I hope it was worth beating a bully, Biden!
Salma al-Shehab is in prison for a retweet. The 34-year-old Leeds University student and mother of two young boys was traveling home to Saudi Arabia for a holiday when she was summoned before a Special Terrorism Tribunal and accused of using a website to “cause public disorder and destabilizing civil and national security”. What does that mean in plain language? She had a Twitter account and retweeted some dissidents. For this “crime” she was sentenced to 34 years in prison and to make sure she really learned her lesson, she was sentenced to 34 years in prison also imposed a 34-year travel ban on her.
It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is sensitive to criticism and treats dissidents with bone saws or jail terms. What makes this case particularly chilling, however, is that Shehab is not a high-profile activist-in-exile with millions of followers; She has 159 followers on Instagram and just over 2,500 followers on Twitter. She’s not someone who’s been in the public eye all the time. She’s just an ordinary person with a Twitter account who, in addition to tweeting about her sons, occasionally retweets those critical of Saudi Arabia and expresses her support for suffragette Loujain al-Hathloul, who has also been jailed by the regime. The message from the oil-rich, law-poor kingdom here is very clear: It doesn’t matter who you are – if you criticize the regime, you will regret it.
Shehab has been jailed since January 2021 and has said she has been in solitary confinement for 285 days. God knows how she was treated during that time, but I think it’s pretty well known that Saudi prisons aren’t nice places, especially for women. Shamefully, her case only garnered mainstream attention in the West this week when the Washington Post picked it up and ran an editorial urging Joe Biden to speak out strongly on the issue. Not surprisingly, the Post led the prosecution in this case: Jamal Khashoggi, a Post Opinions contributor, a Saudi dissident, was brutally murdered nearly four years ago, and a US intelligence report revealed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was his assassination approved.
If you murder a prominent dissident on foreign soil and dismember his body with a bone saw, there should be consequences, don’t you think? Joe Biden promised at one point that would be the case; he vowed to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state. And then a few months ago he crawled into Saudi Arabia to beg for oil and gave Prince Mohammed a fist punch. While that might look pathetic at first glance, Biden assured us he was tough behind the scenes. The White House said Biden had raised “specific concerns” about human rights – which must have really scared the prince and made his boots tremble. In response to these concerns, Biden appears to have received some commitments “regarding reforms and institutional safeguards that are in place to guard against such behavior in the future.” “Any such behavior” is a very sanitized way of saying “saw journalists to pieces with a bone saw.” As the Washington Post noted in its scathing editorial, the “pledges” Biden received on reforms were clearly “a farce.”
Of course they were a farce! Any idiot could see that Prince Mohammed wasn’t going to suddenly develop a passion for human rights just because Biden told him to stop the murder malarkey. I’m sure Biden himself knew the commitments were a sham. But here’s the thing: Saudi Arabia is a useful ally, buying lots of expensive weapons, supplying lots of oil, and spending lots of money on companies like McKinsey, so it’s convenient for the West to join this farce. Indeed, in recent years, much of the Western media has tripped over their feet trying to portray Prince Mohammed as some sort of amazing “reformer.” In 2018, for example, after Saudi Arabia lifted the world’s only driving ban on women, dozens of rants erupted about how amazing the crown prince was. CBS interviewed him and proclaimed that he was “emancipating women”; the New York Times Thomas Friedman wrote a free piece entitled “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last”. The fact that Saudi Arabia was simultaneously imprisoning women’s rights activists and bombing Yemen to pieces, sparking one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, was less played up. Shame on every single person who took part in the narrative of MBS and helped wash and sanitize the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Autocrats have no power without enablers and Prince Mohammed has no end of them.
The Utah school has been secretly investigating whether the winning athlete is transgender
A girl in Iowa beat up her peers at a state-level school athletic competition. Instead of congratulating the child, the parents of the girls she beat immediately demanded a sex examination. And they got one: Gender police sifted through the girl’s school records, dating back to kindergarten, to find she was classified as female at birth. This isn’t an isolated case: The Utah High School Activities Association has reportedly addressed other complaints about athletes “not looking feminine enough.” This is a chilling reminder for those who need to be reminded that attacks on trans rights affect us all. “We warned about this possibility,” one transgender activist noted, “that anyone would blame anyone who succeeds for being transgender… It’s about judging women’s bodies. And no body is safe.”
Florida court rules 16-year-old girl not ‘mature enough’ to have an abortion
But she is mature enough to have a baby! That’s republican logic for you.
Strippers in LA are unionizing
Dancers at a Los Angeles strip club have applied to join the national union that represents theater actors in the United States. “We like what we do,” one dancer, Velveeta, said in a statement. “We would like our jobs even more if we had basic labor protections.”
Rwanda could be one of the first countries to eradicate cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women in Rwanda. The country has become a frontrunner in expanding testing, awareness-raising and vaccination against HPV, which is linked to the cancer. Officials believe Rwanda could be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer.
The week in paw triarchy
An intrepid seal made its way 150m from shore and broke through two cat flaps to hang out in the hallway of a New Zealand home, causing quite a shock to the family living there. How did the cat (Coco) feel about the intruder? Coco could not be reached for comment, but when she fled the property and ran to a neighbor’s house, we can only assume she wasn’t a fan of the seal. Apparently this is not entirely uncommon in New Zealand: young seals like to roam around. As the home’s owner noted, “I think like all teenagers, they don’t necessarily make wise choices.”