Letter to President Obama to advocate for human rights in his meeting with leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia

Letter to President Obama to advocate for human rights in his meeting with leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia

Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama;

On behalf of the Shia Rights Watch (SRW), we respectfully urge you to use your upcoming meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on April 21, 2016 to emphasize on the importance of improvement on human rights in mentioned countries.

As you are aware, Gulf leaders use the national security as a mean to oppress pro-democracy activists, minorities, journalist and human rights defenders. Saudi Arabia’s Terrorism Law Template, for example, defines terrorist as a person who “insults the reputation, of the state or its position”. Based on this definition anyone who critiques the corruption or violation carried by the government is punished as terrorist. As the result human rights defenders face judicial harassment and other reprisals for their domestic human rights advocacy, engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, or engagement with the international human rights community. Also, similar law enabled all six Golf states to harass, detain, put on trial, and imprison political activists and human rights defenders.

Beside human rights defenders, minority groups, such as Shia Muslims, face serious threat by their governments in Gulf area. Destruction of historical Shia sites and imprisonment of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, deportation of this minority from Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, and ongoing Shia oppression including minor imprisonment in Bahrain, targeted killings in Syria and Yemen are only some examples of the human rights violations in GCC countries.

Compared to other GCC counties Saudi Arabia as the most human rights violations. Execution of the most influential Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nime, sentencing his nephew, Ali Nimr, beheading of at least 151 people in 2015 leaving their children and women unprotected, ongoing support of terrorists, extreme ban on Shia religious practices and,  are issues that we urge you to  keep in mind when visiting this country.
We urge you to advocate for the freedom of the prisoners who are detained because of expressing their religion, rights or opinion.

As American citizens and human rights defenders, we hope to see more freedom of religion and expression in Gulf countries after your meeting on April 21, 2016.

You putting human rights at the heart of your agenda at your meeting with the leaders of the GCC will send powerful message to all leaders and presents our American values.

Mustafa Akhwand
Director of Shia Rights Watch

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