May 14, 2015 | Quote

Obama Pressed to Raise Human-Rights Abuses in Gulf Nations

Human rights activists said Tuesday there’s growing doubt that President Obama is “tough enough” to raise human rights concerns such as persecution of Christians with leaders of Persian Gulf states at a summit this week.

Although Mr. Obama said last month that the U.S. must have a “tough conversation” with Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia about repression of their citizens’ rights to freedom of religion and expression, activists say the administration has been looking the other way.

“It unfortunately seems to be part of a pattern that the administration … seems to be backing away from its commitments to raise these issues with the Gulf states,” said David Weinberg, senior fellow at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, who called it “a matter of political will.”

Human rights activists say the administration should insist that Saudi Arabia and Qatar take a stronger stand against Saudi cleric Sa’ad Ateeq al Ateeq, who gave a sermon in January at Qatar’s state-controlled Grand Mosque in which he called on Allah to “destroy the Jews … destroy the Christians and Alawites … and the Shi’a.” The sermon was promoted by Qatar’s religious affairs ministry and broadcast live on Qatari TV.

“There are a number of other Saudi clerics who receive state perks, as Ateeq does, who continue to be in good graces with the state, something that should be very worrisome from an American security perspective,” said Mr. Weinberg.


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