Posts Tagged ‘Manal al-Sharif’

New York Times profiles Saudi defender Manal al-Sharif

June 19, 2017

Manal al-Sharif, an activist for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, in Central Park during a tour for her new memoir. Credit Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Manal al-Sharif was 14 when she burned her brother’s Back Street Boys cassettes, then her mother’s fashion magazines. She gave up drawing human figures and reading her prized Agatha Christie novels — forbidden, she had learned, under the puritanical strain of Islam sweeping through her native Saudi Arabia at the time. All kinds of things were forbidden for women and girls, she had also learned: no plucking your bushy eyebrows, no parting your hair fashionably to the side, no revealing your face in public. The one thing she could not destroy was a plastic bag of family photographs that her mother had stashed in her bedroom. She found them, years later, after her mother had died. There was a photo of herself, in a red dress for Eid; another of her mother, in a calf-length skirt she had stitched herself; another of her dad, barechested, for the hajj. “I’m so happy she hid them from me,” Ms. al-Sharif said the other day, scrolling through the images she had uploaded on her phone. “I thought we didn’t have any.”

Ms. al-Sharif, 38, has undergone a radical change of heart since those Salafi firebrand days. She is now best known for challenging the laws and mores that keep women down in Saudi Arabia, including what she considers the kingdom’s infantilizing restrictions on the right of women to drive. Her first book, “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening,” published this week by Simon & Schuster, is a memoir of her political coming of age. It is equally a portrait of tumult and tyranny in Saudi Arabia over the last four decades — and the kingdom’s vexing relationship with the United States……..

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…………..She lives in Australia now, with her husband, a Brazilian, and their 3-year-old son. She has applied for the Saudi government to recognize her second marriage and has yet to receive it. Exile is frustrating. “When you’re there you don’t just talk. You take action,” she said. “I feel little bit helpless now, being outside.”

And then there’s her firstborn son. He lives in Saudi Arabia, with his father. Ms. al-Sharif visits as often as she can. He asks her all kinds of questions about all kinds of things, like whether to talk to a girl.

“I say: ‘Abdalla, you’re a very intelligent boy. I’ll give you two answers. An answer that I believe in. And an answer that’ll keep you away from trouble,’” she said.

He is now 12, and she hopes he will one day read the book and understand her choices. “It tells my whole story.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/13/five-women-human-rights-defenders-from-the-middle-east/

BBC investigation on Arab States and import of cyber-surveillance tools

June 16, 2017

On 15 June 2017 the BBC came out with a special report on “How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states’A dancer tucks his Apple iPhone next to his traditional Omani dagger during a welcome ceremony in Muscat, Oman (5 November 2016).

A year-long investigation by BBC Arabic and a Danish newspaper [Dagbladet Information] has uncovered evidence that the UK defence giant BAE Systems has made large-scale sales across the Middle East of sophisticated surveillance technology, including to many repressive governments. These sales have also included decryption software which could be used against the UK and its allies. While the sales are legal, human rights campaigners and cyber-security experts have expressed serious concerns these powerful tools could be used to spy on millions of people and thwart any signs of dissent. The investigation began in the small Danish town of Norresundby, home to ETI, a company specialising in high-tech surveillance equipment. ETI developed a system called Evident, which enabled governments to conduct mass surveillance of their citizens’ communications. A former employee, speaking to the BBC anonymously, described how Evident worked. “You’d be able to intercept any internet traffic,” he said. “If you wanted to do a whole country, you could. You could pin-point people’s location based on cellular data. You could follow people around. They were quite far ahead with voice recognition. They were capable of decrypting stuff as well.”

 

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

A video clip accompanying the article is to be found on the website of the BBC (see link below) and it features Ahmed Mansoor, the 2015 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/21/ahmed-mansoor-mea-laureate-2015-arrested-in-middle-of-the-night-raid-in-emirates/]

One early customer of the new system was the Tunisian government. The BBC tracked down a former Tunisian intelligence official who operated Evident for the country’s veteran leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. “ETI installed it and engineers came for training sessions,” he explained. “[It] works with keywords. You put in an opponent’s name and you will see all the sites, blogs, social networks related to that user.” The source says President Ben Ali used the system to crack down on opponents until his overthrow in January 2011, in the first popular uprising of the Arab Spring. As protests spread across the Arab world, social media became a key tool for organisers. Governments began shopping around for more sophisticated cyber-surveillance systems – opening up a lucrative new market for companies like BAE Systems. In 2011, BAE bought ETI and the company became part of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. Over the next five years, BAE used its Danish subsidiary to supply Evident systems to many Middle Eastern countries with questionable human rights records (such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria).

 

“I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said more than 90% of the most active campaigners in 2011 have now vanished,” says Yahya Assiri, a former Saudi air force officer who fled the country after posting pro-democracy statements online.  “It used to be that ‘the walls have ears’, but now it’s ‘smartphones have ears,‘” says Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist who also now lives abroad. “No country monitors its own people the way they do in the Gulf countries. They have the money, so they can buy advanced surveillance software.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/13/five-women-human-rights-defenders-from-the-middle-east/]

Manal al-Sharif
Manal al-Sharif says Gulf states have the money to buy advanced surveillance equipment‘Responsible trading’

….The BBC has obtained a 2015 email exchange between the British and Danish export authorities in which the British side clearly expresses concern about this capability with reference to an Evident sale to the United Arab Emirates. “We would refuse a licence to export this cryptanalysis software from the UK because of Criteria 5 concerns,” says the email. [“Criteria 5” refers to the national security of the UK and its allies.]…Despite British objections, the Danish authorities approved the Evident export…..

…….Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake is one of the few European politicians prepared to discuss concerns about surveillance technology exports. She says European countries will ultimately pay a price for the compromises now being made. “Each and every case where someone is silenced or ends up in prison with the help of EU-made technologies I think is unacceptable,” she told the BBC. “I think the fact that these companies are commercial players, developing these highly sophisticated technologies that could have a deep impact on our national security, on people’s lives, requires us to look again at what kind of restrictions maybe be needed, what kind of transparency and accountability is needed in this market before it turns against our own interest and our own principles.

Source: How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states – BBC News

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Five Women Human Rights Defenders from the Middle East

December 13, 2013

On 12 December 2013 Tasnim Nazeer published a list of 5 women human rights defenders who in spite of setbacks in the “Arab Spring” have no plans to stop fighting:

  1. Tawakkol Karman. The first Yemeni and the first Arab woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize. A Yemeni journalist, human rights activist and politician member of the Al-Islah political party, Karman is the leader of the renowned group “Women Journalists Without Chains,” which she co-founded in 2005. She became the international public face of the Yemeni “Arab Spring” uprising in 2011. The people of Yemen know her as the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution” due to her courage in sticking up for human rights injustices in Yemen.
  2. Razan Ghazzawi Razan, an award-winning Syrian blogger, campaigner and human rights activist. She has been actively involved in the events during the Syrian Civil War, and has been particularly outspoken on activists’ arrests and the violations of human rights committed by the Bashar al Assad regime.Razan, who has been arrested by the Syrian regime several times and is forbidden to leave Syria, was named as an “iconic blogger and leading activist” by The Telegraph as well as awarded the 2012’s Human Rights Defenders at Risk award by the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders foundation.
  3. Moushira Mahmoud Khattab, an Egyptian human rights activist, former politician and diplomat. She has previously held the positions as Minister of Family & Population as well as ambassador to South Africa, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Khattab is a renowned human rights activist who speaks up for the rights of children and women in Egypt and the MENA region. Her efforts to advocate human rights have been recognized internationally through numerous awards, including the two highest honors that can be bestowed on any foreign national in South Africa and Italy.
  4. Nawal El Saadawi,  an Egyptian feminist writer, human rights activist, physician and psychiatrist. Saadawi has authored many books on the subject of women and Islam and advocates human rights issues involving women. The founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights, she has been awarded numerous honorary degrees on three continents.
  5. Manal al-Sharif. Women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who helped start a groundbreaking women’s right to drive campaign in 2011. An outspoken voice on the rights of women in the Kingdom, she was detained and released on 21 May and rearrested the following day on the conditions of returning for questioning if she were to continue talking to the media about rights for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

via Five Women Human Rights Activists who are Changing the Middle East | Informed Comment.

 

Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ali Ferzat, Park Sang Hak and the Ladies in White

May 13, 2013

The New York based Human Rights Foundation today announced the recipients of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent 2013 laureates Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, and Cuban civil society group the Ladies in White. They will be honored at a ceremony during the 2013 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway on 15 May  (broadcast live online at www.oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 4:00pm Central European Time). 

The Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was founded with the endorsement of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright, and statesman Václav Havel. The inaugural laureates in 2012 were Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The laureates will share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian Kroner.