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Saudi minister responds to damning human rights report

March 20th, 2014
10:38 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Saudi Arabia is responding to a damning new United Nations reports, listing a catalogue of human rights abuses in their country.

“We have very significant changes, real [changes] happening in Saudi Arabia,” Deputy Labor Minister Ahmad al-Fahaid told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

The U.N. made 225 recommendations on a range of issues, including the rights of migrant workers as well as freedom of expression and the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia insists it is making progress, but admits there is still a long way to go, particularly in the realm of women's rights and on child marriages, with no minimum legal age set so far.

“Women issue is very important, and in fact we are tackling it from two different angles,” al-Fahaid said. “The first one is about, you know, education background, educational view. The second, which is very important, is that economically, also empowerment.”

“We are trying our best to find…suitable and decent jobs for our women.”

Meanwhile, Saudi women are still barred from driving.

In an interview with Amanpour in 2012, Saudi activist Manal al-Sharif made her plea.

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“We want to be full citizens,” she said. “I'm educated. I have a job…I should be trusted to drive my own car.”

“We are looking at this very carefully,” al-Fahaif said. “I mean, it's a culture.”

The government’s priority right now, he said, is economic and educational empowerment of women.

“Whenever we made any commitment, we stick to it, and we implement it,” he said. “We will see a lot of fruitful changes in the near future.”

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soundoff (30 Responses)



    March 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Reply


    March 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Reply


    March 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  4. rva1945

    Simply put, USA and its allies would normally condemn such an obsolete dictatorship like Saudi's...but...there is still too much Saudi oil to burn before impossing sanctions...

    March 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  5. doabitofhomework

    We have to cut the Saudi government at least some slack here. The changes they're being asked to make are changes which will result in overwhelming male opposition throughout the population. Sometimes of a violent nature.

    They can make major changes in their laws on behalf of women, but they can't control how their own male population will respect it – much less obey it.

    Their oppressive ways have been basic to the population to such a degree that it can't be modified without very violent opposition. Add to that, of course, that those same oppressive ways are basic to its LEADERS, too.

    We're trying to modify things that have been condoned by Islam itself for many centuries. To any Muslim, of any sect, trying to modify Islam's principles and tenets amounts to a capital crime. And we ought to know by now how Muslims react to anything that even scuffs Islam, much less changes its basic tenets.

    Even if the leaders in S.A. wanted to make these changes, they'd be afraid to do it in a genuine way. But they're not, themselves, likely to even WANT to make them, except for the sake of image in the world. This can't be done, but they will keep trying to appear moderate, while remaining fanatic. This attempt on their part is already crumbling.

    But the Saudis also know, all too well, that our dependence on their petroleum resources will stay our hand almost indefinitely – at least in any serious sense. We'll complain, but it won't go much farther than that, and they know it.

    There is only one pathway to holding S. A. accountable: to remove all dependence on their oil.

    March 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • docdeb27

      What a lot of enabling excuses! The royal family (thousands of them) have enjoyed western amenities for years and there is an unspoken agreement that as long as they allow the religious police control over the poor, they the rich are left alone. Slavery and murder of women and immigrants is common there and we put up with it all because of oil and not a single other reason. Bush hugs and kisses these animals and Cheney makes billions with them. We are the hypocrites here. Look in the mirror.

      May 23, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
  6. Asif Hussain

    The Saudi's are the most dysfunctional society on the planet earth.

    March 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  7. Kingsley Wijesinhe

    The hypocrisy of the West, the US in particular, is made abundantly clear by their relations with Saudi Arabia. Horror stories of migrant workers being abused make headlines virtually every day, but we never hear of their Saudi employers going to jail. Some time ago, a poor housemaid from Sri Lanka was beheaded for the alleged murder of her employer's infant, when there was no evidence to prove it. In fact, it was far more likely that it was an accident, as claimed by the maid. But Saudi justice (an oxymoron if ever there was one) decreed otherwise. Still, for the US, Britain and other western countries, it's business as usual. As long as the Saudis have oil, all they will get for horrific human rights abuses is just a playful wink and a slap on the wrist.

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