Blogging for religious freedom in the Middle East:

Bloggers have revolutionized public discussion of religious freedom in the Middle East. But virtual activism has its limits, as illustrated by the recent failure of the April 6 protest movement to translate Facebook enthusiasm into action on the streets. This week, a group of writers and cyberactivists from a dozen Middle Eastern countries gathered in Morocco to take up the challenge of transforming their online ideas into real world action.

“There is a new generation of Middle Easterners who are concerned about growing sectarian intolerance and religious repression,” observed HAMSA’s Nasser Weddady. “But many have found it hard to turn their beliefs into programs beyond cyberspace. So we brought together a dynamic group of young thinkers for strategic training in leadership, event planning, fundraising, and public relations.”

Where will you find a fashion show without one camera in sight?  Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia held its first fashion show a few weeks ago. The catch? No cameras. The Nafisat Shams Al Biqa’ Academy organized and held the fashion show in Jeddah, where designers vied for a first place prize of 100,000 SAR (about $27,000). Yet to get authorization for the show, organizers had to agree to ban all photography and video recording, even though the event as in line with the country’s official moral codes.

Torture in the United Arab Emirates:

ABC News recently broadcasted a tape depicting reveals(sic)  the Crown Prince’s brother, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, brutally beating and torturing an Afghani merchant accused of cheating the royal family on a grain delivery. A policeman assists the filming and aids Sheikh Issa by holding the man down. The nauseating list of abuses includes firing at the man’s feet with a machine gun, burning and beating him, and running him over with a Mercedes.

More on these and other Middle East human rights issues at CRIME.