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Template:Politics of Saudi Arabia Human rights in Saudi Arabia are intended to be based on Islamic religious laws under rule of the Saudi royal family.[1] The government of Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for its treatment of religious and political minorities, homosexuality, apostates and women. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ratified the International Convention against Torture in October 1997 according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Human rights of Saudi Arabia are specified in article 26 of the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia. The first independent human rights organization in Saudi Arabia, the National Society for Human Rights, was established in 2004.[2] In 2008, the Shura Council ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights.[3]

At the U.N. Third Millennium Summit in New York City, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz defended Saudi Arabia's position on human rights, saying "It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles."[citation needed]

Corporal and capital punishment; right to representation

Saudi Arabia is one of approximately thirty countries in the world with judicial corporal punishment. In Saudi Arabia's case this includes amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as "sexual deviance" and drunkenness. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and is varied according to the discretion of judges, and ranges from dozens of lashes to several hundreds, usually applied over a period of weeks or months.

In 2004, the United Nations Committee Against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded defending "legal traditions" held since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.

Saudi Arabia also engages in capital punishment, including public executions by beheading.[4] Beheading is the punishment for murderers, rapists, drug traffickers and armed robbers, according to strict interpretation of Islamic law. In 2005 there were 191 executions, in 2006 there were 38, in 2007 there were 153, and in 2008 there were 102.[5]

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights has said that numbers of executions are rising because crime rates are rising, that prisoners are treated humanely, and that the beheadings deter crime, saying, ""Allah, our creator, knows best what's good for his people...Should we just think of and preserve the rights of the murderer and not think of the rights of others?"[6]

Women's rights

Saudi women sometimes face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, such as the justice system. Although they make up 70% of those enrolled in universities, for social reasons, women make up just 5% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia,[7] the lowest proportion in the world. The treatment of women has been referred to as "sex segregation"[8][9] and "gender apartheid".[10][11] Implementation of a government resolution supporting expanded employment opportunities for women met resistance from within the labor ministry,[12] from the religious police,[13] and from the male citizenry.[14]

In many parts of Saudi Arabia, it is believed that a woman's place is in the home caring for her husband and family. There is also segregation inside their own homes as some rooms have separate entrances for men and women.[15]

The driving ban for women was unofficial until 1990 when it was introduced as official legislation after 47 Saudi women drove cars through the streets of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Even though illegal, women in rural areas and other areas outside cities do drive cars.[16] Women are allowed to fly aircraft, though they must be chauffeured to the airport.[17]

Women's rights are at the heart of calls for reform in Saudi Arabia - calls that are challenging the kingdom's political status quo[15]. Local and international women's groups are also pushing governments to respond, taking advantage of the fact that some rulers are eager to project a more progressive image to the West.

The presence of powerful businesswomen—still a rare sight—in some of these groups helps get them heard.[18] Prior to 2008, women were not allowed to enter hotels and furnished apartments without a chaperon or mahram. With a 2008 Royal Decree, however, the only requirement needed to allow women to enter hotels are their national ID cards, and the hotel must inform the nearest police station of their room reservation and length of stay, however this happens with everybody staying in the hotel not just women.[19]

Many Saudis believe that allowing women the right to drive could lead to Western-style openness and an erosion of traditional values.[20]

According to the CIA world factbook, 70.8% of females are literate, in comparison to 84.7% literacy rates in males.[21]

Religious freedoms

File:Christian Bypass.jpg

A road sign for a bypass used to restrict non-Muslims from Mecca

Saudi Arabian law does not recognize religious freedom, and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is actively prohibited.[22] No law specifically requires citizens to be Muslims, but article 12.4 of the Naturalization Law requires that applicants attest to their religious affiliation, and article 14.1 requires that applicants to get a certificate endorsed by their local cleric.[23] The Government has declared the Holy Quran and the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad to be the country’s constitution. The Government bases its legitimacy on governance according to the precepts of the rigorously conservative and strict interpretation of the Salafi or Wahhabi school of the Sunni branch of Islam and discriminates against other branches of Islam. Neither the Government nor society in general accepts the concepts of separation of religion and state, and such separation does not exist. The legal system is based on Sharia (Islamic law), with Shari'a courts basing their judgments largely on a code derived from the Quran and the Sunna. The Government permits Shi'a Muslims to use their own legal tradition to adjudicate noncriminal cases within their community.[23]

Under Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican officials have raised the issue of Christians being forbidden from worshipping openly in Saudi Arabia[24]. As an Islamic State, Saudi Arabia gives preferential treatment for Muslims. While allowing foreigners to come and work, Saudi Arabia prohibits the burial of Non-Muslims on Saudi soil[25][26] During Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours is not allowed.[27] Foreign schools are often required to teach a yearly introductory segment on Islam. Saudi Arabia forbids missionary work by any religion other than Wahabi/Salafi Islam. Saudi religious police have detained Shiite pilgrims participating in the Hajj, allegedly calling them "infidels in Mecca".[28] The restrictions on the Shi'a branch of Islam in the kingdom along with the banning of displaying Jewish and Christian symbols have been referred to as apartheid.[29]


It was reported that a state website detailed the prohibition of Israeli passport holders and Jewish people from entering the kingdom.[30] The Saudi government removed the offensive language saying that it was a mistake. A United States congressman noted that the Saudi record of anti-Semitism suggested otherwise and subsequently sponsored a bill that would control the distribution of visas to Saudi citizens until the President certified that the Saudis do not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation or heritage when issuing visas.[31][32]

A May 2006 study of Saudi Arabia's revised schoolbook curriculum discovered that the eighth grade books included the following statements,[33]

They are the people of the Sabbath, whose young people God turned into apes, and whose old people God turned into swine to punish them. As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the keepers of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christian infidels of the communion of Jesus.
Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship devil, and not God.

LGBT rights

Although hidden and not uncommon, all sexual activity outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage is illegal. Punishment for homosexuality, cross-dressing, or being involved with anything that hints at the existence of an organized gay community will range from imprisonment, deportation (for foreigners), lashes, and sometimes execution.


By law, all Saudi citizens who are infected with HIV or AIDS are entitled to free medical care, protection of their privacy and employment opportunities. Yet, most hospitals will not treat patients who are infected, and many schools and hospitals are reluctant to distribute government information about the disease, because of the strong taboos and stigma that are attached to how the virus can be spread [34].

Until the late 1990s, information on HIV/AIDS was not widely available to the public, but this has started to change. In the late 1990s, the government started to recognize World AIDS Day, and allowed information about the disease to be published in newspapers.[citation needed]. The number of people living in the kingdom who were infected was a closely guarded secret. However, in 2003 the government announced the number of known cases of HIV/AIDS in the country to be 6 700, and over 10 000 in June 2008. [35].

Any foreigner found to be infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS (or, indeed, any other serious medical condition), is deported to their country of origin. Condoms are available in hospitals and pharmacies, and in some supermarkets as well.

Political freedoms

Freedom of speech and the press are restricted to forbid criticism of the government. Trade unions and political organizations are banned. Public demonstrations are forbidden. The Saudi Government is an active censor of Internet reception within its borders.[36]

Recently the internet has become a tool for dissent, however the arrest of prominent Saudi blogger and reformist Fouad al-Farhan has been seen as somewhat of a crackdown on online dissent. Fouad al-Farhan had been jailed in solitary confinement since December, 2007, without charges, after criticizing Saudi religious, business and media figures.[37] He was released on April 26, 2008.[38]

Political parties are banned, but some political dissidents were freed in the 1990s on the condition that they disband their political organizations. Only the Green Party of Saudi Arabia remains, although it is an illegal organization.

The 1990s marked a slow period of political liberalization in the kingdom as the government created a written constitution, and the advisory Consultative Council, the latter being an appointed delegation of Saudi scholars and professionals that are allowed to advise the king.

See also


  1. Unattributed (February 28, 2005). "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004". US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  2. First independent human rights organisation in Saudi Arabia
  3. Shura Council ratifies Arab Charter on Human Rights
  4. "Rights group condemns Saudi beheadings". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  5. ["" "Amnesty International Report 2009, Saudi Arabia"]. Amnesty International. "". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  6. Tim Butcher (July 16, 2007). "Saudis prepare to behead teenage maid". London: The Daily Telegraph.;jsessionid=45BQVYBAZNEV1QFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/07/16/wsaudi116.xml. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  7. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 23, 2006, translated at Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Employment Opportunities for Women
  8. "Human Rights Tribune - ed. Spring 2001" (PDF). International Human Rights Documentation Network. Spring 2001.,%20Volume%208,%20No.%201,%202001.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  9. Andrea Dworkin (1978). "A Feminist Looks at Saudi Arabia". Andrea Dworkin on Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  10. Handrahan LM (Spring 2001). "Gender Apartheid and Cultural Absolution: Saudi Arabia and the International Criminal Court" ([dead link]). Human Rights Tribune' (Human Rights Internet) 8 (1).
  11. "The Australian who has become a prisoner of gender apartheid". The Sydney Morning Herald. November 14, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  12. Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 18, 2006 translated at Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Employment Opportunities for Women
  13. Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 26, 2006 translated at Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Employment Opportunities for Women
  14. [1] translated at Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Employment Opportunities for Women
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Women Speak Out In Saudi Arabia". CBS News. March 24, 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  16. "Women's transport: Solutions needed". Arab News. June 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  17. "Saudi Arabia gets its first woman pilot". The Hindu. 2007-01-12. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  18. "Women in the Middle East, A weak breeze of change". The Economist. February 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  19. Jomar Canlas, Reporter (January 25, 2008). "Saudi prince assures RP govt they respect rights of women". The Manila Times. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  20. "Saudi Women See a Brighter Road on Rights". The Washington Post. January 31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  21. "CIA The World Factbook, Saudi Arabia". CIA. September 20, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  22. "2009 Human Rights Report: Saudi Arabia". United States Department of State.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "2009 International Religious Freedom Report 2009: Saudi Arabia". United States Department of State. October 26, 2009.
  24. "Pope meets Saudi king to discuss Christian worship in Muslim kingdom". Daily Mail (London). November 6, 2007.
  27. P.K. Abdul Ghafour (October 11, 2004). "Non-Muslims Urged to Respect Ramadan". Arab News. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  28. "Saudi religious police accused of beating pilgrims". Middle East Online. August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  29. Bascio, Patrick (2007). Defeating Islamic Terrorism: An Alternative Strategy. Branden Books. p. 60. ISBN 9780828321525. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  30. "Visa requirements". Supreme Commission for Tourism. Archived from the original on 2004-02-06. "Visas will not be issued for the following groups of people:
    • An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp.
    • Those who don't abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors. Those under the influence of alcohol will not be permitted into the Kingdom.
    • There are certain regulations for pilgrims and you should contact the consulate for more information.
    • Jewish People"
  31. "Saudi Arabia Bans Jewish Visitors". 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  32. "Jews barred, said Saudi Web site". CNN. February 28, 2004. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  33. Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance (pdf), Freedom House, May 2006, pp.24-25.
  34. Manal Quota & Maryam Yamani (August 7, 2005). "AIDS? What AIDS?". Arab news. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  35. Hassan M. Fattah (August 8, 2006). "Saudi Arabia Begins to Face Hidden AIDS Problem". New York Times.
  36. "Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia"
  37. "No freedom for 'dean of Saudi bloggers'", by Nic Robertson and Wayne Drash, February 27, 2008, CNN
  38. "Saudi official: Why popular blogger Farhan was jailed", by Caryle Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2008

Further reading

  • Laube, Lydia (2003). Behind the Veil: A Nurse's Arabian Nightmare. Eye Books. ISBN 1-903070-19-8. OCLC 51994153.
  • Mitchell, Sandy Hollingsworth, Mark (2006). Saudi Babylon: Torture, Corruption and Cover-up Inside the House of Saud. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-185-4. OCLC 225546299.
  • Sasson, Jean (2001). Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. Windsor-Brooke Books. ISBN 0-96767-374-7. OCLC 46766141.
  • Jones, John Paul. If Olaya Street Could Talk: Saudi Arabia- The Heartland of Oil and Islam. The Taza Press (2007) ISBN 0-97904-360-3.

External links

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ar:هيئة حقوق الإنسان السعودية de:Menschenrechte in Saudi-Arabien it:Diritti umani in Arabia Saudita fi:Ihmisoikeudet Saudi-Arabiassa

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