Last weekend I had to step in to replace Michael De Dora and speak to the Freethought Festival in Madison, Wisconsin because he had to go to Geneva for a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. All he did while he was there was publicly eviscerate Saudi Arabia for having the chutzpah to host a human rights conference in the very city where Raif Badawi and his lawyer are being held as political prisoners.
Last week at the Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Slimane Chickh, announced that Saudi Arabia would host the next conference in the Istanbul Process, which is focused on implementing the Council’s Resolution 16/18, a measure intended to combat religious intolerance.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia persecutes, imprisons, and abuses political and religious dissidents such as activist Mohammed al-Bajadi, human rights lawyer Waleed abu al-Khair, and blogger Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for hosting an online discussion forum, and may also be executed for apostasy. It also bars women from exercising their fundamental conscience rights, and jails those who do.
“One assumes Saudi authorities will not arrange for diplomats and NGOs to pay these political prisoners a visit,” said CFI’s Michael De Dora at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member. “The rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression remain nearly non-existent in Saudi Arabia … [It] has a lengthy record of punishing any individual or community that differs from the government’s narrow version of authoritarian Islamic law.”…“We welcome, indeed encourage member state involvement in the Istanbul Process,” said De Dora. “However, given its human rights record, Saudi Arabia strikes us as an inappropriate setting for the next meeting. If Saudi Arabia is sincere about acting as host of the next meeting, it could begin to validate its role rather easily: release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, drop all charges against them, and move to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression. We urge them to do so, and urge member states to keep them accountable.”
Hear, hear. It’s so great to watch Michael become a rock star at the UN and to have the fortitude to speak truth to power with such boldness.