Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trump in Riyadh: a Message to Tehran

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring

On Saturday 20 May, US President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for what was to be the first stop on a nine-day tour of the Middle East and Western Europe. The tour included visits to religious centres Jerusalem (Judaism and Christianity) and the Vatican (Roman Catholicism), but not Islam’s Mecca, as infidels are not permitted there.

During his two day visit to Riyadh, President Trump participated (albeit uncomfortably) in a ceremonial sword dance, and delivered a 34-minute speech to an Arab Islamic American Summit attended by the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations.

In his speech, President Trump praised Sunni Arab leaders for their fight against terrorism, as if unaware that Saudi Arabia is not only one the world’s leading sponsors of international Islamic jihad, but the engine-room driving the “Wahhabisation” of Sunni Muslims worldwide.

He applauded Turkey for its hosting of refugees, as if unaware that Turkey’s President Recip Tayyap Erdogan – who is also one of the world’s leading sponsors of Islamic jihad – bears much of the responsibility for creating most of the refugees he is hosting, refugees he uses as pawns in foreign policy.

But the trump card in Trump’s speech was his singling out of Iran, which he lambasted as the cause of all regional instability through its sponsorship of international terrorism and fuelling of sectarian conflict and chaos. In this regard he made specific mention of Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who alone stood accused of “unspeakable crimes”.

While in Riyadh President Trump also brokered a deal to sell Saudi Arabia some $460 million worth of precision-guided munitions: nearly $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years – as if unaware that Saudi Arabia is funnelling arms to all manner of Sunni jihadists in Syria, and is responsible for the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [On Tuesday 13 June, the US Senate voted -- 53 to 47 -- in favour of supporting the arms deal.]

If President Trump thought his Iran-bashing would engender and consolidate Sunni unity, then he was gravely mistaken, and in truth, should have known better. Irrespective of whether the report that the Emir of Qatar had questioned the wisdom of isolating Iran was “fake news” or true, it detonated the tension in the Saudi-led bloc, exploding any pretense of unity.

[See also: “A Brief Guide to Middle Eastern Alliances”, by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 28 June 2017.]

President Trump’s performance, speech and weapons deal in Riyadh might not have engendered Sunni unity, but it did send a message to Tehran: that the US will stand with its allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel) to resist Tehran, whom it will fight -- albeit indirectly -- even by toppling the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

It seems the conflict in Syria is about to move to a whole new level, and with it, the Christian crisis in the Middle East.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).


Friday, August 30, 2013

SYRIA: journalists in Middle East say Saudis supplied rebels with chemical weapons

The following article corroberates all that was said in the previous post:
SYRIA: Who is deploying chemical weapons?
-- and the tactics of asymmetric warfare.

Religious Liberty Monitoring 28 Aug 2013.

It also joins up some pieces of the puzzle.

EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses Of Gas Attack Say Saudis Supplied Rebels With Chemical Weapons
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.
By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh | August 29, 2013

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack. . .

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and the Associated Press. Gavlak, an expert in Middle Eastern Affairs ,has been stationed in Amman, Jordan for the Associated Press for over two decades. He covers the Levant region of the Middle East for AP, National Public Radio and Mint Press News.

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master's degree in journalism. He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

Gavlak and Ababneh have much to say about Saudi involvement, including Saudi threats to bring terror to Russia's Winter Olympics in Sochi unless Russia drops its support for Assad. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia reportedly told the Russians: "I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us."

If this is all verified, will it mean that the Saudis have crossed a "red line"?

Or more broadly: will the rebels ever cross a "red-line"?


See also

Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?
Yossef Bodanky, 28 Aug 2013

Syrian Chemical Attack: More Evidence Only Leads to More Questions
Yossef Bodanky, 10 Sept 2013

Whose sarin?
Vol. 35 No. 24 • 19 December 2013
pages 9-12 | 5515 words
Seymour M. Hersh


Elizabeth Kendal is author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apostasy, Fitna and abuse of Interpol

by Elizabeth Kendal

If a 2 September report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol as been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate.



On 28 July 2012, the Saudi Gazette reported: "A Saudi girl who recently embraced Christianity and fled the country for refuge in Lebanon told the host of a religious program on an Arabic TV channel that she was tired of performing prayers and fasting during Ramadan.

"The girl, who said her name was Maryam, said praying and fasting did not bring her any benefits. She also criticized the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai'a) and claimed that she was raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity.

"She said she became a Christian after she had a dream one night. In it, she climbed to the skies and heard God telling her that Jesus is His son."

According to reports, Maryam (28) was working in an insurance firm in Al-Khobar when she became interested in Christianity through the influence of her Christian boss, Lebanese expatriate, Mr Henna Sarkees (50). An unnamed male Saudi national with links to the firm then secured false travel documents that allowed her to leave the country for Lebanon, then for Sweden.

Henna Sarkees and the unnamed Saudi national will stand trial in Al-Khobar, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, on Saturday 15 September. Maryam's parents have charged the two men with coercing Maryam into converting to Christianity and then convincing her to leave the country without the consent of her male guardian. They have even suggested it may all be part of a conspiracy to get their daughter into the hands of international people-traffickers.

Saudi media asserts that Maryam regrets her conversion, maintains she is still Muslim, denies ever talking to Arabic TV, desires to return home and is accusing Christians of taking her to Sweden against her will.

For more background, details and links see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 175 | Wed 05 Sep 2012
SAUDI ARABIA: convert flees; helpers to face court
-- Interpol and Swedish authorities aid Saudi Embassy to hunt convert.
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 2 September, the following news report appeared in the Saudi Gazette:
(copied in full; emphasis mine)
Efforts on to bring back ‘Al-Khobar girl’ from Sweden
Sunday, September 02, 2012

AL-KHOBAR —The Al-Khobar girl who fled the Kingdom after allegedly converting to Christianity will be brought home from Sweden in a matter of few days, Al-Yaum newspaper reported Saturday quoting informed sources.

The Interpol is coordinating with the Saudi Embassy in Stockholm and Swedish authorities to return the girl to her homeland before her 'kidnappers' move her to another country, the sources said.

The girl's father received phone calls from unknown people who threatened to kill his daughter or move her to another European country if the main suspect in her case, a Lebanese man named Henna Sarkess, was not released from jail in the Kingdom.

Sources said it is highly likely that a global human trafficking network was involved in the kidnapping of the girl, who was persuaded by her Lebanese manager to embrace Christianity and leave the country without the knowledge of her family.

A Saudi was arrested for faking a travel permit, which the girl used to leave the Kingdom and go to Lebanon. There, she stayed with a Christian group inside a church for a while. When she told the group that she wanted to return to the Kingdom and that she regretted what she had done, the group decided to take her to Sweden because it did not want her to return to the Kingdom.

The girl’s father has called upon the authorities to help him bring back his daughter. He said his daughter still talks to them over the phone and she is currently in Sweden. The father is worried that his daughter might get brainwashed.

The Saudi Embassy in Stockholm said it received a letter from the girl’s father requesting it to help her return to the Kingdom. The [Saudi] embassy has started a search with the Swedish authorities.



The information in this section of the posting has mostly been gleaned from the following sources:

Interpol's Red Notices Used by Some to Pursue Political Dissenters, Opponents.
Investigative report by Libby Lewis, for The Cutting Edge, 25 July 2011

Journal article (91 pages) by Mario Savino, March 2010
Journal of International Law and Politics, New York University

The website of Fair Trials International / Interpol

Interpol's official website


With 190 member countries, Interpol is the world's second largest international entity after the United Nations. As in the United Nations, Interpol's member countries span from totalitarian dictatorship to liberal democracies. While Interpol possesses many attributes of an international organisation, many would say it is really more of an international network, linking police globally for the purpose of facilitating police cooperation and law enforcement across the globe.


Interpol operates "a closed communications system linking police via vast international databases". (Lewis) Normally, police in member countries send Interpol a domestic arrest notice, which Interpol then sends out as a global Red Notice. On the basis of a Red Notice, police in other member countries may arrest suspects for extradition.

While Interpol's Constitution mandates neutrality and prohibits "any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character," cooperation is based on trust -- i.e. Interpol trusts member countries not to abuse the system.


While Interpol has doubtless made the world a safer place by facilitating the arrest of numerous transnational terrorists, traffickers and other criminals, there is nothing to prevent human rights-abusing, non-free, totalitarian states from abusing the system and using Interpol to extend their own repressive arms internationally. Indeed, dictatorial regimes have been known to abuse the system and use it to track down and capture, or even just drive underground, their most troublesome dissidents.

And because Interpol is neither transparent nor accountable, it is extremely easy to abuse.

"Interpol is not entrusted with any significant investigative or operational powers. Those powers are still located at national level. . . Interpol's core business is the administration of information." (Savino, p26)

Fair Trials International reports: "Even though some of Interpol's member countries are known human rights abusers and notoriously corrupt, Interpol has no effective mechanisms to prevent countries, or even individual prosecutors, abusing the red notice system. As a result, even though most red notices may be perfectly valid, abuses of Interpol are also affecting human rights campaigners, journalists and businessmen, in countries all over the world.

"People in this situation have no independent court they can turn to for redress. Your only option is to request a review by a Commission, funded by Interpol and serviced by Interpol staff. You have no right to a hearing, no opportunity to respond to allegations against you and will be given no reasons for the decision reached. Even if the Commission concludes that a red notice is inaccurate or abusive, it cannot require its removal or amendment. It can only make non-binding recommendations."

According to Interpol's Chief Lawyer, Joël Sollier, the agency does try to ferret out dubious requests. His instruction to Interpol is that a Red Notice should be cancelled if there is any doubt. (Lewis)

According to Lewis, Interpol's issuance of Red Notices has increased markedly in recent years, from 2,343 Red Notices in 2005, to 6,344 in 2010. "Partly to deal with that increased workload, Interpol is putting more power into the hands of its police members.

"Two years ago," writes Lewis, "police had to apply directly to Interpol for a Red Notice. Today, every Red Notice request is entered into the system directly by the police themselves—not by Interpol. Police around the world instantly see those notices—before Interpol even reviews them.

"Police can also bypass the formal Red Notice system altogether—and just type an informal notice of arrest in an email—and post it on Interpol’s communications system. Those email notices—Interpol calls them 'diffusions'—go out instantly, with no automatic Interpol review."

And as Lewis notes, "these informal email notices are linked to far more arrests than arrests linked to the Red Notices Interpol vets for political concerns". In fact, according to Lewis, in 2010, at least 1,858 arrests were made of people named in email notices while only 663 arrests were made of people named in Red Notices.

This might explain why in February of this year, while Malaysian police were claiming that they had arrested the Saudi tweeter Hamza Kashgari (23) "following a request made to us by Interpol" on behalf of the Saudi authorities, Interpol was strongly denying that it had anything to do with it.

See: Interpol accused after Malaysia arrests journalist over Muhammad tweet
Police agency strongly denies its system used by Saudi Arabia to get journalist detained for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter
By Own Bowcott, The Guardian, 10 February 2012

Kashgari had fled Saudi Arabia after his tweeted imaginary conversation with the prophet Mohammad was deemed blasphemous. After being arrested in Malaysia and extradited, he was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. He remains in prison to this day, still offering up apologies, but to no avail. Voices are still calling for him to be executed.

There have also been some really obvious and undeniable abuses of Interpol.

One such case involves Indonesia's call for a Red Notice to be issued against Papuan independence advocate Benny Wenda (36). The Red Notice was issued despite the fact that the persecuted, tortured, now Oxford-based Wenda had been granted asylum in the UK. Only in August of this year was the Red Notice against Wenda dropped.

See: Benny Wenda's plight has highlighted the misuse of Interpol
Interpol must act to stop its red notice system being abused by countries to persecute refugees and exiled political activists
By Alex Tinsley, The Guardian, 6 Aug 2012.

In an article published by CNN, Libby Lewis raises the case of Iranian dissident Shahram Homayoun (57). "After fleeing Iran in 1992 and moving to Los Angeles, Homayoun started a satellite television station, Channel One, to beam a message of civil resistance into the homes of Iranians.

"Over the years, his audience has scribbled his slogan, Ma Hastim ("We exist" in Farsi) on Iranian walls and bridges to promote democracy in the country. He has also called on his listeners to show their solidarity in creative ways, such as gathering at the tomb of Cyrus the Great or showing up at their local bakery on the same day -- every Thursday -- and asking for bread.

"At the request of Iran, which charged Homayoun with inciting terrorism, Interpol issued a Red Notice in December 2009 requesting Homayoun's arrest."

Regarding Maryam, all the Saudi authorities would have had to do was to report through Interpol channels that a Saudi Arabian girl was being held in Sweden against her will, possibly by international traffickers, and request help to retrieve her and return her to her family. And with that, Maryam's hopes of liberty are dashed. 


As I said in my opening remarks, if the 2 Sept 2012 report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol has been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate.

In the past, Islamic states have generally been content to let apostates flee, for at least then they are not be around to spread fitna (temptation / doubt) amongst the locals. However, in these days of global communications -- satellite TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc -- the apostate can generate far more fitna from a safe-haven in the West than they ever could at home. And "fitna is worse than killing". (Qur'an Sura 2:191).

Christian advocacy groups that have excelled at speaking into political power must quickly learn how to speak into international law enforcement so that Interpol and national police forces do not become unwitting extensions of Islamic religious police. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Date: Tuesday 27 January 2009
Subj: Saudi Arabia: Christian Blogger Arrested
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal



The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reports that on 13 January 2009, Saudi police arrested Hamoud Bin Saleh and blocked access to his blog -- "Masihi Saudi - " -- because of his opinions and his testimony that he had converted from Islam to Christianity. According to ANHRI, Hamoud Bin Saleh is incarcerated in the infamous Eleisha political prison in Riyadh. (Link 1)

ANHRI reports: "The 28-year-old alumni of the al Yarmouk University in Jordan has been arrested twice before; for nine months in 2004 and last November [2008]." On that occasion (November 2008) Saudi authorities released Hamoud prior to the Saudi-sponsored, UN-run "Culture of Peace" conference that was held in the UN Headquarters in New York on 12-13 November 2008. King Abdullah did not want to put his public relations coup at risk, and clearly it would have been inappropriate for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to stand up and lament mankind's "preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions" (see link 2) while his religious police were abusing a young Saudi intellectual detained purely for his different religion. However once the Saudi-sponsored "Culture of Peace" conference had passed, Hamoud Bin Saleh was re-arrested for professing a different religion.

ANHRI holds great fears for Hamoud's life, concerned that the Saudi authorities might seize the opportunity to make an example of him while the world's eyes are fixed on the situation in Gaza.

As ANHRI notes: "The young man committed no crime and the only thing he has done is exercising his normal right to express his opinions and beliefs, which must not be violated under whatever pretext.

"ANHRI condemns Saleh's arrest and holds the Saudi government fully responsible for his safety. It also demands his immediate release and calls on the Saudi government to meet its commitments and the Saudi king's statements about the respect of freedom of expression and religious tolerance."


On 10 December 2007, Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan (32) became the first Saudi to be arrested in Saudi Arabia over the content of a blog. US-educated Farhan, an Information Technology (IT) specialist who is married with two children, was arrested in Jeddah after using his blog to criticise the Interior Ministry Spokesman.

Al- Farhan was a very popular blogger who exposed corruption and appealed for political reform. A huge campaign was subsequently launched calling for his release. Al-Farhan was release on 26 April 2008 after being interrogated and held in solitary confinement for over four months. He was unique amongst Saudi bloggers in that he refused to seek refuge in anonymity and blogged openly under his real name.

According to a January 2008 article in the Washington Post: "Blogging has been on the rise in Saudi Arabia recently, allowing people to 'speak up' in a society where the media is censored and where political parties and public gatherings are banned. There are an estimated 600 bloggers in the kingdom, male and female, conservative and liberal, writing in English and Arabic." (Link 3)


On 20 August 2008, the WEA Religious Liberty Prayer (RLP) ministry issued a prayer bulletin (RLP No. 492) entitled: "Saudi Arabia: shaken by apostasy and dissidence." (Link 4)

The case at the centre of the prayer bulletin was that of a young Saudi woman, Fatima Al-Mutairi (26), who revealed in her blog that she had converted to Christianity. When her brother (or father: reports vary), an officer with the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, learned of her conversion, he reportedly cut out her tongue and burned her to death.

Gulf News reported: "The death of the girl sent shockwaves and websites where the victim used to write with various nicknames have allocated special space to mourn her, while some others closed temporarily in protest." (Link 5)

The RLP bulletin highlighted the tensions that are rising in totalitarian Islamic states where Islam is traditionally protected from "blasphemy" (criticism) and "apostasy" (rejection). Today globalisation and advances in information and communication technologies are providing avenues through which differing opinions and ideas infiltrate once closed, totalitarian societies. After discovering diversity, curious and enquiring minds then discover what it means to be living in a culture of no liberty in a land of no difference.

Shortly before her martyrdom, Fatima Al-Mutairi wrote and posted to her blog a poem she entitled "And we for the sake of Christ all things bear". The Barnabas Fund published an English translation of this poem on page 12 of its January-February 2009 newsletter (also available online: link 6).

In her poem Fatima's professes her love for Jesus Christ, and for her homeland, Saudi Arabia -- a love so strong she stands ready to die for both. She laments the cruel persecution while professing no fear and a commitment to remain "unto death a Christian".

She concludes her poem with this prayer:

"As to my last words, I pray to the Lord of the worlds
Jesus the Messiah, the Light of Clear Guidance

That He change notions, and set scales of justice aright

And that he spread Love among you, O Muslims."

Saudi authorities have long repressed and persecuted the kingdom's Christian expatriate workers, and forbidden Bibles, crosses and Christian literature from entering the country, believing that they can keep Christianity out of the Saudi population. But all the effort has been for naught, for Christianity has sprung up in its midst anyway.

"I am a Saudi and a Christian," said Fatima Al-Mutairi (26) before she was martyred.

"I am a Saudi and a Christian," said Hamoud Bin Saleh (28) before he was arrested.

Saudi authorities have no right to promote themselves as beacons of peace and religious tolerance until Saudi Christianity is recognised and Saudis themselves have religious liberty.

By Elizabeth Kendal


1) KSA arrests blogger, blocks his blog. His life at risk as he embraced Christianity.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Cairo, 14 Jan 2009 (note: site mistakenly says 2008)
Blogger arrested after posting opinions, announcing his conversion to Christianity
País/Tema: Saudi Arabia
Fecha: 15 de enero de 2009
Fuente: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Persona: Hamoud Bin Saleh

2) King Abdullah address at the UN Peace through Dialogue meeting
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz address to the High Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Peace Through Dialogue, New York, November 12, 2008

3) Dissident Saudi Blogger Is Arrested. 1 January 2008
By Faiza Saleh Ambah, Washington Post Foreign Service
ALSO: Blogger who dared to expose Saudi corruption is arrested
By Claire Soares, 3 January 2008
ALSO: Saudi official: why popular blogger Farhan was jailed.
(Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour Al Turki told the Christian Science Monitor that Fouad Farhan had been jailed for violating his (Al-Turki's) rights by criticizing and offending him.)

4) WEA Religious Liberty Prayer bulletin No. 492, 20 Aug 2008
Saudi Arabia: shaken by apostasy and dissidence.

5) Saudi man kills daughter for converting to Christianity
By Mariam Al Hakeem, 12 August 2008.

6) Barnabas Fund January/February 2009 newsletter