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Threatened Country and New King

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

January 22, 2015

New King, Endangered Country, Dangerous Ideology, repression and Solutions

CDHR’s Commentaries and Analysis

King Salman, Empowered Citizens Can Save The Country

Former Crown Prince, now King Salman, stated recently that Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf monarchies) is ‘… passing through the most delicate situation in its history as a result of highly dangerous challenges.’

CDHR’s Commentary: The unprecedented and unexpected sudden mass revolts in the Arab World (“the Arab Spring”) caught the Saudi oligarchs not only unprepared, but more vulnerable than at any time in their history. Having taken their disenfranchised population for granted and purchased protection from external powers and regional defense buffer zones, the Saudi rulers found themselves alone and unprepared after their absolute like-minded  supporters and defenders like former President Mubarak of Egypt, were trampled on by their marginalized populations. The seismic impact of the Arab Spring on the stability and security of the Saudi ruling family also affected the Saudi royals’ relations with their traditional powerful allies, specifically the United States, which came down on the side of the revolting Arab masses, especially in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

Instead of looking into the root causes that led to the Arab Spring and creating an environment of hope for its ruthlessly oppressed population, the Saudi regime embarked upon a costly and vicious counterrevolution campaign, domestically and regionally. The Saudi monarchy, with the help of some of its neighboring oligarchs, assisted in the overthrow of President Mubarak’s elected successor, sent its troops to crush the revolution in Bahrain and tried to drag the US into undermining the Arab people’s struggle to rid themselves of despotic regimes, some of which were socially and politically less tyrannical than the ruling Saudi political and religious autocracies.

Despite their lucrative payments to recruit dependent and submissive dictatorial substitutes for their fallen comrades in Egypt and elsewhere, to create buffer zones as in Lebanon against Iran and its proxies and despite promises of rewards for Putin of Russia if he were to support their efforts to overthrow the Syrian dictator, the Saudis failed on all fronts. This is due to the Arab peoples’ determined pursuit of their objectives of transforming the Arab World into modern democratic systems, the practice of self-rule which is alien to most Arabs. Not only did the Saudi rulers fail to recruit supporters to achieve their counterrevolutionary objectives, but they also failed to prevent some of the extremist ideologue groups which they have financed and armed (to topple their Shi’a Alawite enemy in Syria) from joining ISIS, which poses an ominous threat to the kingdom and its rulers.

Gripped by fear of their many enemies, domestically and externally, the Saudi rulers seem to seek help from anyone, including groups they have declared terrorists as this article demonstrates. The autocratic Saudi regime’s desperate attempts to save itself and its kingdom from the many formidable threats encircling them is a matter of fact as summarized in this appraisal, “From the available data, one may say that the situation in Saudi Arabia is not all good, externally or internally. The crises plaguing the region and surrounding the Saudi regime are taking a serious toll on the kingdom. In Yemen, Riyadh’s rival, the Houthi movement, now controls most of the countries (sic) bordering Saudi Arabia. These countries' geography and populations are historically linked with Saudi Arabia, especially in the heavily Yemeni Asir region. In Bahrain, the Shiite conflict with the Sunni regime backed by Riyadh is still heating up. The situation in Iraq is on the verge of exploding, with the Islamic State (IS) near the Saudi border, putting the Saudi regime under a kind of geographical siege.”

These threats could be circumvented if the Saudi regime chooses to avert an internal social cataclysm that is likely to prove more calamitous than the consuming carnages in different Arab countries. This means that the Saudi rulers should focus on transforming their autocratic system of governing and on sharing power with all citizens regardless of gender, regional identity, ethnicity or religious orientation. By empowering the people voluntarily, the Saudi monarchs will not only remove major reasons prompting people to resort to the violence of the Arab Spring, but will give the Saudi citizens tangible incentives to defend their country.

National unity based on equality, full participation in the decision-making processes and a sense of belonging is the best, safest and cheapest available option to save the country from the spillover of the current contagious and anarchic turmoil in the Arab world. This can be done if all Saudi citizens feel that the country is theirs instead of belonging to the few who think and act as if the state belongs to their families by birthright.

Saudi Arabia can be saved if the current Saudi rulers see the world for what it is as opposed to clinging to their skewed version of reality. To start, the regime should release all peaceful human and political rights activists and those imprisoned for advocating social justice, rule of law, religious freedom and equality. Prominent among the unjustly imprisoned peaceful promoters of political participation, freedom of expression (religious or otherwise) and social justice are the founders and members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, as well as lawyer Abu-Alkhair, Raif Badawi, Souad Al-Shamari and Shaikhs Al-Rashudi and Al-Nimr, just to name a few.

This group along with many well-known patriotic and peaceful reform minded Saudi men and women, such Hatoon Al-Fasi, Wajeha Al-Hwaider, Bidriyah Al-Bisher, Samar Badawi, Samar Fatany, the Almaeena brothers, Madawi Al-Rasheed, Ali Aldumaini,Eman Al Nafjan, Khalid Al-Dakheel Faiza Ambah, Fawzia al-Bakr and members of the ruling family such as Princes Talal and Al-Waleed (father and son), Princesses Basma Bint Saud, Amirah Al-Taweel and Adela Bint Abdullah (the King’s daughter), would form an ideal group to construct a framework for transition to a constitutional monarchy along the line of current European monarchies.

This is a logical and pragmatic approach to abort the multitude of external and internal threats facing the country and its people.

Arabia After King Abdullah

CDHR’s Commentary: The Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, has been inundated with inquiries from Western media and politicians since news broke of King Abdullah’s recent hospitalization. They are wondering about the Saudi royal succession and whether King Abdullah’s “reform” initiatives will continue when he no longer rules.

Traditionally, Saudi Kings are designated years or decades before inheriting the throne. Crown Princes become automatically kings when reigning kings die after long and, in some cases, incapacitating ailments. Given this family tradition, it’s assured that Crown Prince Salman (known for his pro-Salafi Islam and anti-reform proclivities) will inherit the Saudi throne unless the 35 princes’ “Allegiance Commission” which King Abdullah established in 2006 reasserts its powers to recommend future Saudi Kings and Crown Princes. This is unlikely to happen without a potential palace revolt which is said to be the primary reason that convinced King Abdullah to bypass his brainchild Commission when he unilaterally appointed his ultra-conservative half-brother Naif (a staunch opponent of any political reform) Crown Prince in 2011 without consulting the Commission. When Naif mysteriously died in Switzerland, the King again disregarded his Commission and appointed Naif’s full brother Salman as Crown Prince.

Ironically, the King was profusely praised for creating the Commission by the international community and by progressive members of the royal family like Prince Talal, who resigned from the Commission to protest King Abdullah’s decision to circumvent it. Abdullah’s move dashed the hopes of Saudi reformers for any reform that might pave the way to popular political participation.

However, the traditional process of royal succession could be transformed if reform-minded royals, especially the younger generation, or if King Abdallah’s powerful sons, specifically, Prince Mitib, the Minister of the ruthless National Guard, Prince Mishal, the Governor of Mecca and Prince Abdul Aziz, the deputy to the ailing Foreign Minister Saud Alfaisal, demand a greater role in deciding who should be the next king and what reform strategies must be initiated and implemented after their father no longer rules. Like their father, none of King Abdullah’s sons trusts Crown Prince Salman and his Sudairi wing of the family (the Sudairi 7) due to historical animosities, namely the marginalization of their father for decades prior to his ascendance to the throne in 2005.

In addition to the disregarded Allegiance Commission, King Abdullah has introduced two other mostly token reform initiatives: municipal elections in 2005 in which women and youth were not allowed to run for office or vote for candidates, and the 2013 appointment of 30 carefully selected pro-government women to the Majlis Al-Shura, a powerless consultative chamber which consists of 150 members hand-picked by the King. Both initiatives proved to be misleading appeasements for domestic and external consumption because neither has produced any change in the political and social status quo. All powers and decision-making processes remain in the hands of the political and religious ruling oligarchs.

Despite the Saudi people’s initial hopes for political reforms when King Abdallah ascended to the throne in 2005 and despite western commendation for the King’s announcements of religious and political reforms, King Abdallah’s actions only served to strengthen the grip that the royal family and religious establishment hold on the country. More Saudi human rights activists and free speech advocates are being arrested and imprisoned and more punishing laws (royal decrees) have been issued under King Abdullah’s reign than under any of his predecessors.

He criminalized defaming the reputation of the state, insulting a member of the royal family or religious clerics. King Abdallah has increased the number of the dreaded Interior Ministry’s secret police by 60,000, ostensibly to ensure public safety, but in reality, as many Saudis know, to crack down on pro-democracy movements and human rights activists. King Abdallah’s appointments of Princes Naif and Salman (both of whom adamantly oppose even his cosmetic initiatives) to inherit the throne are blatant contradiction to the popular perception that he is a reformer.

If, as expected, Crown Prince Salman becomes the next King, political conditions are likely to deteriorate for the Saudi people, the region and for the international community. Prince Salman’s   support for the intolerant Saudi religious establishment, his insistence that the lethal Saudi dogma, Wahhabism, is a ‘pure call’ “derived from Allah’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet,” his belief that the Saudi ruling family owns the country by birthright and his well-known anti-political reform stance, will result in more political oppression than under any previous King.

However, the raging turmoil in the Arab World combined with increased domestic repression are likely to create a tinder box awaiting a spark of an event to set off a conflagration that even iron-fisted Salman cannot prevent.

Saudi Citizens Can Defend Their Threatened Country

CDHR’s Commentary: “Militants (Saudi Nationals) killed two Saudi border guards and their commanding officer on the frontier with Iraq early on January 5, 2015 according to the Interior Ministry which is thought to be the “Islamic State's first assault on the kingdom.”

This attack should not have come as a surprise, given ISIS declared intent to attack Saudi Arabia, directly and through its supporters inside the country. This attack could be the start of a lengthy and costly conflict that will eventually expand beyond the borders with Iraq. This conflict could attract many anti-Saudi-regime terror and militia groups, Sunni and Shi'a, including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, some Saudis and some members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Saudi regime helped oust and later declared the group a terrorist organization. Two steps the Saudi regime can take to help defend its northern and southern territories are: First, empower the Saudi people by introducing democratic reforms where citizens can take part in the decision-making processes and feel they own the country. One place to start is by changing the status of the national Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shurah) from a hand-picked and royal controlled advisory entity into a legislative branch of government, as many reformers and some members of the ruling family have been advocating for years.

Simultaneously, the Saudi regime can establish strong economic and political relations with current Iraqi government and stop Saudi religious extremist clerics from continuing their religious and physical assaults on Shia, in and out of Saudi Arabia. This necessitates treating Iraq as an equal and independent nation that must determine its own political future which will likely be a federated democratic republic if the current dynamics in Iraq continue. This is possible and doable if the Saudi royals and religious establishment stop financing and arming their minority Sunni proxies in Iraq.

In the south, Yemen, with 26 million poverty stricken people and long porous borders with Saudi Arabia, presents a greater threat to the Saudis than Iraq. This is due to the fact that most Yemenis believe southern Saudi Arabia (the Asir region) belongs to them, as exemplified by their incursion into the Saudi southern region in 2009 which resulted in a bloody conflict. Yemen is also the home to the lethal group, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose primary objective is the overthrow of the Saudi ruling family.

The same arrangements proposed for Iraq to defuse the border threat can be applied to Yemen, a situation that is more dangerous than Iraq for the Saudis to ignore. However, in the case of Yemen, the Saudis and other oil rich Gulf Arab States must make substantial economic investments in the dilapidated Yemeni infrastructure and public services. By providing financial aid to the Yemenis and by respecting them as proud and independent people, the Saudis can defuse the threat to their southern borders.

It’s unlikely that neither Saudi border with Iraq or Yemen can be secured by any military might alone, given the number of bloodthirsty groups who are bent on death and destruction because of religious indoctrination and a sense of alienation and dispossession. The steps discussed above are doable if the Saudi oligarchs accept that only stake holding citizens, regardless of gender, religious orientation, ethnic or regional background, can protect their country from internal and external threats.

Loujain and Maysa Are Not Terrorists, They Are Enlightened Patriots

CDHR’s Commentary: The unjustified arbitrary arrest of two patriotic Saudi women, Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, on Dec. 1, 2014, further demonstrates the Saudi regime’s rejection of modernity, an incredible attempt to reverse human evolution and its concomitant demands. As if arresting and interrogating these highly educated and civically active Saudi women for a month because they drove a few feet onto the “sanctified” Saudi sands where women are forced into subservient status is not enough to draw global disdain, the Saudi regime and its archaic  7th century-based court system are trying them in courts created for terrorists. This action by the Saudi autocratic and theocratic ruling families, Al-Saud and Al-Alshaikh, is not surprising, given the system’s schizophrenic state of mind and daunting fear of anyone who challenges social injustice, inequality, institutionalized state intimidation of the public (such as the religious police), and unceasing relegation of women (whom the Saudi Mufti considers agents of evil) to inferior status.

The questions the Saudi people, women and men, and all civilized people should be asking are: what good does denigrating women do for Saudi Arabia and the world and what harm did Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi inflict to merit being tried in a dangerous stigmatizing terrorist court? As the Saudi people, especially visionary and patriotic activists know too well, the Saudi judicial system is designed to render disproportionate soul and body scarring punishment and advertise it as a stark warning to anyone who might consider challenging the Saudi regime’s draconian policy and erratic royal whims.

The Saudi rulers’ persistent behavior of brutal retaliation for acts normal in modern societies (such as women driving cars) is incomprehensible, given that the regime is trying to stem the march of transformative human development. The aspirations of the Arab masses that led to the Arab Spring have presented a glaring warning to the Saudi ruling elites that their attempts to thwart evolutionary public demands for social justice, political freedom and financial security are doomed to fail.

“Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam”

CDHR’s Commentary: Ten years ago (Dec. 2005), President Abdulrahman Wahid of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, stated that “Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to defeat the Wahhabi ideology.”  President Wahid was not the only prominent Muslim scholar who warned the international community about the looming threats that the Saudi dogma poses against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In a scathing communique issued after a major conference in Cairo, Egypt, in April 2010, prominent Muslim scholars and historians from the oldest and most respected Muslim educational institution, Al-Azhar University, “warned that the Saudi/Wahhabi system is based on violence of the worst kind and must be defeated by all legal means.”

These scholars and many others like them argue that, from the start of their movement (more than 250 years ago), the creators and utilizers of the Saudi/Wahhabi doctrine have employed severe punishments to create fear in the hearts and minds of their citizens. The Saudi government’s use of flogging and beheading in public squares is designed to create a society that constantly lives in fear, not of God’s wrath, but of those who claim to represent God’s will.

Given the Muslim scholars’ dire warnings about the threats of Wahhabi ideology issued years ago, it’s incomprehensible that the international community, especially western democratic governments (the main target of Muslim terrorists) has not heeded the warnings. Nor has any western government responded to the growing threats to and attacks on its society in a manner that makes terrorists and their financiers think twice before launching lethal attacks on innocent people, such as those that took place during the last 14 months in Australia, France, the US, Britain and Canada.

The question is: what will it take to convince the West (including Muslim minorities) that the threats to their democracies posed by the Wahhabi ideology are real and gaining momentum? Will Western governments, media and civil societies continue their policies of appeasement and denial or take drastic actions to repel what’s manageable now before terror groups gain more strength and make or procure destructive weapons that could inflict wide spread devastation?

Builders of Snowmen Are HELL Bound

CDHR’s Commentary: An enraged Saudi cleric issued an edict against creative Saudis who took advantage of a rare snowfall in their region and used snow to portray repressive political and social practices such as the male guardian system, women’s coverings and pointing out a short ride between autocratic Saudi Arabia and democratic Germany. These images were posted on social media of which the Saudis, including clerics, are said to be the most frequent users in the world.

The cleric argued that creating/building any image with human features is un-Islamic (or Bidah, “novelty”) because only Allah can do such things--building snowmen and images of other critters, like penguins, night owls and lizards.

This kind of argument is dripping with hypocrisy and deceptions, since Saudi clerics are frequent users of bidah themselves, such as social media, invented by non-Muslims (“infidels”) in research laboratories that also invent Youtube, satellite televisions, cell phones and SUVs. All of these inventions are used extensively by the Saudi religious establishment, especially the ferocious religious police whose job is to intimidate people and suppress Western democratic values such as peaceful assemblages, harmless freedom of expression, self-reliance for women, tolerance of non-Muslims and Muslim minorities who do not meet the requirements of the Saudi regime’s seventh century brand of Islam, Salafism from which the extraordinarily inflexible Wahhabism emanated.

By using bidah to label others’ creativity as un-Islamic, the religious establishment is not only hypocritical, but is responsible for thwarting the Saudi society’s development. Maintaining seventh century arguments and practices will propel the country into political, religious and social chaos in which everyone loses. To avoid this eventuality, the Saudi ruling oligarchs and the country will best be served by employing transformative reforms where clerics’ have no say in 21st century public policy.

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GCC Failure an opportunity for democracy

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington, DC

December 22, 2014

Opportunity for democracy in the Gulf, Gulf oligarchies Divided, women activists and the State, attacks on Shia

Commentaries and Analysis

GCC Failure: An Opportunity For Democracy In The Gulf

CDHR’s Analysis: Plagued by terminal mistrust of each other, by historic tribal feuds and by a multitude of modern looming internal and external threats, the unconstitutional ruling dynasties of the 6 members of the Gulf Cooperation Council/GCC (Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates/  UAE) failed to agree on a regional strategy or domestic unity of purpose during their 35th summit gathering in Qatar in December 2014. The intended objectives of the summit were to reconcile their unprecedented bitter public wrangles over policies toward different combatant Arab groups and Iran and to finalize a collective military strike force they started discussing in earlier years. However, the summit dissolved in customary deceptive public pleasantries while the summiteers remained divided.

The consecutive failures that have besieged the 35 GCC summits are due to the deeply rooted mistrust and devotion to self-interest and self-preservation among the feuding autocratic Gulf ruling dynasties. Based on these intrinsic dynamics, the GCC has been destined to fail since its inception. This inevitability is due to two major factors: one, the founding of the GCC was not based on the will of the mostly disenfranchised populations of the Gulf Arab states and two, the ruling dynasties of the smaller Gulf states don’t trust the Saudi oligarchs.

The GCC was formed under pressure from the Saudi ruling family for the purposes of maintaining control over their smaller Gulf neighbors politically and strategically and of using them as bargaining chips as opposed to defending them from external enemies. The rulers of the smaller states reluctantly agreed to the Saudi demands of creating a loose pact, but with open eyes and relentless maneuvers to circumvent official commitment to a binding union, presumably under Saudi control.

When the GCC was formed in 1981, the weaker Gulf rulers were   more susceptible to Saudi pressure, due to Saudi regional and global influence. During the 1980s and the 90s the Saudis played major roles in regional conflicts such the Iraq/Iran war (1980-89) and the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. The defenseless Gulf rulers at that time considered the Saudis as a potential buffer against unfriendly regional powers and a conduit to Western powers in case of domestic tumult or external aggression such as Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In order to convince the weaker Gulf rulers of its indispensability, the Saudi regime aggrandized its role in supporting Iraq against Iran, in the eviction of Saddam’s troops from Kuwait and support for the Mujahidin (later became Al-Qaeda) to hunt the Russians in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. In reality, the Saudis’ overriding objectives were to maintain their supremacy over the smaller Gulf states and to use them as a buffer zone, especially against potential aggression from Iran and Iraq, two countries the Saudis consider enemies.

However, the Saudi regime was under increased threats from the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization in the 1980s and 90s. Enraged by the presence of large numbers of American troops in Saudi Arabia during the Kuwait campaign, Al-Qaeda operatives began not only to threaten the Saudi government, but they launched bloody attacks against US military personnel in Saudi Arabia. These attacks and increased pressure on the Saudi regime by Al-Qaeda (whose mastermind and many of his recruits, followers and supporters were Saudis) created a hostile environment which convinced the US to relocate its military bases from Saudi Arabia to the territories and waters of the smaller Gulf states, specifically to Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, in the 1990s.

The relocation of US military bases to the smaller Gulf states came at a cost to the Saudis, an outcome they did not anticipate nor could have done anything about. The smaller states not only welcomed the US to build new bases and expand on old ones, but some of them paid for the costs of building enormous and well-equipped military facilities like the gigantic Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. In addition to Qatar, bases were built in Oman, the United  Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, which gave the US unlimited access to land and water, a strategic military advantage unequal to any other foreign power including former colonizers of the smaller Gulf states. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the smaller emirates and kingdoms of the GCC are safer for the US military personnel and their properties. They are also, by far, more conducive for modern living. This is due to less religious fanaticism and terrorism in the smaller Gulf states.

The relocation and strengthening of strategic US military bases in the Gulf and the substantial investments made by the US and the rulers of the smaller Gulf states provide these rulers with a sense of domestic security and protection from foreign threats, not only from Iran, which the GCC was ostensibly created to repulse, but from the Saudi rulers whose agenda is to dominate the Gulf region. This results in unprecedented closer military, economic and educational ties (major US universities have campuses in the smaller Gulf states) between the US and these Gulf states. Given these realities on the ground, the rulers of the smaller Gulf states can breathe a sigh of relief. They can afford not only to resist the Saudi pressure to form a Gulf states’ “union” instead of its current unbinding cooperative status, but can pursue regional policies the Saudi regime considers threatening to its self-claimed Sunni Muslim leadership and national security.

Despite their common nomadic heritage, mindset and similar   methods of ruling, the oligarchs of the Gulf Arab states resent each other and ‘A number of Gulf states view Saudi Arabia as the gorilla in the room. Much as they have a lot in common with them, they don't want to be dominated by the Saudis, ’ according to former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan.

Given their detestation of the Saudi/Wahhabi rulers and their population, the smaller states are in a position to break away from Saudi domination. Their tremendous wealth, strategic location, small populations, close ties with and protection by the US and European powers offer a rare opportunity for these states to transition toward democracy. The US’s strong presence in the Gulf region and the trust the Gulf rulers and their societies confer on America, its way of life, its abilities and willingness to protect them, present the US with a unique opening to make transition toward democracy a reality. This is doable if the US makes it blatantly clear to anti-democratic Iran and Saudi Arabia in advance that any interference by them in this transition, directly or through proxies, will result in immediate and costly retaliation. Prior stern warning and retaliatory action by the US, if provoked, will prevent a repetition of Saudi/Iranian sponsored death and destruction as occurred in Iraq. The success of this doable project will benefit all of the Middle Eastern people, including the Saudis and Iranians.

Unabated Saudi War on Women

CDHR’s Commentary: The arrest and interrogation of Maysa al-Amoudi, a recipient of the 2012 Arab Journalism Award, and the courageous promoter of women’s right to drive, Loujain al-Hathloul, on December 1, 2014, shows the Saudi oligarchs’ continued utter disrespect for Saudi women’s basic rights. Not only does the Saudi regime grossly violate these two highly educated and enlightened women’s rights, but humiliates their proud parents and other male relatives who pride themselves on defending women’s honor. Additionally, the Saudi regime constantly demonstrates its absolute contempt for all international declarations on human rights, including the strict conditions and laws of the world trade organization, WTO, to which the Saudi regime is a signatory.

The Saudi ruling family’s and its anti-human rights religious establishment’s behavior and practices are not only destructive, but contradictory to their claims of being adherents to Islam’s message of tolerance, equality, justice and peace. In reality, the Saudi authorities are forcing Saudi women to seek other methods to attain their rights. They, like many Saudi young men, will resort to violence or join violent groups such as ISIS to rid themselves of the root causes of their oppression, denigration and marginalization.

The Saudi government and its retrograde religious establishment are the only people on earth who insist that women’s driving is a threat to their country’s religious and traditional values, stability, security and national unity. As if this argument does not place the Saud rulers at the height of global absurdity, they go further to argue that women’s driving will increase prostitution, produce deformed children and eliminate virginity in the birth place of Islam.

Blaming tradition and religion for its denigrating treatment of women is only a duplicitous cover for the Saudi regime’s intended objective, keeping society divided by turning the genders against each other, a manifestation of its “divide and conquer” practices.

Women Again?

CDHR’s Commentary: As this BBC report tells it, 5 terrorists disguised as women clad in black were heading toward Saudi Arabia from Yemen to commit mayhem and terrorize innocent Saudi citizens. Will this dangerous episode change the Saudi authorities’ minds, policies and practices toward women or will Saudi women be considered potential camouflaged terrorists in addition to being treated as threats to men’s moral purity?

According to the former chief of the ferocious Saudi religious police (whose official assignment is to intimidate the public, especially women), Shaikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamidi, covering women is un-Islamic. This opinion of such an authoritative religious scholar and others like him contradicts the policies and practices of the Saudi regime and its zealous religious establishment’s insistence that covering women from head to toe is in accordance with Islamic teachings and traditions.

It’s worth noting that the only other Muslim groups who insist on covering women are terrorist groups: The Taliban of Afghanistan and the newly established Islamic State in large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. The two groups are adherents to the zealous Saudi doctrine, Wahhabism.

The question that should be asked of the Saudi king, his confidant mufti and his trusted minister of interior, IS:  what’s more important, saving people’s lives and protecting their property from terrorists imitating covered Saudi women or continuing to enforce the unnatural, disfiguring, dangerous and un-Islamic dress code?

This matter (terrorists dressed as Muslim women) should also be of grave concern to Western democratic societies, many of whose citizens are fighting for Muslim extremists and where many Muslim women clad in black can be seen in the streets and department stores of Europe and North America.

Hired Academicians Blame Culture For Saudi Women’s Unemployment

CDHR’s Commentary: Here is another purchased assessment of the Saudi government’s evasive excuses for denying Saudi women the right to utilize their natural mental and physical abilities to fend for themselves as capable human beings. Like other Western consultants, these highly paid and carefully selected academicians blame the Saudi people and their culture for the Saudi government’s entrenched repression and marginalization of Saudi women.

Well-known Harvard economist Dr. Claudia Goldin states that, ‘I’m helping another planet, but I’m having nothing to do with their culture. I’m accepting of their culture.’ This disdainful remark is typical of Western consultants’ contemptuous attitudes toward the Saudi people, especially women. This is not only the attitude of paid consultants, but also of Western businesspeople and of governments’ representatives, including ambassadors, elected officials and their staffers.

It’s the Saudi government’s misogynistic policies these experts should be blaming for the exclusion of Saudi women, not only from the workforce, but from contributing to the building of a prosperous, peaceful and tolerant society. In fact, Saudi women are in the forefront of fighting the extremist elements in Saudi society.

The Saudi government uses tradition and religion to justify marginalization of women and then hires reputable Western academicians to deflect attention from its social, political and economic failures, especially toward women. These Western specialists and their institutions chose to augment the Saudi government’s excuses in exchange for generous financial rewards.

These hired hands are historians and economists and should be able to figure out that the Saudi government and merchants save billions of dollars by hiring poverty stricken cheap laborers, mostly Asians, instead of removing artificial gender-linked impediments to the employment of Saudi women. These consultants acknowledge that including women in the workforce in Saudi Arabia will “create social changes,” but they never explain that’s what the Saudi government and merchants want to prevent.

“OIC calls for defeating ISIL's ideology.” Really?

CDHR’s Commentary: Like the dysfunctional Arab League, the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has done no more than condemn Israel and the West for all Arab and Muslim regimes’ failures to embrace true modernity and its most progressive and empowering values. The OIC was founded and headquartered in Saudi Arabia and mostly financed by the Saudis since its inception in 1969. Its member states represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide and control the institutions that teach religious intolerance, which they use against each other and use as a tool to achieve their objectives at home and abroad.

Member countries of OIC are lagging (some miserably) in scientific achievement, democratic practices, religious freedom, freedom of expression and equality for women. Additionally, the member states of OIC are notoriously known for their persecution of religious minorities,  especially for non-Muslim segments of their societies, as exemplified by the killing of Christians, destruction of their religious sanctuaries and uprooting them from their homelands where they have resided for centuries, long before the founding of Islam 14 and a half centuries ago.

If OIC members truly want to defeat “ISIL’s lethal ideology” then they have to dry the swamps where the ideologues are conceived, nurtured and thrive: hatred-based religious schools, clerics’ TV Channels that indoctrinate people and incite them to kill non-Muslims, arbitrary fatwas (religious edicts) and the reinterpretation of hadith and Shariah law which thus far have been used as toxic political tools.

However, if OIC members really want to do more than issuing vague rhetorical statements intended for public consumption, they must separate mosque from state. Religion must become an individual choice and not a tool of state policy. Short of taking these formidable, but doable steps, ideological Muslim extremism and its spinoff, terrorism, will continue to haunt Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Until Muslim populations in partnership with the international community rise against not only religious extremists, but against the institutions that breed and finance them, they will continue to pay the price. Non-Muslims, especially democratic societies, will reach a point when they decide that it’s “either us or them” and start attacking the root causes of terrorism as previously identified. In other words, the West especially cannot continue to target pockets of terrorists forever, but will target metropolitan areas where the cost to the Muslim peoples can be apocalyptic.

Islam Hates Beauty?

CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi authorities decided to cancel a planned beauty competition (beauty pageant) “citing the Shariah law that prohibits such a show as reason for the decision.” The question is: what’s un-Islamic about beauty? The decision to cancel this event gives the impression that Islam thrives on deformity as exemplified by the Burga, the man-made and enforced defacing of human physical appearance.  Ironically, Saudis and other Muslims get agitated (violent) when non-Muslims criticize their traditions and values.

Why don’t the Saudi authorities tell their population what’s un-Islamic about human splendor. In reality, there is nothing that supports their fictitious claims. The Saudi authorities interpret and use religion to justify their anti-human freedom-of-choice and anti-human-development policies.  A beauty pageant is a sophisticated and creative art work and that’s what the repressive Saudi system fears most: creative, self-reliant and free-thinking people.

The Saudi Mufti Blames Terrorists for attacks on Shia

CDHR’s Commentary: With due respect, the Saudi Mufti’s denunciation of the murderous extremists who gunned down innocent praying Shia Saudi citizens for no reason other than their religious orientation is duplicitous. The killers learn their hatred for Shia from the Saudi religious-based schools, which the Mufti and like-minded clerics supervise and direct. Now the Mufti and the Saudi ruling family are threatened by the same people they indoctrinate and at times use to achieve their objectives, domestically and externally

The only way to rid the Saudi society and the international community of religious hatred is to advance religious tolerance, not only of Muslim minorities, but of non-Muslims as well. The Mufti can start by advocating closure of hate-spreading TV channels, by removing all religious extremist clerics from all government agencies and by forbidding all classes and literature that advocate religious hatred from all Saudi schools, especially from his favorite institution, Imam Mohammed Ibn Saudi University.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 10 January 2015 14:03
 

Saudi Vulnerability

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

November 3, 2014

Saudi Vulnerability, Rulers and Merchants Common Objectives, Emulate Christians, Eliminate Terrorism

CDHR’s Commentaries and Analysis

Dynamics Triggering Saudi Vulnerability

CDHR’s Analysis: Transforming the Saudi state from an absolute system to an inclusive, open and accountable modern polity requires reforms which the autocratic monarchy is unwilling of carrying out.

When it rains, it pours in a land where it rarely rains. This metaphorical phrase describes the Saudi state’s current affairs best. Never in its history has the vast Saudi desert kingdom and its autocratic and theocratic ruling dynasties, Al-Saud and Al-Alshaikh, been more vulnerable, isolated externally and destabilized internally than now.

The Saudi monarchs’ enduring domestic stability and external influence can be attributed to their draconian domestic rule and their possession of large quantities of oil reserves which they have used effectively as a weapon to buy loyalty and achieve their objectives domestically, regionally and globally for the last fifty years.

The Saudi monarchs have been in a position to blackmail oil producers and consumers for decades; consequently, they have been viewed as invincible and irreplaceable deal makers and as the primary protector of Western interests in Arab and Muslim countries and beyond. As clever as they are, the Saudi rulers made good use of their exorbitant and fortuitous oil revenues to spread their ideological influence (the globally loathed Wahhabi doctrine), extract favoritism and purchase protection for themselves and for their vast kingdom from Arabs, Muslims and from powerful Western democratic nations for decades.

However, due to domestic, regional and global developments which the autocratic Saudi rulers cannot control or even influence in some cases, their best days seem to be ebbing and there is no one to thank for that other than those who created the illusion that the Saudi ruling family is matchless and invincible. For decades, industrial democratic countries of the West, specifically the US, have committed themselves to defend the Saudi state from external aggression and domestic unrest in exchange for the secure flow of oil at manageable prices.

The Saudi rulers are now surrounded by raging regional political and social upheavals known as the “Arab Spring” or more to the point, violent revolutions against absolute regimes some of whom were less tyrannical than the Saudi monarchs. Immediate threats to the Saudi regime (state) will most likely be a spillover from their Southern and Northern neighboring countries, Iraq and Yemen, both currently mired in political, religious and ethnic wars.

In Yemen, a civil war is being fought between pro-Saudi Sunni Yemeni tribes and anti-Saudi Zaydis (Houthis, an off shoot of Shia Islam and former rulers of Yemen), who are reported to be supported by the Saudi’s regional main competitor, Iran. A similar war has been raging in Iraq between the majority Shia population and a pro-Saudi Sunni minority, which the Saudis are reportedly financing for fear of the establishment of a Shia-dominated democratic and stable Iraq which could potentially produce more oil than Saudi Arabia.

Within Saudi Arabia, demands for drastic reforms, including political participation, codified rule of law, equality for women and religious minorities and for transparency and accountability are persistent and continue to gain support, thanks to the social media of which the Saudis are the most active users in the world. However, the Saudi rulers and their power base, the extremist religious establishment, are adamantly opposed to any reforms that might hint at undermining their absolute rule.

Furthermore, the Saudi regime has been weakened and more isolated due to major policy disagreements with its most trusted and longtime protector, the US, as exemplified by their differences over Syria and the US overture toward Iran. The Saudi regime has been further weakened by decreasing global demands for oil and a significant drop in oil prices recently. This is due to other countries producing more oil, consumers are conserving and exploring other sources of energy.

Given these facts and irreversible developments, it’s safe to conclude that Saudi Arabia has lost its mantle of invincibility as the most dominant supplier of oil and as irreplaceable protector of Western interests. The time when the Saudi regime was in a position to dictate its terms to oil producers and consumers seems to be fading. Losing control over its most sustaining asset-domination over international oil production, marketing and pricing-reduces the Saudi monarchy’s role as a major player in regional and global affairs.

While the fortified walls that have shielded the Saudi monarchy from collapse are not falling yet, the cracks are burgeoning, getting wider and are likely irreparable without major redesign of the foundation of the Saudi political, social, religious and economic structures. However, transforming the Saudi state from an absolute system to an inclusive, open and accountable modern polity requires reforms which the autocratic monarchy is unwilling and incapable of carrying out for fear of expediting its demise.

Yemen: Outlook For A Revolution In Progress

CDHR’s Commentary: Centuries of homegrown subjugation and repressed social, political, economic, gender, regional, tribal and religious abhorrence have taken an ineffable toll on the Arab people. Epochs of religious and political totalitarianism, poverty, social injustices and backwardness led to the unstoppable and irreversible revolts known as “Arab Spring.” For the first time in their history the Arab masses have claimed the right to determine their destiny regardless of consequences.

Like other social revolts, the Arab Spring is going through normal phases. The first stage is unity among most segments of society with the aim of ridding themselves of the “common enemy,” their iron-fisted despots. The second stage is venting, albeit savagely in some cases, as exemplified by the ravaging strife in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen itself.  The third stage of the violent Arab Spring will be to establish a new order based on collective consensus and to move on as transformed people with common interests and objectives that they initiate instead of being subservient to their states’ absolute rulers and dysfunctional institutions.

Like their counterparts in some other Arab countries, the Yemenis are going through these stages of the Arab Spring. Having united to overthrow the repressive and divisive regime of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a segment of the population, the Houthis, who had been marginalized under his rule, revolted against the regime that succeeded him, but continued to marginalize them. Although the Houthis comprise a small percentage of the population, they have been able to achieve remarkable gains which would not have been possible if it were not for the approval and support of many other Yemenis, including the country’s armed forces and other security apparatuses.

Despite their legitimate grievances, the Houthis’ struggle against their former and current central governments was immediately attributed to Iran’s interference in Yemeni domestic affairs. The Saudi ruling family is the cheer leader in characterizing the Houthis’ uprising to attain their rights as an Iranian-instigated, financed and armed movement aimed at strengthening Iran’s grip on Yemen. The Saudis have long dominated Yemen’s internal affairs through purchasing the loyalty of powerful tribal chieftains.

As demonstrated by today’s (11/2/2014) development in Yemen, the Saudis, their allies and defenders have been proven wrong in their contention that the Houthis are foreign agents. For the first time in Yemen’s history, genuine statehood seems to be in the making, largely due to the Houthi uprising. The 13 major Yemeni political parties, including the Houthis, agreed to send a communique to the President and Prime Minister of Yemen as follows, "We, the political parties, ask President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to form a competent national government ... which is committed to the protection of human rights, rule of law and neutrality in the management of affairs of the country." These parties represent most Yemenis of all political, regional and religious backgrounds.

Given this development, it’s not the theocratic Iranian Mullah’s influence in the new Yemen that the autocratic and theocratic Saudi rulers should be concerned with, but with the Yemenis, Houthis and others, seeking freedom and social justice. The control over Yemeni foreign policies and foreign influence in Yemeni internal affairs are not going to be dominated by Saudi-paid chiefs or by Iranian-leaning supporters. However, today’s development in Yemen is only an embryonic step that will face formidable domestic and regional challenges and may fail unless the Yemenis, women and men, support it and steer it in a direction that will benefit all Yemenis, regardless of gender religion, region and ethnic background.

Instead of trying to derail the Yemenis’ hard earned fledgling unity and political gains, as they have done in other Arab countries, the Saudis and other oil rich monocracies of the Gulf should support them, especially financially. In the long run, stable, employed and more educated Yemenis will better and safer neighbors than poverty stricken, divided, under educated and oppressed people are predisposed to be.

Monarchy and Merchants Collaborate To Control The Saudi People

CDHR’s Commentary: The staggering and avoidable unemployment rate among Saudis is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. It’s estimated that unemployment among Saudi youth is 30% and much higher among women. It’s not only uneducated Saudi women who cannot find jobs, but 60% of women with Ph. D. degrees cannot find or are denied employment because of their gender. This is not because there are no jobs to be had, but most jobs in the private sector are given to an estimated 9 million foreign nationals, men and women. According to Saudi figures, only 15% of the private sector employees are Saudis, while the other 85% are foreign nationals, the majority of whom are impoverished and maltreated Asian laborers.

The arguments used by Saudi merchants and their royal business partners to justify their economic and political exploitation of the imported cheap laborers and the unemployment of an astounding number of Saudis are profuse. They argue that the native people are not well-trained, are untrainable, want more money for less work, are culturally lazy and prefer to work in the public sector (government) where many of them are compensated for merely showing up at work, signing in and then disappearing. While some of these allegations might be true, the reasons behind high unemployment among Saudis, especially women, are entirely different than the mostly self-serving and profit-driven excuses contrived by merchants.

The real reasons are political and economic, objectives shared by the merchants and the government.

As evidenced by their near zero investment in developing a national workforce and in the economic growth of the country, the Saudi merchants have proven that their overriding obsession is to maximize their profits at the expense of society’s well-being and long term economic security. The ruling princes share the merchants’ devious objectives, but for political reasons rather than to siphon more public revenues to fatten their bloated bank accounts and investments abroad. In other words, neither the merchants nor the royals want to invest in human development, a strong, self-reliant and well trained workforce that could pose threats to their total political and economic control.

Given the unprecedented uprising in the Arab World against political and economic disenfranchisement, the Saudi merchants’ and ruling Princes’ policies and practices are likely to lead to public retaliation. Rendering millions of educated and aspiring men and women idle, unproductive and reliant on government handouts will not achieve the government’s and merchants’ dubious and dastardly intended objectives: a submissive society. As a Washington political insider and expert in Middle Eastern affairs diplomatically put it, “To be sure, $100 billion in subventions from the palace and the promise of 60,000 jobs can help postpone, for a time, the demands of unemployed Saudi youths. But political freedom, transmitted across borders via cable TV and the Internet, has proved to be a seductive idea. In the end, it will not be assuaged by economic bribes or police-state suppression.”

Under normal conditions, the private sector is the trade and financial backbone of society. In Saudi Arabia, under the State’s current outright political and economic arrangements, the private sector is a burden on society and could be considered a looter of public wealth. The Saudi merchants (with the blessing of the government) continue to fail to provide jobs for Saudi citizens. The merchants have shunned investing in the development of domestic industry which could create meaningful long term employment for citizens. Instead, the merchants import most of their merchandise from foreign lands and import millions of poverty-stricken, underpaid and maltreated laborers to sell their goods to Saudis, the majority of whom are unemployed and many of whom live at or under the poverty line as designated by the United Nations.  Despite their meager income earned under deplorable conditions, foreign workers transfer an estimated aggregate of about SR300 billion or $80 billion to their home countries annually. On the other end of the spectrum, Saudi royals and merchants siphon and invest billions of dollars of public wealth in foreign countries.

Given the self-serving historical cooperative relationship between the Saudi monarchy and prominent business families, such as the Saudi Bin Laden Group, it would not be surprising if the business community and the government have colluded to prevent the development of a strong and financially self-reliant workforce as well as preventing the growth of a diversified domestic economy. The question is why would the Saudi government and its partner business community continue to pursue such a suicidal path, given the recent and ongoing unprecedented uprising in the Arab World against oppression, lack of accountability, of economic opportunities and of political participation?

Having manipulated the political and economic affairs of the country since its inception more than eighty years ago, the ruling family calculates that it might be safer for the monarchy to continue its intimidation and marginalization-based policies despite the unparalleled threats it faces internally and externally. The monarchy may have concluded that this is a safer path to take rather than sharing real power with their citizens, a step which could expedite the fall of the ruling family. Apparently the ruling family still believes that what has worked in the past-oppression, intimidation and handouts-will continue to work in their favor.

By ignoring the transformative changes that have occurred in the world and in Saudi society since the establishment of the Saudi state, the monarchy is setting itself and its people on a destructive path. Despite the ruling family’s and Saudi merchants’ myopically heavy-handed policies and practices aimed at keeping the Saudi population financially and politically chained, unemployment and lack of financial security, coupled with political discontent among the people, especially youth and women, constitute a ticking bomb waiting to explode.

The Root Causes of Savagery Must be Eradicated

CDHR’s Commentary: Condemning, bombing and claiming that the behavior and actions of the ruthless operatives of the Islamic State, ISIS, are un-Islamic will achieve nothing more than the prolongation of human suffering at the hands of those who are competing over who is a true Muslim and is best suited to lead the Ummah, the Muslim community. Only when the root causes of savagery are eliminated at their roots, forbidding practices like rape, beheading, ethnic cleansing and other grotesque acts like this will cease to be the norm.

Only when the majority of Muslims reject (by actions not words) the lethal ideologies and the practices of wealthy oil men who use religion to create, cultivate and benefit from extremism and terrorism, can barbarity be stopped. It’s not enough to say Islam is a tolerant, just and peaceful religion while horrific crimes in its name are carried out not only by hard core bandits, but by some rulers in Arab and Muslim countries. The Arab people and the Western powers have to decide whether the current mayhem being committed by the ISIS-Daesh (in Arabic) –are an isolated “aberration” or is it part of the political landscape of the Arab World as this article articulates?

Should Muslims Emulate Christians?

CDHR’s Commentary: Centuries ago, European Christians were mired in grisly holy and tribal-like wars in the name of God and for religious dominance. While the Christians have resolved their intra-faith struggles, Muslims are still mired in endless religious wars over dominance.

Perilously, there seems to be no end in sight for the Muslim wars unless enough Muslims, especially free thinkers (like enlightened Christians centuries ago) conclude that ruling in the name of God puts all powers in the hands of a few who use “divine power” as a repressive and lethal social and political tool to control and manipulate their populations. They use religion to turn people against each other, against those the rulers perceive as threats to their geopolitical dominance and survival, as well as to divert their citizens’ attention from their homegrown failures.

Steps that helped Christian Europe to eradicate the causes of religious wars could also help Muslims put an end to their lingering, bloody conflicts which are draining their natural and human resources and keeping them politically, socially, economically and scientifically stagnant. These included separation of church and state, limiting the power of the state, implementing non-sectarian constitutions and the codified rule of law, ensuring equality under the law and guaranteeing rights to civil society, religious freedom and freedom of thought.

Like separating church from state in Renaissance Europe, which was fiercely contested by bloated theologians and those who benefited from ecclesiastical power, separating mosque from state will be one of the most formidable challenges Muslims will ever face. It must and can be done if Muslims are dedicated to preserving the integrity of their religion and saving it from continuing exploitation and use as a tool of oppression, divisiveness, intolerance and backwardness by the very few who claim to be divinely chosen defenders of Islam. Like other religions, Islam has to become a private belief system separated from the political system. As it is being used now, Islam, unlike other beliefs, is a value system which controls every aspect of its adherents’ lives, livelihood, perceptions and conduct.

Despite the difficulties, the possibility of reforming Islam is gaining momentum. More Muslims of all stripes and religious orientations, especially younger generations, women and minorities are beginning to ask questions about whether their religion has been perverted by authorities who use religion as a tool of oppression, discrimination and intolerance of differences. In fact, the harshest critics of Islam are bold Muslims and ex-Muslims, including former extremist clerics like Mansour Al-Nogaidan, who lost his desire for “Jihadism” and daringly declared that, “Saudi Arabia Islam needs a Reformation. It needs someone with the courage of Martin Luther.”

Enlightened, highly educated, worldly and globally-minded Muslims have to decide whether to continue with the status quo or to follow the European Christians’ footsteps, reform their religious texts and repudiate their autocratic and theocratic rulers’ “right” to enchain them in the name of God.

Your contributions to CDHR’s efforts to address tough issues, invoke thought-provoking discourse and suggest peaceful solutions are crucial. We need to continue our educational outreach worldwide. CDHR is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt educational organization.

Please go to our website www.cdhr.info and click on donate.

Or send checks to this address:

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR

1050 17 St. NW, Suite 1000,

Washington, DC 20036

 

 

 

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