THEIR VIEW: Human rights are everyone's business

Published on Sunday, 12 August 2018 20:54
Written by The Washington Post

Saudi Arabia has offered a telling response to Canada’s complaint about the arrest of two prominent female activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. The Saudi Foreign Ministry protested that Canada was engaging in “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs” and an “unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process.” The call by Canada to release the women was “reprehensible,” the ministry said. In other words, Saudi Arabia would like the rest of the world to look the other way.

Fortunately, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, refused. On Aug. 2, she wrote on Twitter that Canada was “very alarmed” about the detention of the two women. Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger serving a 10-year jail sentence for running a website that was critical of Saudi’s strict religious authorities. Saudi Arabia’s young ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been intolerant of dissent and jailed dozens of critics, including intellectuals, journalists and advocates of women’s right to drive. Most have been thrown in jail for long periods without any semblance of due process. When Freeland called for the Badawis to be freed, the crown prince answered by expelling Canada’s ambassador and severing trade, travel and student exchange links. The intended message: Other countries should mind their own business, or else.

What Freeland and Canada correctly understand is that human rights and basic liberty are universal values, not the property of kings and dictators to arbitrarily grant and remove on a whim. Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of denying basic rights to citizens, especially women - and its particularly cruel treatment of some dissidents, such as the public lashes meted out to Badawi - are matters of legitimate concern to all democracies and free societies.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Sunday, 12 August 2018 20:54. Updated: Sunday, 12 August 2018 20:56.