Posts Tagged ‘whitewash’

Saudi Arabia uses women to spruce up its image: 2 efforts

October 23, 2020

Effort 1: With women’s empowerment topping the agenda at next week’s B20 Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International is on 23 October 2020 reminding business leaders that many of the country’s bravest women’s rights activists are languishing in prison for daring to demand reforms.  “Since assuming the G20 Presidency Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its image.But Saudi Arabia’s real changemakers are behind bars” says Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Loujain al Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, Samar Badawi, Maya’a al-Zahrani, and Nouf Abdulaziz spearheaded women’s rights campaigns, including calling for the right to drive and an end to the repressive male guardianship system. But while Saudi Arabia talks up recent reforms such as the relaxation of social restrictions and the loosening of the guardianship system to court approval from the rich and powerful around the B20, women’s rights activists remain in detention.

Saudi Arabia has publicized the fact that this year, 33 percent of B20 delegates are women – the highest ever contingency. The B20 website states that “Women in Business” will be Saudi Arabia’s “signature topic” as President. “B20 leaders must not be fooled by this shameless hypocrisy, and we call on them to show they care about human rights as much as business opportunities. Any business operating in or with Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to human rights violations through their activities.” 

The B20 is the official forum for business leaders to present policy recommendations to the G20, ahead of the main summit in November. This year high profile participants include representatives from HSBC, Mastercard, PwC, McKinsey, CISCO, ENI, Siemens, Accenture and BBVA.

Currently, 13 women’s rights defenders remain on trial facing prosecution for their human rights activism. Several face charges of contacting foreign media or international organizations, including Amnesty International. Some were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system”. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/

Amnesty International has written to businesses participating in the B20 Summit raising serious concerns about the human rights risks of business operations in and with Saudi Arabia, and reminding them of their human rights responsibilities.

We urge B20 delegates also to think carefully about how their brands could be legitimizing human rights violations and endorsing Saudi Arabia’s charm offensive,” said Lynn Maalouf. “If B20 Saudi Arabia was as progressive as it claims, the activists who did so much to secure more rights for women would have a seat at the table.” 

Effort 2: Nineteen NGOs are calling on golf’s Ladies European Tour to reconsider the decision to hold a tournament hosted by Saudi Arabia. Pulling out of the tournament, they explain, would be ab act of solidarity with women’s rights campaigners detained in the Kingdom.

“While we acknowledge that such tournaments represent an important milestone in women’s golf, we are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia is using this sports event as a public relations tool to sportwash its appalling human rights record, including discrimination against women and the crackdown on women’s rights defenders,” said the NGOs in a letter to the tour organisers.

The event is due to take place in Saudi Arabia from 12 to 19 November, with a cash prize of $1.5 million from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia has faced sustained criticism that it uses major sporting tournaments to deflect from its human rights abuses. The arrest of prominent activist Loujain Al-Hathloul in 2018 and several others was highlighted as a serious concern.

Al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, took to Twitter with the hashtag #StandWithSaudiHeroes to highlight the punishments that women activists are subjected to simply for demanding basic liberties that are taken for granted elsewhere. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/07/lina-al-hathloul-speaks-out-for-her-sister-loujain-imprisoned-in-saudi-arabia/]

In a letter penned to the top players on the Ladies European Tour, the 25-year-old described the event as a “grubby charade” as she argued that taking part was akin to giving “tacit endorsement to the Saudi regime and its imprisonment and torture of activists like my sister.”

Al-Hathloul’s imprisonment has been met with international outcry as concerns grow over her fate. Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have alleged that she and other women campaigners have been subjected to torture and sexual harassment, including threats of rape, while in Saudi detention.

The crackdown on female activists by the Saudi government reached its peak when the authorities arrested and detained Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan and Aziza Al-Yousef on 15 May, 2018. Just weeks later, other leading women’s rights advocates and feminist figures were also arrested, including Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah.

“We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to a fair trial in accordance with the international human rights standards, to which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere,” wrote the NGOs. The only way to achieve true progress, they added, is to implement real reforms on women’s rights, and immediately release those arrested for defending these rights. “While we hope that Saudi Arabia can indeed develop its interaction with other countries around the world through hosting sports and other events in the Kingdom, we cannot ignore the country’s attempt to conceal its continued detention of women’s rights activists and discrimination against women by hosting a women’s sports tournament.”

Effort 2: The sister of jailed Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul has called on European golf players to boycott the upcoming tournament in Saudi Arabic. In a letter sent to the Independent newspaper, Lina Al-Hathloul begged the top players on the Ladies European Tour to show support for her sister’s plight by not attending golfing events in Saudi Arabia scheduled for November.

In her letter, Lina wrote: “My sister is a women’s rights activist imprisoned and tortured by the Saudi regime. I understand the importance of sports to create links and bridges between different societies. “However, the current Saudi regime uses sports to whitewash its crimes, to have a window to the West, while maintaining and even worsening women’s conditions inside the country.

Don’t go to Saudi Arabia, don’t help that barbaric regime launder its reputation through your excellence. Stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists. Boycott the Ladies European Tour events in Saudi Arabia.

I am begging you, as a woman, as a person of conscience and as a role model – please boycott the Saudi women’s tour event.

—–

Support Loujain Hathloul by boycotting Saudi event, European golfers urged

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/with-women-activists-jailed-saudi-b20-summit-is-a-sham/

Saudi Arabia continues to buy celebrities, this time for the MDL Beast festival

December 27, 2019

Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia
Photographs through Daniele Venturelli / Getty

Jermaine Hoffman in Go Tech Daily of 23 Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia“. Another piece on the contoversial topic of celebrity endorsements [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/celebrity-endorsements-and-the-dubai-expo-on-the-one-hand-and-the-other/].

This past weekend, the MDL Beast music festival was held in the capital of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Sold as the “biggest music event in the region,” it attracted some of the world’s greatest celebrities, including Winnie Harlow and Armie Hammer. It also attracted global controversy. Here’s an overview of what happened at the three-day festival, who was involved, and why people were upset.

J Balvin, Steve Aokie and David Guetta were placed as some of the great artists of the festival. Among the crowd were celebrities, influential artists and models who were invited to participate and promote MDL Beast on their personal social media platforms. Hollywood actors like Ryan Phillippe, Wilmer Valderrama and Armie Hammer attended, as well as models like Alessandra Ambrosio, Halima Aden, Imaan Hammam and Joan Smalls and Bollywood superstar Sonam Kapoor. Aden and Ambrosio later shared that they had been paid for an event post.

The festival was heavily portrayed on social media as a proud moment for Saudi Arabia – a “cultural shift”, according to Instagram’s contribution by Armie Hammer. These Western influencers and celebrities, however, are criticized for promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination without mentioning human rights violations, and the festival itself gets resistance to whitening the image of Saudi Arabia.

[for some posts on Saudi Arabia see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/ ]

Phillip Picardi, the former editor of Teen Vogue and Out, spoke about the role of the festival in the country’s expanded tourism strategies. He wrote, “Extremely, deeply disappointed when I see people on my Instagram feed who have traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of their government image rehabilitation campaign.” Picardi later said, “Many headline reports are about displaying SA as changed and accepted, and trips seem to be coordinated with the government or tourist board. You really can’t “buy” this kind of news and what was your experience of who organized your trip and what can or cannot you say? “Among the people who commented on Armie Hammer’s social media posts were journalist Yashar Ali, who tweeted about the brutal assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, in which the CIA closed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. that the “main movie / television star” was allegedly offered an eight-figure amount to refuse.

While celebrities continue to talk about those who have decided to attend and promote a musical event, others support the role of the festival in improving Saudi Arabia’s image. Musician and author Kristina Bazan (who has 2.2 million followers on Instagram) commented on the contribution of Diet Prada, arguing that they point only to negative aspects. It pointed out: “A month ago the visa law was changed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government is trying to bring new energy and dynamism: social media have social resonance. How can we evolve as a globalized world and change things by boycotting areas that require new minds and ideas?

Modeled with more than 24 million Instagram followers, Emily Ratajkowski, aware of the power and resonance of social media, declined her paid invitation because of the discomfort she felt about the human rights record in Saudi Arabia. Diet Prada shared the statement they received from Ratajkowski about why she decided not to attend. “It is very important for me to clearly express my support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to free press,” read the statement. “I hope that I will focus more on the injustices that are happening there.

Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia

What kind of lawyers will attend the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou on Human Rights Day?

December 5, 2019

Lawyer Wang Yu is taken to a studio for TV denunciation of the ABA award. Pictorial rendition is based on Wang Yu’s account. Source: Safeguard Defenders.

The government has invited, according to its official website,more than 600 important international guests from governments, judicial departments, financial circles, international lawyers’ associations, other bar associations and well-known law firms, etc.”………to uphold the rule of law spirit of building a community of shared future for humanity, create an international platform for lawyers from all countries for exchange and cooperation, further consolidate the consensus of the international legal profession, etc…

We know that since July 2015, Chinese human rights lawyers have been suppressed on a large scale [ see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]. To this day, many lawyers, including Wang Quanzhang [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/05/li-wenzu-wife-of-wang-quanzhang-wins-2018-edelstam-award/], Zhou Shifeng, Yu Wensheng, Chen Wuquan, Chen Jiahong, Qin Yongpei, and others are in prison. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng disappeared on August 13, 2017, and his whereabouts still are unknown. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was released from prison earlier this year, has since been under illegal house arrest [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/].

China Change asked a number of Chinese human rights lawyers to express their views on this “Global Lawyers Forum”. Here a selection:

“…..If the purpose of the conference, as the government claims, is to “consolidate the international consensus of the lawyers’ profession,” what then is the consensus of the legal profession? It is the UN’s “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.” Domestic law should be amended on the basis of these principles.  (Liu Shuqing, Jinan, deprived of his lawyer’s license in 2016)

This rhetoric can be deceptive domestically and internationally, giving those who don’t know the true nature of the CCP and the reality on the ground the wrong impression that China has rule of law, so much so that it is a world leader in the area.” (Jiang Tianyong, Beijing, 709 detainee, and still under house arrest since his release at the end of February 2019.)

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong

“I think it is a ridiculous thing for China to host such an event. As everyone knows, the Chinese government has always opposed constitutional democracy and the rule of law. It disregards human rights and blatantly infringes upon every right of the people. Such a conference is only a cover-up for the CCP.”   (A lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous)

“The All China Lawyers’ Association (ACLA) is the same as the Chinese government; it is a part of the government. ACLA contributes little to defending human rights in China, and more often than not it is an accomplice in suppressing human rights. Such a country holding such a conference and urging lawyers from all over the world ‘to jointly promote the rule of law around the world’ –– how could anyone believe this? How could anyone attend and support such a meeting? Are the participants burying their heads in the sand or just being ignorant?” (Liang Xiaojun, Beijing)

“Nearly without exception, any Chinese lawyer who has participated in any international exchange meeting, including meetings with Hong Kong and Taiwanese lawyers, has been interrogated and threatened by China’s national security agents or domestic security police after they returned home to the mainland. In such a ‘police state,’ how can there be normal international exchanges?” (Chen Jiangang, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow 2019, who fled China in the summer after being threatened with “disappearance” by a director of Beijing’s Judicial Bureau)

“The choice to hold the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou is ironic in light of the purpose of the gathering. The retrogression of the legal system in China over the past decade, and the persecution of lawyers who dare to speak out, has reached a shocking point. And the crackdown and persecution of lawyers in Guangzhou is the most severe in the country. Therefore, the selection of Guangzhou for the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ is an affront to the spirit of rule of law.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou, license revoked in 2019)

“I really am not inclined to criticize any lawyers or officials who will attend the conference. I just want them to be clear-headed when they are in China. What they will see is definitely not all of China, or even the most important part. If they aren’t hoodwinked and if they observe the Chinese legal profession with clear eyes, a greater number of ordinary Chinese lawyers may have heartfelt admiration for them.” (Wen Donghai, Changsha)

“I hope attendees from foreign bar associations won’t just listen to the officials’ big empty words and propaganda but pay more attention to the actual human rights situation in China. I hope they learn more about religious groups, ethnic minorities, dissidents and human rights activists. These groups have suffered cruel persecution in China; I hope the foreign attendees will speak on their behalf at the conference and raise questions.” (An anonymous Beijing lawyer)

“I hope the participants can hear the voices of lawyers not sanctioned by the CCP government, and especially look into the real reasons for the revocation of so many lawyers’ licenses.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou)

…….

 

 

China Has Invited 600 International Lawyers and Judicial Officials to its ‘Global Lawyers Forum,’ But These Chinese Lawyers Won’t Be Welcome

UAE: whitewashing specialists get help from the UK

September 14, 2019

Aimed at students aged between 16 and 18, guidelines for entrants urge them to consider “What can the world learn from the UAE’s model for tolerance?” and “How does the Year of Tolerance reflect the already established values of diversity within the UAE?”

UAE launches ‘pledge of tolerance’ despite continued crackdown on dissent

But the guidelines also tell entrants that they must abide by media laws in the UAE, which forbid criticism of the Emirati government and ruling families, its monarchical system, political decisions or “defaming public officials”. Earlier this year, the UAE upheld a 10-year jail sentence for Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati blogger, for “insulting the UAE’s leaders online.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/political-prisoners-in-the-emirats-are-detained-indefinitely-even-after-release-date/]

Hiba Zayadin, a Gulf Rights expert for Human Rights Watch, criticised the British government for its participation in this initiative and said it was “helping whitewash” the UAE government. “It is not just ironic to host such an initiative in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but downright irresponsible,” Zayadin told Middle East Eye. “The UAE is a country where the red lines are constantly shifting, and where journalists, academics and critics have been targeted, harassed, threatened, and jailed simply for expressing their opinions.” She added: “By launching such an initiative, the British embassy is not supporting the growth of journalism around the world so much as it is helping to whitewash a repressive regime’s near-obliteration of the space for free speech.”

Press freedom in the UAE has been a constant source of criticism for the Emirates. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked the UAE at 133rd in its 2019 Press Freedom Index and described the country as the “masters of the online surveillance of journalists”.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-under-fire-launching-uae-press-scheme