UN Watch urges U.S. & EU officials to back women protesters by blocking Saudi bid for Human Rights Council seat on Nov. 12
GENEVA, October 28, 2013 — Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch today applauded the dozens of brave Saudi women who got behind the wheel this weekend in protest of the world’s only ban on female drivers, and called on world leaders to support their struggle for equal rights by blocking the “absurd” Saudi bid to join the UN Human Rights Council on November 12.
Despite the government’s public threat to use force against protesters, a record 60 women courageously took to the roads—the largest number since the country’s first major driving protest in 1990, when 50 women were arrested and lost their jobs. At least 16 of the women were detained this weekend.
But the activists’ daring efforts could be for naught, warns UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, depending on the outcome of the UN Human Rights Council elections on November 12.
“The brave women drivers’ journey for equal rights will come to a screeching halt if Saudi Arabia’s despotic regime is elected to the Human Rights Council, where it will serve as a world judge on a wide spectrum of human rights issues, including women’s rights,” Neuer said.
“Eleanor Roosevelt, founding chair of the UN human rights commission and a women’s rights pioneer, would be proud of these courageous Saudi women taking to the road — in the face of threats, bullying, and harassment — to peacefully fight for their rights,” Neuer said.
“But what would she think of the world’s top human rights body — the one she helped create — electing Saudi Arabia as a voting member, given the regime’s abysmal record on the rights of women, religious freedom, and political liberties?”
UN Watch is urging world leaders, including U.S. ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton, to oppose the Saudi bid for a UNHRC seat, to demonstrate solidarity with the brave women who took to the road in defiance of a discriminatory law, the 17,000 Saudis who signed a petition in support, and all the women who were too afraid to do either, but who remain victims of gross and systematic bias.
At present, Saudi Arabia is poised to win a seat, a candidacy only boosted by last week’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session, in which the Human Rights Council evaluated its performance on upholding human rights. Out of 95 countries that took the floor, a whopping 82 countries praised the Saudi human rights record.
“Making Saudi Arabia a world judge on women’s rights and religious freedom would be like naming a pyromaniac as the town fire chief,” said Neuer.

Next week, UN Watch will bring famous dissidents inside the UN to mobilize opposition to the Saudi bid, and to other “absurd candidacies” such as China and Cuba.

UN Watch