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While King Abdullah sets up an international interfaith dialogue center, his police are trampling on the rights of believers of others faiths. The Saudi government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it can promote religious dialogue abroad.
(Beirut) – Thirty five Ethiopian Christians are awaiting deportation from Saudi Arabia for “illicit mingling,” after police arrested them when they raided a private prayer gathering in Jeddah in mid-December, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Of those arrested, 29 were women. They were subjected to arbitrary body cavity searches in custody, three of the Ethiopians told Human Rights Watch.
The Ethiopians gathered to pray together on December 15, during the advent of Christmas, in the private home of one of the Ethiopians, when police burst in and arrested them, three jailed members of the group, two women and one man, told Human Rights Watch.
“While King Abdullah sets up an international interfaith dialogue center, his police are trampling on the rights of believers of others faiths,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The Saudi government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it can promote religious dialogue abroad.”
In October, Saudi Arabia, together with Austria and Spain, founded the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, located in Vienna, and funded by Saudi Arabia.
The Ethiopian men spent two days at al-Nuzha police station in Jeddah, after which the police transferred them to Buraiman prison. The women had already been transferred to Buraiman prison. Two of the women said that officials there forced the women to strip, and then an officer inserted her finger into each of the women’s genitals, under the pretext of searching for illegal substances hidden inside their bodies. She wore a plastic glove that she did not change, the women told Human Rights Watch. Officers also kicked and beat the men in Buraiman prison, and insulted them as “unbelievers,” the jailed Ethiopian man said.