The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Saudi Arabia

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


#belgium #canada #christianity #equality #freedom #human_rights #ireland #islam #judaism #luxembourg #netherlands #palestine #politics #saudi_arabia #tolerance #UK #USA #yemen

Saudi Arabia
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area2 149 690km21
LocationAsia, Middle East
Population28.7m (2011)2
Life Expectancy74.44yrs (2017)3
GNI$51 320 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesSA, SAU, 6825
Internet Domain.sa6
CurrencyRial (SAR)7

Saudi Arabia is very poor at ensuring human rights and freedom compared to the rest of the world, and it has cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Saudi Arabia does worse than average in its Global Peace Index rating9 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights10. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in fighting anti-semitic opinions11, commentary from Human Rights Watch12, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms13, supporting press freedom14 and in LGBT equality15. There is no freedom of religion or belief in Saudi Arabia16,17. Saudi Arabia's form of Wahhabi Islam makes the country fundamentally opposed to basic Human Rights and human rights campaigners are persecuted and imprisoned18. The legal and social system systematically objectifies and subjugates women, although from 2017 there have been signs that things may get a little better, in some areas due to actions of King Salman, such as decreeing that from 2018 women can drive cars.18.

1. Politics and Freedom

#antisemitism #burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #mass_media #peace #politics #Saudi_Arabia #slavery

[In 2017] Saudi authorities continued their arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities continued to discriminate against women and religious minorities. [...]

Saudi Arabia applies Sharia (Islamic law) as its national law. [Also, ] judges and prosecutors can convict people on a wide range of offenses under broad, catch-all charges such as "breaking allegiance with the ruler" or "trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom". [...]

As the leader of the nine-nation coalition that began military operations against Houthi-Saleh forces in Yemen on March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia has committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law. ... Since March 2015, Human Rights Watch has documented 87 apparently unlawful attacks by the coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, killing nearly 1,000 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques. [...] Despite this grave situation, the idea of an investigation received at best lukewarm support from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, all major sellers of arms to Saudi Arabia. None was eager to take a public stand. In that void, the Netherlands stepped in and took the lead, ultimately joined by Canada, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)11
Pos.Lower is better
87Saudi Arabia74
World Avg36.8

Neil J. Kressel in "Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism" (2007)19 describes Saudi Arabia as one of the countries that is most intolerant of Jews:

Saudi children in grades 1 through 10 are told that Jews and Christians are the enemies of Islam, that Jews are a wicked nation characterized by bribery, slyness, deception, and aggressiveness, and that prohibitions against terror do not apply to cases that fall under the categories of jihad and martyrdom. Students are further taught that "the Jews' disappearance is ... desired" and that "Palestine in its entirety should be liberated by force and purified of its Zionist filth".

"Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism" by Neil J. Kressel (2007)20

Corruption (2012-2016)21
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score21
2New Zealand90.6
60Saudi Arabia47.4
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)9
Pos.Lower is better9
2New Zealand1.24
102Sri Lanka2.15
103Congo, (Brazzaville)2.15
105Saudi Arabia2.18
World Avg2.02

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)12
Pos.Higher is better
117N. Korea-10
121Congo, DR-10
122Saudi Arabia-10
World Avg-1.9
Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)10
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
155Saudi Arabia10
157Solomon Islands10
159Vatican City10
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)13
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
145Saudi Arabia144
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)14
Pos.Lower is better14
161Sri Lanka5659
162Saudi Arabia5688
165Equatorial Guinea6720
World Avg3249

Slavery (2018)22
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims22
29Saudi Arabia0.19
31S. Korea0.19
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory23. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends24. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life25. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves26.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery27. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity28. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.29. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi22, Eritrea22, Indonesia30) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery31.

2. Gender Equality

#gender #misogyny #politics #Saudi_Arabia #women

Gender Inequality (2015)32
Pos.Lower is better32
50Saudi Arabia0.26
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote33
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
188Saudi Arabia0
189Vatican City0
World Avg1930

Saudi Arabia is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time. Women have far fewer political rights than men, and are prevented from voting and standing for election.

Women in Saudi Arabia are systematically and thoroughly dehumanized as objects, belonging to their husbands. But from 2017 there have been signs that things may get a little better, in some areas. King Salman decreed that women will be allowed to drive from mid-2018, ending Saudi Arabia inhumane and nonsensical ban on women drivers18.

Women in Saudi Arabia face formal and informal barriers when attempting to make decisions or take action without the presence or consent of a male relative. [...] In April [2017], King Salman issued an order stipulating that government agencies cannot deny women access to government services simply because they do not have a male guardian´s consent unless existing regulations require it. ... Under the order, all government agencies were required to provide a list by mid-July of procedures that require male guardian approval, suggesting that authorities might review these rules and regulations and even eliminate some. [...]

Saudi Arabia continues to discriminate against women and girls by denying them the same opportunities to exercise and play sports as men and boys. In a positive step forward, however, Saudi Arabia´s Education Ministry announced in July that Saudi girls´ schools will offer a physical education program beginning in the fall 2017 school term “in accordance with Islamic law standards” and wouldscale up “according to the possibilities available in each school,” including sports halls and competent women instructors. No public girls´ schools currently have sports facilities.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #Saudi_Arabia #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)15
Pos.Higher is better
191Solomon Islands-44
194Saudi Arabia-72
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence34. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws35. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries34. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

4. Saudi Arabia Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Saudi_Arabia

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
134St Kitts & Nevis47.1
135Solomon Islands47.0
136Sao Tome & Principe46.9
137Saudi Arabia46.8
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#islam #malaysia #new_zealand #pakistan #saudi_arabia

Saudi Arabia's form of Wahhabi Islam makes the country fundamentally opposed to Human Rights. Sociologists Grim & Finke place Saudi Arabia into the worst categories of religious freedom and persecution, along with just 13 other countries. In 1948 Saudi Arabia was one of just 8 countries that refused to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, disagreeing that people had the right to choose their religion37. Other religions and Muslim minorities such as Twelver Shia and Ismailis are persecuted18.

Severe restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of belief stem simultaneously from top-down pressure from government and institutionalized religion, and from bottom-up grassroots movements that often go even further than the government in harassing those who do not believe the right things (2011)38.

In 2008 The Economist39 ran two articles examining some of the ways that King Abdullah engaged in some activities that were slightly more tolerant of other faiths: for example he housed a "World Conference on Dialogue"40. There's not much sign that this is resulting in less intolerance in the Kingdom overall, however.

There is little sign of change on the domestic scene. Saudi Arabia bans churches (and all other non-Muslim houses of worship) on its soil and refuses visas to Israelis. Discrimination against Ismaili and Shia Muslims remains rife, although it has eased under the present king.

The Economist (2008)41

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)16, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Saudi Arabia states:

There is no freedom of religion or belief in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There is no separation between state and religion, and the deep connection between the royal family and the religious establishment results in significant pressure on all citizens to adhere to the official government interpretation of Islam. The country's laws rely on an interpretation of Sharia law, which treats blasphemy - or, in other words, any deviation from Sunni Islam - as apostasy, an offense usually met with a death sentence. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the religious police) are especially intolerant of minority religions and disbelief.

Cases of Discrimination

In February 2012, journalist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was accused of blasphemy for posting messages on Twitter in which he imagined himself in conversation with the Prophet Muhammad. Soon after, Saudi King Abdullah ordered that Kashgari be arrested "for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet." Attempting to flee to New Zealand, Kashgari was arrested when changing planes in Malaysia and sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he faces charges that could result in the death penalty.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)16

Commentators on the deteriorating state of human rights and social stability in Pakistan have stated that one cause is the large numbers of migrant workers who come through Saudi Arabia and then are responsible for spreading overly strict Islam to Pakistan42.

Current edition: 2019 Jan 01
Parent page: Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#antisemitism #belgium #burundi #canada #christianity #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #gender #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #ireland #islam #judaism #luxembourg #malaysia #mass_media #misogyny #netherlands #new_zealand #pakistan #palestine #peace #politics #saudi_arabia #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #UK #USA #women #yemen

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See for some commentary on this source. A newspaper.

Anti-Defamation League. (ADL)
(2014) ADL Global 100, Executive Summary. Accessed on on 2017 Jan 02. The numbers given are of those who state that racist stereotyped statements about Jews are true; they have to agree to 6 or more of the 11 statements to be counted. An example statements is "Jews are hated because of the way they behave". The data was collected from 53,100 interviews across 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza. The global average is 26%.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Grim & Finke. Dr Grim is senior researcher in religion and world affairs at the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C, USA. Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
(2011) The Price of Freedom Denied. Subtitled: "Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century". Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Cambridge University Press, UK. An e-book.

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

Kressel, Neil
(2007) Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Prometheus Books, New York, USA. An e-book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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  3. UN (2017). Table 1.^
  4. UN (2017). Gross National Income, per person. Table 1.^
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  6. Top level domains (TLDs) are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) on^
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  9. ^^
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  11. ADL (2014). Lower is better.^^
  12. Human Rights Watch (2018). Negative and positive comments have been added to create a score for each country covered in the report.^^
  13. Fraser Institute, the (2016). Covers data for 2014.^^
  14. Reporters Without Borders Report "2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed hopes after spring" at accessed 2013 Feb.^^
  15. Sources:^^
  16. IHEU (2012) .^^
  17. Grim & Finke (2011) .^
  18. Human Rights Watch (2018). p460-468.^^^^
  19. Kressel (2007) .^
  20. Kressel (2007). Chapter 2 "Militant Islam: The Present Danger" digital location 868-871.^
  21. Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2017). Accessed 2017 Dec 30. The scores given are the TI average for the years 2012-2016.^
  22. Walk Free Foundation (2018) .^
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  30. Klein (2004) .^
  31. Walk Free Foundation (2018). p2.^
  32. UN (2017). Table 5. Lower is better.^
  33. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life: 2.9. Women Stand for Election & Vote" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
  34. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p278.^
  35. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p289. According to a 1992 ruling of the Human Rights Committee, which declared that 'it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy' when discussing Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See Human Rights Committee, Communication 488/1992, paragraph 8.2.^
  36. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
  37. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 2 "The Universal Declaration Model" p39.^
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  41. The Economist (2008 Jul 26) Article "Global Islam".^
  42. The Economist (2012 Feb 11). Article "In the shadow of the mosque: Religion is becoming less tolerant, and more central to Pakistan".^

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