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Urgent Call for Action: Bulgaria Should Halt Deportation Proceedings of Saudi Activist Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi

Brussels, February 20, 2024

HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement is outraged by the detention and imminent deportation of Saudi activist Abdulrahman al-Khalidi in Bulgaria. Al-Khalidi is a prominent voice for democratic reforms and human rights in Saudi Arabia. He faces grave danger if he is returned to his home country, where the regime brutally suppresses any dissent. We urge the Bulgarian authorities to halt the deportation process and grant him protection and asylum. We also appeal to the international community, especially the European Union (EU), to intervene and safeguard his rights and safety.

Abdulrahman al-Khalidi is a fearless advocate for change in Saudi Arabia. He has campaigned for prisoners’ rights, constitutional reforms, and political participation. He has also collaborated with the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by the Saudi agents in the consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Al-Khalidi fled Saudi Arabia to escape persecution and sought refuge in several countries, including Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey. He has been detained in Bulgaria since 2021 after his asylum request was rejected. He is now facing deportation to Saudi Arabia, where he will likely face torture, imprisonment, or even execution. His activism and association with Khashoggi have made him a target of the Saudi regime, which has a notorious record of human rights violations. MENA Rights Group has documented the risks and threats that al-Khalidi faces if he is deported to Saudi Arabia.

We cannot let this happen. We must act now to save his life.

We demand that the Bulgarian authorities:

– Stop the deportation of Abdulrahman al-Khalidi. Sending him back to Saudi Arabia would violate the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they face persecution or serious harm.

– Reconsider his asylum case. Al-Khalidi clearly meets the criteria for refugee status, as he has a well-founded fear of persecution based on his political opinion and activities. Granting him protection and asylum is not only a legal obligation but a moral duty.

– Release him from detention. Al-Khalidi has been held in detention for more than two years without any valid reason or justification. He has suffered from poor conditions, lack of medical care, and psychological distress. He deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

“Abdulrahman al-Khalidi is a hero, not a criminal. He has spoken out against tyranny and oppression and paid a heavy price for it. He deserves our admiration and gratitude, not our indifference and betrayal. We cannot let him be deported to Saudi Arabia, where he will face a fate worse than death. We must act now before it is too late. We urge the Bulgarian authorities to stop the deportation, reconsider his asylum case, and release him from detention. We also appeal to the EU and the international community to intervene and protect his rights and safety. This is a matter of life and death. We cannot afford to fail him.”

Sarah Sheykhali, Executive Director of HuMENA

We call on the international community, especially the EU, to:

– Stand in solidarity with Abdulrahman al-Khalidi. He is a courageous and inspiring human rights defender who has dedicated his life to the cause of justice and democracy. He needs our support and recognition.

– Pressure the Bulgarian authorities to stop the deportation. The EU has the power and responsibility to influence the Bulgarian government and ensure that it respects its human rights obligations. The EU should use its diplomatic channels and leverage to prevent the deportation of al-Khalidi and secure his safety and well-being.

– Protect the rights of human rights defenders. Al-Khalidi’s case is not an isolated one. Many human rights defenders around the world face harassment, intimidation, arrest, and deportation for their peaceful and legitimate work. The EU should uphold its commitment to human rights and defend those who defend them.







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