Activists circulate new details about arrest of Saudi imam

Sheikh Safar Al-Hawali [file]

Sheikh Safar Al-Hawali

Details about Saudi Arabia’s arrest of the prominent Islamic scholar Safar Al-Hawali and three of his sons have been revealed by activists on social networking sites. Al-Hawali was detained on Thursday, just a few days after the publication of his book, Muslims and Western Culture, in which he attacks the policies of the current Saudi government, especially its rapprochement with the United States, the UAE and the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Twitter account operated by “Prisoners of Conscience” explained that the officers who arrested Al-Hawali at dawn on Thursday arrived at his home in the village of Hawala with an ambulance. This proves, they insisted, that the authorities were well aware of his critical health condition — he suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2005 and still suffers from its effects — but still took him to prison.

At the same time, the Saudis also arrested Al-Hawali’s brother, Shaikh Saadallah, in what was described as a “barbaric” manner, which frightened his family. He was taken by masked officers to an unknown destination; nothing has been heard about him since.

Quoting unspecified sources, the account on Twitter claimed that the authorities separated Shaikh Safar Al-Hawali from his sons in prison. He was transferred to Riyadh, while his sons were taken to Jeddah.

In his book, the 68-year-old scholar discussed the internal differences between the members of the ruling Al-Saud family, which are in the public domain and, he argued, pose a threat to the Kingdom. He also criticised the Saudi participation in the siege of Qatar.

Publication of the book sparked widespread controversy on social networks. While his son attributed the book to his father, others who know Al-Hawali well are sceptical about the claim, not least because of the words attributed to him.

Safar Al-Hawali came to prominence as a member of the Sahwah movement, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. During the 1991 Gulf War he surprised everyone with his courage and unconventional political rhetoric. He publically opposed the intervention of US forces and their presence on Saudi soil. Having disagreed with the government of the then monarch, King Fahd, and the religious institutions led by Shaikh Abd Al-Aziz Bin Baz, he was imprisoned for many years.

For almost a year, the Saudi authorities have arrested clerics, academics and others who were, they allege, working “for the benefit of external parties against the security and interests of the kingdom.” Critics suggest that the only “crime” of those arrested is that they did not back the Saudi government in its campaign against the State of Qatar.

(Source / 15.07.2018)

Hamas condemns foiled terrorist attack at Mecca Grand Mosque

Hamas vs attack Mecca's Grand Mosque

Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, condemned on Saturday the terrorist attack on security forces at Mecca’s Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia.

In a press statement, Hamas underlined that such criminal actions, that aim at hitting security and stability in Muslims’ holy places, do not serve but the enemies of the Arab and Muslim nation.

Hamas Movement prayed to Almighty Allah to protect Saudi Arabia and the entire Muslim world.

Saudi Interior Ministry foiled, at dawn on Friday, a terrorist attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Five persons including a woman were arrested, while one of the wanted blew himself up after a crackdown on him.

(Source / 24.06.2017)

Saudi airstrike kills 22 civilians in Yemen

People attend the funeral ceremony for the Yemeni Army's deputy chief of staff Major General Ahmad Saif Al Yafii, under tight security measures in Aden, Yemen on February 24, 2017. Ahmad Saif Al Yafii, was killed by a heat-seeking missile on the outskirts of the coastal town of Mokha during clashes with Houthi militias [Wail Qubati / Anadolu Agency]

People attend the funeral ceremony for the Yemeni Army’s deputy chief of staff Major General Ahmad Saif Al Yafii, under tight security measures in Aden, Yemen on February 24, 2017

At least 22 civilians were killed yesterday and dozens wounded when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a market in western Yemen causing a fire to break out, a local official said.

Missiles launched by fighter jets of the Arab alliance hit a market selling the narcotic leaf qat, which is popular among Yemenis, near the Red Sea fishing town of Khoukha.

Rescue workers on Friday night were battling a blaze in the market caused by the attack and pulling bodies out of the rubble some of which were burnt beyond recognition, according to Hashim Azazi, deputy governor of Hodeidah province.

“All of those killed were civilians, none were holding weapons,” said Azazi.

A coalition spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Khoukha and the nearby city of Hodeidah are controlled by Iran-allied Houthi fighters who in 2014 overran Yemen’s capital Sana’a and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.

Yemeni government forces backed by Gulf Arab troops recaptured control of the southern Red Sea city of Al-Mokha last month in a push that paved the way for an advance on Hodeidah, the country’s main port city.

The fighting on Yemen’s west coast has displaced nearly 50,000 people in the last six weeks among them children suffering from malnutrition forced to live in schools and in tents on streets, a United Nations refugee agency spokesman told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

The blocking of main roads by warring parties is hampering humanitarian access to those in need.

“The incident at Khawkhah resulted in a number of civilian deaths and injuries. We’re deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” UNHCR spokeswoman for Yemen Shabia Mantoo told Reuters.

The Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have fired missiles into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Friday’s attacks were the latest in a series of coalition-led strikes that have hit schools, hospitals, markets and private homes. The Houthis themselves have fired missiles at extensive civilian targets throughout not only Yemen, but also Saudi Arabia, killing many.

In December, the coalition acknowledged that it had made “limited use” of British-made cluster bombs, but said it had stopped using them.

Nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine, according to the UN World Food Programme, as a result of the war that has drawn in regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

(Source / 11.03.2017)

Breaking: Ballistic missile strikes Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

According to emerging reports from Yemen, a surface-to-surface missile fired by the Yemeni Army has hit Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

The missile was launched on Sunday evening, and sources in Yemen have described the missile test as successful.  It is unclear exactly what missile was used, and casualty figures, if any, are yet to be reported.

Saudi Arabia militarily intervened in the Yemeni Conflict in 2015, leading a coalition of almost 10 Middle Eastern countries. In October 2016, a Yemeni activist warned that Riyadh was the next target for a Yemeni missile attack.

Update 1: More information has emerged, suggesting that the missile was a variant of a Russian Scud, known as the “Borkan” surface-to-surface missile.

Update 2: Sources indicate that the missile struck a military base West of Riyadh, in Mazahimiyah.

Update 3: On social media, a Saudi attempts to cover-up the attack, saying that the sound of the explosion in Riyadh was an earthquake or meteor.

Update 4: Co-Founder of Mona Relief, a Yemeni charity, Dr. RS Karim, has reported that his contacts in Riyadh told him that a state of emergency has been declared.

Follow Reporter on Twitter for Updates: @SulimanM98

Suliman Mulhem is a British-Syrian journalist. He writes for @SputnikInt, a Russian Media Outlet, and @TheArabSource.

(Source / 06.02.2017)

Saudi using Israeli tech firm to ‘identify terrorists’

An Israeli technology firm said it was contacted by the Saudi royal family who asked it to help identify terrorist threats in the country, Bloomberg Business Week reported on Thursday.

Israeli Shmuel Bar, the founder of IntuView, a company whose software can scan four million Facebook and Twitter posts per day, said he was contacted by a Saudi official two years ago asking him to a Skype call. The official said the government wanted to use Bar’s software to “identify terrorists” on condition he setup a sister company which was not based in Israel.

“It’s not as if I went looking for this,” Bar explained. “They came to me.”

In the interview with Bloomberg, Bar said he now works freely with a number of Arab countries, all be it quietly.

“If it’s a country which is not hostile to Israel that we can help, we’ll do it,” Bar said. Only Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq are off-limits.

“The Arab boycott? It doesn’t exist.”

(Source / 04.02.2017)

Saudi Arabia: Palestinians have right to full sovereignty over J’lem


Saudi Arabia condemned Monday underway attempts to destabilize Palestinians’ full sovereignty over Occupied Jerusalem, just a few days after US president Donald Trump’s swearing-in.

At a cabinet meeting chaired by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Adel al-Toraifi said the cabinet strongly condemns all Israeli illegal settlement activities across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Speaking on behalf of the cabinet, al-Toraifi expressed Saudi Arabia’s firm rebuff of all attempts to infringe on Palestinians’ right to full sovereignty over Occupied Jerusalem—the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.

The cabinet cited the strength of ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States and the wish to develop and reinforce them, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

During his electoral campaign, Trump promised to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem, in a move that sparked regional and international furor.

Occupied Jerusalem is home to the holy al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

(Source / 24.01.2017)

Saudi royal family betraying Islam, Muslims: Commentator


Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman recently caused a stir by making inflammatory remarks against Iran. Reacting to the statements, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has blamed Saudi Arabia for plunging the Middle East into chaos by sponsoring Takfiri terrorism. He said the remarks were just a blame game to downplay the crimes committed against civilians in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Qassemi  added that Saudi Arabia has betrayed Muslims and the cause of Palestine by being in league with the Israeli regime. He urged Saudi officials to correct their behavior and ponder on the repercussions of their destructive acts.

Talking to Press TV, Tony Gosling, an investigative journalist, praised Qassemi for his wise and restrained reaction to the recent comments by the Saudi deputy crown prince, warning that Saudi Arabia’s continuation of such incendiary policies would cause grave troubles inside the country.

“I think it is a very mature approach from Tehran, from Bahram Qassemi from Foreign Ministry that he is not judging them. This is a mature spiritual attitude. He is saying ‘Look! Correct your behavior and reflect on what you are doing.’ Because everybody knows around the world that Saudis have been lured into these relationships with the Americans and the Israelis,” Gosling said, adding that unless Saudi officials mend their ways, they will have to encounter more problems at home.

The commentator also described Saudi Arabia as “a dictatorship” which has truly betrayed Islam and Muslims in recent years through its alliance with the Israeli regime.

“It is quite right that Saudi Arabia has betrayed Islam. It is in cahoots with the Israelis and the British and the Americans and of course there is a big connection there and a lot of embarrassment over the 9/11 attacks in connection with the Bin Laden family,” he noted.

Gosling finally reiterated that the British empire has created Saudi Arabia and, hence, it has to bear the responsibility for its crimes.

“We all know here in Britain and in London that there were many Saudi princes, people from the royal family, coming over in the 1970s and 80s with high-class prostitutes in London. So, they have basically been lured in through this source of intelligence tactics to betray what Islam is really about.”

In an interview with the American magazine Foreign Affairs published on Thursday, Prince Salman, whose country is widely believed to be among the major sponsors of terrorism, accused Iran of creating instability, encouraging terrorism and violating the sovereignty of other nations in the region.

(Source / 08.01.2017)

One Child Dies Every 10 Minutes In Yemen As Saudi-Led, US-Backed War Continues

At least 1,219 children have died as a result of the fighting in Yemen, but a chronic lack of health care will causing an additional 10,000 preventable deaths per year, according to a briefing from the NGO Save the Children International.

A boy with fake blood on his face and clothes to represent a victim participates in a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP/Hani Mohammed)

A boy with fake blood on his face and clothes to represent a victim participates in a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016

SANAA, Yemen — The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen has devastated the civilian population, and poverty, disease, and starvation are taking a heavy toll on the country’s children.

The Yemeni struggled for years with poverty and a lack of quality health care even before the war began, but the conflict has driven the nation to the verge of total collapse and pushed child mortality rates way up.

“Now, the situation is much worse and an estimated 1,000 children are dying every week from preventable killers like diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections,” said Edward Santiago, Yemen director for the NGO Save the Children.

At least 1,219 children have died as a direct result of the war in Yemen, but a desperate lack of medical supplies, bombed-out hospitals, and missing or dead medical staff are likely to cause an additional 10,000 preventable deaths each year, according to “Struggling to Survive: Stories from Yemen’s collapsing health system,” a briefing published on Dec. 19 by Save the Children International.

War in Yemen erupted in March of 2015, shortly after Houthi  rebels took over the government. In retaliation, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and supported by the U.S. government, began a vicious bombing campaign that deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure from hospitals to sources of fresh water.

According to a Dec. 6 report from the BBC which uses United Nations data, 50 percent of hospitals and other medical facilities have been rendered inoperable by the war. There’s also a critical shortage of medical staff and medicine, and impoverished families struggle to afford life-saving care even when it’s available.

Santiago added:

“With parents losing their jobs and livelihoods owing to the chaos of war, many told us they have to sell belongings like jewellery, vehicles, gas canisters and land just to be able to afford the trip to hospital while others have taken out loans. Once there, they often can’t afford the cost of the medicines their children urgently need while many other parents find the facility just does not have life-saving medicines.”

Many human rights analysts have suggested Yemen’s people are being deliberately starved to death, both by bombings and by an ongoing blockade on life-saving supplies. Earlier this month, UNICEF estimated that 2.2 million Yemeni children suffer from some form of malnutrition. Of that total, 462,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, the most severe form of malnutrition, marking a 200 percent increase in malnutrition rates since 2014.

“At least one child dies every ten minutes in Yemen because of preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections,” the U.N. agency reported.

Dr. Meritxell Relano, UNICEF’s acting representative in Yemen, added: “The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today.”

Relano reported that the war has undone years of work by humanitarian aid workers in the region:

“Violence and conflict have reversed significant gains made in the last decade in the health and nutrition of Yemeni children. Diseases such as cholera and measles have spread and, with few health facilities functional, such outbreaks are taking a heavy toll on children.”

Watch “Yemen’s Children Continue To Starve And Die:

(Source / 01.01.2017)

Saudi FM: PMF Is Led by Iranian Qassem Suleimani

Fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). AFP 2016 / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)

Riyadh – Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the Popular Mobilization Forces is a “religious sectarian organisation,” carrying out mass killings in the country, especially in al-Anbar with support of Iranian generals.

“The so-called ‘popular militia’ is a religious organization, which carries out mass killings in Iraq with support of Iranian generals headed by Qassem Suleimani, the existence of such armed groups threatens the unity and security of Iraq,” Jubeir said on Monday at a press conference in Riyadh.

The FM added: “As for the PMF, if we want Iraq a unified country and equal among all components of Iraqi society, there is no place for armed sectarian forces, whose loyalty may or may not be to a united Iraq.”

The PMF forces are currently taking part in the liberation of Mosul. The Iraqi operation to retake Mosul from ISIS has been going on for over a month since October 17.

Mosul has been occupied by the terrorist group ISIS since 2014.

(Source / 27.12.2016)

Is this the beginning of a revolution by Saudi women?

Saudi women hold national flags as they walk on a street during Saudi National Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 23, 2016

A police spokesman in Riyadh announced Dec. 12 the arrest of a young Saudi woman, Malak al-Shehri, for violating Saudi regulations by taking off her abaya — a loose-fitting full-length robe — in a public place, and openly revealing her relations with young men. The girl was held at the women’s prison as a preliminary measure before being transferred to the public prosecution office and the Investigation Commission affiliated with the Ministry of Interior.

On Nov. 28, Shehri, 21, had posted on her Twitter account — which she deleted after being fiercely attacked by conservatives — that she would go out the next morning wearing a skirt with a “stylish jacket,” and start her day with breakfast at McDonald’s and then coffee and cigarettes with a male friend.

The next day, Shehri headed to al-Tahliya Street in Riyadh, without wearing her abaya, and posted a photo of herself on Twitter.

This provoked the wrath of the Riyadh Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which submitted a request to police to arrest Shehri on charges of public disobedience.

After the news of Shehri’s detention became public, social media activists launched a Twitter campaign called “#FreeMalakAlshehri.”

Manal Massoud al-Sharif, a Saudi writer and information security consultant, expressed solidarity with Shehri and posted on Dec. 13 her own photo without the abaya at Najma Beach resort, in Ras Tanura in eastern Saudi Arabia, a gated Saudi Aramco employee compound that is not subject to the country’s conservative rules.

Sharif wrote on her Twitter account Dec. 16, “The [female] German defense minister visited Saudi Arabia and was not wearing the abaya. She was not arrested,” arguing that this shows double standards by Saudi religious institutions, including the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in applying the Sharia provisions on citizens only, while exempting princesses, expatriates and foreign visitors.

Sharif’s tweet aimed at pointing out that Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had hosted the German female minister on Dec. 8 and shook hands with her, although she refused to cover her hair and wear the abaya.

In a related context, the Saudi Ministry of Education also announced that it had opened an investigation after video footage went viral on social media. The video was shot by the father of a female student, showing his daughter coming out of her school in Sabiya province in southern Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7 without her abaya after the school’s female principal, Mudhisha Hamlan, had confiscated the abayas of a number of students to punish them for wearing indecent, tight or colored abayas instead of the traditional black and loose-fitting robe.

Hamlan told Rotana channel Dec. 9, “The girls violated official regulations at a girls’ school.”

State-sanctioned religious scholars in Saudi Arabia, most prominently among them Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah al-Sheikh, are usually appointed by royal decree. They continue to insist on their traditional doctrinal views that women should be covered and should not mingle or shake hands with men.

Salih ibn Fawzan ibn Abdullah al-Fawzan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars and the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatwas, insists that women should wear loose-fitting dress covering their entire bodies.

The Saudi monarchy, however, is often ignoring its religious establishment’s views and fatwas on women affairs. For instance, it has appointed women to positions that traditionally were limited to men. On Aug. 1, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan was named as the head of the women’s section at the General Authority for Sports, and has appeared in the media, along with other Saudi women, without covering her face and hair on several occasions. Also, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced in January 2015 a vacancy for the posts of diplomatic secretary and attache for women, which require the female official to travel and shake hands with foreign men.

The Wahhabi establishment has monitored the lives of Saudis to make sure that they are committed to the Salafi method since the first Saudi state was established in 1744. In addition, it has managed the affairs related to the education of women since 1960, under the supervision of Mohammed bin Ibrahim al-Sheikh, the grandson of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia at the time. It was only in 2002 that the education of boys and girls was integrated in a single ministry.

The Wahhabi establishment also opposed the appointment of women at the Shura Council. Sheikh Saleh al-Lahidan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars denied on Sept. 30, 2011, that senior scholars were consulted by the monarchy or approved that women be present at the Shura Council. Yet, it now seems that this establishment has become more realistic and understanding of Riyadh’s new inclinations.

Oddly, the Wahhabi establishment has become more caring about women’s rights and their participation in public life. This was evident in a Bloomberg interview with the Saudi deputy crown prince, who also is the chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, in April.

The deputy crown prince was reported as saying, “We believe women have rights in Islam that they have yet to obtain,” which reveals his determination to grant Saudi women all their rights.

Al-Monitor asked Haifa, a young Saudi woman sitting with her friend at a Starbucks coffee shop in Jeddah, in western Saudi Arabia, about the rights that Saudi women are seeking to obtain, and whether abandoning the hijab is part of their rights and freedom.

The young woman, a student at the College of Medicine, said on condition her last name not be used that a woman should be entitled to wear what she wants, as long as her outfit does not offend public morals.

Haifa added, “Women have the right to a stringent law that provides for a specific punishment against harassment. Mingling with men in public places and changing the shape and color of the hijab or abaya is no longer our primary cause. Saudi women now aspire to obtain the right to drive cars. We will keep fighting until our demands are met and until women can assume the post of a minister in the government. We also want to be able to choose who will represent us in an elected parliament. Our cause is not limited to black abayas imposed by the appointed Shura Council.”

Most Saudi officials in political and religious authorities declare their support for women’s rights, whether those provided for by Islam or by man-made laws. All of them declare their support for women’s participation in public life, but the difference in the interpretation of the concept of rights between the political and religious spheres makes the Saudi women’s mission to get their rights more difficult, which may be pushing some women to take bold steps that could embarrass the authorities in Riyadh.

(Source / 23.12.2016)