death of 353 Filipino workers alerts Church

What is behind the deaths of more than 300 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia? This is the question raised by Archbishop Ruperto Santos, head of the commission for migrants and itinerants of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines.

→ READ. Coronavirus ‘sad records’ in Saudi Arabia

On June 22, the Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh said that of the 353 nationals of his country who died recently, 107 died from Covid-19, 246 of “Natural causes” dont “Some crime-related deaths”. But the Philippine Catholic Church and the association “Migrante international” are not convinced. The deaths of hundreds of people over such a short period attract suspicion.

Suspected discrimination

“There should be an investigation into the specific causes of death to prevent and avoid the loss of other lives”, underlined, in a statement, Mgr Ruperto Santos, bishop of Balanga, in the bay of Manila.

The association, which campaigns for the rights of migrants, alleges alleged discrimination in access to healthcare against Christians, reports UCA News. “Christians and Muslims must receive the medical care necessary for our workers to recover from the virus. Our nurses take care of Muslim patients. Can they also receive the type of medical care they deserve? ”, spokesman Francisco Buenaventura told the Asian news agency.

But Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto refutes the remarks. He believes the Saudi government “On word” and says: “There is no discrimination. What is happening is that the facilities are really full. ” In the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia is the country most affected by the coronavirus.

The 800,000 nationals who live and work there, often in precarious conditions, make the kingdom the state that welcomes the most Filipinos in the Middle East. The coronavirus crisis and containment have led to many layoffs among immigrant workers. Without resources, some Filipinos asked for help from their government to return to the archipelago.

Repatriation and celebrations

Earlier in the week, the Philippine government was criticized for giving permission to bury 50 nationals in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom demands that the victims carrying the Covid-19 be buried on the spot. The Philippine government finally chartered three planes to repatriate the remains before June 28.

The Bishop of Balanga called on Filipinos around the world to offer a series of celebrations from June 26-28 for the “Eternal rest” deceased workers. “We Filipinos have great respect for the dead. We honor the dead. They are sacred to us. It is right and appropriate to give them a dignified and correct burial ”, did he declare.


In saudi Arabia, the “sad record” of the coronavirus

Until the lifting of the containment measures, in late may, the saudi ministry of health has it proudly displayed its balance sheet daily, much better than the enemy of iran. “The number of cures far exceeds that of new cases “, commended the authorities on their Twitter account in French.

→ TO READ. The muslim world at the pace of the coronavirus

Since then, between two videos on the precautions surrounding the reopening of the mosques, messages of caution are more insistent. Friday 4 June, the minister of religious affairs has called on the imams “to dedicate their preaching to the precautionary measures taken by the kingdom to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 “.

“Cases in the icu and in critical condition “

The kingdom started to count the “cases in the resuscitation and state critical “ (1 686 9 June) and the battle of “sad records “. Monday 15 June, he has crossed the symbolic threshold of 1,000 deaths. The country has now 136 000 patients Covid-19. For the past several days, more than 4 000 new cases are registered daily.

While he was noted for measures that are as stringent as that early at the beginning of the pandemic, even before the registration of a first case on march 2, the kingdom wahhabi is now caught up by the crisis, to the point of worrying the world health Organization.

“There is a true second wave in countries such as Israel, Djibouti, Iran, and saudi Arabia “recognizes Antoine Flahault, director of the global health Institute at the University of Geneva. “In saudi Arabia, it is not known why there is such a resurgence, perhaps because of the large gatherings of Eid. What is particularly disturbing, is that the second wave is more important than the first “.

In a video message and a press release, the minister of health was intended to be reassuring, explaining the high figures by “the increase in the number of tests “ and claiming that the country had the ability to heal his patients.

Situation is tense in Jeddah

The situation seems particularly tense in Jeddah, a coastal city in the west, close to Mecca, and that the hospitals are full, to such a point that the city was again closed in early June : curfew from 15 hours to 6 hours in the morning, the suspension of the prayers in the mosques and in order to stay at home for the employees of the public and private sectors.

Several Internet sites announce the death of a nephew of king Salman, also governor of Riyadh, hospitalized in early April in the intensive care unit because of Covid-19. They also say that the old king, like his son, the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, hide in their palaces to avoid contagion.

“None of this has been confirmed by the authoritiesgrade a good connoisseur of the country. But the ministry of health has recognized that if, at the outset, 70 % of people infected were foreign workers, now the ratio has reversed and the majority of the patients is made up of Saudis. Many people think that the containment has produced the opposite effect, by enclosing the migrant workers in substandard conditions “.

From South-East Asia or arab countries poor and representing about a third of the population of the kingdom, they were gradually resettled, or repatriated.

Disinfection and mobile application

The saudi arabian media insist, themselves, on the measures taken. “The municipalities in saudi arabia are intensifying their fight against the virus.”, reports and the website Arab News, describing the efforts of Jeddah for “disinfect “ up to green space, as well as inspections conducted by the city of Najran in the slaughterhouses.

The day before, this is the new mobile app touted by the ministry of health which has had its favors : called Tabaoud (distance), it works on the same principle as its counterpart in French-Stop-Covid, and allows the Saudis to know if they have cross-contaminated people.

Far from marking time, the pandemic up the saudi arabian authorities in front of a cornelian choice : the king, who bears the prestigious name of “guardian of the holy places “ of Medina and Mecca, should he cancel the hajj ? Planned for the end of July, this pilgrimage made each year by 2.5 million faithful all over the world is one of the five pillars of islam, the culmination of a lifetime for many muslims, and also the second largest source of income for the kingdom.


Abolition of flogging and the death penalty for minors in Saudi Arabia

La Croix: Saudi Arabia has announced the abolition of flogging and the death penalty for minors. What is the real reach of these announcements?

Stéphane Lacroix: Regarding flogging, it is not an abolition, it does not disappear from Saudi law. Articles in the local media make it clear that its removal, and its replacement by other sentences such as prison or a fine, only apply in the context of the ta’zir. But flogging remains possible for hudud.

The hudud are these punishments explicitly provided for in the Koran for certain crimes: stoning or flogging for fornication for example, amputation for theft or the death penalty for apostasy. They are considered “Wanted by God” : the reform announced here does not concern them.

Flogging is only removed as part of the ta’zir, that is, offenses, of a lower category, the sentence of which is left to the discretion of the judge.

→ READ. In Saudi Arabia, the crown prince does the cleaning around him

As for the abolition of the death penalty for minors, nothing has yet filtered out the elements of language that will be used to justify it in Islamic terms. In both cases, it should be noted that these are only announcements from the pro-government human rights commission, not official statements. They may be test balls, intended to adjust the shot according to the reactions.

What is the goal of the Crown Prince, Mohamed Ben Salmane?

S. L.: Undoubtedly to “smooth” the image of Saudi Arabia, in a difficult context for him by touching only on the part of the law which is within his competence. Islamically speaking, this decision is not problematic and should not anger the most conservative.

In practice, however, his decision could amount to a real reduction or even a de facto suppression of flogging. Indeed, the hudud, especially for the most serious crimes, are much less applied than the ta’zir.

Muslim law provides very difficult conditions to meet and the accused benefits from doubt. So that a woman is convinced of zina (fornication or adultery), she must have been seen committing a sexual act by four witnesses. Even in Saudi Arabia, there have been no known cases of stoning for several decades, and when I had worked on this, no one had been able to tell me when it was last.

Some predominantly Muslim countries retain these punishments in their law, but do not apply them. And even when it could be, political intervention may well prevent it. Apostasy was not retained against blogger Raif Badawi (imprisoned since 2012 for “insulting Islam” and sentenced in May 2014 to a thousand lashes and ten years in prison as a sentence of ta’zir, Editor’s note). The authorities may have intervened to avoid him, considering that his execution would have damaged the image of the country.

At the same time, we learned of the death in prison – presumably for lack of care – of Abdallah al-Hamid, the founder of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights. Don’t the announcements also aim to conceal the reality of the current repression?

S. L.: The conjunction of these different events is sadly telling. Abdallah al-Hamid was a major figure on the Saudi intellectual and political scene. Professor of literature and poet, he originally belonged to the Islamist movement, like many in his generation, before breaking away from it.

In the 2000s, he animated a platform of intellectuals bringing together Islamists as liberals, people from the left, but also Shiites, defending the principle of a constitutional monarchy with an elected Parliament. In his books, he criticized Wahhabism as an ideology in the service of an authoritarian state.

Imprisoned six times, he embodies everything that Mohamed Ben Salmane does not want: a civil society, critical voices. The crown prince sees reform only from above, within an ultra-authoritarian framework. I’m not saying it has no effect on society. But his vision is the opposite of the democratic reform that Abdallah al-Hamid demanded.


abolition of flogging, human rights figure dies in prison

Saudi Arabia has abolished the flogging sentence for “Comply with international human rights standards (against) corporal punishment”, according to a Supreme Court document consulted on Saturday April 25 by Agence France-Presse, confirmed by the Saudi human rights commission, a government agency.

What does the Supreme Court say?

“The Supreme Court decided in April to remove flogging among the sentences that judges can decide”, declared the highest judicial authority of the kingdom in this document, without specifying an exact date. This penalty was applicable in the case of murder, violation of ” public order “ or even extramarital relationships.

From now on, the magistrates will have to opt for imprisonment and / or fines as well as alternative sentences such as community service.

How to understand this announcement?

According to this document, this decision comes within the framework “Human rights reforms and advances” under the supervision of King Salmane and Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salmane (MBS). While the latter undertook the economic and social opening of the kingdom, he was strongly criticized for his violations of human rights and for his increased repression against dissidents.

→ READ. In Saudi Arabia, the crown prince does the cleaning around him

The case of blogger Raif Badawi is emblematic of this repression. Defender of freedom of expression, he was sentenced in 2014 to receive 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for “Insult” to Islam. In 2015, he won the Sakharov Prize for freedom of mind, awarded by the European Parliament which had called for his release ” immediate ». Among the other victims of the regime, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in 2018.

Human rights activist dies in prison

The day before the abolition of the flogging was announced, human rights NGOs learned of the disappearance of another human rights defender in the kingdom: that of the human rights activist. Abdallah al-Hamid, who was serving an eleven-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia.

He was one of the founders of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), created in 2009 and dissolved in 2013. Abdallah al-Hamid was accused of having “Broken allegiance” to the Saudi king, “Incited to disorder”, and for seeking to destabilize state security.

“The fact that Abdallah al-Hamid was forced to spend his last years in prison simply for criticizing endemic human rights violations in Saudi Arabia is unforgivable”said Human Rights Watch (HWR) deputy Middle East director Michael Page said on Saturday (April 25) in a statement.


Ramadan confined to Saudi Arabia

“Our hearts cry”, laments Ali Mulla, the muezzin of the great mosque in Mecca interviewed by the television channel Al Arabiya. As Ramadan draws near to Saudi Arabia on Friday, this feeling of sadness is shared by many residents of the country. Because the Kingdom, which shelters the holy places of Mecca and Medina, is also preparing to live a confined Ramadan. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, therefore urged the faithful to pray from home to avoid gatherings. The mosques will remain closed to the general public.

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: the latest information on the pandemic in France and worldwide

However, measures had been taken very early on by the authorities to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. As of February 27, tourist visas had been suspended. Schools were also closed in early March, followed by mosques. The small Muslim pilgrimage, Umra, was also suspended for foreigners first, then for residents of the Kingdom.

Constant increase in cases

However, the number of people infected with Covid-19 has continued to increase in Saudi Arabia. To date, more than 12,000 positive cases have been confirmed and more than 100 illness-related deaths recorded in the Gulf monarchy, which has approximately 33 million inhabitants.

Faced with this upheaval, the faithful of the Kingdom react with fatalism. “We are sad because we will not be able to have dinner with our families or even get together as we do every year. But we have to follow government instructions to keep us safe. ” Abdulrahman analysis. This 21-year-old Saudi boy also had “Used to go to Mecca every year during Ramadan”. But this year, he will have to stay at home in Riyadh.

Pilgrimages at a standstill

Abdallah, a 39-year-old French national also living in the Saudi capital, wanted to return ” in the country “ to celebrate Ramadan with his family. His trip has been canceled. Since March 15, Saudi Arabia has also suspended all international flights. Abdallah however hopes for a “Relaxation” containment rules by the end of Ramadan. “It would allow us to spend the last days and Eid in the holy places”, assumes the Frenchman who says of “Optimistic nature”. A scenario that seems unrealistic given the constant increase in cases.

In this context, therefore, the great pilgrimage of Muslims to be held at the end of July is also threatened. Minister in charge of Hajj, Mohammed Banten, urged Muslim worshipers around the world to “Wait before planning” their holiday. Abdallah’s cousin and his wife planned to come this year. “They have postponed this project until next year”, specifies the French.

→ THE TURN OF THE QUESTION. What is Ramadan?


Faced with the coronavirus pandemic like in Yemen, Saudi Arabia plays the “responsibility”

Will Saudi Arabia’s declared ceasefire in Yemen remain as a short parenthesis, or does it herald a permanent withdrawal? In any case, his announcement surprised, while the last truce decided by the various parties to the conflict – in response to the appeal by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres – fizzled.

In the middle of the day on Wednesday, April 8, the command of the Saudi-led Military Coalition said that a ceasefire would come into effect the next morning to “Preparing the ground for the fight against Covid-19 disease”. By a surprising combination of circumstances, a first case of contamination with the new coronavirus was announced Friday, April 10 in the province of Hadramout (south), controlled by the government.

The UAE, a member of the coalition that withdrew its troops last year, immediately welcomed a decision “Wise and responsible”. However, the Houthi rebels rejected it, one of their officials claiming to see it as a “Political and media maneuver”.

→ EXPLANATION. Hope for a “truce of God” to fight the pandemic

No one knows if this truce will hold. But it is already relaunching the hope of a real solution to this armed conflict which opened in 2014 between the Houthi rebels in the north and the legitimate government of President Abdrabbo Hadi, aggravated the following year by the appearance of Saudi Arabia. Especially since – as a Saudi official has skillfully suggested to the AFP – “The truce could be extended and pave the way for a broader political solution” if “A meeting with the rebels, sponsored by the United Nations” was organized.

Posture change in Riyadh

The announcement shows a change in posture in Riyadh after several years of criticism. “The pandemic is an opportunity for this Saudi leadership perceived as aggressive and erratic to show itself as a responsible actor”, analyzes the political scientist Fatiha Dazi-Heni (1), who observes the deployment of “A whole story around the notions of responsibility, both citizen and collective”.

In terms of health, with 2,795 people tested positive and 41 dead, the country faces a “Serious situation but not necessarily more alarming than in the rest of the world, even if it is difficult to know what it is exactly in a very secret country on all that could betray signs of weakness”, recognizes Camille Lons, associate researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

→ LIVE – Coronavirus – France enters its 25th day of confinement

Saudi Arabia has in any case distinguished itself by the strength of its reaction: suspension of the Umrah (small pilgrimage), 24 hour curfew in the holy cities of Islam then extended to several regions. By asking the pilgrims to postpone their visit, “The authorities even seem to prepare the opinion for a cancellation of the hajj” (great pilgrimage), scheduled for late July, said Fatiha Dazi-Heni. A challenge in a country where the epidemic is considered by many ulemas to be “Divine punishment in response to the disheveled liberalism in which the country engaged”, she recalls, and where the closure of mosques has been widely criticized.

A way to regain control

Equally significant of this new posture is, in the eyes of the researcher, “The coordination put in place within the Gulf Cooperation Council” to fight the pandemic: meetings in videoconferences, including Qatar hitherto ostracized, have shown member countries capable of putting aside their differences to be more effective.

In reality, more than the epidemic itself, its economic consequences worry the Saudi authorities much more. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has strongly linked his political legitimacy to the success of his Vision 2030 plan”, Camille Lons recalls. However, the current economic situation, coupled with the collapse in the price of a barrel, should force it to reconsider its ambitions, causing dissatisfaction within the population, even the royal family.

→ READ. In Saudi Arabia, the crown prince does the cleaning around him

Saudi Arabia – which holds the G20 presidency this year – has no shortage of reasons to emerge from the Yemeni quagmire. “It would seem that the coronavirus crisis today is the perfect opportunity to head in this direction”, underlines Camille Lons.


The low price of oil exacerbates the general crisis in Russia in the middle of the coronavirus debate and causes a riot with Saudi Arabia

The coronavirus crisis in Russia has coincided with the collapse of oil prices, the export of which is vital for the country’s economy, which in turn has placed the ruble, the national currency, at its lowest value in recent years. . Russian experts already warn that the state coffers will suffer at a time when it will be necessary to undertake enormous spending to face COVID-19 and, even more, to clean up the economy once the pandemic has subsided.

In early March, Russia vetoed OPEC’s proposed cut to stabilize oil prices, leading to its collapse. Since then, its value has not stopped falling, also taking into account that Saudi Arabia, which in principle agreed to reduce production, increased it and began to sell oil on the international market at a price of balance, which caused unrest in the Kremlin. Moscow advocated leaving production as it was, without cuts, but also without excessive increases.

So President Vladimir Putin, pressed by the economic situation in his country and under pressure from his American counterpart, Donald Trump, has been forced to take action on the matter and, yesterday Friday during a remote meeting with his collaborators, relented and was ready to decrease the production of Russian black gold, just on the eve of the online meeting to be held on Monday by the world oil cartel and its allies, OPEC +. He spoke of a “preliminary” reduction in production of 10 million barrels a day of crude oil to, he said, “balance the market.” The ad shot up prices.

But Putin also said that those who broke the agreement in Vienna on March 6 were not the Russians, but the Saudis, because they wanted, according to him, “to get rid of their competitors,” specifically the US shale companies. These words have caused outrage in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud, has dismissed as “categorically false” Russia’s allegations of Saudi Arabia’s alleged refusal to extend the agreement between OPEC + countries.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus in Russia continues to advance, although in a moderate way. According to the latest data on the evolution of the pandemic, the country as a whole has registered 582 new cases, bringing the total to 4,731 and the death toll to 43. In Moscow, the increase in those infected by COVID-19 has been 434, putting the total in the Russian capital at 3,427 infected, according to a correct calculation although the Moscow City Hall gives the figure of 3,357, and 24 dead.


Saudi Arabia imputes 300 people for corruption



The authorities of Saudi Arabia they have arrested in recent days about 675 people and have imputed almost 300 of them within the framework of a new campaign against corruption, as reported by the Authority for Control and Against Corruption (Nazaha). The agency has indicated that the investigations against the accused involve embezzlement of funds worth 379 million riyals (about 91.3 million euros), as reported by the Saudi state news agency, SPA.

The defendants have been charged with bribery, embezzlement, waste and abuse of power, among others, and the cases against them will be addressed by a special court on corruption.

The announcement has arrived a week after the arrest of a fourth prince of the Arab kingdom in a new purge of opponents after the crown prince, Mohamed bin Salmán, ordered in 2017.

After the arrests, rumors began to spread of a possible illness of the 84-year-old King Salmán, or his imminent abdication, although the monarch reappeared in public hours later to dispel this information.

Saudi Arabian authorities announced in January 2019 the end of their campaign against corruption started 15 months earlier by order of the crown prince and noted that he had recovered 400,000 million riyals (about 92,874 million euros) during it. The campaign helped consolidate the crown prince’s power, while It alarmed much of the traditional business establishment.

The arrest campaign started hours after King Salman decreed the creation of an anti-corruption committee headed by the crown prince, who is also deputy prime minister and defense minister. A royal decree issued later indicated that the campaign was launched in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their interests above the public interest to unlawfully increase their money.”

The Royal House detailed that 381 people were cited during the campaign, some as witnesses and others as defendants, while 87 of them confessed and agreed to enter into agreements to return money and property.