Posted tagged ‘Saudi Arabia and females’

Report: Saudi Arabia Seeks Reform Towards ‘Moderate Islam

January 12, 2018

Report: Saudi Arabia Seeks Reform Towards ‘Moderate Islam, BreitbartJohn Hayward, January 11, 2018


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted on Thursday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is pushing a return to “the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people” as part of Saudi Arabia’s major economic reform plan.

At the heart of Saudi Arabia’s recent cultural and political upheaval is an understanding that the country must become more compatible with the Western world and more hospitable to foreign investment, in order to manage the transition away from an oil-based economy with limitless deep pockets. Possibly the trickiest aspect of this transformation will be an Islamic reformation in the notoriously strict kingdom.

As the Journal goes on to note, MBS is looking quite a way back into history for that memory of moderate Saudi Islam, since its harsh blend of strict Wahhabi Islam was brewed up in the 18th Century by the eponymous cleric Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Tribal influences, and of course the presence of Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have pushed the kingdom in an Islamist direction ever since.

The key event in recent Saudi Islamic history is often underappreciated by outside observers: the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, in which militants occupied the holiest shrine of Islam for 15 days in 1979. The WSJ mentions it only briefly, but the siege dovetailed with the revolution in Iran to change both the Sunni and Shiite wings of the Islamic world.

It is best understood as a theocratic coup, and not an unsuccessful one because it permanently altered the relationship between Saudi Arabia’s royal family, secular bureaucracy, and hardline Islamist clergy. The government did much to curry favor with the Wahhabi extremists to prevent anything like the Grand Mosque attack from happening again. The most pessimistic interpretation of the aftermath is that fundamentalists effectively blackmailed the wealthy Saudi government into bankrolling extremism and terrorism. The siege made the government look weak, dishonest, and decadent to many Saudis.

The Grand Mosque terrorist incident was also a landmark moment in deteriorating relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and by extension Sunni and Shiite Islam, since Iran was widely believed to be involved in the attack. A dismal contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran began to demonstrate which was more pious and faithful to Islamic law. Fundamentalism spread rapidly across formerly liberal and cosmopolitan cities across the Middle East, which until the Islamist upheaval of the late Seventies resembled American and European cities of the same era. It didn’t help matters that Islamic fundamentalism mixed easily with Marxist quackery.

Some find the speed of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms astonishing, or worry that he is moving too quickly, but Margherita Stancati at the Wall Street Journalrecalls that fundamentalism descended upon Saudi Arabia very quickly forty years ago:

The mixing of unrelated men and women, let alone singing and dancing, was no longer acceptable. Cinemas closed and music stopped.

In public, women were forced to wear face-covering veils, which in parts of the country such as Asir had been virtually nonexistent. The religious police, formally known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, was given the job of enforcing the new order.

Radical Islamists infused the school curriculum with the teachings of Wahhabi scholars. Textbooks instructed students to hate Christians and Jews and denigrated Shiite Muslims. Some of the more extreme views often came from teachers, who sometimes recruited students to extremist causes.

Saudi charities linked to the government helped spread that interpretation of Islam beyond the kingdom’s borders, inspiring generations of jihadists.

As Stancati notes, even young women eager for reform in Saudi Arabia today grew up being taught that drawing pictures of animals was an insult to Allah’s sacred and unique ability to create life, or that listening to music for pleasure would get them tortured for all eternity in the afterlife by having hot metal poured in their ears. Top Saudi clerics criticized the government for giving women the right to drive by saying it would give them easy access to worldly temptation, and “as we know, women are weak and easily tempted.”

However, the Saudi public overwhelmingly supports ending the ban on women drivers. Younger Saudis in particular grasp that they need to become more socially compatible with the rest of the world if they are to compete on the global stage, in an era when oil is no longer the bottomless spring of easy money it once was.

Crucially, there does not seem to be any massive fundamentalist pushback lurking, comparable to how Saudi modernization at the beginning of the oil boom fed the resentments that erupted in 1979. The government is making a serious effort to nourish more moderate interpretations of Islam and improve education.

Granted, some of the social liberalization described by Stancati is incremental, such as upscale Riyadh women getting to decide what color fabric they wish to be wrapped in from head to toe, instead of having to settle for all black. Also, liberalization in the big Saudi cities is much more noticeable than in small towns and distant areas.

Retired Pacific Fleet commander Admiral James Lyons noted in the Washington Times in December that Saudi demographics are now remarkably skewed toward the younger generation, as 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old, and they have little patience for “onerous Islamic restrictions.” He also noted that the post-oil Saudi economy will have to welcome women into the workforce, which necessarily involves lifting restrictions upon them, such as allowing them to drive.

Lyons is willing to cut the crown prince a lot of slack for playing rough as he consolidates power, because it’s necessary to implement rapid reforms against bureaucratic and social inertia in Saudi Arabia. There is also some comfort in knowing that MBS has practical dollars-and-cents reasons to make his reforms stick; if his sense of idealism flags, the sound of a doomsday clock ticking on a trillion-dollar economic collapse should strengthen his resolve.

Saudi women are driving good news

October 5, 2017

Saudi women are driving good news, Al ArabiyaDr. Khaled M. Batarfi, October 5, 2017

It was a homegrown movement, supported by both male and female, of different ages and backgrounds, from all parts of the country, including conservative areas. The Saudi people have spoken, and a majority gave their vote to the new law — religious scholars and tribal leaders included.

The next step, we are now calling and waiting for, is the “Protection of the National Unity” law against racial, gender and religious discrimination. Hashtags advocating the law became top trends in Twitter. It is a march we started years ago. It went through the Shoura Council, and is still there.

Like any monumental change, it was resisted. Society was not ready then, but now, we believe it is. In such favorable environment our hopes are sky high. Soon enough, I expect the law to be approved with a royal decree.


It is not easy to get used to good news! Not in this era or world! But last week, many of our overdue dreams were realized — all at once. We expect more of the same. If so, we may finally find enough reason to change our attitude from gray to bright!

For decades, some questions have been haunting me everywhere I went — in summer British schools, US colleges, international conferences and seminars, as well as, the Western media. Questions about women rights were among the most persistent — and hardest to answer.

First, you need to explain how the religion of Islam has nothing to do with the shortcomings of some Muslims. Then, you go some distance to explain why wouldn’t a system in a Muslim country adhere to Islamic Shariah. And once you clarify the influence of social customs and traditions, you may have already lost your audience!

During a recent conference, my American colleague was patient enough to go with me through all the above phases, before she asked: how could we help? I told her any help from your direction would complicate things. Saudi women are already doing their best to change society from within. They managed to reach many levels, including ministerial, and positions that were reserved for men in the past, such as security.

Today, they vote and run for offices in municipality and chamber of commerce elections. Some become chairwomen of banks and mega companies. A third of our Shoura Council members are women — more than in the US Congress and most European parliaments.

Ability to work

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has just lifted restrictions on their ability to study and work without the approval of their guardians. Girls are more than half the student population with better grades.

They had the same opportunity as males in scholarship abroad, again with higher scores. Once they graduate, they enroll as doctors, nurses, engineers, bankers, scientists and university professors, side by side with their male colleagues.

Those are more important accomplishments, in my opinion, than driving a car. Still, women right activists around the world seem to be concerned most with just this one issue, and surprisingly unaware of the giant steps taken in other areas.

Just wait a bit longer, I advised, keep to the sideline, and let our women continue their march. Soon enough more achievements will be realized, including car driving, I promised my American colleague.

We had this conversation just last month. Last week not only the ban on women driving was lifted, but we are about to have a “sexual harassment” law.

The better half

Importantly, the new driving law would treat male and female equally, including the starting age of 18 and the no-need for parental approval. Those are giant steps for our better half! They deserve them and more.

Now, I feel the urge to call my American colleague and all others whom I promised the change to tell them: Didn’t I tell so? Yes, we did it! But on our own! No one could dare to tell us we changed under foreign pressure.

It was a homegrown movement, supported by both male and female, of different ages and backgrounds, from all parts of the county, including conservative areas. The Saudi people have spoken, and a majority gave their vote to the new law — religious scholars and tribal leaders included.

The next step, we are now calling and waiting for, is the “Protection of the National Unity” law against racial, gender and religious discrimination. Hashtags advocating the law became top trends in Twitter. It is a march we started years ago. It went through the Shoura Council, and is still there.

Like any monumental change, it was resisted. Society was not ready then, but now, we believe it is. In such favorable environment our hopes are sky high. Soon enough, I expect the law to be approved with a royal degree.

Good news does come sometimes unexpectedly. I hope they continue and we get used to them. Ameen!

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on October 5, 2017.

Saudi women ‘thank God’ for end to driving ban

September 28, 2017

Saudi women ‘thank God’ for end to driving ban, Israel Hayom, September 28, 2017

(Old Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — DM)

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia. Archives: Reuters

Women will be allowed to obtain licenses without the permission of a male relative.

A muted response from Saudi Arabia’s clergy, which has long backed the ban, suggested power shared between the Al Saud dynasty and the Wahhabi religious establishment could be shifting decisively in favor of the royals.

Many younger Saudis regard Prince Mohammed’s ascent as evidence their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women’s progress.


Saudi Arabian women rejoiced at their new freedom to drive on Wednesday, with some taking to the roads even though licenses will not be issued for nine months.

Hundreds of others chatted with hiring managers at a Riyadh job fair, factoring in the new element in their career plans: their ability to drive themselves to work.

“Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop,” Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested in 2011 after a driving protest, said in an online statement.

King Salman announced the historic change on Tuesday, ending a conservative tradition which limited women’s mobility and was seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression.

Saudi Arabia was the only remaining country in the world to bar women from driving.

At the jobs fair, Sultana, 30, said she had received four job offers since graduating from law school two years ago but turned them down because of transport issues.

“My parents don’t allow me to use Uber or Careem, so one of my brothers or the driver would need to take me,” she said, referring to dial-a-ride companies.

“I’m so excited to learn how to drive. This will be a big difference for me. I will be independent. I won’t need a driver. I can do everything myself.”

She plans to start taking driving lessons when her family travels abroad for vacation.

Other women weren’t waiting. Internet videos showed a handful of women driving cars overnight, even though the ban has not been officially lifted.

The move represents a big crack in the laws and social mores governing women in the conservative Muslim kingdom. The guardianship system requires women to have a male relative’s approval for most decisions on education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.

The new initiative recalls previous modernizing milestones that unnerved conservatives at first but were eventually accepted, such as the 1960s start of state education for girls and the introduction of television.

The decree is expected to boost the fortunes of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ascended to the heights of power in the kingdom with an ambitious domestic reform program and assertive foreign policy.

He said letting women drive is a “huge step forward” and that “society is ready.”

“This is the right time to do the right thing,” he told reporters. Women will be allowed to obtain licenses without the permission of a male relative.

A muted response from Saudi Arabia’s clergy, which has long backed the ban, suggested power shared between the Al Saud dynasty and the Wahhabi religious establishment could be shifting decisively in favor of the royals.

Many younger Saudis regard Prince Mohammed’s ascent as evidence their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women’s progress.

Sharif, the activist, described the driving ban’s removal as “just the start to end long-standing unjust laws [that] have always considered Saudi women minors who are not trusted to drive their own destiny.”

A driving instructor at a government-run center said women called all day to inquire about registering a license, but he had received no instructions yet from the government.

Um Faisal, a mother of six, said her daughters would get licenses as soon as possible.

“Years ago, there wasn’t work outside the house. But today women need to get out and go places. This generation needs to drive,” she said, clad in a long black abaya.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday women would not need their guardians’ permission to get a license, nor to have a guardian in the car when driving.

In a country where gender segregation has been strictly enforced for decades in keeping with the austere Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, the decree means women will have regular contact with unrelated men, such as fellow drivers and traffic police.

Other rules have loosened recently, with the government sponsoring concerts deemed un-Islamic by clerics, allowing women into a large sports stadium for the first time and permitting them to dance beside men in a central Riyadh street over the weekend.

Amnesty International welcomed the decree as “long overdue” but said there was still a range of discriminatory laws and practices that needed to be overturned.

That risks inflaming tensions with influential Wahhabi clerics with whom the ruling Al Saud has enjoyed a close strategic alliance since the kingdom’s founding.

The state-backed Council of Religious Scholars expressed support for the king’s decree. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, who has repeatedly opposed women working and driving and said letting them into politics may mean “opening the door to evil,” has yet to comment.

On that note, meanwhile, a Saudi woman was named to a senior government post for the first time, authorities said on Wednesday.

Eman Al-Ghamidi was given the post “as part of plan to boost the number of females in leadership positions in line with Vision 2030,” the Center for International Communication at the Ministry of Culture and Information said in a statement.

The Saudi government has said Vision 2030, a vast plan of economic and social reforms, will raise women’s share of the labor market to 30% from 22% currently.

Still, some men expressed outrage at the about-face by prominent clerics, who in the past have sometimes justified the driving ban by saying women’s brains are too small or that driving endangered their ovaries.

“Whoever says this is permitted is a sinner. Women driving means great evils and this makes them especially sinful,” one Twitter user wrote.

Kawthar al-Arbash, a member of the Shura Council, a government advisory body, acknowledged that resistance, saying: “That’s how things go. Everything new is accompanied by fears.”

Lori Boghardt, a Gulf specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the change is yet another sign that the crown prince is intent on adopting social reforms that will transform the kingdom.

“Today it’s especially clear that this includes moves that’ve long been thought of by Saudis as politically risky,” she said.

Aziza Youssef, a professor at King Saud University and one of Saudi Arabia’s most vocal women’s rights activists, said, “I am really excited. This is a good step forward for women’s rights.”

Speaking to The Associated Press from Riyadh, she said women were “happy” but also that the change was “the first step in a lot of rights we are waiting for.”

Girl in Saudi Gone Wild: There she was just a ’walkin’ down the mud-caked alley

July 20, 2017

Girl in Saudi Gone Wild: There she was just a ’walkin’ down the mud-caked alley, Al ArabiyaFatimah S. Baeshen, July 20, 2017

(An article of this sort probably would not have been published by Saudi media, and the young lady probably would not have been released, before President Trump’s Arab Summit and the elevation of the current, reform-minded, crown prince. — DM)

This op-ed was written before Khuloud was released.

A strut and a milliseconds-long backwards glance has captured the world’s attention.

The strut and glance in question were made by Khulood Al-Yafie, a beautiful miniskirt and crop top clad Yemeni woman visiting Saudi Arabia’s Ushaiger cultural heritage site. Her tour, recorded on video (which has since gone viral) has not only invoked the wrath of the Kingdom’s religious police and sizable conservative population but indirectly expanded the scope of social and cultural discourse inside the Kingdom.

I have visited Ushaiger. It is a sleepy historical site just outside the Saudi capital, Riyadh; a labyrinth of mudhuts and alleys that speaks to the country’s centuries-old heritage. For generations, the same families have occupied this religiously-conservative part of the country. So, a stunt like this tends to attract a tremendous amount of (possibly unwanted) publicity (despite the potentially positive ramifications for Saudi tourism – but I digress).

The moral issue

Questions as to the rightness or wrongness of Khulood’s actions aside, I want to spotlight the range of responses this incident elicited, rather than the incident itself, to highlight an important point about the role social media is playing in expanding the Kingdom’s public sphere (and the diversity of opinions contained within). After all the only reason we are talking about a beautiful woman’s stroll down a mud-caked alley is because said stroll occurred in a country popularly known in Western culture for autocracy, repression, and austere religious practices.

Historically, the Royal Court, the Council of Ministers, and the Shoura Council—have dominated decision making in the Kingdom. However, over the last ten years, the government has increasingly moved to allow for extended periods of public discourse on social, cultural, economic, and on very rare occasions, political moves.

This has occurred for several reasons; most importantly, either to normalize a controversial change through prolonged discussion or to hear the array of opinions that exist as they pertain to potential critical reforms in the hope of building a broader consensus. The key point is that once the public debate plays out it culminates into policy-change.

With this latest event we are witnessing, live and in real time, the expansion of social and cultural discourse in the Kingdom. And as with previous expansions, this incident may also come to impact policy; in this case, by further advancing women’s rights.

The fact that a women was bold enough to walk through Ushaiger, a traditional heritage site in the heart of Najd (the Kingdom’s conservative central region) without an abayah while wearing a mini-skirt and crop top speaks volumes as to where the Kingdom is heading with respect to social and cultural change. For this bold move to be captured and disseminated is one measure of progress but for the public – men and woman, conservatives and progressives – to freely debate this matter on social media is another sign of advancement in and of itself.

Oh, the times they are a’changin’…

I recently published Freedom of Tweet and Freedom to Seat, a report reviewing what the 1st amendment looks like in Saudi Arabia. In it, I discuss how a localized form of freedom of speech has not only been tolerated, but expanded, accommodated, and used to inform policy-decisions.

“In June 2013, Saudi Arabia changed from a Thursday–Friday to a Friday– Saturday weekend to align itself with other Middle Eastern economies, this despite pushback from the conservative base arguing that to do so would mimic the Western lifestyle. However, the government publicly floated the idea several years prior to instituting the change.

They allowed the Saudi public to openly debate the issue via informal channels such as Twitter, op-eds, and coffee shop conversations. Actual implementation of the transformation was quick—Saudis received one week’s notice— but, because this followed years of frank discussion, opposition to the change was limited.”

Khulood’s action, and the debate surrounding it, may well yield a similar result.

As for Khulood herself, she has been taken in for questioning by police and will likely be asked to sign a pledge not to repeat her actions, in order to placate Saudi’s more conservative elements, before ultimately being released.


Fatimah S. Baeshen is a director at the Arabia Foundation. A Saudi national, she joined the Arabia Foundation after having worked with the Saudi Ministry of Labor and the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning in Riyadh between 2014 and 2017. Her focus areas include the labor market, private sector development, and women’s economic empowerment.

Saudi Royals signal the real magnitude of the deal they made with Trump

May 20, 2017

Saudi Royals signal the real magnitude of the deal they made with Trump, American ThinkerThomas Lifson, May 20, 2017

President Trump’s spectacular reception in Riyadh is a signal to the world (and to Saudi subjects, in particular) that big changes are coming. Elderly and frail King Salman ventured out onto the apron in 110 degree heat and actually shook Melania Trump’s hand as she deplaned Air Force One, thereby touching a female infidel.




Perhaps even more important in terms of Saudi daily life, the women in attendance at functions did not wear head coverings and abayas.  The entire nation saw this on television and understands that the fracking-created global oil glut changes everything, that the infidels no longer cower in fear of a cutoff of the oil that Allah granted to the protectors of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  The old arguments of the fanatics hold less water.  Change is coming. The King signaled that the restrictions declared by the Wahhabi clergy are no longer the ultimate arbiter of personal behavior, and that Saudis are going to have to start respecting the customs of the infidels.  Something like his handshake gesture can seem trivial, quaint, or even humorous to Americans, but it is very serious business. The role modeling of the women at the highest and most formal level reaches deep into the culture.

It is now clear that the King and his two designated successors (Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nyef and Mohammad bin Salman) have made a deal to liberalize Saudi Arabia. The deal-maker president has told them that there is a price of continued American support.

This would be against the wishes of powerful factions of the Saudi Royal Family (about 5,000 strong), some of whom are closely aligned with (and fund) the radical Wahhabi clergy. For decades, the (principally) Saudi-funded Wahhabis have poisoned the Ummah (the global Muslim community) with their feudal views. Saudi Arabia only became mega-wealthy in the 1950s, and the world’s Muslims were not violently engaged in much jihad. The Wahhabi clergy and the Saudi-funded mosques they brought with them prepared the soil for Al Qaeda at home and abroad.

Make no mistake: there is every possibility that a violent reaction or a coup within the Royal Family if sufficiently provoked. The clergy are important because they preach to the Saudi masses, and could whip them up into an attempt at an overthrow of the corrupt Royals who siphon off so much of Allah’s bounty for their own decadent pleasures, many of them haram. That is why Saudi Arabia has such a large investment in its security forces. The plan is for them to remain loyal in the event of an uprising, but man plans and Allah laughs.

The Royals are in a very delicate position.  The dominant faction, the King and his two designated successors, have to loosen things up gradually, step by step, so as to not put their opponents over the edge into a revolt that would brutally slaughter untold numbers, quite possibly including themselves. Like the mythological frog in a pot of water on the stove, they have to increase the heat very slowly.

They have already agreed to a deal to reward President Trump with a massive arms purchase worth $109.7 billion. That’s jobs and profits. But this aspect of the deal, from the New York Times, is important:

 On the afternoon of May 1, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, welcomed a high-level delegation of Saudis to a gilded reception room next door to the White House and delivered a brisk pep talk: “Let’s get this done today.”

Mr. Kushner was referring to a $100 billion-plus arms deal that the administration hoped to seal with Saudi Arabia in time to announce it during Mr. Trump’s visit to the kingdom this weekend. The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis’ buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Sensing that the cost might be a problem, several administration officials said, Mr. Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price. As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it, officials said.

Mr. Kushner’s personal intervention in the arms sale is further evidence of the Trump White House’s readiness to dispense with custom in favor of informal, hands-on deal making. It also offers a window into how the administration hopes to change America’s position in the Middle East, emphasizing hard power and haggling over traditional diplomacy.

This is a tangible and personal signal to the factions of the Saudi family represented in the high-level delegation. An Orthodox Jew, married to the favored child of the President (who became a Jew herself) saved them money using his personal connections. Call me suspicious but I think this was carefully planned theatre. You have to see this against the background of the sudden new confluence of interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia, united in opposition to Iran and Arab Radical Islamic terrorists. The two nations already covertly cooperate, a ruse that cannot last forever. Slowly and surely the Saudis have to turn away from the Palestinians and toward an embrace of Israel.  And it turns out that there can be a considerable upside to making peace with Israel and the Jews.

So, where do the Saudis go from here? How do they demonstrate to Trump, the world, and their own subjects that things are changing, and that it is acceptable.

My guess is that a symbolic measure that does not affect anyone in Saudi Arabia would be the next step. An easy one would be to end the prohibition against Israeli civilian airliners flying over Saudi airspace when flying eastward toward India, Thailand, and beyond. Israel’s economic and tourism ties with Asia are large and growing, so this restriction, which adds hours and costs, is an irritant to Israelis, as well as a political statement to the world that Israel is illegitimate.

The fact is that President Trump’s planned nonstop Air Force One flight from Riyadh to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel will be the first publicly-known flight between the two nations. (There is a decent chance that secret flights have taken place because the governments do talk to each other covertly.) So Trump is already liberalizing their aviation restrictions.

Allowing Israeli airliners to fly over Saudi territory would be a good first step toward eventual direct flights, a sign of complete acceptance of Israel as a legitimate nation, which is the only long term solution to peace between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. It is a long path, but there is no alternative to a step at a time, given the delicate political situation of the Saudi Royals.

It is clear to me that President Trump has made a transformational deal, and that the West has stake in helping it come to fruition.

Misogyny Meet Irony: Saudi Arabia Elected To United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission

April 24, 2017

Misogyny Meet Irony: Saudi Arabia Elected To United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, April 24, 2017

(Please see also, United Nations Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission. — DM)

If you like your misogyny with a heavy serving of irony, you could do no better than the United Nations this week after Saudi Arabia was elected to a  2018-2022 term on the Commission on the Status of Women, the U.N. agency that, according to its website, is “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”  As with Iran being put on the Commission, the irony would be humorous if there were not millions of victims over decades of abuse by these countries.  Previously, Saudi Arabia taking over the top spot on the Human Rights Commission was viewed as unbelievable, but the entry on the Commission on the Status of Women sets a level of irony that may be unsurpassable.

Notably, various groups demanded to know what countries voted for the inclusion.  Only 7 of 54 ECOSOC states opposed the inclusion and many want the EU countries to reveal their votes. It is absurd that such votes should be taken on secret ballots.

Now that Saudi Arabia is a protector of women’s rights, it may want to immediately call for an investigation of the country responsible for:

Barring women from being able to travel without the permission of men;

Flogging women for driving;

Jailing a man for protesting the treatment of women;

Arresting women for ripped jeans or “Western haircuts“;

Stoning a woman to death (while just giving her male love flogging) for sex outside of marriage;

Sentencing human right activists to death;

Persecuting lawyers who help rape victims; 

Flogging rape victims;

Permitting child bride arranged marriages;

Closing Women’z health clubs as UnIslamic;

Arresting women without head coverings;

Arresting even foreign women who sit next to unrelated men in public places;

Flogging women over use of bad language; 

Enforcing the right to beat wives; and

Barring women from a Women’s Rights Conference.

That is only a partial list for the new Saudi Commissioner and it does not even require going outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

United Nations Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission

April 23, 2017

United Nations Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission, Breitbart, Joel B. Pollak, April 23, 2017

(Please see also, Sharia-Advocate Sarsour to Give Graduation Address at CUNY. — DM)


The United Nations Economic and Social Council voted late last week to place Saudi Arabia on the Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term beginning in 2018, despite that country’s appalling record on the treatment of women.

Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, expressed his outrage in a statement Friday:

“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “It’s absurd.”

“Every Saudi woman,” said Neuer, “must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death. Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars.”

According to UN Watch, the United States forced a formal vote, against China’s wishes, instead of allowing the normal practice of allowing regional groupings to select the nations on the commission by themselves, in secret.

However, the vote was still held behind closed doors, meaning it is not yet clear precisely which countries voted to honor one of the world’s foremost abusers of women’s rights. Neuer calculates, based on the voting math, that at least five European Union member states would have had to vote for Saudi Arabia for it to win a seat on the commission.

The U.S. State Department’s most recent human rights report on Saudi Arabia (largely prepared by the outgoing Obama administration) notes that despite being allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015, the state of women’s rights in the kingdom remains generally abysmal:

Women continued to face significant discrimination under law and custom, and many remained uninformed about their rights. …

The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and since there is no codified personal-status law, judges made decisions regarding family matters based on their interpretations of Islamic law. Although they may legally own property and are entitled to financial support from their guardian, women have fewer political or social rights than men, and society treated them as unequal members in the political and social spheres. The guardianship system requires that every woman have a close male relative as her “guardian” with the legal authority to approve her travel outside of the country. A guardian also has authority to approve some types of business licenses and study at a university or college. Women can make their own determinations concerning hospital care. Women can work without their guardian’s permission, but most employers required women to have such permission. A husband who verbally (rather than through a court process) divorces his wife or refuses to sign final divorce papers continues to be her legal guardian.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia reduced a Sri Lankan woman’s sentence for adultery from execution by stoning to three years in prison.