Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

So much for MBS’s efforts to present an image of reform:

Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.

Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.

The women activists had persistently called for the right to drive, but stressed that this was only the first step toward full rights. For years, they also called for an end to less visible forms of discrimination, such as lifting guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

Their movement was seen as part of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom, which remains an absolute monarchy where protests are illegal and where all major decision-making rests with the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.

Rights activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among the seven detained. Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, in which 50 women were arrested for driving and lost their passports and their jobs.

All five women are well-known activists who agitated for greater women’s rights. Several of the women were professors at state-run universities and are mothers or grandmothers.

The Interior Ministry on Saturday did not name those arrested, but said the group is being investigated for communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.

The stunning arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving next month.

When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.

Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.

As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.

Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”

“The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the arrests of dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as critics of his foreign policies. He also led an unprecedented shakedown of top princes and businessmen, forcing them to hand over significant portions of their wealth in exchange for their freedom as part of a purported anti-corruption campaign.

In an interview with CBS in March, he said that he was “absolutely” sending a message through these arrests that there was a new sheriff in town.

Activists say writer Mohammed al-Rabea and lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimigh, two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners, are also among the seven detained. Al-Mudaimigh defended al-Hathloul in court when she was arrested in late 2014 for more than 70 days for her online criticism of the government and for attempting to bring attention to the driving ban by driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia.

Those familiar with the arrests say al-Hathloul was forcibly taken by security forces earlier this year from the UAE, where she was residing, and forced back to the kingdom.

In recent weeks, activists say several women’s rights campaigners were also banned from travelling abroad.

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, pro-government Twitter accounts were branding the group as treasonous under an Arabic hashtag describing them as traitors for foreign embassies.

The pro-government SaudiNews50 Twitter account, with its 11.5 million followers, splashed images of those arrested with red stamps over their face that read “traitor” and saying that “history spits in the face of the country’s traitors.”

The state-linked Al-Jazirah newspaper published on its front-page a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the nation.

Activists told the AP that some in the group were arrested on Tuesday and at least one person was arrested Thursday. They say the detainees were transferred from the capital, Riyadh, to the city of Jiddah for interrogations where the royal court has relocated for the month of Ramadan.

Activists say it’s not clear why the seven have been arrested now.

via Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

That ‘ethnic driver accidents’ stereotype? It’s wrong 

Good piece citing relevant studies:

“Everyone knows who the culprits are that are driving up our rates but no one has the guts to come and say it. Don’t give me the argument that there are no stats on this.”

Well, we all know the colour of this particular elephant in the room. It’s not white. And anyone who overhears casual conversation knows the stereotype to which the coded language refers — all those inherently terrible Asian drivers.

I hate to be the bearer of news but first, there’s no coverup and, second, that elephant is a chimera, that is, something that may be devoutly wished for by someone but which turns out to be an illusion.

There are some statistics, just not from Metro. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. does not track accident statistics according to ethnicity. But then, why should it?

However, there is third-party research into what’s essentially an ethnic stereotype: that adult immigrants are unsafe drivers and responsible for more road crashes than long-time residents.

The study was centred on Metro Toronto, one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Canada. It looked at the driving records of more than four million drivers and set out to discover whether recent immigrants represented any increased risk of involvement as drivers in serious motor vehicle accidents.

It was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Contrary to popular opinion, it turns out, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born scofflaws who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling, smoke, eat and drink hot coffee while at the wheel and other common transgressions.

Traffic slowly moves over the Lions Gate Bridge between Stanley Park and the North Shore. Contrary to popular opinion, says columnist Stephen Hume, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born drivers who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling and other common offences.
Traffic slowly moves over the Lions Gate Bridge between Stanley Park and the North Shore. Contrary to popular opinion, says columnist Stephen Hume, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born drivers who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling and other common offences. DARRYL DYCK /  THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Hot coffee? Oh, yes, counterintuitive as it may be, a study done by the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes that hitting the drive-through for a jolt of morning java increases your odds of an accident by 80 per cent. Furthermore, the researchers found, 65 per cent of near-miss accidents result from drivers fiddling with food and drink.

In fact, the agency found, drinking hot coffee puts drivers at the greatest risk for distraction while driving. It turns out drinking hot coffee at the wheel is worse than using your cellphone or, speaking of distractions, reaching for the radio to dial up Bruce Allen’s latest rant about cyclists.

Yet it’s not coffee-drinking commuters who draw ire.

“A frequently blamed group of drivers are adult immigrants as typified by negative stereotypes,” the researchers found. “Such beliefs” — stop me if you’ve heard this — “are based on the person’s presumed lack of familiarity with geographic locations, roadway layout, prevailing laws, common customs, local signage, social etiquette, basic skills or language idioms.”

One trope is the recurring anecdote about foreign-looking drivers looking lost, being inconsiderate of traffic etiquette and delaying or putting other commuters at risk with their driving and parking ineptitude.

Why is this? The researchers sought explanations in psychology. They discovered that when traffic is congested and drivers feel late rather than relaxed they display heightened selfishness, diminished graciousness toward others and increased reliance on stereotypes to explain their situation.

“Second, the anonymity of driving provides little deterrence against outbursts of bigotry.”

And finally, people justify their own driving errors as a result of their situation while judging other drivers’ mistakes as latent traits.

Among the million Metro residents of Asian descent there are doubtless a few bad drivers. The published research indicates, however, that the proportion of bad drivers is greater in the long-term population than among recent immigrants.

In the Toronto study, researchers examined accidents and hospital admissions with traffic injuries and compared the rates among a million recent immigrants with those for long-term residents.

“Recent immigrants were less likely to be drivers involved in a serious motor vehicle crash compared to long-term residents,” the study says. “Findings suggest that recent immigrants contribute to fewer serious road crashes than the population norm.”

Source: That ‘ethnic driver accidents’ stereotype? It’s wrong | Vancouver Sun