In suprising news, Saudi Arabia has declared itself 'one of the very first countries which promoted human rights'. Whoever would have thought it.
Women in Saudi Arabia. Photo Credit: Rex.
On the off chance you missed it, the United Nations has publicly criticised Saudi Arabia for its increased use of the death penalty. And Saudi Arabia, unsurprisingly, isn’t very impressed. After all, nobody likes to be publicly criticised. Even if they have executed 70 prisoners so far this year (for anybody reading this later down the line, it’s currently one and a half weeks into March).
So, much in the style of a Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant who’s been told off by Michelle Visage for a hurried tuck, Saudi Arabia has fought back.
(Seriously, imagine the following said in the voice of a reality TV star who feels totally misunderstood.)
‘Saudi Arabia is one of the very first countries which promoted human rights,’ explained Bandar al-Ali, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information. ‘Such a support and a commitment to promote and protect human rights is but a duty imposed by the Islamic sharia from which the statutes of my country is derived. My country fights torture in all its physical and moral manifestations through strict legislation and executive measures that are applied on al. [Government procedures code] prohibits any physical or psychological harm to be inflicted on an arrested person. It is also prohibited to subject [the accused person] to torture or degrading treatment.’
And while we’ll hold our hands up and confirm we don’t know the ins and outs of Saudi Arabia’s ‘strict legislation’, we do know when events make us raise our eyebrows, throw up in our mouths, and / or exclaim ‘WHAT THE FUCK’.
So here are nine of them…
IMPOSING PRISON SENTENCES FOR TWEETERS
Who knew 140 characters could wield so much power? But in October 2014, three lawyers – Dr Abdulrahman al-Subaihi, Bander al-Nogaithan and Abdulrahman al-Rumaih all found themselves with eight year long prison sentences, for using social media to vent about the Ministry of Justice.
To put this into perspective, this means everybody in America who has ever used Twitter to make a joke about Donald Drumpf’s fingers (or anybody in the UK who likes to comment on Jeremy Hunt’s apparently bonkers belief that the sleep deprived save the most lives) would be currently risking imprisonment.
FORBIDDING WOMEN FROM DRIVING
In 2011, a campaign was launched called Women2Drive – in a bid to challenge the ban on women driving. The Saudi Arabian government was not amused, and responded with threats – promising that any woman behind the wheel of a car would face arrest.
Guys, in terms of getting things caught in the hinge of a car door / tangled up in an airbag, vaginas should be the least of your worries.
BANNING PARTIES. EVEN RUBBISH ONES.
Public gatherings are completely forbidden in Saudi Arabia. And by public gatherings, we mean all gatherings. Even peaceful protests, and birthdays where your mum invited your whole class at school without asking your permission first.
We’re not even going to attempt to be sarcastic about this one, because it just isn’t funny. In 2012, a 16 year old called Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested after taking part in a protest – and was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion. In 2014, a 17 year old was tortured and forced to sign a blank document – which was later edited to contain a ‘confession’ of spying. He was refused a lawyer, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. And these are just two examples we’ve stumbled across. Again, in less than 10 weeks in 2016, 70 individuals were executed by the Saudi government. That’s more than one person every day.
It’s been revealed that the Saudi Interior Ministry has deported hundreds of thousands of foreign migrants – with thousands of others remaining in detention. A huge percentage of these people were forcibly sent back to countries where they risked violent human rights abuses or life in a war zone.
SELLING OFF GIRLS FOR MARRIAGE
The grand mufti in charge of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, has openly declared that he believes girls are ready for marriage at the age of 10 or 12. ‘Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age,’ he said. In 2013, the country confirmed it would be forbidding marriage under the age of 16… except under certain conditions. Such as if the father wants to sell his daughter off before that.
FORBIDDING VALENTINE’S DAY
In totally WTF news, florists in Saudi Arabia are forbidden from selling red roses on the 14th of Feb, gift shops are forbidden from selling anything heart-shaped, and girls are forbidden from wearing anything red to school. If you break the rules, your shop risks being shut down by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and female pupils will be sent home from school and forced to change.
(No news on how they feel about Hershey’s Kisses.)
YOU CAN’T TRAVEL ALONE – UNTIL YOU’RE 45
To be totally honest, 45 wasn’t a birthday we had particularly strong feelings about. But perhaps that’s because we don’t live in Saudi Arabia, and we live in a country where we’re allowed to leave the house without permission from a man.
Yep, until you turn 45, if you want to travel, you need a special form or piece of electronic authorisation signed by a male guardian.
We imagine that the night before your birthday is spent packing a getaway bag.
Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only place with terrible laws which target women – but that doesn’t excuse its increasingly severe and restrictive legislation.
And to hold its head up and declare itself a country that promotes human rights seems particularly baffling.