On June 29, 2010 in Washington D.C., human rights groups and volunteers picketed the White House sidewalk and Pennsylvania Avenue while Saudi Arabian King Abdullah met with U.S. President Obama.
While King Abdullah and President Obama were meeting, Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, united to demonstrate in front of the White House to call for President Obama to urge Saudi King Abdullah to support women’s rights and religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, and urged King Abdullah to follow through with previous calls for reforms.
Groups of demonstrators included representatives of and volunteers supporting The Institute for Gulf Affairs, Islamic Information Center (IIC), Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR), Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), and Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.). CDHR, Gulf Institute, and R.E.A.L. had all separately planned demonstrations for that day at the White House. Some groups decided to consolidate their efforts at the White House.
Demonstrators in support of freedom for religious minorities and women in Saudi Arabia represented a broad cross-section of individuals: women, men, Muslims, non-Muslims, Arabs, non-Arabs, white and black Americans. They stood before the White House to urge President Obama to focus on what must be America’s real “common cause” with Saudi Arabia – our shared human rights and human dignity.
Demonstrators from the combined supporters of The Institute for Gulf Affairs, IIC, and R.E.A.L. also chanted slogans at the Saudi mission leaders and the White House during the meeting between President Obama and King Abdullah.
One woman demonstrator led a chant for women’s rights, shouting to the Saudi leaders that “women are not property,” and calling for Saudi Arabia to “end gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.”
Other demonstration chants at the White House including “end religious oppression in Saudi Arabia,” “free Hadi and Nathalie,” and “religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.”
Protesters picketed the White House sidewalk with signs and distributed fliers on human rights issues, as Saudi mission leaders were entering the White House gates. One individual entering the White House stopped to take photographs of the demonstrators. The IIC’s Mahdi Husain and R.E.A.L.’s Jeffrey Imm picketed past Saudi mission individuals as they took photographs of the demonstrators.
The demonstrators also called upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to act on victims of religious oppression in that nation. The Institute for Gulf Affair’s Director Ali Al-Ahmed denounced such religious oppression, remarking on Hadi Al-Mutif, the longest serving religious prisoner in Saudi Arabia. Hadi Al-Mutif has been in prison for 17 years for a joking comment as a teenager that was viewed as blasphemous by a Saudi court, and was originally accused of apostasy and sentenced to death, even though Hadi Al-Mutif is a Muslim. Hadi Al-Mutif remains in prison and has alleged physical abuse, and much of his time in prison has been in solitary confinement. The Gulf Institute has been promoting a petition calling for the freedom of Hadi Al-Mutif.
R.E.A.L.’s Jeffrey Imm also distributed an orange flier summarizing the concerns of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) regarding the need for religious freedom, freedom of worship, and religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia. The USCIRF made specific recommendations to President Obama to address such concerns in his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah.
Demonstrators also called for the religious freedom of Canadian Nathalie Morin who, along with her children, has been held a prisoner by her common-law husband in Saudi Arabia. The DC Chapter of the Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), held a protest demonstration outside of the Saudi Embassy on this subject on Saturday, June 26, 2010. The June 26 protest was led by MPV’s Fatima Thompson. The Canadian branch of MPV also held a protest in Toronto on June 26, outside the G20 Summit.
At the Tuesday, June 29 protest at the White House, MPV’s Fatima Thompson passed out fliers to the White House visitors, engaging them to become aware of the plight of Nathalie Morin and Hadi Al-Mutif in Saudi Arabia. She urged women to become educated on the women’s rights issues challenging Saudi women in terms of the guardianship program and the challenge to women’s rights in daily life and law in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
While Fatima Thompson was distributing fliers, R.E.A.L.’s Jeffrey Imm also addressed the White House visitors with his portable microphone system from the Pennsylvania Avenue area, while holding up posters with photographs showing the abuse that Nathalie Morin and her children have undergone in Saudi Arabia. R.E.A.L.’s Imm stated, “if a woman was beaten like this, if children were abused like this, in the United States, wouldn’t we call the police? The attack on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is very much a law enforcement issue – one of enforcing our universal human rights for women’s rights and dignity – consistently around the world.”
After protesting at the White House, the demonstrators then moved to outside the Blair House down the street from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue for visiting dignitaries to continue to send their message in support of religious freedom and women’s rights to the visiting Saudi mission. Demonstrators saw Saudi King Abdullah and his aides during the protest demonstration outside of Blair House.
While human rights activists demonstrated on June 29, 2010, Saudi King Abdullah and U.S. President Obama met and told the media of some areas of common interests. The news media reported that the two were finding common grounds on the topic of Middle East peace, as well as frustration with the media. King Abdullah, stated, regarding the media: “May God spare us from all of the bad things they can do to us. (Laughter) And may God — and may God bless us with all the positive things they can do for us and for humanity,” to which President Obama replied “Well, that is an excellent prayer.”
Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) stands in support of our unqualified, universal human rights for both women and men, and for the religious freedom, freedom of worship, and freedom of conscience for all. R.E.A.L. stands in support of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. But most importantly, R.E.A.L stands in support of our fellow human beings, and recognizes that all human rights campaigns are missions of mercy, and the most important element to successful human rights is compassion and dignity to all.
R.E.A.L. urges all to Choose Love, Not Hate – Love Wins.
R.E.A.L. urges the press of the world not to be silent about human rights violations and oppression, whether it is found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. R.E.A.L. urges the media and press to continue to be a voice of conscience in reporting the news of the world, no matter how inconvenient the truths of our conscience may be to world leaders.
Without such a compass of our conscience in human rights, all of our freedoms, including our freedom of expression, will remain endangered in too many parts of the world.
We must all be responsible for equality and liberty.
As additional photos are obtained from other volunteers, we will update this blog posting and the web link of photographs.
Demonstration Group Contacts:
The Institute for Gulf Affairs
Ali Al-Ahmed, Director
Islamic Information Center (IIC)
Mahdi Husain, Public Relations
Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR)
Ali H. Alyami, Executive Director
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV)
Washington DC Activist: Fatima Thompson
Groups’ Upcoming Events
The human rights groups all have additional upcoming events this summer. The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) has a conference on Muslim scholars’ warnings on radicalism on July 20, 2010 in Washington DC on Capitol Hill, 4:00pm – 6:30pm, Rayburn House Office Building Room B-369. The Islamic Information Center (IIC) has a conference in Washington DC at the Capitol Hilton on July 23 through 25. The Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) group has an annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia on August 6 through 8.
Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) has a public outreach scheduled for Sunday July 11 at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool at 2 PM, where it encourages Muslims and non-Muslims to join together to demonstrate our shared support for democracy and freedom, in response to groups that seek to deny such freedoms, and urges those interested to contact R.E.A.L. at firstname.lastname@example.org