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Social solidarity and sympathy during the holiday: A weapon against the Saudi government’s persecution of the people

لقرائته بالعربية إضغط هنا

Feelings of fear, sadness, and anticipation prevail in many homes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia asthe Eid al-Fitr holiday approaches this year. With the world fighting the Coronavirus epidemic, and amid fears of its spread in prisons, families in Saudi Arabia are being forbidden from seeing or visiting their imprisoned relatives. Some families have confirmed that phone calls have been cut off for unknown reasons. This comes amidthe circulation of rumors that indicate their concern for the health and lives of their relatives and the lack of adequate safeguards and alternatives or solutions to interrupted visits.

ESOHR was able to identify 23 minors among the detainees, thoughthe government has not been transparent about the number of detainees or anything about them. ESOHR has confirmed that 13 detainees face the death sentence and are at various stages of prosecution. Most of the detainees monitored by ESOHR have suffered torture and ill-treatment and lack adequate communication with their families as the holiday approaches. Under these circumstances, concerns for their welfare are rising.

Forty-six women are also imprisoned in political prisons, some of whom will be deprived of seeing their children and family on the holiday, while they continue to experience pressure and abuses. Some of these women face charges related to the expression of their opinions or the practice of legitimate rights; in other cases, there is not sufficient information available.

Other families will not have their fathers present during Eid al-Fitr, as Saudi Arabia has arbitrarily detained at least hundreds of fathers—many of whom face execution—and has committed various types of violations against them.

In addition to the families awaiting the fate of their loved ones and hoping to reunite during the holiday or receive them for a visit, other families have lost loved ones unjustly through wrongful execution, following trials and years of torture and coercion. The pain of parting has not lessened with time, particularly since Saudi Arabia did not permit them to say goodbye to their loved ones or know where they were buried. ESOHR’s documentation indicates that the government has retained or removed 86 bodies, including those of minors who were put to death. The Washington Post reported, without further details, that a former government official who knows the location of the bodies is a refugee in Canada.

ESOHR believes that while Eid al-Fitr is taking place this year in a world burdened with social distancing and anxiety, the failure of the Saudi government to take any steps to ease the burden on families, such as the release of those arbitrarily detained, especially minors, and to take clear, explicit, and concrete legal action to overturn death sentences against minors, in fulfillment of its promises, shows cruelty and intransigence.

While Saudi authorities are preventing prison visits for fear of spreading the Coronavirus, theirfailure to identify measures to mitigate this impact on detainees and families—such as increasing and lengthening communications, or allowing video calls or visits with barriers and distancing—shows their indifference to the difficult psychosocial predicament of the detainees and their families. ESOHR also believes that the continued detention of bodiesand the failure to hand them over for proper burial constitute an act of retaliation that tortures familiespsychologically.

ESOHR stands beside detainees andfamiliesin these difficult circumstances facing the world and affirms that social solidarity and the community’s approach to the families of victims of abuses, both citizens and residents, create a supportive environment for the victims and their families. Community sympathy and communication with victims’ families during the holidaygreatly helpto alleviate their psychological suffering resulting from the Saudi government’s extensive persecution of various sectors of the population.

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