In July, when President Biden visited Saudi Arabia and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, the White House said the president spoke about human rights abuses and the murder of our colleague, Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Biden claimed he “had received commitments regarding the reforms and institutional safeguards in place to guard against such conduct in the future”. Now it is clear that these “commitments” were a fiction.
Since Mr. Biden’s departure, Saudi Arabia’s specialized criminal court, which handles counter-terrorism and cybercrime cases, and which is known for using vague laws to punish dissent, has handed down a series of draconian prisons against critics of the regime.
According to the human rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, which Mr Khashoggi helped found, Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was sentenced last month to 45 years in prison, followed by a ban to travel the same duration. Court documents obtained by DAWN show the 49-year-old mother-of-five has been accused of using Twitter to criticize the King and Crown Prince and of following and retweeting others who have tagged him. do. Ms al-Qahtani was not widely known and her Twitter account had only about 500 followers, but her tweets were said to be threats to “the security and stability of society and the state” who were responsible for “shake up the social fabric”. court documents say. Additionally, she was found to have a 2013 book by now imprisoned Saudi scholar Salman al-Odah titled “I…and Her Sisters: A Journey into the Secrets of the Self”, which encourages introspection and overcoming the ego. Could it be that MBS, the despot-monarch, is so threatened by a self-help book that Mrs. al-Qahtani has to serve the rest of her life in prison? Some might call MBS a strong man, but his actions against innocent women reflect pathetic weakness.
Ms al-Qahtani’s sentence, increased from an original 13 years, came as the court sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to a staggering 34 years for posts on her Twitter account . And there are even more. Human rights group ALQST reports that two men, Abdulilah al-Huwaiti and Abdullah Dukhail al-Huwaiti, were both sentenced in August to 50 years in prison by the specialized criminal court. They had supported their family’s refusal to be forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for the crown prince’s imaginary city in the desert, known as Neom. And the group revealed that a writer, translator and computer programmer, Osama Khaled, detained since 2020, was sentenced to 32 years in prison – increased on appeal from an initial sentence of five years – following “ allegations relating to the right to freedom of speech.”
The Crown Prince presents himself as a modernizer, enabling women’s rights. But behind the curtain, he destroys individuals for the slightest trifle. These cases show that Mr. Biden was duped in Jeddah. He must not remain silent. He should openly denounce such barbaric brutality.