Human Rights In Saudi Arabia Essay

, Research Paper

It is the goal of the Western world to recruit all nations in joining the fight for a universal agreement towards human rights. Unfortunately, many countries refuse to bow down by letting western ideologies infiltrate their culture. While the oppressed citizens crave their rights, their rulers forbid it, preaching nationalism and spiritualism. Before criticizing, it is important to evaluate the true goals that the leaders wish to achieve. If their goals are truly noble, then their position can never be swayed. On the other hand, if their intentions and actions are questionable, it is the responsibility of the western world to fight relentlessly for those who cannot fend for themselves.

This fight is exactly what countries that advocate cultural relativism are guarding against. One such country is Saudi Arabia. The rights of Saudi Arabian citizens are continually being abused. There is a large effort to enroll Saudi Arabia in the universal human rights campaign. Unfortunately, there has been little effort by their government to make any changes to the undeserved treatment of their people.

Broken promises

Secrecy and fear surround the state structure in Saudi Arabia. There are no political parties, or human rights organizations to carry out research in the country. The government controls all information, including the media and the Internet. In addition, any citizen who criticizes the system is harshly punished. These punishments include unfair trials, leading to inhumane torture and executions. These grievances all occur while Saudi Arabia attempts to deny and conceal them.

Although many Saudi Arabian officials state that their country is moving forward, their weak attempts to appease their western counterparts have failed. In his address to the UNCHR, Prince Turki bin Muhammad bin Sa?ud al-Kabeer, Deputy Foreign Minister stated ?Human rights are a non-negotiable objective for the achievement of which we must all strive together.?( He further stated that Saudi Arabia was committed to ?The protection and promotion of human rights through carefully studied measures within the context of a comprehensive human rights strategy.?(I.B.I.D.) Although these statements do seem like they are step in the right direction, it has been revealed that these measures are in fact ignored to this day. The government further states that arbitrary arrest and torture are not allowed in the country and that the courts guarantee fair trial.

The Declaration of Human Rights

The Saudi Arabian government further discredited themselves by creating a ?Universal Declaration of Human Rights? in 1981(I.B.I.D.). Usually, this would seem as a giant leap towards universalism, although this goal cannot occur if these ideas are not applied in the daily activities of the government. The Declaration states that ?Islam gave mankind an ideal code of human rights fourteen centuries ago. These rights aim at conferring honor and dignity on mankind and eliminating exploitation, oppression, and injustice.? Regrettably, these core ideas are ignored.

The Declaration goes further to state that ?Human rights in Islam are firmly rooted in the believe that God, and God alone, is the law giver and the source of all human rights. Due to their divine origin, no ruler, no government, assembly or authority can curtail or violate in any way the human rights conferred by God, nor can they be surrendered.? Once religion, not law, is ruling a country, many abuses can occur. Many religious laws are archaic and can not be applied to our modern view on human rights. For example, the Qur?an states ?Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are the disbelievers? (5:44). The following verse also proclaims ?They are the wrong doers? (5:45). A third verse in the same chapter says: ?They are the perverse and law-breakers?.(5:47) If you displease the ruling government in any way, you are being unfaithful to your religion, which leads to incarceration and unfair treatment. The fate of the public is left in the hands of a ruling minority whose motives are not to simply follow the laws of their religion. For a successful outcome, it is important to separate religion from law. Laws are black and white, leaving no room for interpretations, which would provide a solid ground for human rights to build on.

The first three rights guaranteed in the Declaration are the rights to life, freedom, and to equality and prohibition against impermissible discrimination. In the cases discussed further on, it is evident that all of these rights have been ignored. The question that arises is why create a Declaration if it is to be ignored. There is a simple answer. The government can now claim that they are doing everything in their power to fight for human rights in Saudi Arabia. While they are claiming that they are changing their ways, they have continually refused entry of any human rights organization into their country. They create annual reports lacking important information denying the truth, while it is evident that there are gross violations taking place.


To fully question the ideologies surrounding Saudi Arabia, it is important to understand the religion that the government claims is dictating their actions. The general principles of Islamic law, also known as universals, essentials, and goals are derived by a system that focuses on the common good of mankind (

Human responsibilities are a leading factor dictated by the Islamic religion. Islamic law focuses on responsibility, because a focus on human rights can devolve into the selfishness of seeking to maximize one?s own freedom to do whatever one wants at the expense of others (I.B.I.D.). If everyone would fulfill all of his or her responsibilities, individually and collectively, then everyone would be accorded the full range of human rights.

There is also a respect for life, or ?the right to life? known as haqq al haya (I.B.I.D.). This dictates that it is important to settle any situation without using any violence that might threaten the lives of oneself or others. Furthermore, there is an aspect of the principle of dignity. This is the duty to respect each person?s need to seek and worship God in his or her own way. This is where Islamic law agrees with the western thought of freedom of religion. This most essential element of the dignity of man requires that the government avoid any sectarian bias carrying out its duty to facilitate freedom of religion in public affairs (I.B.I.D.). Another aspect of this principle of dignity is gender equality. Although there is a greater responsibility of the wife to take care of the home and the family, and for the husband to support the family, it is a mutual support group.

It is apparent that Islamic law preaches human responsibility and respect for life at the same time. There is mention of freedom of religion and gender equality. The Saudi Arabian government is saying that their religion is dictating their laws. This is not necessarily a negative aspect due to the positive message in the Shariah. Unfortunately, the laws of their religion are being ignored. If the government is adamant in ruling their country by religion, they must practice all of the Islamic ideologies as one cultural aim to find the true meaning of their religion and of the rights dictated in those laws.


Religious persecutions

?I said to the officer, ?can I ask you a question??Where is it found in the Qur?an that other people who are not Muslims are forced to pray?? He replied, ?It is found in Saudi Arabia?.?

From the prison diary of Osman Gedi Guled, a Somali describing what happened when he tries to intervene to stop guards beating non-Muslim prisoners for their refusal to take part in prayers (I.B.I.D.).

While Saudi Arabian officials deny wrongful incarceration and torture, many cases contradict these notions when brought to the attention of the international community. The first case involves religious persecution. Muhammad al-Hayek, a 29 year old Saudi Arabian, was arrested in 1996 and detained for more than two years without charge or trial. He was tortured and finally died in 1998. Relatives were only informed of his death the following month. The family was refused permission to collect his body and was told that it had already been buried at an undisclosed location. It is believed that al-Hayek was a Shi?a Muslim. They are estimated to make up between 7 and 10 percent of the population (Amnesty international:Saudi Arabian campaign website). They suffer systematic political, social, cultural as well as religious discrimination, despite the promises of religious freedom preached by the government.


Although Saudi Arabia acceded to the UN Convention against torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, they refuse to put it into practice. The following statement is from a political prisoner sent to Amnesty International in 1996.

?I told my investigators? ?What crime do you have against me???Their

answer was nothing else but beating me?They ties my hands behind my back, then they shackled my legs, then ties my hands to my feet. After, they pulled me flat to the ground and then they started beating me.? (I.B.I.D.)

Torture techniques that have been reported range from techniques involving sticks, electric shocks, cigarette burns and nail pulling to beatings. These methods are often used to extract confessions and to enforce discipline. They are also inflicted apparently without reason. Yet, the authorities continue to say that torture is banned under the Statute on Imprisonment and Detention. Although Article 28 states that no aggression of any sort is allowed against prisoners and that anyone who commits any such aggression will be punished, it does not provide a total prohibition of torture as required by the UN (I.B.I.D.).


Obviously there is a flagrant disregard for human rights when incarceration occurs. There are not only beatings, but also executions. This following letter is also from a prisoner in 1999:

?I thank Allah, and all I need is to be with you?Regarding my problem, do

not worry. Time will solve it and I will soon be with you God willing?I have asked the messenger of this letter to find me a house in Damascus and open a telephone line and PO box address for me there. Please transfer for him the sum he needs?Also, I will need a large sum of money to buy all the furniture for the house and car.? (I.B.I.D.)

Shortly after Abdul-Karim al-Naqshabandi wrote this letter, he was beheaded. He had no idea that he faced imminent execution, and neither his family nor the Syrian Embassy even knew that he was under sentence of death. Abdul-Karim, a Syrian, was arrested, tortured into signing a confession and then sentenced of ?witchcraft? after a secret summary trial (I.B.I.D.). He had no access to a lawyer and was given no opportunity to defend himself, even though he faced an offence punishable by death. While Saudi Arabians claim that there are only fair trials with appropriate representation, people are still refused the right of being innocent until proven guilty.

Amnesty International recorded 1,163 executions in Saudi Arabia between 1980 and 1999 (I.B.I.D.). The main reasons why so many people are executed are the wide scope of the death penalty, the vague laws that are used to impose it, and the defective criminal justice system, which allows courts to courts to impose such sentences with few procedural safeguards. The scope of the death penalty is so wide that it can apply to any act deemed by the government and the courts to amount to ?corruption on earth?. In practice, the death penalty is applied to non-violent activities and consequences, including apostasy, ?witchcraft?, ?sexual offences?, and crimes involving drugs (I.B.I.D.).

Political prisoners

?Such will be the fate of anyone who breaches any aspect of our religion?or endangers the security enjoyed by this country?? (I.B.I.D.)

This statement was made by the Saudi Arabian Interior ministry when announcing the execution of a man who had been charged for having connections with a banned opposition party and attacking an officer. He was held incommunicado, denied access to a lawyer and convicted in a secret trial.

Saudi Arabia does not permit any criticism of the state. All parties or political organizations are illegal (I.B.I.D.). The slightest challenge of official policies arouses the wrath of the government and invariably results in retaliatory action (I.B.I.D.). These actions usually involve the violation of basic human rights.

Foreign trade

In 1993, the UK government granted two licenses for the transfer of electro-shock weapons to Saudi Arabia. Since 1984 the US Department of Commerce has authorized at least a dozen shipments (I.B.I.D.). It is then understandable why cultural relativist countries continue to criticize the values of the western world. For countries that are so adamant in changing human rights legislations, their number one goal is money. This is what makes the west so vulnerable. The Saudi Arabians believe that once they throw money in the faces of the west, they can continue their appalling treatment of humans. For serious changes to occur, the west needs to be absolutely committed to the cause and not concern themselves with the economics of it. This idea is against everything that the west stands for. Which is exactly why Saudi Arabia can and will continue to disregard rights deserved by all men and women in their country.

The International Community? responsibility

As discussed earlier, many countries are willing to ignore the vast violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia due to economic and strategic interests. The international community?s refusal to scrutinize is adding to the irreversible situation. The UN Commission on Human Rights, for example, has over the years expressed concern about the human rights situation in a wide range of countries in all regions of the world, but it has never publicly addressed the serious situation in Saudi Arabia (I.B.I.D.). Furthermore, the Commission was aware of a confidential procedure considering the complaints made about Saudi Arabia by individuals and organizations concerned with human rights. In 1998, the Commission decided to discontinue its consideration of Saudi Arabia under this procedure (I.B.I.D.). Since it was confidential, It was not necessary for the Commission to explain themselves. This would find to be quite convenient for them. The UK government, in its 1999 annual report on human rights, stated, ?The Commission concluded that Saudi Arabia had responded adequately to the specific complaints received? (I.B.I.D.). Either the Commission does not believe that torture and unlawful execution are violations of human rights, or they have an ulterior motive. The latter is more likely.


Fear and secrecy rule Saudi Arabia. Although there has been weak attempts to appease the international community, there has been little progress in the human rights legislations. It cannot be blamed entirely on the cultural relativist country. Because the west is preaching all of its ideologies, the bad comes with the good. Saudi Arabia is aware that the west is economically geared and can essentially be bought for their cooperation. For universalism to occur there must be one global ideology encompassing spirituality, and not economic gain. This seems to be quite an unrealistic goal. As an independent country, Saudi Arabia must make many changes to their human rights policies. They must stop arrest and detention irregularities and provide fair trials for everyone. Tortures and executions must stop while ending discriminatory laws. Most importantly, they must practice the true ideals that their culture preaches by not forgetting the core ideas of the right to life, freedom, and equality.


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