Joe Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia puts its human rights violations in the spotlight
Lina al-Hathloul —a Saudi Arabian activist and sister of a woman's rights defender who was incarcerated and tortured from 2018 to 2021— recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to verbalize her concerns about President Joe Biden's trip to the Middle East.
Meeting with lawmakers, al-Hathloul explained how disturbing it is that Biden traveled to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, also referred to as MBS.
“The thing is, Saudi Arabia is now a police state. So whatever reforms they brag about having, concretely, it really depends on the will of MBS,” Lina al-Hathloul told VOX. “It’s a dictatorship and a dark era for Saudi that we’ve never experienced before.”
Biden's trip to the Middle East comes nearly 18 months after the highly publicized and disturbing death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In wake of the columnist's death, which was ordered by MBS, Biden expressed disdain for what transpired. However, according to VOX, Biden "kept his distance from the crown prince for the first 17 months of his presidency until strategic interests won out."
The news outlet also went a step further highlighting other comparable incidents under MBS's leadership:
The murder of Khashoggi in October 2018 may be just one of the most brazen examples of MBS’s rule. Since then, his pattern of repression has continued. The crown prince is guiding an internal crackdown and continues to target dissidents abroad. And even though he made some promises to reform, there is no accountability within Saudi Arabia because there are no independent journalists, watchdogs, or anyone to hold him accountable.
While MBS has vowed to end the country's guardianship system governing women, there are many draconian and stringent laws that are still in place. Hala Aldosari —a Saudi Arabian activist and researcher living in exile in the U.S.— highlighted the remaining controversial laws as he expressed his concerns.
"Women can’t be released from prisons, shelters, or correctional facilities without a guardian. Women are still required to have a guardian’s permission to marry, and they don’t have equal authority over children," Aldosari noted, according to VOX.
“We are not in a position to monitor or follow up on any promises being delivered or not because there are no independent media and no independent human rights organizations communicating with people on the ground,” Aldosari said. “Definitely, human rights are very much gone.”
He went on to note how the United States plays a role in Saudi Arabia's ability to continue its governing power. "The politics, the foreign policies of the US, is empowering and supporting this status by not holding any country in the Middle East accountable,” Aldosari said.
Al-Hathloul also noted how the United States could make an impact. “They always forget how much Saudi exists only because the US protects it,” she told VOX. “The US has a lot of leverage on Saudi and it seems to forget about it and just bow down to Saudi pressure on oil.”
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