On Unlicensed Saudi Rights Groups

Saudi Arabia has two officially licensed human rights organizations. One of them is the governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC). The other is the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), which is an NGO in theory but still receives support from the government, i.e. it is not independent.

Many activists have applied to establish human rights organizations in recent years, but the government has not granted any licenses to any of those activists. Some of them decided that waiting while the government showed no sign that their approval is forthcoming was not an option, so they began operating within a grey legal area.

Lawyer activist Walid Abualkhair decided to take a different path. Abualkhair decided to register his organization, Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), first in Canada then seek permission to operate in Saudi Arabia. Today, he posted three tweets about where are they with that process:


After registering our rights organization in Canada, we wrote to the King a request to open an office and operate in Saudi Arabia

Our request was secretly transferred from the royal court to the security affairs at the interior ministry three months ago, and it has been there since then

As the president of the organization and the one who wrote the request on behalf of myself and my colleagues, I have asked what was the King’s instructions regarding the request. I was told it is a secret file and that it is under processing at the interior ministry.

With the civil society law still held by the Cabinet and waiting for their approval, these organizations and their applications for license to work are in limbo. The lack of a clear legal framework means the government can not only shut them down any time they want, but also take them to court.