President Barack Obama ended his weeklong trip through Europe and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia Saturday giving an award to a woman from Saudi Arabia who brought to light the problems with abuse in her country.
Obama’s meeting with Maha Al Muneef, a doctor, came as the president has been criticized by human rights organizations for not raising the human rights record in Saudi Arabia in his meeting on Friday with King Abdullah.
Obama met at his hotel with Al Muneef shortly before he left the country. His comments were a veiled reference to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
He gave Al Muneef the International Woman of Courage Award from the State Department saying that she has not just set up many services and provided shelter to women and their children who are victims of different abuse, but helped to have laws passed that provide protection for both women and children.
The U.S. State Department gives this award each year to women who are working extraordinarily across the globe by advocating on behalf of families, women and children, said President Obama.
Al Muneef could not make the State Department ceremony earlier in the month due to health issues with her family and Obama joked, he was filling in for Michelle Obama, the first lady who is the normal presenter of the award.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International said that the organization was disappointed that President Obama did not raise the issue of human rights in his meeting on Friday with the leader of Saudi Arabia and did not speak about it while addressing the public.
Amnesty said that 70 members of the U.S. Congress urged Obama to speak to the Saudi leader over the significant repression that is experienced there.
Women in Saudi Arabia planned to defy on Saturday a ban by the government on women driving. Amnesty said although thousands across the U.S. have shown some solidarity with these women, unfortunately officials from the White House were not amongst them.
Senior officials in the White House administration said that Obama did not speak about human rights in the talk with the Saudi leader because it centered on Iran and Syria.