Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia executes 37 in connection with terrorism

imageRights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Saudi Arabia executed 37 of its citizens on Tuesday for what it said were “terrorism” related crimes, publicly pinning at least one of the bodies to a pole as a warning to others.

The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers, and cooperating with “enemy organisations” against the interests of the country, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The sentences were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province, and Eastern Province, home to the country’s Shia minority

The men were executed “for adopting terrorist and extremist thinking and for forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilise security”, a statement by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

Two of the executed men’s bodies were publicly hung from a pole for several hours in a process that is not frequently used by the kingdom and has sparked controversy for its grisly display.

The interior ministry said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which focuses on terrorism trials, and the country’s high court.

Leading executioner

The report didn’t state how the death penalty was implemented, but executions in Saudi Arabia are known to be carried out by shooting or beheading with a sword, sometimes in public.

Executions are traditionally carried out after midday prayers. Public displays of the bodies of executed people last for around three hours until late afternoon prayers, with the severed head and body hoisted to the top of a pole overlooking a main square.

The state killings came a day after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) said it was behind an attack on Sunday on a Saudi security building in the town of Zulfi. In that attack, all four gunmen were killed and three security officers were wounded.

At least 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA.

Last year, the oil-rich Gulf state carried out the death sentences of 149 people, according to Amnesty International, which said only Iran was known to have executed more people.

People convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty, which the government says is a deterrent for further crime.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/saudi-arabia-executes-37-connection-terrorism-190423140531849.html

Exclusive: Yemeni child soldiers recruited by Saudi-UAE coalition

Child soldier photoAhmad al-Naqib, 16, managed to flee a military camp at the Saudi-Yemeni border [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage that proves the presence of child soldiers in the recruitment camps of the Saudi-UAE-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The children, desperately poor, are being recruited to fight along the Saudi border to defend it from the Houthis, a rebel group that overran the capital, Sanaa, and large swaths of Yemen’s northwest in 2014.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formed a coalition to overthrow the Houthis – plunging Yemen into a ruinous war – supported by forces loyal to the country’s internationally recognised government.

The conflict has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing Yemen to the brink of famine and leaving about 80 percent of its population – 24 million people – in need of humanitarian assistance.

However, many children face an even worse reality: being recruited by either warring side to fight in the conflict. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the child soldiers in Yemen fight for the Houthis. The others fight for the Saudi-UAE-led coalition.

Although Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed the international protocol banning involvement of children in armed conflict in 2007 and 2011, respectively, at the end of 2018, Saudi Arabia was accused of recruiting Sudanese children from Darfur to fight on its behalf in Yemen.

Today, Yemeni children are being recruited using local trafficking networks to defend the Saudi border.

Bereaved families interviewed by Al Jazeera questioned why the coalition would need to recruit children to fight in its war. Al Jazeera investigated these claims.

Paycheck promises

In the southern city of Taiz, Al Jazeera spoke to 16-year-old Ahmad al-Naqib and his family at the end of 2018, and the family of Mohammad Ali Hameed, 15, in February 2019. Both boys left their home, chasing promises of a regular paycheck and non-combatant roles.

Ahmad was able to flee and tell us his story, but Mohammad never made it home after he was recruited, leaving his father to tell his story.

“He had graduated from high school and started working, but before we knew it they had recruited him. He insisted on going to al-Buqa’,” Mohammad’s father, Ali, told Al Jazeera in an interview in December.

“It has been five months since he left. We have not heard anything since; we still don’t know where he is,” he added.

Both teenagers, who came from a poor background, embarked last year on separate and arduous journeys from their villages near Taiz, in the south of Yemen, towards the Saudi border crossing of al-Wade’a in the north.

According to Ahmad, al-Buqa’ in Yemen – close to the Saudi border – is where Yemeni children are being trained to fight. It is also an area that has seen frequent fighting between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition. In order to avoid exposure to the Houthis, buses carrying people to al-Buqa’ were going through the border town of al-Wade’a into Saudi Arabia.

‘There are many just like them’

The teenagers were first contacted by recruiters in the south’s poverty-stricken villages; they were looking for young boys to take to the Saudi-Yemeni borders.

Ahmad said he and many other boys were recruited ostensibly to work in the kitchens of Yemeni military units stationed inside Saudi Arabia.

“We went because we were told we would be working in a kitchen and making 3,000 Saudi riyals ($800)… so we believed them and got on the bus,” Ahmad told Al Jazeera.

Typically, a recruiter would deliver his human cargo to a trafficker at one of the Yemeni cities along the route leading up to the borders. The trafficker would then deliver the young recruits to another smuggler who would provide them with identification cards – if they did not have one – so they are able to cross into Saudi Arabia, where they would be placed into a military camp.

Al Jazeera called a trafficker, posing as a man interested in travelling to a military camp with three boys between 15 and 16 years old. The trafficker said the boys would be “bought” by someone at al-Wade’a who would provide them with military identification. After expressing concern that the boys would be turned away for being obviously underage, the trafficker said: “Don’t worry, there are many just like them.”

In a follow-up phone call with the trafficker about the fate of the boys, he said: “Don’t worry, this stuff isn’t important to us. What is important is that they are good soldiers. Can they handle guns?”

Ahmad got to al-Wade’a and went further inland, but did not go all the way to al-Buqa’. He heard from people in an intermediary camp that they would only be paid half the $800 salaries they were promised every two or three months and that he might not be a cook after all. “They give you your gun and send you to the front lines [to fight the Houthis],” Ahmad was told.

“They take them into battles to defend Saudi Arabia. As if these children are the ones who will defend the kingdom. Where are their weapons, their aeroplanes?” said Mohammad al-Naqeeb, Ahmad’s father.

Ahmad said he and others managed to flee the camp late last year.

Fifteen-year-old Mohammad was not one of them.

“His mother is devastated. She has given up. I wish he’d just call to let us know that he’s OK; that’s all we want. We just want to know if he’s alive or dead,” Mohammad’s father said.

“These young and irrational boys should have never been allowed to be enticed and recruited to fight in the war. The government should have sent them back home to go to school, but in a time like this, conscience is dead. Instead, they’re welcomed with open arms,” he added.

Al Jazeera obtained access to a secret list containing the names of Yemeni soldiers captured by the Houthis that Yemen’s government submitted during a round of talks between the warring sides in Sweden last year.

Mohammad’s name was not on the list. His fate is still unknown.

Ahmad, on the other hand, managed to come home to his anguished parents after escaping from the camp.

But a terrible fate awaited him. In January, a stray bullet hit the young boy in the head, ending his short life.

Al Jazeera contacted the Saudi Ministry for Foreign Affairs for comment. They have not responded to the request.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2019/03/exclusive-yemeni-child-soldiers-recruited-saudi-uae-coalition-190329132329547.html

Saudi sisters leave Hong Kong for new country

Saudi photoThe sisters say they escaped during a family holiday in Sri Lanka and had intended to seek asylum in Australia [File: Aleksander Solum/Reuters]

Two Saudi sisters fleeing their family in Saudi Arabia have secured emergency visas and departed from Hong Kong after spending months in hiding, according to their lawyer.

The young women, who go by the aliases Reem and Rawan, left Hong Kong on Monday for a new country of residence, which has not been named.

Lawyer Michael Vidler said in a statement that the sisters, aged 18 and 20, were granted emergency humanitarian visas after six months in Hong Kong.

Vidler said the two are now “beginning their lives as free young women”.

The sisters say they were escaping alleged abuse by their male relatives, according to Amnesty International.

Following the news of their departure from Hong Kong, Amnesty said on Twitter that the two had shown “immense courage & took huge risks” and that they “must be allowed to build their lives without living in fear that their family or the Saudi authorities will force them back”.

The young women have drawn attention to their plight by tweeting under the name #HKSaudiSisters.

They claim they escaped while on a family trip in Sri Lanka, intending to seek asylum in Australia but were intercepted at Hong Kong airport by Saudi officials and subsequently went into hiding.

Hong Kong is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and would-be asylum seekers often languish for years as they wait to be sent to a third country.

‘Free of violence and oppression’

The sisters said in a statement that they want their story to give hope to others facing similar situations.

“We are thrilled … that we have found our way to safety to restart our lives free of violence and oppression,” they said.

The two sisters are not the first to flee Saudi Arabia and seek assistance via social media.

Such cases appear to be on the rise, with the two sisters’ story emerging a month after 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf al-Qunun drew international attention with her dramatic escape from an allegedly abusive family to eventually gain refugee status in Canada.

Saudi female runaways who flee the kingdom typically say they are trying to escape domestic abuse and male guardianship laws that bar women from obtaining a passport, travelling abroad, marrying or undergoing certain medical procedures without a male relative’s consent.

Women who are caught fleeing Saudi Arabia can be pressured to return home, arrested for disobedience or can be placed in restrictive centres.

The Saudi government and its embassies around the world do not typically comment on individual runaway cases, deeming them a “family affair”.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/saudi-sisters-leave-hong-kong-country-190325194606998.html

Bishop objects to death sentence for Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia photoSaudi Arabia flag. Credit: Hugo Brizard/YouGoPhoto/Shutterstock.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (CNA). A bishop in the Philippines is speaking out against the death penalty of a Filipino woman who has been condemned to death in Saudi Arabia.

“We turn to God in prayers that He may move the [Saudi] government to be merciful and grant clemency,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Filipino bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, in a statement this week.

“She has to be helped and assisted. Let us try everything to save her,” he said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

On Feb. 28, the Saudi Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of an unnamed Filipino woman, who was convicted in 2017 for killing her employer. The woman claimed to have acted in self-defense against an abusive employer.

Santos encouraged the Philippine government to do whatever it can to save the woman and conduct a “thorough investigation” behind the woman’s arrival in Saudi Arabia. Reports suggest that she arrived in the country as a minor.

“Placement agencies should be made accountable for whatever happens to [Filipino workers] sent to other countries,” the bishop said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

He stressed that agencies and recruiters should be held liable for abuse of the employees they place.

ABS-CBN News reported that the case has also been directed to the chair of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking, which is part of the Philippine Department of Justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it would do all it could to save the woman, who has so far been assisted by Consul General Edgar Badajos.

The department released a statement saying it “will exhaust all diplomatic avenues and legal remedies to save a Filipina in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi Court of Appeals affirmed her death sentence on Thursday.”

The case followed an execution in January, when a 39-year-old maid from the Philippines received the death penalty for a murder that took place in 2015. Details about the case were not released.

About 500,000 Filipinos are believed to be working in Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been accused of poor work conditions and inadequate religious freedoms.

In 2016, Bishop Santos had encouraged the Philippine embassy in the country to protect Filipino workers. That year, a Filipino woman had died as result of the injuries she received from rape, allegedly at the hands of her employer.

That same year, a mass execution of 47 men was carried out in Saudi Arabia in January. One of the men was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and long-time activist for Shi’a rights in the country.

Princeton Professor Robert George, then-chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the execution of Sheik al-Nimr raised religious freedom concerns and did not meet capital punishment standards set by the international human rights law.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-objects-to-death-sentence-for-filipino-woman-in-saudi-arabia-53659