Saudi Arabia's Repression of Atheists

In February 2016, it was widely reported that Saudi Arabia had sentenced a young man to 10 years in jail and 2,000 lashes for posts on Twitter advocating atheism.

According to a Saturday report in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — the Saudi religious police force whose duties include monitoring social media — found more than 600 tweets posted by an unnamed 28-year-old dissenter.

According to the report, the man refused to repent for the tweets and said that he had the right to assert his opinions.
In addition to the 10-year prison term, the court sentenced him to pay 20,000 riyals — about $5,330 — and receive a beating consisting of 2,000 lashes. Such floggings are generally broken up into weekly bouts of 50 lashings each and administered according to specific guidelines.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia convicted activist Raif Badawi of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and apostatsy and was sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes. That sentence was increased in 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine.

In 2014, Saudi Arabia updated its anti-terrorism laws to include atheist advocacy as a terrorist act. According to Human Rights Watch,

The interior ministry regulations include other sweeping provisions that authorities can use to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam. These “terrorism” provisions include the following:

Article 1: “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

This is the country that U.S. political leaders extoll for the “extraordinary friendship and relationship” it has with the United States.

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