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HRW slams Saudi Arabia over human rights violations

23 December 2013 23:41

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Activists in Saudi Arabia utilizing new media tools to call for change “face a repressive and intolerant government,” and risk harassment as well as imprisonment, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW slams Saudi Arabia over human rights violations
A report by the rights group, “Challenging the Red Lines: Stories of Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia,” released Wednesday, accuses Saudi authorities of “arresting, prosecuting, and attempting to silence rights defenders and to quash their calls for change.”

“Independent activists in Saudi Arabia have little to protect them from the repressive practices of their government,” said Adam Coogle, Saudi researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Activists in Saudi Arabia — an absolute monarchy where dissent is little tolerated — have increasingly turned to social media sites to express growing frustration with the government. Online participation by Saudis has increased so much that the country now has one of the highest usage rates of Twitter in the world.

As the government will not allow for the formation and licensing of independent human rights bodies inside the country, many internet-based nongovernmental rights organizations have been established, and frequently report on human rights abuses within the ultraconservative kingdom.

According to HRW, “despite the authorities’ efforts to block online content, Saudis — at least 49% of whom have Internet access — use Internet forums to bypass heavily censored state media.”

The report also highlights the stories of 11 prominent Saudi political and civil activists and “their struggles to resist government efforts to suppress them,” according to HRW.
One of those activists, Waleed Abulkhair, was recently sentenced to three months in jail by a court in Jeddah for signing a petition critical of Saudi authorities two years ago.
“Human rights activists are having a very bad time right now in Saudi Arabia,” Abulkhair told CNN. “Authorities don’t want anyone to speak out loudly and when we do, the government feels they lose control.”

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