While Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) continues to enjoy the afterglow of his fist bump meeting with US President Joe Biden and the windfall profits from the big bump in oil prices, human rights activists continue to doggedly pursue his ongoing abuse of human rights in the kingdom.

The Tragic Tales of the Father and the Son

London-based alqst.org this week published a detailed account of the arrest and disappearance of the son of a prominent conservative cleric, who himself was arrested in 2016 and subsequently disappeared.

The organization had this to say: 

“ALQST has learned of the arrest on 14 August 2021 of Abdulwahhab al-Dowaish, son of the preacher Sulaiman al-Dowaish who has been forcibly disappeared since 2016. Abdulwahhab, who was arrested previously in June 2017, had received a phone call from the Saudi authorities asking him to go to the Naif College for National  Security in Riyadh, supposedly to have the electronic tag removed from his ankle. However, as soon as he arrived he was informed that he had to spend the remainder of his sentence, amounting to eight months, in prison.”

Abdulwahhab al-Dowaish was originally arrested in 2017 after an argument with an official at the Interior Ministry to whom he had gone to seek the release of his father. In the course of the argument Abdulwahhab told the official: “We love our father dearly; either release him or put us in prison with him.” The following day, a number of civilian cars surrounded Sulaiman al-Dowaish’s family home, where all his children lived. Abdulwahhab was then arrested and forcibly disappeared for three months, after which his family were able to visit him in prison and saw he had clearly been tortured. A source told ALQST that Abdulwahhab was tortured and forced under duress to make confessions, and because he was in such poor physical condition he was moved to the prison hospital for treatment before being returned once again to the main prison.

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Abdulwahhab was subsequently put on trial on charges including support for Islamic State (IS) and holding extremist ideas, although the Public Prosecution failed to produce any evidence for this. He was released before his trial began in March 2018, and was sentenced in September 2020 by the Specialised Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism court, to three and a half years in prison with eighteen months suspension, to be followed by a travel ban of similar duration.”

ALQST notes it still does not know where Abdulwahhab is currently being held.


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Abdulwahhab’s father was allegedly brought before MBS in chains and beaten by the crown prince. The cleric was a staunch supporter of the ruling family but fell spectacularly out of favor in 2016 after he published a series of tweets. Ramzi Kaiss writing for the Washington-based human rights organization Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) describes what happened to Sulaiman al-Dowaish in detail:

“In the tweets that apparently provoked his abduction, Dowaish wrote about the dangers of individuals providing “their spoiled sons” with “excessive powers and responsibilities without accountability and oversight.” It was, perhaps, a not-so-subtle reference to King Salman and his son, MBS, who at the time was amassing newfound political power after being appointed by his father, a year earlier, as the minister of defense and deputy crown prince. By 2017, MBS was crown prince.

After being detained in Mecca, Dowaish disappeared. According to an eyewitness, he was soon flown to Riyadh, where he was taken, handcuffed and chained, to the office of MBS himself. According to MENA Rights Group’s sources, Mohammed bin Salman forced Dowaish onto his knees and began to personally assault him—punching him in the chest and throat, and berating him about his tweets. Dowaish, bleeding excessively from his mouth, lost consciousness.

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Dowaish was then kept in an unofficial detention facility located in the basement of a royal palace in Riyadh. According to ALQST’s sources, the basement of this palace had been used to imprison and torture high-ranking Saudi officials and rival members of the royal family, by MBS’s own entourage. Maher al-Mutreb and Saud al-Qahtani, two members of the notorious “Tiger Squad” hit team responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other Saudi dissidents, were in charge of running the secret prison and personally oversaw the torture of Dowaish.”

The Spoiled Son with a Taste for Blood

ALQST, while continuing to demand answers on the fate of Sulaiman, has called on the Saudi authorities to release his son immediately and unconditionally and drop all charges against him.

But as with other cases, MBS and the supine judicial system that answers to him will pay no heed to the call, particularly as Western governments themselves have chosen to largely ignore his multiple abuses, the most widely publicized of which was to order the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Although the Biden administration claims that the president raised the Khashoggi case and other human rights violations with the crown prince, human rights activists have argued that all that Biden achieved with his meeting with MBS was to further embolden the crown prince.

Indeed a Saudi doctoral student studying at Leeds University had a previous sentence of three years dramatically increased.  Her crime was posting comments critical of the regime on a website on the internet. Salma al-Shehab had returned to the kingdom on a holiday when she was arrested. On 9 August, the appeals court sentenced the 34-year-old mother of two young children to 34 years in prison. As if this was not enough, the court ordered that, after her release, this lady would face a 34-year travel ban.

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On August 15, numbers revealed that executions in the first six months of 2022 hit 120. A record 81 were executed in a single day. This is the largest number in the history of the kingdom. That number is greater than the total number of executions of the last two years, making a mockery of Saudi promises to limit executions. It raises questions about what exactly did Biden’s meeting with MBS actually achieve.

[Arab Digest first published this article and is a partner of Fair Observer.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.