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Abusive Elements Remain; Changes Exclude Domestic Workers

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia introduced labor reforms in March 2021 that will ease restrictions and allow some migrant workers to change jobs without employer consent under certain narrow circumstances, Human Rights Watch said today. The reforms,…
Foreign laborers work on the construction of new luxury houses in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, April 2019.
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Ongoing Repression, Absence of Civil Society Impede Progress

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia recently announced a series of important and necessary reforms, but ongoing repression and a lack of respect for basic rights are major barriers to progress, Human Rights Watch said today. The repression of independent civil…
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a large billboard in London, England.
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Disparaging References to Shia, Sufi Practices Remain Despite Progress

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia has taken important steps to purge its school religion textbooks of hateful and intolerant language, but the current texts maintain language that disparages practices associated with religious minorities, Human Rights Watch…
Then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a graduation ceremony at King Faisal Air College in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2017. © 2017 Reuters
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Forthcoming Kafala Reforms Overlook Vulnerable Domestic Workers

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia should put in place labor and immigration reforms to protect domestic workers, including personal drivers, Human Rights Watch said today. New Human Rights Watch research highlights that domestic workers remain the least…
Foreign laborers work on the construction of new luxury houses in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, April 2019.
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Migrant Workers Face Abuse and Exploitation

There are reports this week that Saudi authorities are seeking to abolish the notorious kafala (sponsorship) system in 2021. Under that system, some 10 million migrant workers’ legal status are tied to their employer—facilitating abuse and…
Trapped in Employer's home
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New Human Rights Watch Campaign Against Whitewashing Rights Violations

(Beirut) – The Saudi government has spent billions of dollars hosting major entertainment, cultural, and sporting events as a deliberate strategy to deflect from the country’s image as a pervasive human rights violator, Human Rights Watch said today.…
Nicki Minaj
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Safety Concerns for Activists, Ex-Crown Prince, Cleric

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia has denied some prominent detainees contact with their family members and lawyers for months, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter requesting access to the country and private prison visits with detainees. The situation…
Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been on hunger strike for six days before Saudi authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on August 31, according to family members. Al-Hathloul had spent almost three months before that in incommunicado detention.
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Unwarranted Amid Health Risks, Global Travel Restrictions

(Beirut) – People in immigration detention in Gulf countries pending deportation should be given alternatives to detention amid health risks and global travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said today.…
A worker rests at his accommodation in Qadisiya labor camp, Saudi Arabia August 17, 2016.
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Previous Campaign Marred by Lack of Due Process, Torture Allegations

  (Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s new mass arrest of 298 government employees on suspicion of corruption raises human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi…
Women walk past a poster of Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during Janadriyah Cultural Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2018.
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Positive Reforms for Women Tainted by Ongoing Arrests of Activists, Dissidents

(Beirut) – Saudi authorities carried out a sweeping campaign of repression against independent dissidents and activists, including two waves of mass arrests, in 2019, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.    The arrests and…
Women walk past a poster of Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during Janadriyah Cultural Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2018.
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Arrests, Torture, Murder Accompany Reforms

(Washington, DC) – Important social reforms enacted under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics, Human Rights Watch said in a report…
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Trafficking, Exploitation, Torture, Abusive Prison Conditions

(Addis Ababa) – Ethiopians undertaking the perilous journey by boat across the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden face exploitation and torture in Yemen by a network of trafficking groups, Human Rights Watch said today. They also encounter abusive prison…
African migrants receive food and water inside a football stadium in the Red Sea port city of Aden in Yemen, on April 23, 2019. © AFP/Getty Images
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Criticized ‘Extremism’ in School Curriculum

(Beirut) – Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Saudi religious reformist thinker on a host of vague charges relating to his peaceful religious ideas, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi authorities arrested Hassan…
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Alleged Forced Confession for Supporting Protests

(Beirut) – Saudi authorities are seeking to lengthen the prison sentence of a cleric known for supporting protests against the systematic discrimination of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority, Human Rights Watch said today. The…
Sheikh Mohammad Hassan al-Habib
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French Arms Sales to Coalition Raise Complicity Concerns

(Paris) – President Emmanuel Macron of France should raise serious concerns with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince regarding laws-of-war violations in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab…
Saudi-led coalition aircraft struck three apartment buildings in Faj Attan, a densely populated neighborhood in Sanaa, on August 25, 2017. Two of the buildings were completely destroyed and the third suffered extensive damage. Saudi-led coalition aircraft
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World Leaders, Journalists Should Demand Accounting for Rights Abuses

  (Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s admission that government representatives killed Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018 has sparked intensified and overdue scrutiny of the country’s human…
 Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Pervasive Discrimination Against Shia Persists

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has recently made moves likely to appeal to the country’s Shia minority. This includes neutering the country’s once-powerful religious establishment, which has spewed anti-Shia vitriol and…
Illustration of a sword made out of writing © 2017 Adam Maida for Human Rights Watch
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Superficial reforms leave religious minorities behind—and that's dangerous

After generating some positive press earlier this summer by lifting the ban on women driving, Saudi Arabia is once more the target of reproach. In August, the country’s notorious terrorism court sought the death penalty against Israa al…
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Respond to Youth Demands, Gain Respect in the World

(Beirut) – Middle East and North Africa (MENA) governments can respond to the popular demands of the region’s youth for reform by implementing five changes in 2018 to arbitrary, outdated legal systems that infringe upon citizens’ rights and liberties,…
Demonstration outside Parliament on December 6, 2016, with women in white dresses and wrapped in bandages, calling for the repeal of article 522 of the penal code.
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Textbooks Disparage Sufi, Shia; Label Jews, Christians ‘Unbelievers’

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s school religious studies curriculum contains hateful and incendiary language toward religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam, Human Rights Watch said today. The texts disparage Sufi…
Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Semester Program, Level Three, 2016-17, p. 104