We, the undersigned organizations, express our support for “A People’s Vision for Reform in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi-led blueprint for democracy and human rights for the people of Saudi Arabia.
The People’s Vision was launched by leading Saudi activists and intellectuals in November 2020 as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accelerated his campaign of repression within and beyond Saudi borders. In the first-of-its-kind roadmap, the activists outlined thirteen principles as the foundations of a Saudi Arabia that promotes the rule of law and allows people to express themselves politically. Their demands include the release of all political prisoners, an end to religious discrimination, and a guaranteed right to political participation through “representation in an elected parliament” with “the direct election of the head of the executive authority or by representatives elected freely by the people.”
For far too long, the Saudi people have lived under a brutal, unelected monarchical government that has distributed resources of the country inequitably and blocked democratic alternatives to autocratic rule. Meanwhile, foreign governments, along with global business interests, have helped strengthen this repressive Saudi system by selling vast amounts of weapons to, doing business with, and providing international support for, the country’s rulers.
The result has been a horrifying system of oppression: an unelected government that violates the most basic human rights of the Saudi population, including freedom of speech, association, and religion; imprisons peaceful critics; tortures women’s rights activists; executes hundreds of detainees annually without providing basic due process; wastes vast sums of money on vanity infrastructure projects like NEOM, engages in a brutal war in Yemen with indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians and an unlawful siege of the country; and supports autocrats across the Middle East and North Africa. Instead of being able to exercise their democratic rights, the Saudi people are trapped under the absolute rule of an impulsive and impetuous crown prince who inflicts pain and suffering upon millions inside and outside the country.
In response to the Saudi monarchy’s ongoing repression at home and abroad, Saudi advocates for democracy and human rights are calling on human rights groups and civil society organizations from across the world to join their cause. We do so wholeheartedly.
As members of the international civil society community, we believe that a democratic Saudi Arabia is essential not only to protecting rights and security within the country, but also to advancing democratic norms both within the region and globally, and ensuring that Saudi foreign policy reflects the will and interests of the Saudi people. We urge elected officials worldwide who are concerned about rising global authoritarianism to engage with the People’s Vision. We further emphasize the need to ensure that the Saudis who advocate for the vision may do so free from reprisal.
As human rights advocates, we are called on to defend the aspirations of all people for liberty, equality, and justice under the law, and support those seeking genuine democratic political representation. We honor the courage of the Saudi citizens who have taken great risks to issue their demand for democracy and human rights in their homeland. We endorse this demand and urge others to do so as well.
The Freedom Initiative
Project On Middle East Democracy
Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR)
Migrant Workers Voice