January 11, 2015 – Reported by the Times of Malta – This week the world’s attention was fully taken by the events in France. The massacre of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, policemen and others persons during a number of terrorist attacks were centre stage, and deservedly so.
However during the past few days there were other serious threats to the right of free expression and other fundamental human rights. Russia and Saudi Arabia were the main culprits.
President Putin, in Russia, continued to play the bully against the Russian gay, transsexual and transgender community. Members of this community will now be banned from driving as they no longer qualify for a driving licence because of their lifestyle. According to Bully Putin, fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are “mental disorders” which make one a dangerous driver.
This is just one in a series of attacks by Mr Putin on the Russian gay, transsexual and transgender community. It follows, for example, in the steps of the 2013 decision to declare as illegal the promotion of non-traditional lifestyles, including the ones just mentioned.
The Professional Drivers Union supported the move. It said that since there are too many deaths on the road medical requirements for applicants should be toughened. But it escapes me why someone who is gay or transgender can be a more dangerous driver than one who is straight or celibate.
Saudi Arabia denies driving licences to women while it reserves for gays and transgender people harsher sanctions. They can be flogged or even executed. A 2011 report by Amnesty International said that a man was condemned to 500 lashes and five years in prison for being gay.
In that backward kingdom there is a worse ‘crime’ than homosexuality. It is called freedom of expression.
Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam (meaning he lightly criticised the Royal Family and the Saudi establishment) has been condemned to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison, besides being ordered to pay a fine of close to a quarter of a million euros.
Last Friday he was flogged 50 times in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. He was flogged after Friday prayers outside a mosque, as if God finds such barbarities pleasant to watch. According to reports of the flogging his feet and hands were bound but his face was visible. He remained silent during the lashings. He will receive another 50 lashes next week and will keep on being thus tortured for 20 weeks. His court sentence says that he should be given severe lashes.
Probably he will die under this extreme punishment but if he manages to survive he will end up as a wreck.
It is a pity that the world community has not reacted to the beastly barbarities of Saudi Arabia and to the bullying of Russia with the vehemence that such abuses deserve.
It is also a pity that last year the government honoured one of the Russian anti-gay bullies and this year it honoured a member of the barbaric Saudi royal family. Such abuses deserve condemnation not honours.