Saudi Arabia has long been known for its lack of respect for human rights. In 2023, the situation remains dire, with human rights violations occurring on a regular basis. This report will examine the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia in 2023, providing examples of violations and recommendations for improvement.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, ruled by the Al Saud family since its establishment in 1932. The country is known for its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, which has had a significant impact on the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The government’s interpretation of Islamic law, known as Sharia, is used to justify a wide range of human rights violations.
Human Rights Violations:
Freedom of Expression:
Freedom of expression is severely limited in Saudi Arabia, with harsh penalties for those who speak out against the government or its policies. Saudi Arabia has a long history of suppressing dissent, and the government has used a range of tactics to silence critics, including censorship, imprisonment, and even extrajudicial killing.
One of the most significant ways that freedom of expression is restricted in Saudi Arabia is through the country’s laws on blasphemy and apostasy. These laws make it a crime to criticize Islam or to renounce one’s faith, and they are often used to target religious minorities and dissenters. Those accused of blasphemy or apostasy can face lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty.
In addition to these laws, the Saudi government has also used a range of other tactics to silence critics. The government has been known to censor or block websites and social media platforms that are critical of the government or its policies. Journalists and bloggers who report on sensitive issues or criticize the government are often arrested and detained without trial.
The Saudi government has also been known to target activists and human rights defenders who speak out against the government’s policies. Activists who criticize the government’s treatment of women, migrant workers, or religious minorities are often arrested and held incommunicado for extended periods of time. Some activists have even been subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment while in custody.
The situation for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia has deteriorated in recent years, with a crackdown on dissent coinciding with the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017. Since then, the government has arrested and detained hundreds of activists and dissidents, including prominent women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi.
Freedom of expression is severely restricted in Saudi Arabia, with the government using a range of tactics to silence critics and suppress dissent. The situation for human rights defenders, journalists, and bloggers is particularly dire, with many facing imprisonment, torture, or extrajudicial killing. To improve the situation for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, the government must repeal its blasphemy and apostasy laws and respect the rights of all citizens to express their opinions without fear of reprisal. Additionally, the international community must exert pressure on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have been a topic of much debate and discussion in recent years, as the country has undertaken a series of reforms aimed at increasing gender equality. Prior to these changes, Saudi Arabia was known for its strict laws and customs that severely restricted women’s rights and freedoms.
Some of the most significant changes to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia in recent years include:
– Allowing women to drive: In 2018, the Saudi Arabian government lifted the ban on women driving. This was a major step towards greater freedom of movement and independence for women in the country.
– Allowing women to travel without male permission: In August 2019, the Saudi Arabian government announced that women would no longer require the permission of a male guardian to travel abroad. This move was seen as a significant step towards greater gender equality.
– Allowing women to work in previously male-only sectors: In February 2019, Saudi Arabia opened up a number of previously male-only industries to women, including the military and security services.
– Allowing women to attend sporting events: In 2018, the Saudi Arabian government allowed women to attend sporting events in stadiums for the first time.
While these changes represent significant progress for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, there is still much work to be done to ensure full gender equality. Women in the country still face a number of restrictions and obstacles, including the requirement to wear a full-length abaya in public, the need for male permission to marry or leave prison, and the lack of legal protections for women in cases of domestic violence or sexual harassment.
Capital punishment, including beheading, is legal in Saudi Arabia and is carried out by the government for a variety of crimes. The death penalty is often imposed for offenses such as murder, drug trafficking, apostasy, and homosexuality, among others. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of executions in the world.
The country’s legal system is based on Islamic law, or Shariah, which includes the principle of qisas, or “eye for an eye” justice. Under qisas, victims or their families are given the right to seek retribution for a crime committed against them. This often results in the imposition of the death penalty for murder, although the victim’s family may choose to pardon the perpetrator or accept blood money instead.
Critics of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia argue that the country’s legal system is flawed and that the death penalty is often imposed without due process or fair trials. Human rights organizations have also expressed concern about the use of torture and coerced confessions in trials, which can lead to wrongful convictions and executions.
In recent years, there have been some reforms aimed at reducing the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In 2020, the country announced that it would end the use of the death penalty for some drug-related offenses and reduce the number of crimes that are punishable by execution. However, capital punishment remains a legal and widely-used form of punishment in Saudi Arabia.
Migrant Workers and the Kafala System:
The kafala system, also known as the sponsorship system, is a system that governs the legal status of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Under the kafala system, migrant workers are tied to their employers, who are responsible for their legal status in the country. This means that workers are unable to leave their employers or change jobs without the employer’s permission, and employers have significant power over their workers’ lives.
The kafala system has been widely criticized for its potential for abuse and exploitation. Many migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are employed in low-wage, manual labor jobs, and the kafala system makes them vulnerable to a range of abuses by their employers. Employers can confiscate workers’ passports, withhold wages, and subject workers to poor working conditions or physical abuse. If a worker tries to leave their employer without permission, they risk being arrested and deported.
The kafala system has also been criticized for its impact on workers’ mental health. Many workers are isolated from their families and communities, and have little access to legal or social services. This isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and depression, and can leave workers feeling trapped and helpless.
In recent years, there have been some efforts to reform the kafala system in Saudi Arabia. In 2021, the government announced a new labor law that would allow workers to change jobs without their employer’s permission, although it is unclear how this law will be implemented in practice. There have also been efforts to improve working conditions for migrant workers and to crack down on employers who abuse the system.
However, many human rights organizations argue that these reforms do not go far enough, and that the kafala system should be abolished altogether. They argue that the kafala system fundamentally violates workers’ human rights and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Until the system is abolished or significantly reformed, migrant workers in Saudi Arabia will continue to face significant challenges and human rights violations.
Religious minorities in Saudi Arabia face significant challenges and restrictions in their ability to practice their faith freely. The country is officially an Islamic state, and the government follows a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Non-Muslim religious practices are not recognized or protected by law, and public worship by non-Muslims is prohibited.
The most prominent religious minority in Saudi Arabia is the Shia Muslim community, who make up around 10-15% of the population. Shia Muslims face discrimination and marginalization in many areas of society, including employment, education, and politics. The government has also been accused of targeting and suppressing Shia dissent, with many Shia activists and clerics facing arrest and imprisonment.
Other religious minorities in Saudi Arabia include Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists, among others. While the government officially prohibits the practice of non-Muslim religions, there are small communities of expatriates and foreign workers who practice their faith privately. However, these communities must do so discreetly, as public expressions of non-Muslim faith can lead to arrest and deportation.
In recent years, there have been some efforts to improve the situation for religious minorities in Saudi Arabia. For example, in 2018, the government announced plans to build an interfaith complex in the capital city of Riyadh that would include a mosque, church, and synagogue. However, these efforts have been criticized as insufficient, and many religious minorities in Saudi Arabia continue to face significant challenges and restrictions in their ability to practice their faith freely.
There are several steps that the United States and the United Nations can take to stop human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including:
– Increase diplomatic pressure: The US and the UN can increase diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record, including through public statements, resolutions, and meetings with Saudi officials.
– Impose targeted sanctions: The US and other countries can impose targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including freezing assets and banning travel.
– Provide support for civil society: The US and other countries can provide financial and logistical support to human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Saudi Arabia, including through funding for legal aid, training programs, and advocacy campaigns.
– Review arms sales: The US and other countries can review and limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia, particularly those that could be used to commit human rights abuses, such as weapons used in the conflict in Yemen.
– Increase transparency and accountability: The US and the UN can increase transparency and accountability for human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including through independent investigations, public reporting, and holding those responsible accountable.
It is important to note that stopping human rights violations in Saudi Arabia will require a sustained effort over time and will require the cooperation of both the Saudi government and the international community.
To elaborate further, stopping human rights violations in Saudi Arabia is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach. Some additional steps that the United States and the United Nations can take to address human rights violations in Saudi Arabia include:
– Encouraging legal reforms: The US and the UN can encourage the Saudi government to enact legal reforms that protect human rights, such as reforms that protect freedom of speech and assembly, abolish the male guardianship system, and provide greater protections for women’s rights and religious minorities.
– Providing humanitarian aid: The US and other countries can provide humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen, who have been severely affected by the conflict in the country. This aid can include food, medicine, and other essential supplies.
– Engaging civil society: The US and the UN can engage civil society organizations in Saudi Arabia to promote human rights and to encourage greater transparency and accountability from the government.
– Supporting international human rights mechanisms: The US and other countries can support international human rights mechanisms, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, to promote accountability for human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
– Promoting regional cooperation: The US and the UN can work with regional partners, such as other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, to promote human rights and to encourage greater regional cooperation on human rights issues.
Ultimately, stopping human rights violations in Saudi Arabia will require a sustained effort over time, as well as the cooperation and commitment of both the Saudi government and the international community. It will also require addressing the systemic issues that underlie human rights abuses in the country, such as the lack of legal protections for basic human rights and the influence of conservative religious groups on the government.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been using international events and initiatives, such as hosting European football tournaments and their Vision 2030, to improve their international reputation and whitewash their record of human rights violations.
Hosting international events, such as football tournaments, is one way for KSA to showcase its modernization efforts and present a positive image to the world. For example, in 2019, KSA hosted the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan, which was seen as a way to promote the country’s tourism industry and improve its global reputation. However, such events have been criticized for providing a cover-up for the government’s human rights abuses.
Similarly, KSA’s Vision 2030 initiative, which aims to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil, has been touted as a progressive and forward-thinking plan. However, critics argue that the government’s efforts to modernize the economy have not been accompanied by significant reforms to improve human rights, and that the initiative is being used to distract from ongoing violations.
Furthermore, the Saudi government has been accused of using its wealth and influence to silence criticism and prevent international scrutiny of its human rights record. This includes lobbying efforts and attempts to influence international organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council.
While hosting international events and initiatives like Vision 2030 may contribute to KSA’s modernization efforts and economic development, they must not be used as a cover-up for the country’s human rights abuses. The international community must continue to hold KSA accountable for its actions and push for concrete reforms to improve human rights for all individuals in the country.
The human rights violations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are a grave concern, with a significant number of individuals facing arbitrary detention, torture, and even execution. These violations are mainly targeted at those who criticize the government or advocate for greater freedoms and human rights in the country.
Despite some progress in recent years, such as the lifting of the ban on women driving and the relaxing of guardianship laws, there is still much to be done to improve the human rights situation in KSA. The country’s strict interpretation of Islamic law and lack of political freedoms make it difficult for individuals to exercise their basic human rights.
International human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly criticized KSA’s human rights record and called for urgent reforms. The international community must continue to put pressure on the Saudi government to uphold its obligations to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable.
In conclusion, the human rights violations in KSA are a matter of great concern, and urgent action is needed to address them. The Saudi government must take concrete steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, and the international community must continue to speak out against these violations and demand accountability. Only then can we hope to see a future where human rights are respected and protected for all individuals in KSA.