Apartheid in Saudi Arabia

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Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

Apartheid in Saudi Arabia refers to the systematic discrimination practiced by the Sunni dominated government of Saudi Arabia against the country’s citizens Shia citizens, against non-Muslims, and gender apartheid against Muslim women, as alleged by human rights groups and critics of Saudi Arabia’s’s policies.

The mission of the Saudi Human Rights First Society is dedicated to “abolishing all discrimination in Saudi society on the basis of gender or religious belief” by peaceful means. On its home page, the HRFS cites a January 2008 “Country Summary” by Human Rights Watch describing “Saudi law and policies that discriminate against women, foreign workers, and religious minorities, especially Shia and Ismaili Saudis.”

The Human Rights Watch ”World Report 2008 describes “Human rights conditions” in Saudi Arabia as, “poor” and describes “Saudi law and policies (that) discriminate against women, foreign workers, and religious minorities, especially Shia and Ismaili Saudis.”Human Rights Watch, [] Jan 30, 2008. The Human Rights Watch report was replicated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In 2011 Human Rights Watch reported that:

“Authorities (in Saudi Arabia) continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens.”

Definition of apartheid

In 1973 the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The ICSPCA defines the crime of apartheid as:

inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group … over another racial group … and systematically oppressing them.”

In 2002 the crime of apartheid was further defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as encompassing inhumane acts such as torture, murder, forcible transfer, imprisonment, or persecution of an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or other grounds, “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Apartheid status of Shia

Numerous authors, scholars, human rights organizations and commentators have condemned Saudi discrimination against Shia Muslims by comparing the Kingdom with .South Africa under apartheid.

Vali Nasr, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future”, considers that “For Shi’ites, Sunni rule has been like living under apartheid.”

According to Fr. Patrick Bascio, anti-Shia apartheid is embedded in the law. The traditional Shia practice of designating Descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib by means of a surname or honorific is banned on official documents and identity cards.

Importation of Shia religious books is banned on peril of imprisonment or whipping. Public celebrations are forbidden to use Shia religious songs. As is the public celebration of Nowruz.

Mohammad Taqi has written:

“The Saudi regime is also acutely aware that, in the final analysis, the Shiite grievances are not merely doctrinal issues but stem from socioeconomic deprivation, as a result of religious repression and political marginalization bordering on apartheid.” Amir Taheri quotes a Shi’ite businessman from Dhahran as saying “It is not normal that there are no Shi’ite army officers, ministers, governors, mayors and ambassadors in this kingdom. This form of religious apartheid is as intolerable as was apartheid based on race.”

Saudi Arabia is often accused of practicing apartheid against its Shia citizens.

Mohammad Taqiwrites that “The Saudi regime is also acutely aware that, in the final analysis, the Shiite grievances are not merely doctrinal issues but stem from socioeconomic deprivation, as a result of religious repression and political marginalization bordering on apartheid.”

Testifying before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Ali Al-Ahmed, Director of the Saudi Institute, stated:

Saudi Arabia is a glaring example of religious apartheid. The religious institutions from government clerics to judges, to religious curriculums, and all religious instructions in media are restricted to the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, adhered to by less than 40% of the population. The Saudi government communized Islam, through its monopoly of both religious thoughts and practice. Wahhabi Islam is imposed and enforced on all Saudis regardless of their religious orientations. The Wahhabi sect does not tolerate other religious or ideological beliefs, Muslim or not. Religious symbols by Muslims, Christians, Jewish and other believers are all banned. The Saudi embassy in Washington is a living example of religious apartheid. In its 50 years, there has not been a single non-Sunni Muslim diplomat in the embassy. The branch of Imam Mohamed Bin Saud University in Fairfax, Virginia instructs its students that Shia Islam is a Jewish conspiracy.

Amir Taheri quotes a Shi’ite businessman from Dhahran as saying “It is not normal that there are no Shi’ite army officers, ministers, governors, mayors and ambassadors in this kingdom. This form of religious apartheid is as intolerable as was apartheid based on race.”

Apartheid status of women

Saudi Arabia’s practices with respect women have been compared with racial apartheid and have been referred to as gender apartheid”.

The legal restrictions imposed on Saudi women make the comparison compelling to many observers, who argue that women face legal restrictions on where they can travel, what they may study, what kinds of jobs they are permitted to hold, access to the legal system, and their right to political speech.

Muslims living in the West have been particularly critical of the Saudi apartheid policies towards women. Journalist Mona Eltahawy argues that

“Saudi women are denied many of the same rights that ‘Blacks’ and ‘Coloreds’ were denied in apartheid South Africa and yet the kingdom still belongs to the very same international community that kicked Pretoria out of its club.” Ali Al-Ahmed, the executive director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs (formerly the Saudi Institute) in Washington told CNN that “If blacks today were in South Africa not allowed to vote, we would be crying and screaming. There is not much difference between South African apartheid against the blacks and the Saudi apartheid against women.”

Writing in the ”Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy”, Professor Valorie Vojdik described the Saudi system as “a form of gender apartheid… requiring female military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia to comply with traditional Muslim gender norms. The case of Colonel Martha McSally, a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force sued the Department of Defense when American servicewomen were required to wear the abaya while in Saudi Arabia drew particular attention to Saudi apartheid practices.Professor Vojdik argues that military regulations that required female personnel leaving base to conform to Saudi apartheid laws that prohibit Muslim women
from driving vehicles off-base, specify that they must ride only in the back seat, and wear the enveloping abaya.

To Vojdik, these regulations “raise critical questions about the nature and meaning of gender in the United States military – a masculine institution historically hostile to the presence of women. The regulations on their face treat female military personnel differently than male personnel. But the regulations are not merely “double standards” that violate the principle of formal equality. As this essay argues, the regulations are better understood as an institutional practice that
construct and regulate the boundaries of gender in the military. A symbolic form of gender apartheid, the regulations construct female military personnel as women rather than warriors.

Speaking of the apartheid status that was forced on her and other American servicewomen in Saudi Arabia and, now, in Afghanistan, Colonel McSally asked, “If we were called into South Africa during apartheid, would we put our African-American soldiers in separate quarters? She has asserted that American military leaders would not “have dared encourage African-American troops to submit to local customs if they had been ordered to deploy to South Africa under apartheid.”

Andrea Dworkin referred to these practices simply as “apartheid”:

Seductive mirages of progress notwithstanding, nowhere in the world is apartheid practiced with more cruelty and finality than in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it is women who are locked in and kept out, exiled to invisibility and abject powerlessness within their own country. It is women who are degraded systematically from birth to early death, utterly and totally and without exception deprived of freedom. It is women who are sold into marriage or concubinage, often before puberty; killed if their hymens are not intact on the wedding night; kept confined, ignorant, pregnant, poor, without choice or recourse. It is women who are raped and beaten with full sanction of the law. It is women who cannot own property or work for a living or determine in any way the circumstances of their own lives. It is women who are subject to a despotism that knows no restraint. Women locked out and locked in. Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women has also been described as “sexual apartheid”.

Colbert I. King quotes an American official who accuses

Western companies of complicity in Saudia Arabia’s sexual apartheid:

One of the stil untold stories, however, is the cooperation of U.S. and other Western companies in enforcing sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms, for instance, maintain strictly segregated eating zones in their restaurants. The men’s sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women’s or families’ sections are often run-down, neglected and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands. My wife and other U.S. government affiliated] women were regularly forbidden entrance to the local McDonald’s unless there was a man with them.”

Azar Majedi, of the Centre for Women and Socialism, attributes sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia to political Islam:

Women are the first victims of political Islam and Islamic terrorist gangs. Sexual apartheid, stoning, compulsory Islamic veil and covering and stripping women of all rights are the fruits of this reactionary and fascistic movement. Political Islam has committed countless crimes both where they are in power, like the Islamic Republic in Iran, the Mujahedin and the Taliban in Afghanistan, in the Sudan and in Saudi Arabia, and where they are in opposition, as in Algeria, Pakistan and Egypt. Terrorising the population is the policy and strategy of this force for seizing power.

According to ”The Guardian”, “[i]n the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sexual apartheid rules”, and this sexual apartheid is enforced by ”Mutaween”, religious police, though not as strongly in some areas:

The kingdom’s sexual apartheid is enforced, in a crude fashion, by the religious police, the mutawa. Thuggish, bigoted and with little real training in Islamic law, they are much feared in some areas but also increasingly ridiculed. In Jeddah – a more laid-back city than [[Riyadh]] – they are rarely seen nowadays.

Apartheid status of non-Muslims

Leading western and Christian voices have called Saudi treatment of the resident Christian community, and refusal to admit non-Muslims to citizenship forms of apartheid. Andrew C. McCarthy a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, describes “Saudi Arabia’s official policy of apartheid” as being grounded in Saudi belief is “a right to brutalize non-Muslims in order to ensure that an Islamic territory remains Islamic, and a right to purge non-Islamic influences from the Arabian Peninsula.”

According to Khaled Abu Toameh, Saudi Arabia is

“Often described as a ‘glaring example of religious apartheid’” because “Although Saudi authorities allow Christians to enter the country as temporary workers, they don’t permit them to practice their faith. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are prohibited. Conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death. Saudi Arabia does not allow non-Muslim clergy to enter the kingdom country for the purpose of conducting religious services. Christians, and other non-Muslims, are prohibited from entering the cities of Mecca and Medina.”

Alan Dershowitz writes that “Saudi Arabia openly practices religious apartheid. It has special roads for “Muslims only.” It discriminates against Christians, refusing them the right to practice their religion openly. And needless to say, it doesn’t allow Jews the right to live in Saudi Arabia, to own property or even (with limited exceptions) to enter the country. Now that’s apartheid with a vengeance.”

Public worship by Christians is illegal and the posession of holy objects related to non-Muslim faiths is prohibited; banned objects include crucifixes and [[Bibles.

Celebration of non-Muslim holidays, including Christmas, is illegal.

Conversion from Islam Apostasy to Christianity is illegal and converts are subject to the death penalty.

Yet they claim this on Israel,lol…Whatever..

9 thoughts on “Apartheid in Saudi Arabia

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