First Saudi woman to get pilot license: Soon, I will captain a national airliner


Over 100 rights groups urge Bahrain to free activist Rajab


Groups call on Bahrain to release high-profile activist Nabeel Rajab who is serving two separate jail sentences

More than 100 rights groups urged Bahrain Wednesday to "immediately release" high-profile activist Nabeel Rajab who is serving two separate jail sentences for alleged anti-government statements.
The call by 127 non-governmental organisations came after the United Nations denounced the Shiite opposition leader's detention as "arbitrary" and "discriminatory" earlier this month.
Wednesday's signatories including Human Rights Watch said they "welcome this landmark opinion... recognising the role played by human rights defenders in society and the need to protect them".
"We call upon the Bahraini Government to immediately release Nabeel Rajab in accordance with this latest request," the NGOs said in a statement.
Rajab -- a key figure in 2011 protests against Bahrain's Sunni minority monarchy -- was sentenced in February to five more years behind bars over tweets critical of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
The charges also relate to statements denouncing the alleged mistreatment of prisoners at the notorious Jaw prison, south of Bahrain's capital Manama.
The 53-year-old, who co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is already serving a two-year sentence handed down last July for "disseminating rumours and false information" in television interviews critical of the government.
In its August 13 report,the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had also called for Rajab's immediate release and said he should be "an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law".
Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been rocked by sporadic unrest since 2011, when a wave of popular protests demanding an elected government erupted in the majority-Shiite kingdom.
Authorities have cracked down on political dissent since then, and many leading political activists are in exile or behind bars. Access to foreign journalists is also largely off-limits.


Chiefs caught up in Bahrain sex and corruption scandals



A series of criminal investigations into Bahrain’s sex trade has netted several Navy chief
petty officers, according to charge sheets provided to Navy Times.
While officials count six known defendants facing court-martial proceedings in the
Middle East and in the United States — including a lieutenant commander — Navy Times
has court records tied to four sailors.
Although their alleged crimes and the tawdry details attached to them seem similar,
military officials insist that the six cases spun out of separate Naval Criminal Investigative 
Service probes and are not connected to each other.
“NCIS has opened separate investigations into allegations involving these sailors.
The Navy is unable to comment on the details while the investigation is ongoing,”
said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Often shortened to “NAVCENT,” the command controls not only the Navy’s 5th Fleet
but several maritime task forces operating in the Red and Arabian seas, the
 Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

It was impossible for Navy Times to determine independently whether the ongoing NCIS
 “Operation High Tide” probes were separate or linked together. Military officials
redacted the code names of the cooperating source or sources in the records provided
 to Navy Times.
All the defendants have maintained their innocence and their attorneys continue to
contest the charges.
Tawdry accusations
Military prosecutors accuse Chief Operations Specialist Jayson Waitman Grant of
 participating in a late 2017 venture centered in the Juffair neighborhood of Manama
— the capital of Bahrain — which recruited, transported and obtained prostitutes
“by means of fraud or coercion.”
Questioned by an NCIS agent on Oct. 5, Grant allegedly lied when he claimed to
have never conversed with anyone “regarding housing prostitutes and making
 money off their sexual acts,” according to his charge sheet.
He also allegedly allowed an unnamed third party to pay his apartment rent,
information he was required to disclose to his commanding officer.
Military records show that Grant was assigned to Naval Surface Squadron 5 in
Bahrain before he was moved to the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk five months ago.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jihad Hobeson Littlejohn is now assigned to the same
 Norfolk unit but he served aboard the patrol ship Hurricane until March 9, according
 to his military records. More...

A riverine command boat skims the coastal waters of Bahrain in 2014. (Navy)
A riverine c


John McCain obituary


Patriotic senator and Republican presidential candidate admired for his bravery as a prisoner in Hanoi, and for his readiness to speak truth to power


Saudi Prosecution Seeks Death Penalty for Female Activist


First Woman Facing Execution in Trials of Shia Protesters

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution is seeking the death penalty against five Eastern Province activists, including female human rights activist Israa al-Ghomgham, Human Rights Watch said today. The activists, along with one other person not facing execution, are being tried in the country’s terrorism tribunal on charges solely related to their peaceful activism.
The Public Prosecution, which reports directly to the king, accused the detained activists of several charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes, including “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters.” It called for their execution based on the Islamic law principle of ta’zir, in which the judge has discretion over the definition of what constitutes a crime and over the sentence. Authorities have held all six activists in pretrial detention and without legal representation for over two years. Their next court date has been scheduled for October 28, 2018.
“Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”
Al-Ghomgham is a Shia activist well known for participating in and documenting mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province that began in early 2011, calling for an end to the systematic discrimination that Saudi Shia citizens face in the majority-Sunni country. Authorities arrested al-Ghomgham and her husband in a night raid on their home on December 6, 2015 and have held them in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison ever since.
Saudi activists told Human Rights Watch that the Public Prosecution’s recent demand makes al-Ghomgham the first female activist to possibly face the death penalty for her human rights-related work, which sets a dangerous precedent for other women activists currently behind bars.
Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, has since been increasingly used to prosecute peaceful dissidents. The court is notorious for its violations of fair trial standardsand has previously sentenced other Shia activists to death on politically motivated charges. The court sentenced a prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, and seven other men to death for their role in the 2011 Eastern Province demonstrations in 2014 and another 14 people in 2016 for participating in the protests. Saudi authorities executed al-Nimr and at least three other Shia men on January 2, 2016 when they carried out the largest mass execution since 1980, putting 47 men to death.
International standards, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the “most serious crimes,” and in exceptional circumstances. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.
recent crackdown on women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia has led to the arrest of at least 13 women under the pretext of maintaining national security. While some have since been released, others remain detained without charge. They are: Loujain al-HathloulAziza al-YousefEman al-NafjanNouf AbdelazizMayaa al-ZahraniHatoon al-FassiSamar BadawiNassema al-Sadah, and Amal al-Harbi. Authorities have accused several of them of serious crimes and local media outlets carried out an unprecedented campaign against them, labeling them “traitors.
“If the Crown Prince is truly serious about reform, he should immediately step in to ensure no activist is unjustly detained for his or her human rights work,” added Whitson.

Saudis foil Al Houthi boat attack in Red Sea


Bab Al Mandeb is crucial shipping lane between Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa

Riyadh: The Saudi-led coalition said on Thursday it had foiled a booby-trapped boat attack by Yemen’s Iran-backed Al Houthis in the Red Sea weeks after the militia hit a Saudi oil tanker.
A statement cited by Al Ekhbariya news channel did not identify the target of the attack.

The coalition statement said “the terrorist attack by a booby-trapped boat was launched from the shores of Hodeida,” a city off the strategic Bab Al Mandeb straits.
The coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-backed Al Houthi militias since March 2015, accused Al Houthis and the Iranian revolutionary guards of continuing to threaten international navigation routes and world trade.
It also reaffirmed that the protection of the Bab Al Mandeb waterway is an international responsibility.
Last month, the Al Houthis hit a giant Saudi oil tanker in the strategic waterway off Yemen coast causing minor damage.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil supplier, on July 26 halted exports through Bab Al Mandeb as a result of the attack before resuming the shipments 10 days later.
Bab Al Mandeb is a crucial shipping lane between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, linking the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
About 4.8 million barrels of oil and petroleum products pass through the strait every day, according to US government figures.
Meanwhile, Al Houthis bombed the recently-liberated village of Al Ghalifqa in Al Duraihmi district of Hodeida governorate with an Iranian-made ballistic missile.
The attack, which killed a child and injured dozens of civilians, three of them seriously, is a continuation of their targeting of residential areas inhabited by civilians and their defiance of international laws that criminalise it.
The attack, which took place during Eid Al Adha, is also a continuation of their operations against civilians in Yemen’s liberated areas.
Several children who were playing in the village when the attack occurred. The Emirates News Agency, WAM, spoke with Yassin Hassan, the elder brother of one of the victims, who narrated tearfully the incident. “We were playing, me and my brother, with two of our friends when the missile landed near us and killed my brother and injured me and my friends. We did not realise what happened until we were in the hospital,” he said.

Man on hunger strike outside Bahrain embassy asks Queen to help save his father


  • Bethan McKernan, Beirut


'I would like to ask your majesty to use the influence and strong friendship'
An activist who has been on hunger strike for four weeks to protest against the Bahraini government’s treatment of his imprisoned father has asked Britain's Queen for help. 
 Ali Mushaima began his protest outside Bahrain’s embassy in Knightsbridge, London on 1 August over the detention of his 70-year-old father, opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, whom rights groups say is being denied proper medical care. 
Hassan was arrested in 2011 along with dozens of other Shia leaders over his role in anti-government protests during the height of the Arab Spring uprisings across the region. 
The queen’s friendship with Bahrain's King Hamad is well documented. The pair share a love of horses and the queen often hosts her Bahraini counterpart at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
The UK’s gift of a three-year-old stallion to the king last year was met with outrage from human rights groups, which accused the government of turning a blind eye to the Bahraini authorities’ escalating crackdown on dissent. 
Ali is nonetheless hoping the queen might leverage this friendship to help his cause. 
In an open letter to the royal, he wrote: “This week I will be celebrating Eid in Belgrave Square rather than at home, with my beloved wife and four-month-old daughter. While I will only be denied the comfort of home on this special day, at least I will be celebrating as a free man. My father, instead, is being forced to spend yet another Eid behind bars.
“I would like to ask your majesty to use the influence and strong friendship with the king of Bahrain to help me save my father. All I ask for is for him to be treated humanely, including access to adequate medical treatment, books, and family visitation without subjecting him to humiliating measures.”
The royal household did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment. 
As a constitutional monarch, the queen must stay neutral on political matters. But Ali said he wrote the symbolic letter after growing frustrated at a lack of response to his demands so far. 
Now in the fourth week of a hunger strike, he said his doctor has expressed concern at his rapid weight loss, but he has nonetheless vowed to stop intaking sugars and salts next week if Bahraini officials do not improve his father’s conditions.
Hassan needs regular check ups to ensure a cancer from a decade ago has not returned, as well as treatment from high blood pressure, diabetes and a urinary tract infection, his son said. 
His medication is running out and authorities had not supplied him with new pills, Ali said, and he has not been allowed visits from his family since February 2017 or access to books.  
Earlier this month the Bahraini embassy in London denied Hassan was being mistreated, saying he had been to the prison medical clinic 16 times since the beginning of 2018.
Ali himself has been resident in London since 2006. He was tried by Bahraini courts in absentia, sentenced to 45 years in jail and has had his citizenship revoked. 
“We believe that only by working with Bahrain can we hope to bring about the changes we would like to see,” the UK foreign office said in a statement.  


Jiu-Jitsu medalist arrested during Bahrain uprising starts hunger strike


Mohamed Mirza reportedly declared a hunger strike in solidarity with a fellow prisoner and opposition leader. 


Saudi Arabia: Isra AlGhamgham

  ha ritwittato
Be headed today in Saudi Arab😞 "مجھے بےگناہ قتل کیا جا رہا ہے، خدا سے شکایت کروں گی"...آخری الفاظ.... ۔شیعہ مکتبہ فکر کی انسانی حقوق کی کارکن اسراء الغمام کا اج سعودی عرب میں سرقلم کردیا گیا....


Arrest made after Imam murdered in Bahrain


The incident has shocked Bahrain as murder is an extremely rare occurrence in the country

Gulf News


Rex Tillerson stopped Saudi and UAE from 'attacking' Qatar


Former US Secretary of State reportedly prevented Saudi troops from attacking its Gulf neighbour, The Intercept reports.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates planned to launch a military operation against Qatar at the beginning of a diplomatic crisis that erupted in June last year but were stopped by former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an act that may have played a key role in his dismissal.
According to the investigative news website The Intercept, the plan involved Saudi ground troops crossing the land border into Qatar, and with military support from the UAE, advancing 100km inland and seizing the Qatari capital.
Based on information it said it received from a current member of the US intelligence community and two former Department of State officials, The Intercept said the coup, which was largely devised by Saudi Arabia and the UAE's crown princes, "was likely some weeks away from being implemented".
It said the attack against Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, would have involved Saudi forces circumventing the Al Udeid Air Base, which is home of the US Air Force Central Command and some 10,000 American troops, and seizing Doha.
Al Udeid serves as one of the US' most important overseas military bases and carries out operations throughout the Middle East.
However, after Tillerson was notified of the plan by Qatari intelligence officials, he reportedly urged Saudi Arabia's King Salman not to carry out the attack and also encouraged Defense Secretary James Mattis to explain the dangers of such an invasion to his counterparts in the kingdom, it said.
Pressure from Tillerson caused Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, to back down, who was concerned that the invasion would damage Saudi Arabia's long-term relationship with the US.

Long-standing rivalry

However, Tillerson's intervention reportedly enraged Mohammed bin Zayed, also known as MBZ, with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the UAE, subsequently lobbying the White House for Tillerson's removal.
MBZ has had a long-running rivalry with Qatar and supported a failed coup against the Qatari government in 1996 when he served as chief of staff of the UAE armed forces.
The Intercept said none of the current or former officials interviewed by The Intercept had direct insight into why Trump decided to fire Tillerson, but one source said that the timing - a week before the Saudi crown prince arrived in Washington for a much-publicised visit - was significant.
Tillerson, a former executive for the energy company Exxon, had repeatedly criticised the blockading countries for the crisis before his dismissal, and in October last year, accused them of heightening tensions.
"There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage," Tillerson said at the time.
"It's up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear - they're ready to engage."

Emirati influence over Trump

Tillerson has not given any interviews since he was replaced with Mike Pompeo, but is believed to have disagreed on a number of issues with President Donald Trump, including the blockade of Qatar.
According to one news report, Tillerson was frustrated with Trump for endorsing the blockade, with his aides suspecting that a line in the president's speech where Qatar was accused of funding terrorism at a "very high level" had been written by the UAE's ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba.
Otaiba is a well-known figure in US national security circles, and according to Politico maintains "almost constant phone and email contact" with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The Intercept also reported that four of the sources it interviewed pointed to an ongoing campaign by the UAE to try to provoke Qatar into escalating the crisis.
The UAE has made it illegal for people to express sympathy with Qatar on social media, meanwhile Emirati officials, with close links to its leadership, repeatedly hurl insults against Qatari women.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, along with Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting "extremism and terrorism" and cosying up to Iran.
Qatar has vehemently denied all allegations.
The quartet subsequently ordered Qatari nationals to leave their countries, and also urged their citizens to return to their respective nations, disrupting the lives of thousands in the region and restricting their freedom of movement.
According to several media reports, the four countries want Qatar to join a regional alliance against Iran and normalise relations with Israel.
Qatar's emir has denounced all of the attempts to infringe on the Gulf nation's sovereignty and rejected all of their demands.