Conference to honor Saudi human-rights activist who earned Ph.D. from IU

  • Sept. 10, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Karen Elliott House will present a keynote lecture at an Indiana University mini-conference next week on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

The conference, which honors Saudi human-rights activist and IU graduate Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, will take place Wednesday, Sept. 17, in Wylie Hall 005 at IU Bloomington. It will include:

  • A panel discussion at 4 p.m. featuring House; Lee Hamilton, director of the Center on Congress at IU; and Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. Patrick O’Meara, IU vice president emeritus of international affairs, will moderate.
  • House’s lecture on the topic “On Saudi Arabia” at 7:30 p.m. A reception will follow the lecture.

Al-Qahtani received a Ph.D. in economics from Indiana University in 2002. He and his family lived in Bloomington from 1995 to 2002, when he was a student.

He is co-founder and former director of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, the largest independent human-rights organization in Saudi Arabia. In March 2013, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by a 10-year travel ban for “planting seeds of sedition,” “breaking allegiance with the ruler,” “defaming the judiciary” and “turning international organizations against the Kingdom.”

“For representing the values of justice, free speech and human dignity, he and his family are paying a very high price,” said Gerhard Glomm, IU Bloomington professor of economics and an organizer of the conference. “This panel discussion and lecture will address what countries in the West can do to honor and support the struggle for human rights in Saudi Arabia. It will focus on whether supporting the struggle for human rights is an expendable luxury or a vital U.S. national interest.”

Karen Elliott House is the author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines -- and Future.” She retired in 2006 as publisher of The Wall Street Journal and senior vice president of Dow Jones & Co. Currently, she is an adjunct senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

During a 32-year career with Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, she served as foreign editor, diplomatic correspondent and energy correspondent based in Washington D.C. She received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, two Overseas Press Club awards and the 1982 Edwin M. Hood Award for Excellence in Diplomatic Reporting for her coverage of the Middle East.

As a journalist, House traveled widely and interviewed world leaders including Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi King Abdullah, Hosni Mubarak, Margaret Thatcher, Richard Nixon, Helmut Kohl, George H.W. Bush, the late King Hussein and Yasser Arafat. She has appeared frequently on television over the past three decades, most recently on PBS, Fox, CNN and CNBC.

The conference is sponsored by the IU School of Global and International Studies, the Center for the Study of the Middle East, the departments of economics and political science, the Middle Eastern Law Student Association and anonymous donors.

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Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani

Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani | Photo by Hassan Ammar

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Karen Elliott House

Karen Elliott House

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Steve Hinnefeld