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Written by Student Rights on 17 June 2011 at 4pm

Saudi Ambassador responds to Student Rights report

On June 17th 2011, the Ambassador of the Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom issued a written response to a Student Rights report investigating the links between the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia.

His response is posted online here and was sent to Members of Parliament following EDM 1933, filed by Student Rights advisory board member Robert Halfon MP. Director of Student Rights, Raheem Kassam, has responded at length to the letter from the Ambassador, asking for further clarifications and assurances, as well as setting certain things about the report straight (below).------------------------

A RESPONSE FROM THE DIRECTOR, RAHEEM KASSAM TO THE HRH PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN NAWAF AL SAUD, AMBASSADOR OF THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA TO THE UK

Honourable Members,

It has come to my attention that HRH the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom has responded to our report on the Saudi Arabian Royal Family links to the School of Oriental and African Studies, one of London’s major universities.

I would like to clarify for the benefit of Members who have seen the issue as reported here, that while we appreciate the attempt by the Ambassador to engage on this issue, and note the importance placed on the report by the Embassy, the statement made regretfully does not address the key concerns raised.

Specifically, it should be noted:

1.  The letter accepts the findings of the report in terms of the donations made and the Kingdom’s relationship with many UK universities, but it does not address the concerns about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and how universities codes of conduct and governance principles are being breached by working with the Saudi regime.

2.  The use of the word “untrustworthy” in quotation marks in the Ambassador’s letter, in reference to Professor Haleem, would make it seem like our report used this terminology. We have not and we are confused by the use of quote marks here. We ask for clarification or a retraction from the Ambassador on this point.

3.  The Ofsted reports that the Ambassador referenced contain no references to the points made about the King Fahad Academy and contain no mention of the Evening Standard report.

4.  Dr. Sumaya al-Yusuf, whom the Ambassador cites in his letter, was in fact the person responsible for confirming the claims about Christians being called “pigs” and Jews being called “apes” in textbooks at King Fahad Academy. She said: “We have these books in our school. I can’t withdraw them.”

You can watch the whole clip here with further information here. I do note however, that the Ambassador raises a valid point about the law with regard to university funding in this country, and I encourage a full and open debate on this matter. It cannot be a matter of course that our universities continue to rely on foreign governments and dictatorial regimes for funding, due to the implications of taking money from them, as noted previously here (the quote on page two). I urge all Honourable Members to sign EDM 1933 and express your concern over this matter.

Kind regards,

Raheem Kassam

Director

Student Rights