educational, social and sports activities and programs for one month.
These activities are aimed at elevating health, psychological, intellectual and social awareness of the members of the targeted families. The campaign will also involve the opening of social clinics at Al-Nahdah Center for Social Services on a daily basis to deal with family problems throughout the duration of the campaign.
The launching ceremony witnessed a donation of SR500,000 by Princess Ameera Al-Taweel.
Princess Hissah said a meeting that involved the Human Rights Association, representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs, National Society for Human Rights and several charitable societies recommended the creation of a supreme committee that is mainly concerned about women and children in domestic violence cases, along with other issues. The recommendation will be submitted to the Council of Ministers soon. The Princess said in the press conference that domestic violence is a global problem that has been present throughout the history of mankind.

Domestic violence no longer a social taboo

Saudi Gazette, By Sabah Abdul Hadi
DAMMAM — Thanks to women who had the courage to openly discuss their anguish because of violence against them, domestic violence is no longer a taboo in Saudi Arabia.
Officials of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) say that more women in Saudi Arabia are willing to blow the violence that goes on behind closed doors wide open and raise their voices in protest.
They said it is a new beginning to end the cycle of violence that plagues many homes and scars families, and especially children.Coming out
“There are more women and children who report cases of violence against them now than before,” said Dr. Saleh Al- Khathlan, head of the Monitoring and Follow-up Committee at the NSHR. “It is a positive change which means that more women are standing up and saying no to aggressive behavior (within their families.)”
Khathlan added that violence perpetrated by close family members, particularly against women and children, is far more rampant than many people might think. The NHRS has been very concerned with putting an end to it, he said.
Various organizations, such as hospitals, social services units, women’s activist groups, human rights organizations and government agencies, are working towards a stop to this problem.
Last May, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz had ordered that a new court be established, which would specifically hear cases of domestic violence.
The Social Protection Committee of the Ministry of Social Affairs has 508 abuse cases on record from 2007.Lopsided numbers
The records depict quite a lopsided — if disturbing nonetheless — picture, with 452 female victims of domestic violence, as opposed to only 56 male victims. In those cases, most of the offenders were fathers and husbands.
The committee said this is “only the tip of the iceberg,” because there are far more cases of domestic violence across the country that have not been reported.
The committee added that the exact number of incidences of domestic violence is very difficult to determine for several reasons. Cases often go unreported, either in fear of retaliation by the offending spouses or relatives or out of social image concerns. Also, no nationwide organization exists that would have gathered information from local police departments about the number of substantiated reports and calls.
The most daunting reason, however, is that there is no universal, nationwide consensus on what actions constitutes domestic violence or fall within that definition.Whatever they need
The Ministry of Social Affair, the government department authorized to deal with problems associated with domestic violence, has organized a committee composed of representatives of the Ministry of Health, local police, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, governorates, and local social services units.
“We handle cases of domestic violence by forwarding them to this committee, which studies the case and prepares a report,” says Ibrahim Al-Omair, Director of the Eastern Province division of the Ministry of Social Services. “Caseworkers are assigned to counsel victims, the accused and their families. Counseling is provided and every detail is written down.”
Many cases, Omair added, are resolved with negotiations and counseling. The victims of cases that cannot be resolved this way are referred to shelters for women and children.
“In these shelters, all their needs are taken care of, including their food and other basic needs and expenses, until their problems are resolved,” said Omair.Did you know?
While help is already available for victims, awareness is still nowhere near where it should be.
“Women need to be aware that they are actually being abused in the first place,” said Dr. Khalid Darak, supervisor of social services at Saudi Aramco and chairman of the organizing committee of the Against Domestic Violence Campaign. “Many don’t even acknowledge it, let alone do something about it.”
Saudi Aramco Medical Services Organization (SAMSO) conducted its first campaign against domestic violence in March at the SciTech Exhibition Center in Khobar. A similar drive will be conducted in Riyadh and Jeddah.
“The awareness campaign was meant to be an eye- opener,” said Darak. “Women should learn to say no and break the silence over violence. Don’t be a victim, don’t victimize. We need to speak out against domestic violence, not hide it. Take action personally and reach out to help others caught in these abusive relationships.”Reciprocal causation
The causes of domestic violence are as complicated as the problem itself. Poverty, drug-abuse and lack of communication normally figure highly.
“Disagreements and the failure to resolve issues with talks usually lead to violence, says Khathlan of the NHRS. “ Apart from the women themselves, the other victims are the children who get caught in between. In any case, this is unacceptable.”
While many might argue that Islam allows wife-beating, Aramco’s Darak says it is simply a dubious argument.
“The concept of sponsorship in Islam — which entails that man assumes leadership in the family and is obligated to provide shelter and food — is misinterpreted by the abusers, who use that as means of mistreating their wives,” he said.
The issue was brought into the limelight in Saudi Arabia by the famous television anchor Rania Al-Baz. In April 2004, one of what she said was her husband’s frequent and brutal beatings turned nearly fatal. Gruesome photographs of Baz’s injuries were featured in national newspapers and worldwide. She became the first Saudi woman ever to publicly display her battered face.
Her husband was convicted of severe battery and sentenced to six months in jail and 300 lashes. In one of her famous television appearances after the incident, she said, “I don’t feel like I’m a hero… I feel that no woman should be a victim of her husband, or a victim, period. A woman should have the ability to choose her own destiny.”
The first shelter for victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia was established in Makkah a few years ago. With help from UNICEF, the center temporarily hosts women, children, the elderly and runaway girls while their cases are being processed.
Many such shelters are available for women and children in major cities. However, most of them are makeshift, overcrowded and inadequate.
Ibrahim Al-Mugaiteeb, founder of the Human Rights First Society, feels that there is a need for more shelters.
“The existing (shelters) cannot meet the growing number of women who need help,” he said.
He feels that real NGOs need to be established, and the existing ones like this need to be licensed.

Naif Calls for Study on Providing Citizenship to Undocumented Saudis

Interior Minister Prince Naif has urged officials of his ministry and the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) to conduct a study on providing citizenship to undocumented Saudis.

He made this announcement during a meeting with Dr. Bandar Al-Hajjar, president of NSHR, at his office in Riyadh recently.

Saudi Arabia applies strict rules in granting citizenship to other nationals. However, a number of applicants, who were competent and specialized in scientific subjects, was given Saudi citizenship last year.

The Interior Ministry’s Agency for Civil Affairs in Riyadh began accepting citizenship applications on May 23, 2005. Priority was given to applicants holding doctorates in medicine, engineering and other sciences.

Applicants must accumulate a minimum of 23 points to qualify in the first stage of the process. An applicant will receive 10 points for a 10-year continuous stay, 13 points for specializations required by the country (13 points for those who have doctorates in medicine or engineering, 10 points for those holding doctorates in other sciences and eight points for master’s degrees) and 10 points for family relations.

Many of the Kingdom’s seven million expatriate workers, including a large number of Arabs and Asians, applied for citizenship after the Cabinet approved the newly amended Naturalization Law.

The new move to provide citizenship to undocumented Saudis will help a large number of people in the Kingdom and put an end to their long suffering. Take Bahauddin, 29, son of a Saudi father and Egyptian mother, for instance.

Bahauddin, who holds neither Saudi nor Egyptian citizenship, has urged Saudi authorities to grant him citizenship and officially recognize his status. His father, Abdullah, married his mother unofficially only to divorce her and return to the Kingdom five months after Bahauddin’s birth. His mother had to pay for his education in state schools of Egypt because he was not an Egyptian.

The Cabinet changed Article 16 of the Citizenship Law last year, allowing the interior minister to grant Saudi citizenship to a foreign woman married to a Saudi or the foreign widow of a Saudi if she applies for it and relinquishes her original citizenship.

“The new system allows a divorced non-Saudi woman to apply for citizenship, especially if she has been married for a long time and has a child from her Saudi husband,” said Omar Al-Khouli, a lawyer.

“Saudi citizenship can only be canceled if the woman obtains another citizenship and not because she got divorced,” he added. Al-Khouli said that international human rights laws prohibit a country from making a person a non-citizen of any country.

During his meeting with Prince Naif, Al-Hajjar raised a number of important issues related to human rights including the situation of Saudi women married to foreigners and the treatment of their children and husbands.

Prince Naif favored a proposal made by NSHR officials that travel bans be restricted to cases specifically mentioned by the law or ordered by the court. “Our ministry is also seeking the same,” the NSHR quoted Naif as saying.

The need for transferring prisoners held for security reasons to court for trial as well as poor hygienic conditions in some prisons and the delay in renewing iqamas (resident permits) of guest workers as a result of disputes with their employers were also discussed.

Prince Naif blamed the Justice Ministry for the delay in investigating the cases of some prisoners.

Prince Naif, NHRS discuss prisoners’ problems

The National Human Rights Society (HNRS) is rushing to meet with the Saudi Minister of Justice to discuss reasons for the slow legal proceedings in Saudi courts, believed to be responsible for the crowding of detainees in prisons.
According to the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat, the society’s team has made its move after it had been told by Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Minister of Interior, that the Ministry of Interior has nothing to do with delays in judicial procedures, because they come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice.
Dr. Bandr Al-Hajar, Chairman of the NHRS, who met with Prince Naif in his office in Riyadh on Sunday along with 11 of the society’s members, described the society’s meeting with Prince Naif as transparent, candid and direct.
During the meeting, Prince Naif reiterated the rights of citizens and residents defined in the Kingdom’s rules.
He also discussed the trials of terrorist suspects being detained on grounds of terrorist acts that have stricken the country since May 12, 2003.
Prince Naif hoped that other authorities would carry out their tasks so that the suspects can stand trial as soon as possible.
Prince Naif revealed a plan by the ministry to open some more correctional facilities to reduce the crowding of prisoners. He said that the ministry is working on replacing the aging, inadequate prisons with new ones that would have all the facilities needed for caring for and reforming prisoners.
Hajar said the NHRS is concerned about sluggish legal proceedings, adding that Prince Naif had made it clear that the Ministry of Justice is directly responsible for this.
“The NHRS has received several complaints from prisoners being held for long periods without being tried, especially when it had visited the Breman Prison in Jeddah,” he said.
Hajar said the NHRS is doing what it can to meet with the Justice Minister as soon as possible to raise the issue with him.
The NHRS also discussed with Prince Naif complaints by some prisoners that they have been taken to prisons far away from their families, which causes a lot of inconvenience to their families when they call on them.
Prince Naif said that prisoners should not be taken to prisons far away from their families, unless there are strong reasons to do so from a security standpoint, or if the prison in their place of residence is unable to accommodate them due to full capacity.
The society’s members also raised the issue of poor health standards in prisons and sponsors’ reluctance and maneuvering to complete the departure formalities of the employees who complete their jail term.
They also suggested working out a new mechanism that would allow foreign workers who have disputes with their sponsors to renew their residence permits (iqamas) instead of being held indefinitely.
On raising the issue of the nationality of children of Saudi women married to foreigners and the status of their husbands and children, Prince Naif directed the authorities concerned at the ministry to study this issue with the NHRS. About bans on travel and limiting it to cases defined by the law, Prince Naif said the Ministry is striving to resolve this issue.