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Joe Stork

Joe Stork is the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Before joining HRW he co-founded the Middle East Research and Information Project, and from 1971 to 1995 was the chief editor of its bimonthly magazine, Middle East Report . His books inclu...
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Human rights in the smaller Gulf states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE

Joe Stork, 19 December 2012

Human rights conditions in the five smaller Gulf states are quite poor overall. Political and economic power is the monopoly of hereditary ruling families. There is little respect for core civil and political rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and association. Peaceful dissent typically faces harsh repression. The administration of justice is highly personalised, with limited due process protections, especially in political and security-related cases. The right to participate in public affairs by way of election to offices with some authority is extremely limited; the only exception is Kuwait.

Women face discrimination in matters such as inheritance, divorce and the custody of children. These states, some among the world’s wealthiest in per capita terms, provide amply for basic services like health care and education, but this is limited to citizens – in countries where low-skilled and poor migrant workers make up the majority of the population. Many countries have a stateless population, known as bidun , in some cases quite substantial, who face systematic discrimination and marginalisation.

Where governments have established national human rights commissions, these have not taken positions critical of the government. Those that are active, like Qatar’s, work mainly in non-controversial areas like disability rights.

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