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Culture club burned down for second time for hosting female intellectuals and writers

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that the Saudi authorities should clearly declare their stance against advocates of extremism and intolerance in Saudi Arabia and announce the results of an investigation into the burning down of the AlJouf culture club for a second time. The club was set on fire once before at the beginning of 2009 on the basis of its cultural activities and hosting of Saudi women intellectuals and writers.

The AlJouf club was deliberately burned down for a second time at the end of February 2010, after having announced its annual cultural activities agenda. The club had recently been reconstructed after the earlier arson attack in January 2009 by militants who acted freely, as the Saudi Ministry of Interior turned a blind eye. Club chairman Ibrahim AlHamid received a threatening message on his cell phone a few hours before the blaze reading: “Did you know that taking your life in a few hours by God's will is a virtue?”

ANHRI's executive director, Gamal Eid, said, "In a country where the Ministry of Interior arrests reformers and imprisons them without investigation or trial, and where extremists enjoy impunity despite having burned down a culture club for hosting women writers, the future is bound to be gloomy."

The two arson attacks on the club are not the only evidence of the Saudi Ministry of Interior's tolerance of extremists and promoters of hate. The confiscation of many books, such as "Politics and the Tribe", by Mohammed bin Sinitan, "Introduction to the Koran", by Mohammed Abed AlJabri, and "A Sparking Glance", by Abdo Khal, are other examples. All three books were confiscated by extremists at the Riyadh book fair in a display of loathing for free thought and freedom of expression.

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