Advocacy, Human rights, Middle East, New in Lobbying

Progressive foreign policy group to lobby on Saudi human rights

A year-old foreign policy group that aims to end US support for nondemocratic governments has registered its first lobbyist.

Bethany Alhaidari will lobby on “human rights violations in Saudi Arabia” on behalf of Freedom Forward, a fiscally sponsored project housed at the Center for International Policy. The newly disclosed registration was effective June 3.

“I’m pretty excited about her engagements, but I don’t want to speak to them just yet,” said Freedom Forward Executive Director Sunjeev Bery. “The deep entanglements between the US government and the Saudi government often come at the expense of the American people. We are engaged in Congress around those concerns.”

Bery is the former advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. He said his new group is funded by Progressive donors opposed to US military entanglements in the region but declined to name them.

Freedom Forward has notably called on Congress to block all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and “fundamentally downgrade” relations with both countries. The two countries have come under bipartisan criticism in recent years over their military intervention in Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

Alhaidari for her part is an American citizen who is fighting her Saudi ex-husband in US court for custody of their five-year-old daughter. An expert in human rights law, she is the executive director of the nonprofit Saudi American Justice Project, which advocates on behalf of victims of various human rights abuses inside Saudi Arabia.

“She’s an expert on human rights issues and has spent extended time in Saudi Arabia,” Bery said. “Freedom Forward certainly benefits from all of her work and her knowledge.”