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A student jailed for her tweets – thanks to the Saudi regime’s enablers | Arwa Mahdawi

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 was traveling home to Saudi Arabia for a holiday when she found herself summoned and charged before a special terrorism court using a website to “cause public disorder and destabilize 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, was also banned from traveling for 34 years.

It’s not exactly a secret Saudi Arabia is sensitive to criticism and tends to deal with dissidents over bone saws or prison 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 imprisoned 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 attracted mainstream attention in the West just this week The Washington Post picked it up and published an editorial urging Joe Biden to speak out vigorously on the issue. It is not surprising that the Post led the prosecution in this case: Post Opinions staffer Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who was brutally murdered almost four years ago, is a US native intelligence report found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved his killing.

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 saluted Prince Mohammed with fist bump. 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 hygienic 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 Companies like McKinsey, so it is convenient for the West to join in 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 puff pieces came out how great the crown prince was. CBS interviewed him and proclaimed that he was “emancipating women”; the New York Times Thomas Friedman wrote a free article 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 starred and helped narrate MBS sportswear and to clean up Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. 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 girls’ parents immediately beat them called for a gender investigation. 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 investigated 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 degree enough have a baby! That’s republican logic for you.

Strippers in LA are unionizing

Dancers at a strip club in Los Angeles signed up join the national association representing 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, raising awareness and vaccination against HPV, which is linked to cancer. Officials believe Rwanda could become the first country in the world it eliminates 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 sensible choices.”

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