Thursday, November 01, 2007

More on the Saudi protest

MarshaJane has asked for other views so I'll add my bit.

First off a big thank you to MarshaJane, Owen and Mary P, from SYN, for all their hard work in organising the event .

The speakers included :

Sandy Mitchell (former British prisoner in Saudi Arabia), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Yahya al-Alfaifi (Saudi trade unionist), Katy Clark MP, John McDonnell MP, Marsha-Jane Thompson (SYN Co-Chair), Murad Qureshi AM,and Peter Tatchell.

As Marsha said, it was powerful to hear a first hand account of torture from Sandy. His lawyer, sorry I did not catch his name, spoke of the disgraceful behaviour of this government in not tacking the Saudis over his imprisonment and torture on false charges (not that torture is acceptable even if he had been guilty). His lawyer had written to successive ministers with little effect. He read out the latest response from Milliband, who said they would use the next diplomatic opportunity that arose. Understandably most people would think a state visit would fit the bill, but no. The response , when he rang Milliband's office to ask about this, was that the opportunity had to come from the Saudis and they were refusing to discuss the issue. So the government will only tackle this if the repressive regime opens the dialogue. Well that's not going to happen anytime soon.

The other speakers pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive societies on earth. It has no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions. Human rights violations are rampant – including the lack of basic rights for women ( including the fact that they can't vote, go outside without a man, hold a passport or drive a car),and the repression of gays, the widespread use of torture, amputations and public executions. Jeremy Corbyn made a particularly powerful speech highlighting the hypocrisy of the fact that parliament had debated the abuse of human rights in Burma this week,yet was silent on the same in Saudi Arabia

All in all a good demo...except for David B and Mike R leading a group of AWLers in disruptive singing of the Internationale at the end.First rampaging around blogs other than their own and now this, Tut tut. I reprimanded them and told them to behave or else stick to their own demos !!

As is traditional, we all headed off to the pub.
The usual suspects were there . John A introduced me to another blogger, Will Parbury. I believe he is a very wussy new labour type and this will further add to my crimes in the eyes of Punchie. Oh well, after the first bullet what does it matter.

We went to a pub near the embassy that was full of suits and not the usual seedy haunts that the leftie bloggers piss up lot inhabit. There was a very grand 5 storey house opposite and we could see into an ornate drawing room. A car pulled up outside and Will said, oh look that's William Hague. At which point a few of the great unwashed lefties started waving at him. He looked at bit perturbed and a bit later drew the curtains so we couldn't have a nosey.

John I'm afraid shocked the assembled drinkers by stating he quite liked George Galloway. Stunned silence . This then started what I believe is called an 'intervention' in the US. We all argued why we thought Galloway was a tosser and MarshaJane pointed out that John would be disowned by his 'dad', Dave.

Anyway, all in all not a bad night.

See over here for more on what people can do to protest against the Saudi regime.

re pics , my ones are not to great so am trying to find some others to put here.