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Starting now in London, a deep dive into the human rights challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with @hancock_steph moderating & @sarahleah1 starting off the presentations… (we’re also tweeting in Arabic at @hrw_ar ) #Rights2019

LIVE: facebook.com/HumanRightsWat…
We are here in London though we wish we were in the Middle East. When we talk about the clamping down on independent civil society in most of the region, that’s not just domestic civil society, but international civil society as well. ~ @sarahleah1
The people of the Arab world, especially those with independent voices, find themselves trapped inside their countries, giant virtual prisons for their citizens. ~ @sarahleah1
Thousands and thousands of Arabs are travel banned, just because, in Saudi, Bahrain, and Egypt; over a million Gazans are caged in their tiny territory. Yemenis have nowhere to flee, to escape the war devastating their country. But it’s not just that they can’t get out.
It’s also that independent human rights orgs, journalists, academics and journalists can’t get in. ~ @sarahleah1
And that’s why we’re here today, and why it’s even more important to show govts in the region that keeping us out will not mean we won’t uncover the truth of their abuses, the facts on the ground, the reality of their failed governance and failed leadership. ~ @sarahleah1
My colleagues will dive into detail in some of the key trends we wanted to discuss today: including the descent into darkness in Egypt; the ravaging of Yemen; the failed campaign to portray MBS as a “reformer” in Saudi Arabia… ~ @sarahleah1
…and in perhaps the one real positive development in the region, advances on women’s rights. ~ @sarahleah1 #Rights2019
And with that, a tip of the hat to Tunisia, which alone is shouldering the hopes and prayers of the entire world, to survive and maybe even flourish, as the one real democracy that persists in the Arab world. ~ @sarahleah1
I was last here in London in October to speak at the memorial of Jamal #Khashoggi, a long time friend and collaborator. I want to urge you all to remain committed to demanding accountability for his murder… ~ @sarahleah1
…the pending announcement that the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions will commence an investigation of this case is a welcome move… ~ @sarahleah1
…but it will, I’m sure, only highlight even more why we need a full, well-funded international investigation that has the capacity to uncover the specific role of MBS and his deputies in ordering this crime, including by speaking to those detained now in Saudi. ~ @sarahleah1
Sadly Jamal is but one of many journalists attacked for their work. There are others whose cases are not as well known, or have dropped off the radar, but I want to urge you to focus on in this coming year, because we do believe we can make a difference, with enough pressure:
My friends, both of whom are members of the HRW MENA advisory committee, Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab. ~ @sarahleah1
A federal appeals court in December upheld Ahmed’s outrageous 10 year conviction for “insulting the UAE” because he criticized the arrest of other activists. “Little Sparta” is actually little eggshell, it seems, treating the mildest of
criticism as a national threat.
128 rights groups have called for @NABEELRAJAB’s release, and so many organizations have awarded him their highest human rights prize, but the govt of Bahrain has dug its heels in, insisting on maintaining their oppression of this activist, no matter the international scorn.
And now, the meeting in London turns to discuss Saudi Arabia, with @cooglea taking the floor… #Rights2019
The well-funded image created for MBS by his army of consultants and PR people was quickly embraced by many media and international leaders. On MBS’s publicity tour of the UK and US he met political leaders, celebrities, and leading business people like Oprah! ~ @cooglea
What MBS didn’t tell us is that he decided that he could only make reforms in the absence of all criticism or feedback from Saudi society, and he dramatically escalated the level of repression in order to curb all dissent. ~ @cooglea #Rights2019
He embarked on an arrest campaign of well-known independent clerics, activists, and academics, as well as senior princes and leading businessmen, and the country’s leading women’s rights activists...
Not only were they arrested and many held without charge, there are credible allegations that authorities also mistreated them in detention. ~ @cooglea
Given the level of repression, we should expect that MBS has at least carried out his reform program, but on women’s rights there has been little progress – the guardianship system is still in place. ~ @cooglea #Rights2019
Even his economic reforms have not gone to plan. The IPO of ARAMCO is stalled, and he hasn’t been able to generate the level of international investment needed to transform the economy. ~ @cooglea #Rights2019
Many international investors are now scared away from Saudi Arabia because of MBS’s repression. ~ @cooglea #Rights2019
Yemen: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis - @k_beckerle now speaking in London, gives us some figures on the horror...

- About 20,000 civilians killed or wounded. Maybe tens of thousands more, depending on who is counting.
- 400,000 children under 5 suffering severe acute malnutrition in Yemen.

- 2 million displaced, half of them kids.

- Up to half the population at risk of starvation if something doesn’t change.
- More than 2/3rds, more than 20 million, reliant on some form of aid.

- Even veteran humanitarian workers find the depths and expanse of human suffering in Yemen difficult to fathom.
There are incredible people in Yemen pushing for justice, peace, & change. The question is, when will states choose to stand beside them, rather than continue to arm those fighting with more bombs & bullets? ~ @k_beckerle #Rights2019
Now in London, @AhmedBenchemsi describing "the assembly line of torture" in Egypt... #Rights2019 facebook.com/HumanRightsWat…
In today’s Egypt, it is forbidden to protest in the street—by law. Hundreds have been jailed because they protested the anti-protest law... Thousands have been disappeared, tortured, by the National Security Agency ~ @AhmedBenchemsi #Rights2019
Now in London, @Rothna_Begum will describe some good news of the past year: Women’s rights are making progress.... #Rights2019
The “marry my rapist” laws are being repealed in one country after the other, more laws on violence against women are being adopted, and domestic workers (mainly females) have new protections in more Arab countries… ~ @Rothna_Begum #Rights2019
We'll soon be taking questions for the @HRW experts on the Middle East and North Africa. Just reply to this tweet...
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