A Saudi human rights group has been launched in Dublin two weeks ago, making it the first Saudi human rights group abroad.
The launch of the group, Citizens Without Chains (CWC), took place on Friday the 29th of September at the Wood Quay Venue in Dublin.
The group’s founder, Abdulaziz Almoayyad, is a businessman who has been living in Ireland for the past three years. He lives in Roscommon with his wife and three year old son.
Mr Almoayyad said the conditions in Saudi Arabia in the last few years have become “increasingly complicated”, as a wave of arrests took place in the country over the past few months.
He has a digital marketing company in Saudi Arabia and said he fears the Saudi government could freeze his assets as a result of his activism.
“I don’t think opposing the Saudi government will be a walk in the park,” he said. “But if a person is aware enough he has a responsibility to do something about it, he has to.”
Mr Almoayyad said life in Ireland has inspired him to take on a more active stance in human rights and politics, as he saw “liberalism and equality” in operation.
His father, who passed away a few years ago, was the General Manager of the Ministry of Finance in Saudi Arabia. He said his wife and family, some of whom hold positions of authority in the Saudi government, are supporters of the government and are not happy with his actions.
“They don’t like what I’m doing. My mother said ‘why are you doing this Abdulaziz?’ I told her I have to be true to myself,” he said.
He said his family are aware of the risk he is taking by speaking about his views publicly, but he said: “It’s a responsibility because the nation needs someone to speak out.”
Mr Almoayyad said he fears that his three year old son would grow up to be “an intellect and free thinker”, something that could risk his freedom in Saudi Arabia, he said.
He said people have been fearful of being part of groups that criticise Saudi Arabia. As a result, he thought creating “a public opposition group” would lessen people’s suspicions and fears, as everything will be “open and anyone can join”.
“We found a lot of support from Saudi people and intellectuals abroad,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to unite people. We don’t speak about ideology. We believe that the Saudi nation deserves freedom of thought and speech. We have different ideologies but are joined by a common interest [in Saudi human rights].”
The group defines their aims in a statement, which says: “To reform the legislative framework of Saudi Arabia, to allow for the true civic participation and emancipation of all citizens. We aim to establish a system which allows for free and fair elections, and to open the civic space for free speech, and the emancipation of socio-political thought.
“The movement, with the support and consent of its members, will aim to create a society which is built on the sharing of knowledge, ideas and culture, and which is protected by the rule of law to celebrate the diversity and freedom of these.”
Andrew O’Brien, Trade Union Coordinator for Labour Youth, was present at the launch of CWC.
“It’s the case of Citizens Without Chains highlighting the human rights abuses in their home country with a desire of instituting human rights and democratising the country,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said CWC “highlights humans rights abuses by the Saudi regime” and “challenges the status quo in Saudi Arabia”.
He said although there was an “exhilaration” recently when the Saudi government allowed women to drive, the human rights situation in the country “reeks of the kind of totalitarianism” imposed by authoritarian states.
By Hajar Akl