Bahrain set to appoint Jewish woman as its ambassador to the U.S. (& Yemeni girl, 8, gets divorced)

April 29, 2008

* Meanwhile in nearby Saudi Arabia, a 40-year-old woman cannot board a plane without the written permission of her 23-year-old son
* Yemeni girl, 8, after her divorce: “I am happy I will be able to go back to school now”
* Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 to Iran: Stop spreading the lie that Israel was responsible for 9/11. We are proud of what we did”



1. Bahrain set to appoint Jewish woman as its ambassador to Washington
2. Divorced Saudi woman cannot board a plane without her son’s permission
3. Montrealers rally for Canadian facing execution in Saudi Arabia
4. Syrians protest beheading of countrymen in Saudi Arabia
5. Yemeni girl, 8, gets divorced after forced marriage
6. Mother blames multiculturalism for hammer attack on son
7. Honor killing shocks Australia
8. Al-Qaeda leader: “Claiming Israel carried out 9/11 is an Iranian lie”

[Note by Tom Gross]


While some majority Muslim countries remain in the dark ages, others such as the Gulf state of Bahrain are taking steps to modernize.

Bahrain is set to nominate a Jewish woman, Huda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, as its new ambassador to the United States. Huda, a businesswoman, was also the first Jewish woman to sit on the Bahraini Shura Council, the 40-member upper house of the bicameral parliament. She also served as secretary-general of Bahrain Human Rights Watch.

Nonoo belongs to Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community. (Two members of that community, along with several Muslim Bahrainis, already subscribe to this email list, and the new ambassador is set to join.) The Jewish community dates back hundreds of years prior to the birth of Islam. Today only about 40 Jews remain in Bahrain. They have a synagogue and a cemetery in the capital Manama.

An important step forward for female political rights in Bahrain was made in 2002 when women were granted the right to vote and stand in national elections. The country’s first female cabinet minister was appointed in 2004 when Dr. Nada Haffadh became health minister.



By contrast, the Gulf’s largest and most important Arab state continues to practice severe discrimination against many minorities and against its female half of the population.

Over the years, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch has been much criticized by many people (including myself) for obsessively condemning the U.S. and Israel while all but ignoring far worse human rights offenders around the world, including those in Arab countries. I am glad to say that HRW has this month finally produced a comprehensive report critical of Saudi Arabia.

Among their findings from a single day:

* In Riyadh, the college day begins for female students behind a locked door that will remain that way until male guardians come to collect them.
* In a female-run business, everyone must vacate the premises so a delivery man can drop off a package.
* In Jeddah, a 40-year-old divorced woman cannot board a plane without the written permission of her 23-year-old son.
* A female doctor cannot leave the house at all as her male driver fails to turn up for work.
* A mother cannot take her children to the dentist because she doesn’t have the written permission of her husband.
* A judge refuses a woman the right to speak in court as “the female voice” is deemed “shameful” – only women’s guardians are allowed to speak on their behalf.

These scenes make up the daily reality for half of the Saudi Kingdom, the only country where women legally belong to men. The House of Saud, in alliance with an extremist religious establishment which enforces the most restrictive interpretation of Islamic law, has created a legal system that treats women as minors unable to exercise authority over even trivial matters. Petty humiliations are endemic.

Please see past dispatches on this list for other accounts of Saudi human rights abuses. These include the case of the girl in Qatif who was jailed and lashed with a whip after being gang raped; the schoolgirls who burnt to death in Mecca while the Saudi religious police pushed them back inside their burning school since they were not wearing headscarves when they initially escaped the flames; and the happily married woman from Mansour who was forced to divorce her husband at the order of her half-brothers.



CBC News in Toronto reports that local advocates for a young Canadian man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia rallied in his support last week at the Montreal-area school he once attended. In March, Mohamed Kohail, 23, was sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia for his role in a schoolyard brawl.

The Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has urged Saudi authorities to overturn the death sentence. A Jordanian man was also detained after the incident and sentenced to death.



The Jordan Times reported yesterday:

“Scores of angry Syrians protested in Damascus over the weekend against Saudi Arabia’s beheading of a countryman convicted of drug smuggling. A Syrian was beheaded on Friday (April 24) in Saudi Arabia two weeks after two other Syrians were beheaded there on the same charge. Nearly 100 protesters held a sit-in to demand that the Saudi authorities hand over other Syrian prisoners.

“‘These are politically motivated verdicts on trumped-up charges,’ one protestor said. Syrian-Saudi relations have been strained over what Saudi officials see as Syria’s role in promoting Iranian interests in the Arab world as well as Syria’s interference in Lebanese politics.”



A Yemeni court has granted a divorce to an eight-year-old girl, whose father forced her into an arranged marriage earlier this year.

“I am happy that I am divorced. Now I will be able to go back to school,” 8-year-old Nojud Mohammed Ali said after a public hearing in Sanaa’s court of first instance.

Nojud was a second grader in primary school when the marriage took place two and a half months ago. “They asked me to sign the marriage contract and remain in my father’s house until I was 18. But a week after signing, my father and my mother forced me to go live with him.” Nojud said she would now go to live in the home of her maternal uncle and did not want to see her father ever again.



The mother of a 15-year old British schoolboy, Henry Webster, who was victim of a vicious hammer attack on school premises by a large gang of Muslim men and youths, has blamed the school authorities for being too scared to stand up to Muslim bullying of non-Muslim youths prior to the attack.

The attack left the 15-year old, from the town of Swindon in Wiltshire, with brain damage. Thirteen young men, including the son of a local imam, have been convicted of participating in the assault.

His mother said: “The teachers also declined to get involved when we requested extra vigilance for our younger son, Joe, who is 12. Joe was surrounded by a threatening gang of Bengali-speaking Asians a few weeks after the attack.”

The (London) Sunday Times also noted that “in the immediate aftermath of the assault, neither the school’s headmaster, Steven Colledge, nor any of its 90 teachers visited the Webster family or even sent a get-well card.”

Wiltshire police said the leader of the gang, Wasif Khan, 18, carried on his cell phone a screensaver of the collapse of New York’s twin towers.



One of Australia’s leading newspapers, The Australian, reports:

“Mortally wounded and bleeding profusely, Pela Atroshi covered her head with her hands, pleading ‘please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me.’ As her sister and her mother screamed, her uncle Rezkar Atroshi raised his gun and killed her. The family’s honor had been cleansed.

“Rezkar had already shot Pela twice in the back in the upstairs room. Helped downstairs by her mother and her younger sister, the 19-year-old Kurdish Swede was confronted by four resolute men – her father and his three brothers. The men pulled the women apart. Her youngest uncle then finished the job, shooting Pela in the head. The bullet went through one of her fingers and into her brain.

“The decision to kill her was made by a council of male relatives, led by Pela’s grandfather, Abdulmajid Atroshi, a Muslim Kurd who lived in Australia.”



Al-Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is furious that Israel is being blamed for the 9/11 attacks and thus denying Al-Qaeda “credit” for the worst terrorist atrocity in American history.

In an audio tape posted on an al-Qaeda website, Zawahiri answered a “reader’s question” about Israel’s alleged involvement in the terror attacks by accusing the Iranian government and their client Hizbullah militia of concocting the story in order to discredit al-Qaeda.

Zawahiri said: “The purpose of this lie is clear – that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no one else did in history.”



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