Saudiauthorities on August 11, 2014, forcibly moved an imprisoned rights activist to another prison almost 1,000 kilometers away from his family. Since the arrest of Waleed Abu al-Khair in April, authorities have moved him five times, shuffling him in and out of several facilities, sometimes without explanation. In the latest move, the authorities initially refused to tell his family where he was. He was allowed to call only 24 hours later.
Abu al-Khair’s wife, Samar Badawi, told Human Rights Watch that during the phone call, Abu al-Khair said that officials at Jeddah’s Bureiman prison beat him on his back and dragged him from the prison with chains, injuring his feet, after he refused to cooperate in his transfer to another prison the previous day. Abu al-Khair was moved to al-Malaz prison in Riyadh, over 960 kilometers from his family in Jeddah.
“Abu al-Khair shouldn’t be in prison at all, much less hustled from one prison to another almost a thousand kilometers away from his family,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Saudi authorities should stop tormenting Abu al-Khair and free him immediately and unconditionally.”
Abu al-Khair has been one of Saudi Arabia’s leading human rights advocates for years, and so a thorn in the side of the government. In July, the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal, convicted him on a number of broad and vaguely worded charges that stemmed solely from his peaceful activism, including comments to news outlets and on Twitter criticizing Saudi human rights violations. The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a 15-year ban on travel abroad, and a fine of 200,000 Saudi Riyals (US$53,000).
Fes, Morocco – Worshippers sit outside the famous Tijani mosque in the ancient Moroccan town of Fes, emerging through the dramatic arched gates fresh from prayer.
The mosque is named after Ahmed Tijani, the founder of one of the leading currents of Sufi Islam. Pilgrims have for many years come here from across West Africa, often on their way to Mecca. Tijani, who died in Fes in 1815, has millions of followers around the world. Fes is known as the spiritual capital of Morocco, a country with a strong Sufi heritage. In recent years, however, competing conservative currents of Islam have gained ground among the youth here. Sitting on a bench outside the Tijani mosque, Abdullah Gurnech, a retired army officer who has been coming to the mosque since his youth, says that poverty is one of the factors that has encouraged many to turn to Wahabism.
“The youth are more conservative today,” he says. Still, he says he is starting to notice more local worshippers at the Tijani mosque praying alongside the mainly Senegalese pilgrims. Two Gnawa performers wander through the winding streets of Fes, hunting for foreign tourists to play for.
Just as similar performers have been doing for decades, they also earn a living performing Sufi-inspired ceremonies in the homes of Moroccan families. Such mystical ceremonies, influenced not only by Islam but also West African traditional mysticism, draw the ire of ultra-conservatives, yet for many Moroccans they are part of their heritage.
And lately, says Khalid Hamid, a 30-year-old dressed in a dark purple gown, business has picked up among Moroccan clients. The Gnawa, like the Tijani, are one of several Sufi brotherhoods prevalent in Morocco. “There’s been more demand lately,” Hamid says. “At weddings and exorcisms of women who’ve been possessed.”
The Moroccan authorities have for several years been actively promoting Sufism, a strategy that has been aimed partly at taking some of the wind out of sails of political Islam.
You reap what you sow, be careful what you wish for, et cetera.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court has handed down its #McCutcheon v. FEC decision, deciding to strike down aggregate limits on direct political contributions by claiming they are unconstitutional based on the First Amendment.
It’s another major blow to America’s campaign finance system.
While we are not surprised by today’s outcome, we are disappointed that the plutocracy we predicted is now sanctioned by the high court. Thanks to the high court, wealthy donors can now pour millions more into federal elections - the decision effectively ties a big bow around Congress and delivers it to the 1%.
Read Sunlight’s full response to #SCOTUS's decision here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/04/02/sunlights-response-to-scotus-ruling-on-mccutcheon-v-fec/
PAUL KRUGMAN, writing in today’s New York Times, "That Old-Time Whistle."
The absolute truth in 27 words.
Graphics from Mother Jones: Now That’s What I Call Gerrymandering!
Perpetual ad infinitum.
Interestingly, measuring the convexity of a district tells you how badly it’s been gerrymandered.
The Guardian has a break-down of gay rights by state: see where your state stands.
Women were always the only adults in Washington.
It’s quite an irony that the U.S. Senate was once known for having the worst vestiges of a private men’s club: unspoken rules, hidden alliances, off-hours socializing and an ethic based at least as much on personal relationships as merit to get things done. That Senate—a fraternal paradise that worked despite all its obvious shortcomings—is long gone. And now the only place the old boys’ network seems to function anymore is among the four Republicans and 16 Democrats who happen to be women.
The notion that women in power function differently from men, more collaboratively and thus more effectively, has long been an intuitively appealing but empirically unproven theory. Lately, the U.S. Senate has been running a lab test. Women now chair or sit as ranking members of 10 of the Senate’s 20 committees and are responsible for passing the vast majority of legislation this year, whether it be the budget, the transportation bill, the farm bill, the Water Resources Development Act or the Violence Against Women Act.
More than 29 million people around the world are living in slavery, according to the first index to attempt to measure the scale of modern-day slavery on a country-by-country basis. (The International Labour Organization estimates 21 million people worldwide are in forced labour.) The index, published by the Walk Free Foundation on Thursday, ranks 162 countries and identifies risk factors for enslavement and the government responses.
Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion.
In 2013, modern slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names: slavery, forced labour or human trafficking. Whatever term is used, the significant characteristic of all forms of modern slavery is that it involves one person depriving another people of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another, their freedom to leave one workplace for another, their freedom to control their own body.”
The research found that around 10 countries hold about 70% of the world’s slaves. India has the highest number of people enslaved in absolute terms, approximately 14 million, almost half the total worldwide. China has 2.9 million enslaved and Pakistan is third, with an estimated 2 million.
Among the countries with the highest percentage of modern slavery per capita, the West African nation of Mauritania was the worst offender. According to the report, up to 20 percent of Mauritania’s population of 3.7 million people are enslaved, many through a hereditary system.
Head over to Global Slavery Index's website to see the interactive map of modern slavery around the world.
1. Fatima, a Bangladeshi migrant working as a low-paid prostitute in a central Calcutta brothel, was sold into the profession by her husband in collusion with a prostitute at the brothel where she now works. Though India ranks fourth on this list, it’s also the country with the highest number of people enslaved in the world. (Majority World/UIG via Getty Images)
2. Pakistani brick makers gather freshly moulded bricks ready for firing at a brick kiln in the outskirts of Lahore. Modern slavery in Pakistan is primarily characterized as bonded labour. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
3. Eleven trafficked children were arrested by the police at the border between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. They were going to be exploited in cocoa plantations in the south of Ivory Coast. Enslaved women and children in Côte d’Ivoire are often subjected to forced labour and sex work. (Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)
4. A grandmother holds up pictures of her lost granddaughter, who she believed was forced into prostitution as a sex slave. In Nepal, modern slavery practices include forced labour and sex work. (Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Everyone the U.S. Government Owes Money To, in One Graph (via Planet Money)
- LIBYA: Insurgents briefly kidnap Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was at a hotel in Tripoli. According to the Times, “Zeidan’s abductors appeared to be among the semiautonomous militias” who serve as Libya’s police and security forces. Well, great. (NY Times)
- DON’T LISTEN TO THE GOP: Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warns of the devastating consequences of the US defaulting on its loans. Meanwhile, there’s a new nickname for House Republicans: "default deniers." Their latest gimmick: a six-week extension on the debt ceiling deadline. Or maybe scared John Boehner can just call a vote. (WashPo / MaddowBlog / ABC News)
- Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers can’t control the Tea Party monster they created, LOL. (The Atlantic)
- WOMEN, ROARING: Canadian short story writer Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature while Malala Yousafzai wins the European Parliament’s human rights award for her education advocacy work and for standing up to those asshole Taliban. (AP / Al Jazeera)
- A roller coaster gets stuck, and a metaphor for the GOP ensues. (CNN)
- Retailers report rise in sales. (Reuters)
- And finally… THE BRAAAAAIN EVENT: Here’s an advance review of Sunday’s season premiere of The Walking Dead. No spoilers, unless you count “Carl is at the vegetable garden. Rick is chopping out weeds” as a spoiler. (NY Daily News)
A demonstrator with his face covered jumps over a burning barricade at the Cinelandia square during a march in support of teachers on strike in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 7, 2013. Teachers have been on strike demanding better pay for almost two months.
[Credit : Felipe Dana/AP]
Even before the shutdown, House Republicans couldn’t get anything done. See their biggest fails.