Waleed Abulkhair

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Waleed Abulkhair
Waleed Abulkhair in November 2012
Waleed Abulkhair in November 2012
Born (1979-06-17) 17 June 1979 (age 37)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Occupation Lawyer and human rights activist
Years active 2007-present
Children Joud Waleed Abulkhair

Waleed Sami Abulkhair (Arabic: وليد أبوالخير‎‎) is a Saudi Arabian lawyer and human rights activist, and the head of the "Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia" (MHRSA) organization. He was listed by Forbes magazine as one of Top 100 Most Influential Arabs on Twitter. He is the first activist to be prosecuted by the Terrorism Law. He was arrested on 15 April 2014 and was sent to Alhair "political prison" while prosecution. On July 6, 2014, Abulkhair was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Specialized Criminal Court, (10 years executed and five suspended) and travel ban for another 15-year in addition to a fine of 200 thousand riyals. On 12 January 2015 the case returned from the Court of Appeal, after the judge requested increasing the previous judgment because AbuAlkhair refused to apologize. Thus, the judgment was tightened to 15-year executed. Abulkhair prayed for God’s victory and insisted not to recognize the court and the legitimacy of the SCC. Abulkhair is still in prison in the Capital of Saudi Arabia far away from his hometown in Jeddah.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Waleed was born in Jeddah, west of Saudi Arabia. He comes from a Hejazi family of judges and Imams of the Holy Mosque. One of them is Abdullah Ahmed Murdad Abu Alkhair who taught in the Holy Mosque of Makkah. His class was near Alsafa door. He has a great knowledge in religious sciences, history and biographies. He became a judge in Makkah in the last days of Alshareef Hussain Bin Ali era until he died. Then he became the head of preachers and an Imam in the Holy Mosque.

He was killed in Ta'if massacre. He has a famous book entitled "Spreading Light and Flowers in the Biographies of the Great Men of Makkah from 10th to 11th Centuries.[3]

Waleed's grandfather Mohammed Saeed AbuAlkhair was one of Jeddah commissioner who signed the agreement with King Abdulaziz under the condition that ruling Hejaz must be self-governing under the guidance of the Holy Quran and prophets sayings and the four leading Imams guidance.[4]

Waleed has got his bachelor's degree in 2003 in Arabic Language from King AbduAziz University. In 2009, he got his master's degree in the Islamic law from Alyarmook University in Jordan after approving his thesis (Affinities and Differences in the Evidences and Reasons and Judgements: a Consolidating applicable and Comparative Study). The Thesis was supervised by Dr. AbdulJaleel Zuhair Thamrah.[5] Waleed has memorized the Holy Quran by heart and got a license from Shaikh Obaid Allah AlAfqani and was approved by the Teaching Board of the Holy Mosque in Madinah.

Professional career and human rights activism[edit]

In 2007 Waleed Abulkhair began his career in the legal profession, where he joined lawyer Essam Basrawi and worked in his office.

In the same year, Waleed - along with several other activists - launched a statement entitled Features of a Constitutional Monarchy, which explicitly demanded the ruling family of Saudi Arabia change the current regime of absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

Waleed Abulkhair took defense of a number of defendants in the case of Jeddah reformers, including Dr. Mossa bin Mohammed Al-Qarni and Dr. Saud al-Hashimi and Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Shumaimri, who were arrested in February 2007. He filed a lawsuit on June 22, 2009 against the Interior Ministry because of detention for his client without charge.[6] He was also hired by the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia to defend one of its nationals detained by Saudi authorities.

Abulkhair was one of those who signed a famous petition called “Toward a State of Rights and Institutions”.[7]

Demanding the release of detainees who he considered to be political prisoners, Waleed organized what he called "the first hunger strike campaign in Saudi Arabia for human rights", lasting for 48 hours.

He signed other two petitions again in 2011 which are “Towards a State of Rights and Institutions”, the “National Declaration for Reform”, which calls for radical reforms in the political system coincided with waves of protests in the Arab world against the corrupt Arab regimes.[2]

He is the founder of Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), an independent human rights organization founded in 2008. In December of that year the Monitor site was blocked, resulting in it being rebuilt on social networking site Facebook. However, in May 2009, this page was also blocked.[6] In 2012, Waleed registered and licensed the Monitor at the Canadian Ministry of Labor, becoming the first Saudi human rights organization to be licensed abroad. Waleed Abulkhair then sent a letter appealing to the King to allow recognition of the organization in Saudi Arabia. The Royal Court replied by transmitting the request to the Interior Ministry, which opened an investigation into the organization.[8][9]

Waleed Abulkhair represented Raif Badawi, founder the Saudi Liberal Network Internet discussion group, after he was arrested for establishing the network and charged with "committing violations of legitimacy" and "insulting the Divine self." [10]

Waleed was a prominent role in the voluntary processes that got during the Jeddah torrents where he established with some young activists a page on the social networking "Facebook" entitled (Save Jeddah Campaign) which were effective means of communication between young people in the time of crisis in the rescue operations.

In March 2012, Waleed registered in a six-week course titled "Democratic leaders" at Syracuse University in New York sponsored by the US State Department, but the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in Jeddah summoned him and told him that he was banned from traveling.[11] In January 25, 2013 Samar Badawi received on behalf of her husband, Waleed the Olof Palme Prize in Sweden as a recognition for his "strong and continuous struggle and characterized by selflessness in order to promote respect for human rights and civil rights for both men and women",[12][13] Then, Waleed gave the prize to activist Abdullah al-Hamid as a gift. Waleed Abulkhair was arrested on April 15 - 2014 by court order from the judge before the end of the trial.[14]

Samar Badawi case[edit]

Samar Badawi is a Saudi woman who was detained in jail for seven months because of the accusations of not obeying her father. Waleed adopted her case and defended her in Saudi courts, and launched a campaign to demand her release by using various social media such as "Twitter" and "Facebook". In addition, he created a special blog to publish all updates and documents related to the case. After three weeks, the campaign had achieved its goals and Badawi was released from prison. After that she got married to Waleed Abulkhair، after two month of his detention she gave birth to their daughter Joud. In 2015 November while Abulkhair is still in prison, he and Samar Badawi agreed to divorce.[15]

Raif Badawi case[edit]

He was a lawyer for Raif Badawi before detention when he was sentenced to death for insulting religion but he dropped the case and then directly he was detained and Raif was sentenced to jail.

Raif Badawi and Samar Badawi are siblings.

Media presence[edit]

Waleed conducted interviews with international channels, including a meeting which was conducted by Kevin Sliven to the Washington Post, Jacob Timblin for Times magazine, and Pierre Pray for Le Figaro newspaper, as well as Frank Gardner for the BBC. Waleed also wrote several articles for the world newspaper, including two essays for The Washington Post first titled "steadfastness towards free Saudi state."[16] and the other entitled "prison sentence for peaceful activity in Saudi Arabia."[17] He also wrote an article entitled "obstacle in front of Saudis and fear" published by the Institute for War and Peace Reports, and wrote an article published on the MSNBC site entitled "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and stifle dissent in the name of combating terrorism." [18]

Waleed wrote over 300 articles in local newspapers in Arabic in which he addressed various legal and human rights issues.

Amnesty International published the last article written by Waleed Abulkhair before his imprisonment entitled "Even from prison, you can still light a candle" ” after his imprisonment.[19]

The last meeting with him before his arrest was with Alasr magazine,[20] in which he stated that "the ACPRA association is no longer an association only, but is an idea, and the idea is bulletproof, and resist arrests and repression. It is an excuse to God and to the people. ACPRA is a historical case in this spot of world to improve that people have not liked all this injustice and stood bravely against it." He added a sort of speech saying: "We sacrifice for so long dear Friends, it is a difficult time in which our sincerity and loyalty to our principles and colleagues are tested. This time we will not realize the value of our actions, but after a while, as we do not realize the value of love until we give it, then we can reach the noble goals and surrender to the pain. Blessed are those who meet our free colleagues. To my mother and my father and the rest of my family: I do not know if I’m going to be released after 3 months or stay longer, but what I'm doing is the right thing, I did not let down freedom on which I was raised. So be proud, make sure that your son did not steal, loot or hypocrite, your son told the oppressor this is unfair.. "

Lately, on August 26, 2014, Washington Post published its story in an article entitled “Saudi Arabia Continues its Outrageous Repression on Human Rights Activists” in which it wrote about the judgement against Waleed describing it as “ the latest in a long and sorrowful series of persecutions of those who stand for human rights and dignity in the kingdom”.[2]

Internationally[edit]

Waleed has built a global reputation as a reliable and certified source for the international community on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia in 2010. He has attended two meetings under the sponsorship of the Organization of Bridging in the Gulf, the first held in the European Parliament to discuss the human rights situation in the Gulf States, and the second was held in Kuwait and was on the status of human rights activists in the Gulf states. He also attended a conference held by the Human Rights Watch in Bahrain. He also attended a meeting with a number of European diplomats sponsored by Front Line Defenders Org to discuss human rights issues in the Gulf states. In the same year, Waleed developed his skills in human rights work by attending a course entitled to monitor and document human rights violations, organized by the Bahrain Human Rights Society in cooperation with the Scandinavian Organization for Human Rights. He also participated in the summit of the Alliance of Youth Movements, which was held in Mexico. In addition, he got the coach in human rights training and a license from the Human Rights Information Center in Yemen.

Smood, the weekly salon[edit]

As a reaction to the Saudi authorities decision to shut down "Bridges Café" in Jeddah, which was a meeting point for Saudi youth to talk and discuss several topics, Abu al-Khair started a weekly gathering in his living room, hosting a few dozen of people, most of them politically engaged Saudi youth from different backgrounds. Topics focused on political, religious and human rights issues, in addition to cultural and intellectual subjects. The salon is named “Smood” (صمود), an Arabic word that can be translated as “resistance” or “steadfastness.”

Smood was attacked heavily by many conservatives in social media and on TV. It has been claimed that the salon encouraged atheism and skepticism, especially after Hamza Kashgari’s case knowing that he was a personal friend of Abu al-Khair and many other regular visitors to the meetings. One day, few conservatives visited Smood and secretly recorded the discussion without the attendees' permission; on the next day, they tweeted negatively about the topics discussed and the type of people attending Smood. Moreover, they contacted a TV show and requested from the government and the Hai'ia to take serious action against such meetings. Abulkhair defended his salon by saying that he is offering the freedom of speech, the freedom of belief and the freedom of expression, which are things that cannot be provided outside the door of his house.[21][22]

Waleed Talks[edit]

Following his imprisonment, a series of English-subtitled videos, which had been shot before, were released explaining his views. The first video was published on May 25, 2014 in which he talked about his view on freedom.[23] In the video, Abulkhair says:

I might get worried only about my wife and my family but in all what happened and will happen to me I am enjoying because I feel I am practicing what makes me happy, which is my freedom.

The second video, published on August 4, 2014, was entitled Why did I deny the legitimacy of the Specialized Criminal Court? in which Abulkhair strongly criticized the court hearing his case because it was "not independent" and strongly tied to the executive bodies.[24]

Detention and Trial[edit]

Abulkhair was facing two trials. On February 4, 2014, the Court of Appeals in Makkah, approved a 3-month sentence for charges of contempt of the judiciary against Abulkhair. However, Waleed remained free.[25]

On April 15, 2014, Waleed got arrested in the Specialized Criminal Court when he was attending the fifth session of the trial. His family did not receive any news about him until the next day, when his wife went to the court and was told that he had been arrested and sent to Al-Ha'ir Prison. His wife then visited Al-Ha'ir Prison and was denied speaking to him.[25]

The second trial of Abulkhair started on November 4, 2013 and the charges included breaking allegiance to the ruler, disrespecting the authorities, creating an unauthorized association and supervising it (MHRSA), contributing to the establishment of another organization (ACPRA) and inciting the public opinion. These charges had already been considered in Jeddah Court at the first trial which issued his 3-month sentence.[25]

On 22 April 2014, one week after his arrest, his wife said that he was under "torture for political purposes." [26]

On 4 February 2015, authorities transferred him for the sixth time of his imprisonment to former Ha'ir prison.[27]

Amnesty International demanded the release of Waleed “immediately and unconditionally, because it is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression”. Human Rights Watch called for his release “immediately and to drop the charges against him”. Front Line Defenders commented that the detention is unfair for he has practiced his legitimate and peaceful work in the field of human rights only. Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrest, saying that this trial that it is not only a tragic farce orchestrated by the Saudi authorities to crack down on all opposition voices. After the arrest of Waleed, tens of young people in Saudi Arabia and the gulf countries wrote messages of solidarity with him. On May 15, Amnesty International published an article by Waleed which he wrote to be published after for his arrest. Waleed refused to recognize the legitimacy of the specialized security and plead before the court, for refusing to “crimes of terrorism and its financing law,” which he was prosecuted according to it.[2]

Judgment[edit]

On July 7, 2014, Abulkhair was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment (10 years executed and five suspended), followed by 15 years of ban on travel. The Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah found him guilty of "undermining the regime and officials", "inciting public opinion" and "insulting the judiciary." In addition, Abulkhair was fined 200,000 riyals (£31,110).[28]

On 12 January 2015 the case returned from the Court of Appeal, after the judge requested increasing the previous judgment because AbuAlkhair refused to apologize. Thus, the judgment was tightened to 15-year executed. Abulkhair prayed for God’s victory and insisted not to recognize the court and the legitimacy of the SCC.[2]

On February 12, 2015, a known activist “Mujtahid” published part of the judgment document via his account in Twitter which Waleed Abulkhair refused to take a copy of it.[2]

The judgement was criticized by international human rights organizations such as HRW,[1] Reporters Without Borders,[29] Amnesty International.[30] In addition, it was criticized by both the U.S. Department of State[31][32] and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.[33] On 25 February 2015, members of the Green Party in the Austrian Parliament moved to demand the release Abulkhair.[34] On 3 March 2015 around 67 members of United States Congress wrote a speech to King Salman asking him to do reforms in political issues and to release the detainee activists and lawyers and they mentioned Waleed AbuAlkhair[35]

Prison[edit]

Waleed Abulkhair’s wife told Human Rights Watch that, since his arrest in April, Abulkhair was transferred 5 times. In the last transport, authorities initially refused to inform his family of his place. In Bryman prison in Jeddah, he was beaten on the back and dragged out of prison with chains on him, which injured his feet, after he refused to cooperate in his transfer to another prison. On February 4, 2015, the authorities transferred him for the sixth time of his imprisonment in Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh where he is spending his conviction now.[2]

Publications[edit]

  • Our steadfast pursuit of a freer Saudi Arabia, Washington Post, April 2012.[36]
  • Saudis Stymied by Fear, Institute for War & Peace Reporting, July 2011.[37]
  • "Jailed in Saudi Arabia for peaceful activism", Washington Post, November 2013.

Additionally, Abulkhair has published over 300 articles in Saudi newspapers concerning legal reforms and human rights issues.

Honors[edit]

Waleed Abulkhair was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.[38]

In January 25, 2013 Samar Badawi received, Walidthe Swedish Oalf Palma Award because Waleed was banned from travel by that time. The prize was given to him in recognition for his “strong and continuous struggle characterized by selfless in order to promote respect for human rights and civil rights for both men and women”. Waleed bestowed the award upon the detainee activist Dr. Abdullah al-Hamed.[2]

On June 12, 2015, he was designated as the prizewinner of Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, the largest prize in the field of human rights in Europe, which has already been awarded to Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa.[39]

On November 24, 2016, the Law Society of Upper Canada announced that the 2016 Law Society of Upper Canada Human Rights Award would be granted jointly to Waleed Abulkhair and Dr. Cindy Blackstock.[40]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia: 15-Year Sentence for Prominent Activist". Human Rights Watch. 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "| Waleed Abulkhair Blog". waleedabulkhairen.com. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  3. ^ "وجوه حجازية - مجلة الحجاز". 
  4. ^ "وثيقة البيعة بين أهل الحجاز (وفيهم جدي) والملك عبدالعزيز على العمل بالكتاب والسنة وعمل والسلف والمذاهب الأربعة". Twitter. 
  5. ^ "الجمع و الفرق في الأدلة و العلل و الأحكام : دراسة تأصيلية تطبيقية مقارنة". 
  6. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia – Increasing threats and harassment against human rights defender, Mr Waleed Sami Abu-Alkhair". frontlinedefenders. 
  7. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Drop Charges Against Human Rights Lawyer". 
  8. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Rights Groups Blocked From Operating". 
  9. ^ "Saudi Arabia- Head of Monitor of Human Rights at risk of being targeted by authorities following successful registration of the organization in Canada". 
  10. ^ أبو الخير: النطق بالحكم في قضية رائف بدوي الأثنين المقبل (in Arabic). 
  11. ^ "Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer banned from travelling to US". 
  12. ^ "Saudi and Tunisian Human Rights Defenders Awarded the 2012 Olof Palme Prize". 
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia / Sweden- Human Rights Defender Waleed Sami Abu Al-Khair Awarded the 2012 Olof Palme Prize". 
  14. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Free Prominent Rights Activist". 
  15. ^ "samar story". 
  16. ^ "Steadfast in pursuing a freer Saudi Arabia". The Washington Post. 20 April 2012. 
  17. ^ Abulkhair, Waleed (26 November 2013). "Sentenced in Saudi Arabia for peaceful activism". The Washington Post. 
  18. ^ "Saudi Arabia is stifling dissent in the name of counter-terrorism". 
  19. ^ "'Even from prison, you can still light a candle'". 
  20. ^ الحقوقي وليد أبو الخير مترقبا لحظة اعتقاله: إما الصمود أو الاستسلام (in Arabic). 
  21. ^ Templin, Jacob (12 July 2012). "In Saudi Arabia, Activists Speak Out Online and in Private". TIME.com. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  22. ^ "وليد ابوالخير و ديوانيه الصمود ديوانيه الألحاد والكفر". YouTube (in Arabic). 6 March 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  23. ^ "وليد أبو الخير يتحدث (1) ـ عن الحرية". Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  24. ^ "وليد أبو الخير يتحدث (2) ـ لماذا لم يعترف بالمحكمة الأمنية المتخصصة؟". Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  25. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia: Free Prominent Rights Activist". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  26. ^ (Arabic) ""أكثر السعوديات شجاعة" تدافع عن زوجها المعتقل". BBC. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  27. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair transferred to faraway prison". 2015-02-11. 
  28. ^ http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/waleed-abulkhair-given-15-years-activism-who-influential-saudi-human-rights-lawyer-1455611
  29. ^ Jailed and on Trial for Reporting Human Rights Violations. Reporters Without Borders. 20 June 2014.
  30. ^ "New anti-terror law used to imprison Saudi Arabian human rights activist". Amnesty International. 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  31. ^ "US 'troubled' by jailing of Saudi rights activist". Yahoo! News. 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  32. ^ Sentencing of Saudi Human Rights Lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair. U.S. Department of State. 7 July 2014.
  33. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Pillay concerned by harsh sentences against human rights defenders". Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2014-07-10. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  34. ^ http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXV/A/A_00907/fname_385508.pdf
  35. ^ Members of the United States Congress (3 March 2015). "Letter to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud" (PDF) – via Amnesty International USA. 
  36. ^ "Our steadfast pursuit of a freer Saudi Arabia". Washington Post. April 20, 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  37. ^ "Saudis Stymied by Fear". Institute for War & Peace Reporting. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  38. ^ Saving Raif Badawi: We Are Prepared to Present Ourselves, Also Give Him the Nobel Peace Prize
  39. ^ [1]
  40. ^ [2]