Here’s the latest recording of the Secular Policy Institute’s international coordinating call.
SPI International Hot Spot of the Month ÔÇô Saudi Arabia
January 27, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
President Obama and Secretary Kerry:
The Secular Policy Institute and the below signed coalition members call on your office to demand that the U.S. impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia and declare it ineligible to remain on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. On the Second of January the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducted the execution of 47 people convicted on a series of various counts. The most prominent of these victims of state-murder was the Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. These incidents of public execution occurring on the same day represent a chilling reminder of the brutality and the human rights crisis abuses by the government of Saudi Arabia.
The justice system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is heavily based in the (highly conservative, orthodox Salafist version of) ShariÔÇÖah, a type of all-encompassing way of living with special emphasis on crime and punishment has varying degrees of flexibility and severity. In the ShariÔÇÖah there are crimes that have fixed punishments (haad) and those allowing the discretion of a judge (taÔÇÖzir). In Saudi Arabia, punishments can be dramatic and cruel (e.g., floggings, amputation, crucifixion, and beheading), and those of this manner are often dispensed as a matter of public spectacle. As politics and religion are inseparable in the Kingdom, several offenses, including blasphemy, are listed under the offense of ÔÇ£breaking allegiance with the ruler.ÔÇØ
The recent executions made the greatest number of people executed on the same day in the Kingdom since 1983. On that day, 47 were executed in 13 cities (43 upon taÔÇÖzir decisions). The majority of the condemned (43 Sunni) were accused of being al Qaeda affiliates of operatives, the remaining four were Shiites convicted of ÔÇ£breaking allegiance with the ruler.ÔÇØ Saudi ArabiaÔÇÖs Shiite minority (15% of the 28 million Saudis) has long experienced repression and disparate conditions in terms of due process, educational and employment opportunity, and religious expression and practice. Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had long called for peaceful protests against the Kingdom, including succession of the heavily Shiite Eastern Province if the King did not recognize the rights of the Shiite minority. These protests and legitimate calls for political rights resulted in his execution, and al-NimrÔÇÖs nephew (Ali al-Nimr) was also sentenced (in a separated incident) as a minor to face beheading as well. This has caused the beginning of international turmoil. Where Saudi Arabia is seen as the dominant Sunni regional powerhouse, Iran is seen as its Shia counterpart. After al-NimrÔÇÖs execution, protestors set fire to Saudi ArabiaÔÇÖs embassy in Tehran. In response Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran, followed suit by the Bahrain, Djibouti, Qatar, Sudan, and the UAE. This comes at a heightened time of tension between the two countries in what is largely seen as a multi-front proxy war.
According to Human Rights Watch, in 2015 Saudi Arabia executed 158 people, of which 70 were foreign nationals and 63 were (mostly non-violent) drug offenses; 2016 started with 47 executions. The aspect of frequent public-display is neither employed by all ShariÔÇÖah-sourced states, nor can its human rights implications be reconciled by claims of deterrence. We call upon the Offices of the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of State to intervene on the behalf of marginalized and persecuted populations of Saudi Arabia.
Secular Policy Institute
401 Ninth St., NW, Suite 640
Washington, DC 20004
ÔûáHashem┬áwill speak on behalf of two endangered Bangladeshi bloggers in South Asia, looking for one or two organizations in Sweden who may be able to send two urgent letters of invitations to host them. Fortunately, a sponsor has been found for both. They are both looking for a single visa invitation, and the Swedish Embassy has assured that their visas would be approved. In addition, funds to help them in their extremely difficult situation can be sent┬áhere.
ÔûáFrye will speak about Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 550 civil society organizations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential. He will provide information about┬áapplying for membership.
II ÔÇô┬áSPI Overview (Edwina Rogers, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-674-7800)
The Secular Policy Institute (SPI) is a think tank organization of thought leaders, writers, scholars, and speakers with a shared mission to influence public opinion and promote a secular society. We believe governmental decisions and public policies should be based on available science and reason, and free of religion or religious preferences.
ÔùÅCommunity Action Network (www.CommunityActionNetwork.org)
ÔùÅParent Teacher Community Action Network (www.PTCan.org)
Community Action Network (CAN) promotes the development and application of science and reason in an ongoing quest for secular solutions to local problems. As an inclusive, affirming, and action-oriented initiative, CAN seeks to promote rational relationships and effective community building in support of collective problem solving and the ongoing advancement and enjoyment of a more just and reasoned world.
ÔùÅPTCAN Mission Statement
ÔùÅPTCAN Gives to Get School Support
ÔùÅWorld Future Guide 2016
The World Future Guide collects the public policy recommendations and findings on demographic trends from the foremost fellows at the Secular Policy Institute. Leading thinkers give research and opinion on law, education, and healthcare, practical advice on defense and surveillance technology, the big picture trends on the interplay between secular government and religion, and more. And we give you the scoop: even a peek into the finances of the Islamic State!
Our ten articles are written by fellows from seven countries representing diverse points of view.┬á Yet each is committed to a rational, evidence-based analysis of a timely topic that can inform effective public policy.┬á The first in a series of Guides, the┬áWorld Future Guide 2016┬áprovides critical secular insights into timely topics of international import in the hopes of guiding more informed public opinion and policy-making in our┬áincreasingly secular world.
Elliot D. Cohen┬áis one of the principal founders of philosophical counseling in the United States. He is co-founder and Executive Director of the National Philosophical Counseling Association (NPCA), and President of the Institute of Critical Thinking. How does philosophy become an applied field? He answers in his recent essay,┬áWhat Else Can You Do With Philosophy Besides Teach?┬ápublished in the International Journal of Philosophical Practice that one thing is to give philosophical counseling, a form of mental health counseling.
Holger Mey┬áis the Vice President of Advanced Concepts, Airbus Defence and Space in Germany, and has 12 years of experience as a self-employed security policy analyst and consultant. Recently he gave his thoughts on the weapons systems of the future, and you can see his video lecture to the Potsdam Conference of National Cyber Security in 2014 or his video lecture last summer to a German think tank (text from the speech, The Role of Technology in Future Warfare, available┬áhere┬áin a conference report entitled The Future of Air Power)
Sarbagh Salih┬áis the founder of Hataw, an NGO in Kurdistan that helps people who were forced to move to cities to return to their villages to work in the fields. She is a board member of Nature Iraq and the Sakran-Halgurd National Park, and a member of the committee of the Kurdistan National Herbarium. She is also President of the Kurdistan Botanical Foundation, which recently finished a┬ábotanical survey of the Azmer-Goizha mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan, a two-year effort that collected specimens of more than 1,000 species. The group also replants rare and endemic plant species in different areas of Kurdistan. Dr. Salih also recently contributed to the┬áKurdistan Tour Guide 2015-2016, the first comprehensive travel book for the region.
ÔùïSPI is seeking┬á UN Special Consultative Status.┬á Edwina will be representative in NY and Hugo in Geneva.┬á┬á We are looking to build coalitions and join networks.┬á SPI will seek UNESCO consultative NGO status.┬á Then we have the EU, there, they have an office which would be more than appropriate for us to lobby, which is the European Commission for Fundamental Rights.
Our fellows from the Italian Union of Atheists Rationalists, Agnostics and Freethinkers (UAAR.it)┬á to which Hugo belongs and who publish news from US matters and internationally as well (they are members of the European Humanist Federation) have office space in the city (Circolo UAAR di Pisa).┬á SPI will share the office thanks to Hugo.
The Association of Atheism (Republic of Turkey)┬á-┬áMorgan Elizabeth Romano
Monthly Conference Call Schedule: First Thursday of Every Month┬áat┬áNoon Eastern Standard Time (GMT -4): March 3; April 7; May 5; June 2; July 7; September 1; October 6; November 3 (No conference call in August and December)