Showing posts with label saudi arabia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saudi arabia. Show all posts

Friday, 12 June 2015

Quebec Grants Raif Badawi Fastrack Immigration - What's Harper's Excuse Going to Be Now?

(source)
Today, Quebec has once again proven itself to be a friend of jailed Saudi activist blogger Raif Badawi. Now that all hope is practically lost -- the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the barbarous sentence of 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and $200,000 -- Quebec has granted Badawi an immigration selection certificate. They are telling the world that Badawi and his family are welcome in Quebec.
The Quebec government has granted imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi a selection certificate, a first step meant to speed up his immigration process.

Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil called Badawi's treatment "cruel and unusual" and used her discretionary power to held speed up his immigration to Canada.  
"Quebec is behind Raif Badawi," said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, who used a special discretionary power to grant the certificate.
Like their vote in support of Badawi back in February, today's motion went through with unanimous agreement across all parties. Listen, in highly political Quebec, you never see that sort of agreement between the parties.

While Quebec is most certainly the friend of Badawi and his brave wife and family, it very much seems like Prime Minister Harper would much rather ignore this situation so he can sell over 15 billion dollars worth of militarized vehicles to the Saudis

Maybe what would explain how getting the Canadian government to say anything even slightly more than downright grovely towards the Saudis concerning human rights has been harder than pulling teeth. They've done nothing more than ask the Saudis for clemency. I guess it's hard to bite the hand that feeds you -- although the Swedish Foreign Minister did just that and feels no remorse.

Meanwhile, in Canada:
Badawi's detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation. Quebec politicians unanimously adopted a motion in February calling for his immediate release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also spoken out against Badawi's treatment, but has said Ottawa's influence is limited by the fact he is not a Canadian citizen.
So why not grant him Canadian citizenship then? What will Harper's excuse be then? Or will his mouth be too stuffed with Saudi riyals to even utter an intelligible word?

The Saudis obviously still feel the heat of international disgust -- Badawi received no lashes today. However, they are likely to resume. Perhaps political expressions like this will eventually influence them. If not, then at least we can say we tried.




Edit 2015-05-12 5pm EST: 

The Saudis are reacting to world government statements about Raif Badawi sort of poorly. Here was the reaction on Thursday to the world's indignation.
An official source at the Foreign Ministry condemned statements by some countries and international organizations regarding the case of Saudi citizen Raef Badawi, although the judiciary or any official body in the Kingdom has not issued any statement on his case.

“The judiciary is independent in the Kingdom,” the source said, adding that Saudi Arabia will not accept any interference in its jurisdiction or internal affairs by any party.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

UN Was Totally Cool With Saudi Arabia Hosting Human Rights Summit

(source)
Wow, it sure must have been pretty embarrassing for Saudi Arabia when the CFI challenged their very membership in the UN Human Rights Council, last year.

So what's Saudi Arabia been up to since then to rectify the situation? Well, not much, it seems. They appear to be in a three way race with Pakistan and the Islamic State to see who can execute the most people over ridiculous shit.

Maybe the head of the very same UN Human Rights Council, Joachim Rücker, thought he could teach the Saudis something by example when he decided to allow them to host a human rights summit in the very same kingdom that forbids women from travelling alone, hacks peoples' heads off for witchcraft and throws people into jail for blogging?
The decision to hold a UN-backed human rights summit in Saudi Arabia in early June, attended by the Human Rights Council’s chief, has sparked an outcry from rights organizations, claiming that the visit gave the Gulf kingdom “false legitimacy.”

The main point of the international summit held in Jeddah June 3-4 was declared to be combating intolerance and violence based on religious belief.
The stated concern of the summit might make you want to lose your lunch when you consider it's being held in Saudi Arabia.
“Religious intolerance and violence committed in the name of religion rank among the most significant human rights challenges of our times.”
At the meeting, they even resolved that:
The resolution further added that freedom of expression as well as freedom of practicing religion should be promoted while combatting intolerance or religious hatred through affirmative and legal measures.

In addition, participants agreed on the importance on providing human rights education and encouraging religious and cultural diversity in communities.
So, did the Saudis learn anything? Of course not! The Saudi Supreme Court upheld the charge against Raif Badawi only days later.

Hillel Neuer from UN Watch tweeted an entirely appropriate reaction to this farce.
He also added:
“It’s bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council,” The Independent cited UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, as saying.
This just seems to be the way the Saudis do things. They magically seem infiltrate organizations which ought to be totally against them. I wonder if money is involved?

Well, it turns out that all this was so unpopular, the Saudis have abandoned a bid to lead the United Nations Human Rights Council! I mean, can you imagine that!
Saudi Arabia has decided to withdraw its bid to head the UN Human Rights Council after an outcry from human rights advocacy groups, a Swiss daily reported.

The French-language daily Tribune de Genève reported that Riyadh had dropped its candidacy to lead the UNHRC as a representative of Asia.
Mysteriously, the kingdom maintains their voting rights on the council.

The scary thing is I believe that the Saudis really do not see their actuals as human rights violations -- well, the ruling class at least. I'm beginning to think that they truly do not understand what human rights are.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Raif Badawi's Sentence Upheld - Lashes Likely to Resume

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Back in January, I posted about how the previous Saudi king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, shortly before his death, requested that the Saudi Supreme Court re-assess the case of jailed and tortured blogger, Raif Badawi's case. This was after international outcry in response to leaked video of him receiving the first 50 lashes of his 1,000 lash, 10 years in prison sentence for blogging stuff the government doesn't like.

 Well, the highest court in the land has ruled and Badawi is to continue serving his barbaric sentence -- which will likely kill him. Such is life in a theocratic state which appears to neither understand human rights nor care what the world thinks of them.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's wife, told The Independent she now expects the lashes to continue, with the decision to uphold the sentence by the Saudi Supreme Court meaning she and the family's lawyers have no recourse for further appeal.

Describing her reaction after the decision was announced, Ms Haidar said: "I'm shocked.

"The flogging will start again and no one cares," she added. Asked what could be done now to fight for her husband's cause, she said: "Really, I don't know."
Short of someone breaking him out, I don't see any chance for Badawi. Protesting in the streets of Saudi cities would also work, but I'm not convinced the majority of Saudis actually think there's anything at all wrong with this ruling. Even if they did, their oppressive government would likely subdue them with the same Canadian-built light armoured vehicles (LAV III) they squelched Bahraini democratic activists with. 

You see, it's difficult to speak up against human rights violations when your mouth is stuffed with Saudi riyals.
David Nichols, Amnesty International’s senior executive officer for EU foreign policy, told The Independent at the end of last month that EU officials and the bloc’s foreign ministers had all pledged to raise Mr Badawi’s case, and human rights more generally, in their dealings with the Saudi authorities.

"But there is no evidence of that taking place," he said. This apparent silence comes despite continued use of corporal and capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.
Reports suggested that 88 people had been executed in there this year, surpassing the total for 2014.

"There are quite clearly many different interests at play,” said Mr Nichols. "Not just with Saudi Arabia, but with all countries in the Gulf – concerns such as energy, such as trade, but also on counter-terror cooperation as well."
Why should the Saudis give a shit about human rights if our dearly elected leaders -- including Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- simply cannot remove his snout from the money trough? It makes me want to throw up. He's not the only one -- it seems like the Americans and British -- and likely the Swedes too. They're all selling weapons to the Saudi regime.

It seems tyrannical to me.

Is it sick of me to hope that their lack of concern for the human rights of people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is merely racism? Because, if it is not just racism and they are equal opportunity ignorers of human rights violations in the name of a riyal -- well then, how much longer before the sell us down river?

The Saudis certainly have blood on their hand, but the silence of world leaders on this demonstrates to me that they are plenty degenerate as well.

I really don't know where to go from here. I am so sorry for Badawi, his wife and children.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

New #BackLash Campaign In Support of Raif Badawi

Description of new campaign. (source)
There's a new social media campaign that was started just yesterday to put pressure on the Saudi government to free Raif Badawi for the next 15 weeks.
It's quite simple really: All they have to do is take off their shirts, grab a lipstick and draw a lash on their back - preferably with a red lipstick so it stands there nice and bright. You can then take a picture of that lash and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #backlash and they can also tag us with @backlashgroup so we can see it.
This evening was the first of probably many tweetstorms to spread the message.
#BACKLASH is run by @backlashgroup, a social media driven organisation that is designed to speak out for those who can’t around the world. Over the next 15 weeks we are creating a storm around a social media protest designed to release the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi from prison. He was captured for being too “liberal” in his viewpoint and peaceful criticism of the extreme Saudi Monarchic rule. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes (enough to a kill a man). He received 50 and he was then medically unfit to receive more. The Saudi’s are afraid of social media and how quickly ideas and mobilisation of opinion can happen.

We are not!

We aim to raise awareness about Raif and prevent the Saudi’s from retrying him on further charges of apostasy, which would result in a possible sentence of beheading. Raif Badawi is a symbol and represents the other 30,000 prisoners of conscience that are currently imprisoned in the Saudi Kingdom.
My hairy white man back in support of Raif Badawi behind the cut -- love handles and all. I'm a little shy about this sort of thing, but if it puts pressure on the Saudis, I'm game.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ottawa Keeping Details of Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia Secret -- Hint: 'Human Rights'

Canadian designed and built LAV III by General Dynamics (source)
Last year around this time, I wrote about the Harper Government(tm) keeping really quiet about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia so they can sell them light armoured vehicles... which can be used for crowd control (aka. human rights violations) by the Saudi government.
So perhaps by next Valentines Day, the Saudi religious police can use these vehicles to dramatically crash into florist shops and wrench flowers and chocolates away from terrified people who wish to make gifts to their loved ones -- or perhaps just use the guns to blow them to pieces? The LAV III -- brochure here -- comes with a M242 Bushmaster 25mm cannon, a secondary C6 7.62mm co-axial machine gun along with supplementary Mag58 turret top MG in swing mount and 76mm smoke grenade dischargers. That last item seems like it would be great for riot dispersal and the brochure promises great Supportability and affordability.
Well, next Valentines Day happened and now Ottawa has chosen to keep the deal with Saudi Arabia totally secret, because: $15,000,000,000.
The Department of Foreign Affairs argues it must keep deliberations secret regarding this deal – by far the largest export contract ever brokered by Ottawa – citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which makes the light armoured vehicles.

Ottawa maintains this despite the fact that Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”

The $15-billion sale of fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia, first announced in 2014, represents a big win for the Harper government’s efforts to build up Canada’s role as a global arms dealer by championing weapons exports. But Ottawa is not going to share its analysis of how this transaction will pass muster with the federal export controls regime.
Exactly what I want Canada to be known for: a global arms dealer.

Remember, we're talking about Saudi Arabia, who threw Raif Badawi into jail for 10 years and torture him with whips for blogging stuff. His own wife and children are now in refuge here in Quebec. They have religious police who roam the streets and you can easily get beheaded for any number of reasons -- just read about it.

What could drive a Conservative government to completely ignore such vile and abhorrent violations of human rights? What drives a Conservative government -- Stephen Harper that is? Fifteen billion dollars, of course.
As an example of how light armoured vehicles (LAVs) might enable human-rights abuses, rights activists allege it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. Asked if it believes the Saudis used made-in-Canada LAVs when they went into Bahrain, the Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened. It only says it doesn’t believe the vehicles were used to beat back protests.
Honestly, it makes my stomach turn that Canada will be giving the Saudi kingdom -- an insane theocratic dictatorship which considers atheists to be terrorists -- the means to beat down and oppress their own people and the people of neighbouring countries.

Of course any suggestion that Saudi Arabia knows anything at all about human rights is an absolute farce and that's why the government is keeping this information under wraps. It makes me want to ralph.

So what about all this business about human rights the Conservatives went on and on about? Oh, sorry, I meant religious rights and the religion of fundamentalist Islam is doing just fine in Saudi Arabia, thanks. That must be why Andrew Bennett has nothing whatsoever to say about the House of Saud.
The Conservative government, trying to boost arms sales by Canadian companies overseas as defence budgets are trimmed in the United States and Europe, has nevertheless styled itself as a champion of human rights during its latest term in office. It created an Office of Religious Freedom with an ambassador-level appointment, Andrew Bennett.

This week, however, Foreign Affairs refused The Globe and Mail’s request for an interview with Mr. Bennett on the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. “An interview cannot be arranged but please send your questions for Ambassador Bennett and we will have answers prepared,” the department said.
Well, I guess everyone has a price -- the conservatives, so-called offices in support of human rights, and of course the innocent and beaten down people of Saudi Arabia.

It's nice to see how religion can truly rise above worldly matters like trade deals, right? It's great to see such lofty Christian principles. Verily, the brotherhood of man.

Completely despicable.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

One Drawing For Each Lashing: Indian Cartoonist's Campaign for Raif Badawi

First in series of 50 cartoons by Aseem Trivedi. One for every lash Raif Badawi has received so far. (source)
Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi is doing something really cool to raise public awareness of Saudi Arabia's deplorable treatment of blogger Raif Badawi who's rotting in jail now after having been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes -- because he blogged some stuff critiquing the government and religion.

Trivedi will publish one cartoon per lashing Badawi receives. So far he's published 25 out of the total 50 lashes Badawi has received.
In January this year, Trivedi announced he planned to launch a magazine of cartoons in tribute to Charlie Hebdo. His first campaign is in support of Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years’ imprisonment in September last year. The first 50 lashes were administered in public outside Jeddah’s Al-Jafali Mosque on 9 January. According to his wife Ensaf Haidar, his case had been referred to the Supreme Court, which could sentence him to death for apostasy.
As a sign of just how insane religious fanatics can be, Reporters Without Borders Benjamin Ismail praised Trivedi's immense courage.
“His work embodies the spirit of Charlie Hebdo. We shall be keeping an eye open for any potential repercussions from the publication of the first issue and we hereby call on the authorities to be extra vigilant concerning the safety of the cartoonist.”
Badawi is reported to be in rough shape after the first round of lashes, his diabetes could have something to do with this. Saudi Arabia could also be laying low until the world forgets Badawi before continuing the torture. That's why this series of cartoons are all the more important!

Trivedi reminds us of Badawi's immense struggle for freedom of speech in a country that obviously does not value human rights.
“In the first issue, I’m highlighting the case of Raif Badawi. I’ve published the first 25 cartoons from ’A Cartoon Against Every Lash’, a series of 50 cartoons in support of Raif. I see Raif as a new symbol of free speech, facing a lot of torture and injustice for his freedom of expression.

“He is a real crusader, as he is fighting in the hardest circumstances. And it’s our responsibility to help him in this fight of freedom. We couldn’t do anything to save the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack. But we can help Raif, surviving through the injustice."
Charlie Hebdo, Raif Badawi, Bangladeshi bloggers and now Aseem Trivedi -- in this war against those who wish to silence freedom of expression, it appears that the pen is the mightiest of weapons.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Saudi Woman Falls Off Roof Fleeing From Religious Police

Downtown Riyadh rooftops. (source)
Time to check up on the Haia religious police in Saudi Arabia again.

I'm always in awe when I see pictures of Riyadh's futuristic skyline, I feel an insatiable urge to visit. Then I remember that if this city is an indication of the future, then we're in for something distinctly dystopian. The more I cover Saudi Arabia, the more I realize I'd be dead meat if I ever visited. For all the futuristic outer appearances there is plenty of retrograde religiously motivated oppression.
Police opened an investigation into the case of a young woman who became semi-paralysed after falling from the roof of a two-story building in western Riyadh during a raid by members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia).
She fell off the roof while trying to escape from the Haia.

She must have been doing something pretty heavy illegal to run off onto the roof. Was she hiding a corpse? Was she hiding drugs? Did she have illegal firearms, counterfeit money, illegal aliens, maybe?
Haia stormed into an apartment in the building where she was allegedly staying alone with an unrelated young man.

The young man was arrested but he escaped from the commission's patrol car. He surrendered to the police later after learning that the young woman had fallen from the building’s roof.
How considerate for the state to protect its citizens from... women staying alone with unrelated men? Yes, that's it. The risk, I suppose is some sinful hanky panky. For this, a woman is now semi-paralysed.

I do believe this is the ultimate definition of nanny state.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ten Saudi Government Agencies & One University Tackle Sorcery & Magic

Picture of Haia tweeter at @PvGovSa
Things have been so busy lately that I just haven't had time to truly get into blogging. My days have been reduced to reading email alerts from Google about some of my favourite topics. Here's an update from the folks over at the Haia, the Saudi Arabian Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Let's see what they're up to.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) said most of the magicians it caught came from the African continent, adding that the number of Saudis who practice magic is small. 
Well that's a relief! The news was divulged at a university awareness conference, where ten government agencies took part! That's right, ten government agencies along with a major university are being charged with this all important task.
Haia officials displayed different models of magic works it said the commission confiscated from certain sorcerers and quacks who fell into Haia’s net. It also displayed different metal items designed to keep the evil eye away, and other items to create a rift between man and wife. The infamous magician’s book in Arabic, “Shams Al-Maarif,” was on display. This book is for teaching sorcery.
I'm interested in these items to create a rift between man and wife. 
The Haia pavilion also had on display various liquids it confiscated from one of the "wizards" including mixed herbs in a large mold with “Drink chilled after meals in three large cups daily” written on it.

One Haia officer said these liquids which are used by wizards are prescribed as a kind of medicine for people who search for such illusions.
You might ask, though, how does this differ from government organizations shutting down quacks here in Canada? I mean, there is benefit in shutting down people who con gullible customers into buying useless or even harmful concoctions.

Well, I believe government officials and the university scholars actually believe in this stuff and they behead for it (here, here, here, etc.)

I was looking for something funny to wrap this post up with, but just couldn't find anything at all.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Openly Gay Muslim Visits Mecca In New Movie to Premiere at Toronto HotDocs Festival

Still from A Sinner in Mecca trailer. (source)
Here's something you don't see every day. Openly gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma made pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and filmed it for his new movie A Sinner in Mecca.
He videotaped his journey to Mecca surreptitiously on his iPhone and other small cameras that looked like phones since filming isn't permitted in Saudi Arabia and homosexuality can be punished by death.

"I was terrified because they reserve the death penalty for people like me," Sharma said.
The film will be premiering at the HotDocs festival in Toronto, tonight. The festival has already hired extra security because some wonderfully peaceful and pious souls have sent Sharma death threats.
The threats, which don’t mention Toronto or Hot Docs, have come in via the film’s website and on message boards, which “have completely lit up where people are denouncing the film and me,” said Sharma. Iranian state media have denounced A Sinner in Mecca as part of a “Western conspiracy” to legitimize the “despicable sin of homosexuality.”
In fact, the Iranian government has denounced the film outright (original).
The film was also denounced by the Iranian government for promoting homosexuality. The Hot Docs festival has added extra security for the filmmaker's safety and for patrons attending the three sold-out screenings.
Why not watch this trailer and try to figure out why anyone would wish to remain a member of a religion that apparently finds him an abomination and go on a pilgrimage to a country that regularly beheads people for witchcraft, oppresses women, and jails and beats people for blogging?

It's a mystery to me.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Saudi Black Metal Band Risk Their Lives to Express Their Dislike of Religion

Cover of Al-Namrood's LP Ana Al Tughian (source)
Okay, so I'm not a big metal fan and I have no idea what the difference is between black metal and death metal, but I still think this is pretty freaking cool. There's a rather successful black metal band called Al-Namrood (means "non-believer") in Saudi Arabia of all places!

The band's bassist, Mephisto, did an excellent interview with VICE:
We're fed up with religion. The fact is that everything that is connected to it makes us nauseous. I personally spoke to a shrink. He advised me that whenever I get inflamed I have to express [what I'm feeling]. So here we are, expressing. What can be more motivating than living in a place where everything is controlled by religion? Basically, individuals here have no rights to do anything. We're owned by the Islamic sharia. Everything we do must be justified by Islam and acknowledged by society. There are two outrageous powers: religion and our society. They both interact and fulfil each other.
It really goes to show that inside this essentially religio-fascist country there is a vibrant underground of atheists and agnostics. Mephisto brings up the hypocrisy, predestination and the bone crushing lack of basic human rights in this uber religious, uber conservative, uber theocratic country.
While there's a lot of hypocrisy, it has been demonstrated that the local people are very much in agreement with the Islamic system. For example, in Islam, music is generally forbidden, but Muslim people listen to it on the basis that "God forgives." But when it comes to freedom of choice, "God never forgives." Everything is chosen for an individual from birth until death. A child is born and raised to become Muslim and never given a choice to look at other religions. Education is highly biased and focused upon the Islamic world. There is no chance of considering multiple points of views. The only view that can be adopted is the view of the acknowledged tradition and approved religious practice. Freedom of expression is a crime, justified by the fact that "it can disturb the peace." Even in marriage you cannot choose your partner. Rather, the elders choose for you. This social approach mixed with religious control is normally practiced in our country with no objection.
He also brought up that this sort of repression was a hallmark of Christianity some 400 years ago -- say, before the Enlightenment. This is what's playing out in much of the Muslim world right now.

Inevitably, the risk to their personal safety was brought up. I mean, with fruitcakes like the Haia (religious police) running about busting women for driving and men for dancing at birthday parties -- to say nothing of them bursting into florist shops confiscating everything red during Valentines Day! -- this metal band is obviously living on the edge.
... We've been doing this from childhood. I mean, we've had a different perspective than the rest of our society from an early age, and we've learned that sharing these views is not feasible for us. Some of us tried hard to fit in and share our thoughts, but ended up serving time in jail, so the lifestyle of being mentally isolated from the surrounding environment started from an early age. When it came to our musical approach, we just applied the same methodology of coping.
Here's a sampling of their music. They play hard. You know what, I've had days where this might actually be quite therapeutic. I'm going to give it a go and report back on this later.


Interestingly, their production company Shaytan Productions (Shayton = Satan) is apparently based right here in Canada, in Toronto. There's always a Canadian connection! Go buy stuff at their site right now!

Read more over at VICE.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saudi Arabia Religious Police Open Twitter Account to 'Improve PR Image!'

Picture of Haia tweeter at @PvGovSa
After shutting down over 10,000 Twitter accounts in 2014, the Saudi religious police, Haia, have opened up their own Twitter account@PvGovSa!
According to Breitbart News, this first of four tweet in the past three days reads:
In the name of Allah and Allah’s blessing kicks off the official account of the General Presidency for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on Twitter asking Allah to benefit by everyone.
The English language Saudi Gazette lets us all know why the agency -- which has been known to raid florist shops for celebrating Valentines Day -- decided to step into Twitter.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), inaugurated its official Twitter account (@pvgovsa). Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad, president of the commission, inaugurated the account and announced the formation of a higher committee for media and public relations to improve the Haia’s public image.
Yes, they could really use an image overhaul. They've been known to arrest men for dancing at birthday parties and tear down atheist Twitter accounts -- or arresting atheists for execution. They're also the ones making sure women are appropriately dressed and I would imagine that women driving wouldn't go over well with them either.
The religious entity patrols the streets ensuring that individuals, particularly women, are maintaining a Sharia-compliant lifestyle, which includes dressing properly (wearing a full cloak) and remaining separated from men at all times. The Haia agency is also known for enforcing Saudi Arabia’s ban on female automobile drivers.

Haia can arrest anyone for violating Islamic customs and dietary laws, such as women smoking, couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, or either gender eating pork or consuming alcohol.
So, given they've engaged Twitter by joining it, I think it's only appropriate for us all to slip @PvGovSa into every story we retweet about human rights violations -- whether it be forbidding women for driving, cracking down on Twitter witches(!) or flogging and jailing bloggers like Raif Badawi. I know I'll be letting them know how I feel about these things and any other absurd and retrograde laws they enforce!

Then of course, I'm an atheist blogger and they consider atheists terrorists. I won't go into what would happen to me if I ever set foot in that country.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

First Islam-Approved 'Sex Shop' to Open Real Soon in Saudi Arabia

Sex shop in Paris. (source)
Do you live in Mecca, the holiest city containing the holiest site of all Islam? Want to get your rocks off but tired of the same old, same old? Well, looking for decent sex toys in this place has been next to impossible -- and likely illegal -- until now... maybe?
A sex shop will soon reportedly see the light of day in Mecca – the last place anyone would have thought possible, for an establishment of this sort.

The ‘halal’ sex shop is the brainchild of one Abdelaziz Aouragh, who announced his intentions last year, but is only now “almost” ready to open his doors. He claimed to AFP that one Saudi cleric said the idea could lead to an “improvement of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.”
Finally you can service your wife/wives with the finest of sex toys, confident that your sex life has been considered and approved of by a cleric somewhere. Now if that doesn't turn you on, I just don't know what will.

Aouragh opened a similar shop for Muslim couples in Amsterdam and its online store apparently got over 70,000 hits in the first four days of being online.

Looks like women get the short end of the stick yet again, though (pardon any unintentional puns). No vibrators will be sold at this store because it's supposed to enhance the sexual pleasure between married couples. They're not allowed by Islam.
"Our products do include items that increase feelings of sensuality and improve the atmosphere between the couple in the sexual relationship between them," Aouragh explained.
I'm guessing that by extension no dildos are allowed either. Masturbation is definitely a no-no, like in Catholicism -- which is why no Catholics masturbate -- so what good would these toys do anyway, right?

Actually, judging by the online store of the sex shop in Amsterdam El Asira -- which is, sadly, safe for work -- you get no sex toys whatsoever. I also see no condoms, dental dams, kinky nun outfits, bondage gear, yucky tasting cheap chocolates, tacky board games, edible panties, furry handcuffs etc. you would find in any normal sex shop I've seen.

The offering is pretty slim, let me tell you.

Sorry people. No sex toys to be found here.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Saudi Arabia to Sweden: We Don't Want Your Monkeys!

Pygmy Marmoset (source)
Saudi officials are still apparently reeling in disappointment and disbelief from the world's disapproval of them jailing and torturing a blogger, Raif Badawi, who typed something they didn't like on the Internet.

First Margot Wallstrom criticised the kingdom for obvious human rights violations. Apparently, a huge arms deal either got scrapped or very nearly got scrapped -- it's not completely clear to me. The Saudis got really pissed off and they removed their ambassador from Sweden; then they cancelled Swedish business passports; then they restored their ambassador to Sweden and business folk could have their visas back. One things for sure, the Saudis are apparently really angry.

Now in the most passive aggressive move yet, authorities have told a zoo to refuse the monkeys!

WE DON'T WANT YOUR CUTE LITTLE MONKEYS, SWEDEN!
And now this latest escalation, with a troop of four South American pigmy marmosets, weighing 100 grams each, having to suffer the consequences.

“They didn't want any monkeys anymore because of the political situation,” the director of the aquarium at Skansen, Jonas Wahlstrom, told the news agency TT.
Nope! The Saudis don't care how cute innocent and adorbs these little pygmy marmosets are! They're not going to have them -- they're not welcome! Humans are okay now -- monkeys: no way.
“The little monkeys were supposed to have gone down there, it had been decided for some time. But then they called over the weekend and said that they had been told by their authorities that 'Sweden? No, no, we don't want that',” he said.
More silliness from Saudi Arabia. Still no progress recently with jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Saudi Arabia Bestows Greatest Honour Ever Onto Quebec

Photo posted on Premiere Philip Couillard's Facebook page of the leaders of all major political parties in the National Assembly. The members of the National Assembly unite in support of the wife of Raif Badawi, Mrs Ensaf Haidar. (source)
As I've reported, back in February, the Quebec provincial government and the city of Montreal both formally and unanimously passed resolutions in support of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Apparently -- it makes me blush just thinking of it -- the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is greatly irritated by this meddling in their devious affairs and have complained officially via the Saudi ambassador to Canada. This makes me immensely proud as a Quebecer.
In a letter obtained by the CBC dated March 10 from the Saudi ambassador to Canada to politicians at the National Assembly, the ambassador says Saudi Arabia “does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs.”

“The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity,” writes Naif Bin Al-Sudairy.

The letter goes further, blaming international agencies and the media with tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s reputation.
They also sent the letter to the federal government, who have somewhat supported Raif via the Foreign Minister and the Office of Religious Freedom, but they've never condemned Saudi Arabia for this brutality as a government body.

I'm sure the letter to Canada will make sure the Federal government puts Quebec back in its place. Yes, that's worked out real well over the past century or so.

This is no interference. This is merely what decent people do -- call out tyrant states who participate in flagrant human rights violations and resolve to do what they can to help the victims and denounce the torturers. There are no teeth to these resolutions, no economic sanctions or military action. It's just bad PR -- which is what Saudi Arabia deserves.
... The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity ...
Hold on a moment while I process this.


It's those international agencies with all their secular ideas of human rights, of course, which are the real problem. Oh yes!

Well, Quebec politicians are refusing to apologize or back down. In fact, if there's one thing the Saudis will need to learn is that Quebec is not easily silenced (e.g. do not give a f*ck). This appears to also be across all parties.
“Regimes which have an unacceptable attitude on freedom of expression have to expect that we are going to get involved in their affairs,” said Parti Québécois MNA Jean-François Lisée, a former international affairs minister and former journalist.

“Human rights is everyone’s business,” added Marie-Victorin MNA Bernard Drainville, a candidate for the PQ leadership. “Mr. Badawi’s wife is now living in Quebec, she’s a Quebecer and she’s living in Sherbrooke with her children. It is our responsibility and our moral duty to fight on her behalf.”

And Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir congratulated politicians for keeping up the pressure on the regime noting the letter to the legislature is proof Quebec has got its attention.

“The barbaric situation Badawi finds himself in has sparked solidarity movements all over the world which are being transformed into political pressures,” Khadir said.
Actually, according to Amnesty International’s Mireille Elchacar, the very same letter has been sent to all political states which have commented on the Raif Badawi case. So I'm guessing the Americans probably got it as well. Still, Quebec is a province within Canada, so I think it gives us something to brag about over, say, Ontario.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Stephen Harper Refusing to Say Anything In Defense of Jailed Saudi Blogger

Raif Badawi
More news about Raif Badawi and the effort of citizens of the free world to free him. Okay, the effort of many money-hungry governments and corporations to avoid mentioning him ever.

How about our own Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- brave captain of industry who recently let once proud Canada drift out of the UN's list of top ten developed countries. Yeah, that Stephen Harper.

After years of pleading by Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, Amnesty International, the Montreal government and the Quebec National Assembly, NDP leader Thomas Mulclair was apparently able to corner slippery Steve and asked him point blank to comment on Badawi's case.
Le chef de l'opposition officielle, Thomas Mulcair, s'est adressé à Stephen Harper en le questionnant sur « l'intervention timide du Canada pour exiger la libération de Raïf Badawi ». Le chef du NPD, qui était présent à Sherbrooke lundi, a rencontré Ensaf Haidar, l'épouse de Raïf Badawi afin d'en apprendre davantage sur la situation qu'elle et sa famille vivent.
« J'espérais qu'avec la question de Thomas Mulcair, le Premier ministre se lève et demande haut et fort la libération de M. Badawi devant les Canadiens. Cependant il a réitéré sa position timide et a aussitôt changé de sujet », a déploré le député fédéral de Sherbrooke, Pierre-Luc Dusseault.
The leader of the official opposition, Thomas Mulclair, addressed himself to Stephen Harper by questioning him on "the timid intervention of Canada on behalf of Raif Badawi's liberation." The NDP leader, who was present in Sherbrooke on Monday, met with Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi in order to learn more about the situation her and her family are living through.

"I was hoping that with Thomas Mulclair's question, the Prime Minister would stand up and demand loud and clear the liberation of Mr. Badawi before Canadians. Instead, he reiterated his timid position and changed the subject as soon as he could," Pierre-Luc Dusseault, MP Sherbrook recounded disparagingly.
This is hardly surprising for this Conservative Prime Minister who knows we've got money tied up in lucrative arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Just look what happened in Sweden when their Foreign Minister stood up to the Saudis. Could you imagine what would happen if a Prime Ministers grew a spine and a respect for human rights which couldn't be bought off with oil money and slave (trapped foreign worker) labour?

Speaking of the Swedes, some 30 of the nation's business elite wrote an open letter to their liberal, progressive, human rights loving government asking them to swallow ethics and value of human rights -- because, you know, money. I'm sure the corporations got our backs.

Meanwhile, the first letter from Raif Badawi since his 2012 imprisonment made it out. It's due to be printed on Saturday in Der Spiegel.  In it, Raif gives us some insight into the hell he's experiencing -- all for blogging. I'll post on that as soon as I get a chance to see it myself.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sweden & Saudi Arabia In Row Over 'Human Rights' - King of Sweden Steps In to 'Fix' That

 A smile a day keeps the doctor away. King Carl XVI Gustaf (source)
I'll warn you, this post is more sarcastic than usual.

Back when I was praising Canada's Prince Charles for putting the pressure on the Saudi prince in Raif Badawi's favour, I made it clear that I am really no fan of any form of monarchy -- whether it be the Saudi monarchy or the folks in Buckingham Palace.
There we go! I just thought I would acknowledge this since, frankly, I hold very little respect for the very idea of Monarchy.
We'll here we go! The king of Sweden -- let's just call him Carl -- has become perturbed by the increasing international relations rift forming between his country and Saudi Arabia -- and all over what? Human Rights!
The king is seemingly distressed about Sweden’s escalating spat with Saudi Arabia. The row began when Saudi Arabia blocked Wallström’s speech on democracy and human rights as a guest of honour addressing the Arab League, and resulted in Sweden limiting its military ties with the Saudis.

Tensions heightened when Saudi Arabia responded by recalling its ambassador to Stockholm and announced it would not issue any new visas for Swedish business people.

That's right, the Saudi's -- who keep jailing human rights activists and forbidding foreign ministers from speaking in their country when they're called out on it -- yes, we must find a way to placate them! Let's make some concessions and backtrack on any legitimate criticism we have made about a county that's been chopping people's heads off -- a most regal activity -- at breakneck speeds!

Unless he's going to be honest and explain to the Saudi government that we all just want their money but find their persecution of jailed bloggers and other human rights activists utterly barbaric, I find this whole exercise quite depressing.

But then, as far as I can tell, Carl was never actually voted into his position as king -- he was just born into it like, say, Paris Hilton. Furthermore, he doesn't seem to hold any real power in the country, as far as I can tell. So I'm not really certain why he's involving himself in this government matter. No more silly than Prince Charles visiting, I suppose.

Anyway, things escalated when Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström criticized the Saudi's human abysmal rights record -- which you would need be willfully blind to miss. In return, the Saudis forbade her from speaking at an engagement within their Kingdom. So an arms deal was more or less cancelled. All the while, after some pressure from the Germans, the Saudis freaked out about how persecuted they were because everyone was being so mean to them just because they chop off people's heads for practicing witchcraft. So then the Saudis forbade any new passports being issued to Swedes.

Well, today the king met with Margot Wallström to no doubt advise her to get back into her station as a human rights loving feminist -- after all 1.3 billion dollars of exports could be at stake. Pointing out blatant human rights violations is all fine and good, but there's real money on the line here! There's a time and place for everything and now's the time to get paid.

The British, on the other hand, do it right. The British Foreign Secretary met with Saudi Crown Prince and Deputy Premier Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud today and, as far as I can tell, not a peep was ever said about the Kingdom's (Saudi) grotesque human rights violations. Good boy, Philip Hammond.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Saudis Jail Another Human Rights Activist & Chill Relations With Sweden

Mohammed al-Bajadi
In an apparent effort to undermine any semblance respecting human rights at all, Saudi Arabia has gone and done it again. This time they've thrown human rights activist Mohammed al-Bajadi into prison.

Mohammed is founder of the Association for Civil and Political Rights. The Saudi officials apparently see this organization as a threat to public order, while Amnesty International sees this as a government crackdown on freedom of expression. Given their track record so far, my money's on Amnesty on this one.
Bajadi, in his 30s, faced various accusations including acquiring banned books, organising a protest by the families of prisoners and publishing material that “would prejudice public order”, the group said.

According to a report by Amnesty International in October, Saudi authorities “have targeted the founding members of ACPRA one by one, in a relentless effort to dismantle the organisation and silence its members, as part of a broader crackdown on independent activism and freedom of expression since 2011”.
In other words, he was an activist critical of the government -- which leads you to jail in Saudi Arabia. He's been sentenced to five years in prison with an additional five year suspended sentence. Apparently, he didn't have access to a lawyer either.
“The court ordered him to serve the first five years of the sentence and suspended the last five years,” it said, adding that he was tried without prior notification or access to his lawyers.
It turns out that democratic governments are starting to have enough with Saudi Arabia's behaviour. Over the weekend, Germany requested a pardon for jailed blogger Raif Badawi, and one government official freaked out about how the world is trying to interfere with his country's fine program of torture and death for anyone who dares criticize the government.

Now it's Sweden's turn to throw the Saudis into a fit.  What a huge story this is turning into!
Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Stockholm, the Swedish foreign ministry said on Wednesday, deepening a diplomatic row between the two countries over Riyadh's record on human rights and democracy.

Sweden said on Tuesday it would cancel a long-standing defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. That followed Riyahd's decision to block a speech due to be given by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to the Arab League on Monday in Cairo.
The Foreign Minister was blocked from making the speech due to criticism of the Saudi's abuse of human rights and democracy.
He said the reason given was the same as given by Saudi Arabia in blocking Wallstrom's speech in Cairo: "Sweden's criticism and statements which have been made about human rights and democracy".
More specifically she called the Kingdom's torture of Raif Badawi medieval:
Wallström has previously spoken out against the “medieval” punishment of the Saudi blogger Raef Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison for insulting Islam.
In fact, the Swedes have ditched a lucrative arms contract with the Saudis because of these human rights violations!
The move comes a day after Sweden tore up a decade-long arms agreement with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had earlier blocked the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, from speaking about human rights at an Arab leaders’ summit.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, confirmed on Tuesday that the deal was off, removing a cause of division within the country’s left-leaning coalition but deepening a rift with business leaders who implored the government to prolong the agreement.
Wow! Also, as I reported before, the Germans also have military equipment contracts which they've said could come into jeopardy.

Canada also has this chip to play with the Saudis. Still waiting for Prime Minister Harper. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Visiting German Minister Pushes Saudi Officials to Pardon Raif Badawi

Sigmund Gabriel (source)
Just a day after the Saudis expressing their surprise and dismay that the world would ever disagree with jailing and torturing a guy for running a blog, the German Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmund Gabriel officially pushed Saudi government officials for Raif Badawi's complete pardon.
"We asked for a solution in dignity," he told reporters at a joint news conference in Abu Dhabi with the economy minister of the United Arab Emirates.

In Germany if a person is sentenced to prison the president has the right to pardon them, he said.

"So we asked for a solution which is possible, maybe through the same way we are doing in Germany. That was the discussion," he said, without elaborating.
It does stand to reason that the king can do whatever he wants in a monarchy.

Gabriel was in Saudi Arabia on a diplomatic and trade mission and has stressed that the situation could have an effect on trade.
After talks with King Salman in Riyadh, Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said that the imprisonment and public lashing of blogger Raif Badawi, convicted of "insulting Islam," is testing bilateral ties.

Social Democrat Gabriel told reporters in Riyadh after his meeting with King Salman that Raif Badawi's situation was affecting his diplomatic and trade mission to the Gulf powerhouse.
This is big news because hitting the Saudis in the pocket book is hitting them where it hurts. It also shows that international pressure is being felt by leaders of democratic nations at home.

Like its relationship with Canada, Saudi Arabia buys arms from Germany. So they have something to lose -- especially with ISIS looming in the background.
The visit to Saudi Arabia also courted headlines because of German arms exports to the region, a sensitive topic for many in the country. An opposition parliamentary inquiry this week revealed that Saudi Arabia had been a key customer for German weapons makers in recent years. 
I'm waiting for Gabriel's Canadian, US and UK equivalent to do something similar.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Saudi Officials 'Surprised & Dismayed' By World's Disgust at Raif Badawi's Confinement & Torture

Raif Badawi
Four hours ago, Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi posted a rough translation of a Saudi Press Agency statement expressing surprise and dismay at the world's overwhelmingly negative reaction to the jailing and torturing of a man simply for exercising his freedom of expression online.

A little while later I found a superior translation by Elham Manea --who describes herself as a humanist and writer who stands for Humanist Islam. This is a cause I can get behind. Here is Elham's translation from an unnamed source in the Saudi Foreign Ministry (bolding is my own).
An official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry made this statement: Saudi Arabia expresses its strong surprise and dismay of what is being said in some of the media on the issue of citizen/Raif Mohammed Badawi and the verdict against him. And while the Kingdom regrets these media outlets’ attacks against the Kingdom and its Judiciary, it emphasizes at the same time that it does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs, and rejects the encroachment on its sovereign right or the compromising of its judiciary independence and integrity, where there is no power over the judges in their rulings. The Kingdom also stresses that all court cases are handled without distinction or exception. The source also added that the Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on her in the name of human rights, especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of human and preserved his blood, money, honour and dignity.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries that supported human rights and respected all international conventions in accordance with the Islamic Sharia. However, and in spite of these obvious visible efforts, some international agencies and some media unfortunately emptied human rights from its high implications, and drifted into the attempt to politicize and exploit them in the infringement and attack on the sovereign rights of States according to standards that can only be described as selective and duplicated to serve political goals; and this is something that the Kingdom does not permit nor accept at all.
Of course, Saudi Arabia has a deplorable record when it comes to human rights.

It pains me to say this, but I think I was right when I suggested that concepts of human rights are foreign to them. Or at least, they are so skewed by a strict and unquestioning adherence to Wahabi Islam, which permeates all branches of government in their theocratic monarchy, that human rights are nothing more than the right to absolute obedience to religious strictures.

Visit Amnesty International for information about how you can help.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Does Saudi Arabia Understand Human Rights Enough to Let Badawi Live?

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
As Saudi Arabia delays Raif Badawi's flogging for an eighth week in a row, more people are joining the fight for his escape and freedom from state-sanctioned torture. It is profoundly sad to hear recent news that his being flogged nearly to death could actually be better than what could be in store for him:
We have received information from reliable sources that there are attempts within the Penal Court to retry #Raifbadawi on apostasy charges again. Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading.

We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.

This judge is biased against raif. He has twice requested that Raif be charged with ‘apostasy’. His request was declined at the time on the ground that the penal court has no jurisdiction on cases that lead to death penalty. However, due to a new regulation issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on 19.09.2014, the Penal court has now jurisdiction over major cases, which are punishable by the death penalty, amputation and stoning.
For years, Amnesty International and other human rights groups have been raising public awareness for Raif. World leaders, city councils, British monarchs and many others have joined the fight to keep the pressure on. Here in Canada, both the Quebec and Montreal governments have asked for Raif's release. He's even been nominated for a Nobel prize.

Last week, more than sixty members of the US Congress sent a letter to the new Saudi King: 
Thus we also write to encourage you, as you assume your new responsibilities, to serve as an advocate for human rights and democratic reforms within your country. Recently, and all too often, women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers have faced major obstacles to their desire to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia. These obstacles include intimidation, harassment, and threats, and some have paid a heavy price for their efforts. As you may know, promoting human rights and religious freedom are key objectives of U.S. foreign policy. We are aware of cases of persons who have been charged with apostasy or deported for practicing minority Muslim or Christian faiths. Others have received harsh sentences for exercising basic rights. One example is Ralf Badawi, who was sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for founding a website that encouraged religious and political debate. In his case, representatives of the U.S. government have called upon your country to cancel the sentence, and have also expressed concern with the 15-year sentence and the travel ban imposed on his lawyer, Waleed Abu AI-Khair. Another example is that of the independent human rights organization, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), whose founders have all either been wrongfully imprisoned or put on trial.
This is amazing and I wish Stephen Harper -- who is apparently standing obstinately against saying anything in support of Raif -- would crawl out from whatever rock he's under and do something similar in our Parliament.

The worldwide response is very uplifting and I hope it has a positive effect. However, I have a growing concern that the pressure being exerted on the Saudi officials is having an effect -- just not the one we want. Could it be that the Saudi government and judicial apparatus is so out of touch with any concept of human rights that it is simply unable to understand why this imprisonment is wrong?

The sudden suspension of the lashes and now the possibility of a retrial with the charges of apostasy -- a sentence punishable by death -- are not acts of a court system with any sort of firm grip on human rights or freedom of expression. 

Is this retrial a highly misguided move by a government which perceives a growing international PR disaster? What if they now realize that thrashing a man to a pulp for blogging severely hinders their public image -- possibly rendering even business associations with them toxic? It sounds ridiculous, but what if they actually believe a positive charge of apostasy would somehow make Badawi worthy in the eyes of the world of death? Then, after the beheading, this PR fiasco would die down and Saudi officials could get back to business as usual? I know it's terrible, but I cannot stop myself from thinking this.

Perhaps I'm projecting here. Who knows what's going on between the ears of some of these officials. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if some believe this could be the easiest and most excusable way out.

You can help keep the pressure on by visiting the Amnesty International page on Raif Badawi!

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