Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Urge President Obama to push for human rights reforms during trip to Saudi Arabia
In late March, President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss a myriad of issues facing the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and their bilateral relationship. Although the White House has stated that most topics of discussion will revolve around security, counter-terrorism, and building peace, it is vital that human rights abuses also be addressed. Since the President’s last visit in 2009, Saudi Arabia has ramped up violations in human rights across a wide range of issues. According to the organization Human Rights Watch, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has routinely repressed peaceful activists and political dissidents, abused migrant workers, and refused to fully support women’s rights. The President is in a unique position to convince Saudi officials to address these violations of their people’s rights.
Political dissidents and peaceful protesters in Saudi Arabia are frequently arrested and prosecuted in hasty trials. Frequently, they are charged with vague crimes like “breaking allegiance with the ruler,” or “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom.” Many peaceful human rights activists such as Waleed Abu al-Khair and Fadhel al-Manasif, are currently being tried for such crimes and face outrageously long prison terms, while their true actions were as benevolent as teaching workshops on human and civil rights. The arrests and prosecution of peaceful activists must be put to a stop.
Over half of the Saudi Arabian work force, totaling more than 9 million people, is composed of migrant workers. Many end up abused or exploited; some are forced into what is essentially indentured servitude. In order to live and work in Saudi Arabia, migrants must be sponsored by an employer and may not change jobs unless given written permission by that employer. Some sponsors commit terrible injustices such as withholding pay or stealing migrants’ passports, and are never held accountable. The United States should advocate for a reform in the sponsorship system, also known as kafala.
Although Saudi Arabia has recently made great strides in the treatment and rights of women, there is still much work to be done. Women are still prohibited from driving and perpetrators of domestic violence frequently go unpunished. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia must become a leader for women’s rights in the region, if they are to continue to grow and modernize as a society.
Repressive human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia affect multiple facets of its society. Encourage President Obama to address these violations and suggest reforms during his trip to Saudi Arabia.
Dear President Obama,
We know there are many important issues to discuss on your upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia. However, in addition to issues of security and peace, we insist that you push for greater respect for the human rights of citizens and migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has not stopped committing human rights abuses like suppression of political dissent, abuse of migrant workers, and oppression of women, since your last visit in 2009. Please urge Saudi officials to end or revise policies that encourage or allow for human rights violations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Unknown via Wikimedia Commons