Saudis and Human Rights
Chronicle, January 7, 2002
901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103
By Carolyn Lochhead
A little story slipped out of Saudi Arabia the other day. It arrived almost as
an afterthought and caused hardly a ripple. No, it wasn’t front-page news
about the women veiled head-to-toe by a conservative Islamic regime. This was
just a passing item on how the Saudis beheaded a few homosexuals in a public
The story—such as it is—comes from Arab News, "Saudi Arabia’s First
English-Language Daily," datelined Riyadh, Jan. 2:
"Three Saudi men convicted of sodomy and marrying each other were
beheaded yesterday in the southwestern city of Abha, the Interior Ministry
said in a statement.
"Ali ibn Hatan ibn Saad, Mohammad ibn Suleiman ibn Mohammad and Mohammad
ibn Khalil ibn Abdullah were found guilty of engaging in the extreme obscenity
and ugly acts of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the
young. The statement said the three men repeated the acts several times and
assaulted people who told them to stop.
"A Shariah court sentenced them to death and the judgment was confirmed
by the high court and the Supreme Judiciary Council."
No further information is available because the theocratic Saudi state, ruled
by the Saud royal family, declined to elaborate.
Only the most assiduous reader of the Washington Post would have spotted the
one-sentence mention of this event buried at the bottom of page nine and
citing Reuters as a source.
Reuters in turn cited the official Saudi Press Agency, adding only that 122
people, including murderers and rapists, were executed in the kingdom last
year, usually by a public beheading.
But no one outside the Saudi government knows exactly how many people the
Saudis execute or their alleged crimes.
All media are censored and Internet, satellite and other forms of outside
communication are restricted. The country is all but closed to foreign
tourists, although the regime, torn between its lust for tourist dollars and
fear that its pristine culture will be defiled, has begun permitting small
groups of Western tourists, sponsored by museums or universities, to visit
(One of these potential tourist destinations is Abha, the provincial capital
where the gay men were beheaded and where the government sees opportunities
for ecotourism, given the proximity of the Red Sea and its famous scuba
The beheadings were conducted under Islamic law, which Saudi Arabia, our dear
friend, ally and major oil supplier, uses as its legal code. More
specifically, the Saudis have adopted the religious code of a fundamentalist
Islamic sect known as Wahhabism. The Saudis have been diligently funding
mosques and installing clerics to spread the fiercely anti-American, not to
mention gay-hating, Wahhabi word throughout the world.
The Saudi government’s official Web site does not state its gay policy, but
it does explain that "the Holy Koran is more suitable for Saudi Muslims
than any secular constitution" and that "the entire Saudi population
is Muslim; the only non-Muslims in the country are expatriates engaged in
diplomacy, technical assistance or international commerce."
Nor does the regime tell us what they do with lesbians, although they do say
that "the position of women in Islamic society and in Saudi Arabian
society in particular is a complex and frequently misunderstood issue."
We do know that women are required to wear full-length veils.
In addition to beheading, common forms of punishment include torture by
cigarette burns, nail-pulling and electric shocks. Public lashings with bamboo
sticks are also favored, along with amputations of hands or feet.
The Saudi regime, terrified of internal dissent and prickly about
international criticism, exercises power through a clever combination of
brutal oppression and generous oil-funded welfare. The U.S. government,
dependent on Saudi oil, helps prop up the regime. The world, quick to condemn
oppression elsewhere, turns a blind eye.
"The international community’s response to human rights violations in
Saudi Arabia can best be summarized by one word," says Amnesty
Carolyn Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org
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