On August 30, 2022, leaked videos from an orphanage in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern city of Khamis Mushait were widely shared on social media. The videos give a glimpse of the brutality and abuse that Saudi women face. The footage showed a group of Saudi security forces attacking and beating a group of women and girls inside the orphanage. They were assaulting them with tasers, wooden sticks and leather belts.
In one video a man is seen dragging a woman by her hair across the lawn, another joins him to beats her with a belt, while a third helps the first man to put the women in shackles. Other videos show Saudi security officers chasing women across the orphanage pushing and tackling them to the ground. The videos were viewed online millions of times and created an uproar on social media including in Saudi Arabia.
The women and girls in the orphanage were protesting their horrible living conditions. Instead of listening to them the Saudi authorities sent in security forces to beat them up. Now that these brave girls and women documented their abuse and leaked the videos on social media, the governor of the Asir region where the orphanage is located announced that the incident will be investigated.
MBS and Women's Rights Abuses in Saudi Arabia
This brutal case is one more example of the suppression and repression of Saudi women that dare to stand up and fight for their rights. Women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, a University of British Columbia graduate, actively campaigned to push for women to have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She was arrested in 2018 along with other prominent women’s rights activists just few weeks before the Saudi government lifted the ban on women driving. While Loujain and others were tortured in Saudi jails, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (known as MBS) was being celebrated as a reformer for lifting the driving ban. Loujain was released after spending 1001 days in jail under the conditions that she doesn’t return to activism, or she can be re-arrested, and her and her parents are under a travel ban forbidden to leave Saudi Arabia.
Lina al-Hathloul, Loujain’s sister and a Saudi human rights activist living in Belgium, commented to the Middle East Eye news making the connection between her sister’s case and the women and girls at the orphanage:
“Just as women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul were tortured for demanding their basic rights, orphans who complain about their daily conditions will also be brutally silenced and physically assaulted,”
She added “This video shows the prevailing and unrelenting repression against women in Saudi Arabia. Even when women do not have male guardians and are living in orphanages, it is the arm of the state itself that violently attacks them for demanding their legitimate rights”.
Women in Saudi Arabia still live under the oppressive male guardianship system where a male family member controls their life. Saudi women need permission from their male guardian to get married, divorce, access some aspect of healthcare and even to leave prison.
MBS and Democratic rights abuses in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is an absolute despotic monarchy ruled by a clique of royals with unrestricted and unchecked powers. The country lacks any sort of democratic institutions. Saudis are excluded from any real political participation. The existence of political organisations, trade unions, or independent human rights groups are forbidden, and public gatherings and demonstrations are prohibited. The government relies on massive surveillance and repressive security forces to squash any opposition. Since becoming Crown Prince, MBS, the so called “modern reformer” has amassed more and more powers under his hand and brutally suppressed any form of dissent.
According to ALQST, a London based organisation that documents and promotes human rights in Saudi Arabia:
“Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power has ushered in a period of unprecedented repression, with the authorities brutally cracking down on free speech and any whisper of dissent. The SSP [State Security Presidency] has arbitrarily arrested hundreds of human rights defenders, religious figures, academics, writers, and indeed anyone expressing criticism or not toeing the official line. Government officials, businessmen and even members of the ruling family have also fallen victim to the authorities’ wrath.
This repression has been underpinned by further regressive legal changes, including a 2017 revision of the Counter-Terrorism Law, an even more draconian version of its predecessor, that punishes anyone who “directly or indirectly” describes the king or crown prince as “in any way harming religion or justice”.”
Last August saw a brutal crackdown on democratic rights activists and their freedom of expression. The Saudi Court of Appeals sentenced social media activist and blogger, Muhammad alJedaie to 18-years in prison. This news came out as a Saudi woman, Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for her social media posts. Earlier in the month, Saudi court sentenced women’s rights activist Salma Al-Shehab to 34 years in prison also for her social media posts. Al-Shehab was originally sentenced to 6 years in prison over tweets supporting democratic and women's rights in the kingdom. After appealing, her sentence was changed to 34 years. This is a clear indication of punishment and repressive tactics by the Saudi kingdom to make a lesson of anyone that dares to question the system.
In addition to persecuting activists in Saudi Arabia, MBS and his government have been tracking down and silencing dissenting and critical voices abroad. A horrific example is the brutal killing and dismembering of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 by a team of Saudi secret police operatives sent to Turkey
specially for the killing.
Human Rights Abuses in Saudi Arabia
Saudi human rights activists face arrest, persecution, imprisonment and even execution for simply expressing themselves. There are reports that hundreds of young women and man are detained in Saudi jails for their use of social media and criticism of the kingdom. Saudi jails are known for torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners.
On March 12, 2022, Saudi Arabia carried out the execution of 81 men in the single largest mass execution in years. According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights “In the period of JanuaryJune 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 120 people, marking an 80% increased on executions throughout the year of 2021. By June, Saudi Arabia had executed more people in 2022 than in 2020 and 2021 combined.”
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the mass execution and said, “Among those beheaded on 12 March, I understand that 41 belonged to the Shiite minority, and had taken part in anti-government protests in 2011-2012 calling for greater political participation.” The Saudi regime treats the Shia Muslim community as second-class citizens. They are the biggest religious minority in the country and are concentrated in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia. They are marginalized and are always met with brutal repression anytime they tried to express themselves or fight for more rights.
Another flagrant human rights violation in Saudi Arabia is the country's abusive treatment of migrant workers. Women migrant domestic workers are particularly very vulnerable under the country’s kafala sponsorship system. They basically find themselves at the mercy of their employer and are forced to work under inhuman conditions and treatments.
According to Human Rights Watch “In July 2021, Saudi authorities began to terminate or not renew contracts of Yemeni professionals working in Saudi Arabia, leaving them vulnerable to arrest, detention and deportation to the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen as a result of not having legal status in the country.”
Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen
The brutal Saudi regime is effectively forcing Yemeni workers out of work and deporting them back to a humanitarian crisis that they themselves were directly responsible for creating. Since the U.S. backed Saudi-led war on Yemen began in 2015, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed while millions have been displaced in what the United Nations calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for bombing and destroying schools, hospitals, mosques, homes, markets, roads, and countless other civilian infrastructure. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) about 45 percent of the population in Yemen, are food insecure.
Saudi Arabia violated the sovereignty of Yemen and showed a complete disregard for the humanity and wellbeing of the Yemeni people. The government of Saudi Arabia is not only criminal and despotic at home, but also abroad.
Imperialist cover of Saudi crimes
On July 15, 2022, United States president Joe Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi officials including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The United States government has always glossed over Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and provided a political and military support to the country.
Saudi Arabia is an important ally for the U.S. to expand their hegemony and influence in the Middle East and North Africa. Without the full backing of the United States and their imperialist allies, Saudi Arabia would not have been able to carry out its criminal war against the people of Yemen.
The U.S., Germany,the U.K., Italy, France, and Canada have made billions of dollars of arms sales and training contracts to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war on Yemen. Despite all the documented human rights violations by the Saudi regime at home and abroad, imperialist countries continue to give lip service and empty words of condemnation while continuing to arm and train the brutal Saudi security forces and military.
We Must Oppose Rights Abuses in Saudi Arabia
The brave Saudi activists continue to aspire and fight for for a better democratic future in their country despite the massive state repression against them. As peace loving people and activists around the world, it is our duty to stand in solidarity with the people of Saudi Arabia and condemn the abuses and violations committed by the Saudi government against working and oppressed people. We must hold the U.S., Canada and imperialist countries accountable for their complicity.
We must continue demanding that the Trudeau Liberal government cancels all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Cancel All Arms Deals with Saudi Arabia!
Free All Political Prisoners in Saudi Arabia!
Follow Azza Rojbi on Twitter: @Azza_R14
Back to Article Listing