Saudi Arabia & Bahrain: 5 Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Push Saudi Officials to Support Reforms

U.S. Rep Hank Johnson and four other Members of Congress have written a letter to President Obama urging him to push Saudi Arabian officials to be “more constructive” regarding political reform in Bahrain.  The core sentence in the letter is the following:

Long-term stability in Bahrain can only be achieved through meaningful political reform, and we urge you to encourage the Saudi government to play a more constructive role in this regard.

Being “more constructive?”  That’s definitely an understatement. 

As my colleagues wrote in our April 2012 report, “Flawed Reforms Bahrain Fails To Achieve Justice For Protesters” (PDF): 

On 15 March 2011, Saudi Arabia sent at least 1,200 troops to Bahrain across the causeway linking the two states, reportedly at the request of the Bahraini government. The same day,the King of Bahrain declared a three-month state of emergency, known as the State of National Safety, and gave the security forces sweeping powers to arrest and detain protesters and ban all protests.

Al-Monitor: “Members press Obama to raise human rights in Saudi Arabia” (Article)

“This is the beginning of an expression of popular concern articulated through the US Congress about that relationship,” predicted Sunjeev Bery, the advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. “The Saudi Arabian government’s repression is so bad across so many fronts that it has created an environment in Washington, DC, where multiple groups representing multiple communities are all pushing Congress at the same time.”

 

Article:  “Members press Obama to raise human rights in Saudi Arabia”

Julian Pecquet, March 25, 2014

An unusual alliance of conservative Christian Republicans and liberal Democrats are putting pressure on President Barack Obama to publicly address human rights violations when he visits Saudi Arabia on Friday, March 28, further complicating the president’s effort to mend bridges with the kingdom.

The letter, which was first made public by Al-Monitor last week, has been endorsed by groups as varied as Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women and Voice of the Martyrs. It calls on the president to denounce the “systematic human rights violations targeting women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers.”

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It’s Official: 70 in U.S. Congress Urge President Barack Obama to Back Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

A large, bipartisan group of Members of Congress has sent a formal letter to President Obama calling on him to “publicly address Saudi Arabia’s serious human rights violations” when he visits the country this Friday.

Led by Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, and Jackie Speier, the letter is supported by a total of 70 elected U.S. Representatives.  The signers cover the full ideological spectrum in U.S. politics:  liberal Democrats, “Blue Dog” Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Tea Party-backed conservatives.

How did this happen?

Josh Rogin broke the news at The Daily Beast and offered context:

The letter was signed by a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and John Lewis (D-GA). NGOs on the letter included Amnesty International, International Christian Concern, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide – USA, and the National Organization for Women.

Julian Pecquet covered the story at Al-Monitor and shared my arguments for why:

The letter, which was first made public by Al-Monitor last week, has been endorsed by groups as varied as Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women and Voice of the Martyrs…

“This is the beginning of an expression of popular concern articulated through the US Congress about that relationship,” predicted Sunjeev Bery, the advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. “The Saudi Arabian government’s repression is so bad across so many fronts that it has created an environment in Washington, DC, where multiple groups representing multiple communities are all pushing Congress at the same time.”

For too long, the U.S. government has prioritized geopolitics and oil instead of basic freedoms in its relationship with this highly repressive ally.  Large cracks of congressional dissent are starting to emerge into the light.

Read the full letter from Congress here (PDF).

The Numbers Keep Rising: 60 Members of Congress Now Urging President Obama to Support Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

What was 50 has now become 60: The number of Members of Congress signing the letter to President Obama continues to grow.

Who is on the list?

Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, Jackie Speier, John Lewis, Rush Holt, Robert Aderholt, Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan, Peter Roskam, Barbara Lee, Ted Poe, Kerry Bentivolio, James Sensenbrenner, Earl Blumenauer, Gus Bilirakis, Raúl M. Grijalva, Vance McAllister, Tim Huelskamp, Bill Johnson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Steve Chabot, Vicky Hartzler, Sheila Jackson Lee, Charles B. Rangel, Scott Rigell, Randy Weber, Joe Pitts, Robert Pittenger, Mark Meadows, Lloyd Doggett, Jan Schakowsky, Eleanor Holmes Norton, William Keating, Blake Farenthold, Reid Ribble, Chris Smith, Mike McIntyre, Donna F. Edwards, Maxine Waters, Mike Honda, Louie Gohmert, Jim Moran, Carol Shea-Porter, Steve Stivers, Bobby Rush, Albio Sires, Hank Johnson, Doug Collins, Chellie Pingree, Mike Doyle, Alan Lowenthal, Niki Tsongas, Peter DeFazio, John F. Tierney, Rodney Davis, Emanuel Cleaver, Dan Lipinski, Ann Wagner, Chris Van Hollen, Gary C. Peters.

Over 50 Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Stand Up for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

Over 50 Members of Congress have signed a letter to President Obama urging him to end business as usual with Saudi Arabia’s repressive government and stand up for human rights.  For too long, the U.S. has prioritized politics and oil over basic freedom in its alliance with Saudi Arabia’s monarchy.  The effort has been led by U.S. Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, and Jackie Speier.

The Franks-McGovern-Wolf-Speier congressional letter urges President Obama to:

  • Seek a meeting with women activists in Saudi Arabia who are challenging the country’s ban on women drivers.
  • Seek a meeting with family members of prominent peaceful human rights advocates who are imprisoned.
  • Urge King Abdullah to make specific human rights reforms:  religious freedom, lifting bans on freedom of association, ending torture, reforming laws that criminalize peaceful dissent, and stopping repression of women and religious minorities.

Diverse and noteworthy organizations are backing the effort — christian religious freedom organizations, US women’s rights groups, human rights advocates, and more:

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Read the Letter: What We Want President Obama to Do in Saudi Arabia this Friday

This Friday, President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia, a country whose government is highly repressive.   But instead of raising human rights, Obama’s trip has been described by The New York Times as focused on “fence-mending.”

This is the wrong approach.

As we say in our Amnesty International letter to President Obama:

For too long, the U.S. has put geopolitics and access to energy over support for human rights in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. As an ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia has been spared the blunt criticisms that U.S. officials make of other governments that commit serious human rights violations.

Want to read the full letter?  Scroll down, or download the PDF.

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