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Miniskirt Should Be The Saudis’ Least Worry

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Miniskirt Should Be The Saudis’ Least Worry

CDHR Commentary: Nothing sparks more heated and divisive debate in Saudi society than women’s dress code, their right to drive or to be seen in human form (not clad in a black garment.) As demonstrated by the case of this stylish woman “Khulood,” pro-government traditionalists and indoctrinated Saudis called for her arrest and punishment for insulting Islamic tradition and the Saudis’ supreme ethos. Such egregious reactions are neither new nor coincidental. According to the Saudi religious establishment, its financier and users (the ruling family), there is no public place for women under their form of Islam unless they are invisible.

Arresting, imprisoning, interrogating and most likely abusing an aspiring young model for walking in an empty mud road has more to it than the way she chose to dress. She was arrested for trying to break away from rigid societal strictures imposed by a dogmatic system whose survival depends on ensuring that the population remains submissive and fearful.

The Saudi/Wahhabi system is founded on two premises: One is divide and control, and Two is to ensure that human development and aspirations are crushed in order to please God, obey the rulers and preserve Islam’s supreme teaching, as interpreted and applied by the Saudi state’s religious and political ruling elites.

As expected, Khulood was arrested and reportedly released by the system, but will likely face what many educated, enlightened and free spirited Saudi women and men who dare to embrace modernity endure after the system releases them. She is more likely to have to sign a sworn statement that she will never commit any social, political or religious action (i.e., think out of the box.) She will be banned from traveling (which is the same as, or worse than, imprisonment), talking to the media and may face unemployment for life. Additionally, she will be subjected to family punishment for defaming their tribally-based honor and for non-obedient thinking.

Given the stifling conditions under which Saudi women live from cradle to grave, it’s not accidental that at least 1,000 educated Saudi women risk their lives and flee the country every year to seek asylum in non-Muslim countries. Some of them are not lucky enough to reach the land where they want to live. They get arrested in airports, handcuffed and sent back to face punitive treatment or death.

Even though Khulood was released one day after her unwarranted arrest on July 17, the system’s intended message is clear, warning others not to challenge social taboos.

Punishment in Saudi Arabia is disproportionately severe relative to the offenses committed. Arbitrary arrest, detentions for years without charges, flogging and beheadings in public squares and hanging corpses on electric poles for weeks are designed to keep the Saudi people living in perpetual fear of the system and its ubiquitous security apparatus.

Faced with unprecedented domestic economic difficulties and ruling family volatility, as well as regional and global challenges, the young cadre of Saudi princes appointed recently by King Salman to inherit the mantle of leadership, should put in place a political reform plan to share power with the population, most of whom are the same age or younger than the current ruling princes. Short of this, the royals will continue to depend on the sword and religious extremism domestically and on foreign powers’ protection, a strategy that worked in the past, but no longer practicable for the future.



Tillerson and Mattis: Hands off Qatar

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Tillerson and Mattis: Hands off Qatar

CDHR Commentary: Despite President Trump’s rash endorsement of the Saudi instigated blockade of Qatar, Secretaries of Defense and State Mattis and Tillerson told the blockading monocracies hands-off. Based on their vast experiences in the region and their understanding of the Saudis’ goal, these seasoned senior officials understand that the blockade is designed to turn Qatar into a submissive colony of the Saudis, who would assume control of its wealth and policies. Beside their personal vested interests in Qatar (military installation and energy bonanza), the two Secretaries understand that an intra-Gulf dynasties’ military confrontation could force the US to take sides, potentially drawing other countries into the fray.

Qatar hosts the largest and most strategically important US military installation in the Greater Middle East. In light of this, Secretary Mattis hurriedly signed a “$12 billion deal” to sell “Boeing F-15 U.S. fighter jets” to Qatar in order to send an unequivocal signal to the Saudi-led blockaders that the US considers Qatar an ally that should not be tampered with.

Furthermore, Qatar “...sits atop the world’s third largest gas reserves.” As former chief of the Exxon/Mobil “Empire”, Secretary Tillerson knows the importance of natural gas as an indispensable component of future global energy supplies for decades to come. Based on his business experience with and mistrust of the Saudis, it is safe to assume that Tillerson wants to make sure the Saudis and their UAE proxy rulers will not be in a position to dictate the production and marketing of the vast and profitable Qatari energy reservoirs. Tillerson, like Mattis, signed an accord with the Qataris to cooperate in ending terrorism financing, a face-saving compromise to the Saudi demand, but also to send a message to the Saudi-led band of four that the US will not tolerate economic strangulation or any use of force against Qatar.

Having  “… underwritten the regional order for almost 70 years” and given the presence of formidable US military might in the Persian Gulf, the US is likely to continue to be the dominant player in the energy-rich   Gulf region for years to come. This is not a bad thing, given the fact that repressive powers like China and Russia are eager to establish a permanent foothold in and around the Gulf region, as exemplified by China’s recent establishment of a military base in Djibouti.  Notorious for their repression of their own populations, Russia and China would support tougher subjugation of the peoples of the energy-rich Gulf states.

Continued US dominance in the Gulf region will require more than military might and personal relationships. The US can serve its short and long terms best interest by taking into account the burgeoning aspirations of the Gulf Arab states’ populations, especially women. The Trump Administration’s stated priority is stability in the Gulf region, presumably under the current totalitarian monarchies. This policy is doomed to fail, as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared, “For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither.”

If recent history is any guide, continuing to support autocratic ruling dynasties in the Gulf Arab states will not lead to stability, but most likely to another Arab Spring, which would have far reaching strategic and economic consequences regionally and globally.


Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: A Chance to Shine

CDHR Commentary: Propelling Mohammed Bin Salman into a position of assured succession to the Saudi throne has been in the making since his father, King Salman, inherited the throne in January 2015. Some people are questioning what prompted the King to advance his son up the line of succession now.

It is difficult to evaluate with certainty the chain of events that led to King Salman’s June 21, 2017 decree to promote his son to Crown Prince. Those intimately familiar with the mindset of the ruling princes, their primary objective and how they operate can safely speculate about what may have transpired within the high-walled royal court and interpret what went on during the Allegiance Commission and rituals of mandatory public support for the Crown Prince.

Given King Salman’s well-known convictions that Saudi Arabia is the ruling family’s private property, he wanted to make sure that the self-proclaimed royal ownership of the country remains intact before he disappears from the political landscape. In light of the unprecedented marginalization of many experienced and powerful princes that King Salman orchestrated when he inherited the throne in 2015, he fears that the royal family could be thrown into disarray after his reign. Therefore, in order to insure absolute continuity of his family’s rule, it’s safe to assume that King Salman decided to take action now, thus designating his trusted, but inexperienced, reckless, hawkish and risk taking favorite son Mohammed to be the next king while the father is still coherent to tutor him in how to be an iron-fisted ruler. Additionally, one can assume that King Salman wants to secure acceptance and support for Mohammed as king by the rest of the multitude of disgruntled royals. It is also probable that King Salman may step aside (abdicate) and let his son ascend to the throne and rule the country under the father’s supervision.

Regardless of the reasons that led to King Salman’s decision to put the fate of his domestically and regionally threatened kingdom in the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed, the future young king has an unprecedented opportunity to transform the archaic Saudi form of governing and the oppressive norms of Saudi society. Mohammed can apply his risk-taking actions internally to improve the well-being of the population as opposed to undertaking dangerous military adventures against the country’s neighbors. For instance, Mohammed ought to remove all barriers to women’s equality, remove many of the traditional social taboos, cut treasury-draining allowances to all royals, curtail clerics’ role in shaping public policy, institutionalize inclusive standards for accountability and transparency and transform the educational system to teach non-sectarian, tolerant and scientific subjects and values.

However, in order for Crown Prince Mohammed to institute such daunting reforms, he would need not only support from powerful hostile royals, but from a skeptical public. Since his rise to power from almost total obscurity, he has created more hardships than benefits for the population. He has cut public salaries, initiated new and increased existing taxes, cut some of the state’s subsided social programs and re-enforced political repression.

Given his age and the bloated expectations of the country’s young population, Crown Prince Mohammed needs to work to restore public trust. He ought to form a representative council of his royal and non-royal male and female peers to draft and debate openly comprehensive reform plans to modernize the country’s political, social, religious and economic institutions. By his own admission, Prince Mohammed predicted that the burden of the reforms must be equally distributed across the board (including royals), without which the country could be plunged into chaotic upheaval.

It remains to be seen whether Prince Mohammed will use his power when he ascends to the throne to improve the people’s lives or continue his forefathers’ practices of squandering public wealth, repressive rule, social inequality, religious intolerance and reliance on procured lobbyists and external powers’ protection to prolong the unsustainable status quo.


Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism

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Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism

CDHR Analysis: The same autocratic Arab and African regimes that the Saudis recruited and led to commit what the UN defined as war crimes in Yemen are now plotting against the Emir of Qatar, Tamim, who by comparison is more progressive and enlightened than the monocracies that are blockading his country. Their intent is to overthrow the Emir and subjugate Qatar’s small population.

Bolstered by the Trump Administration, the three major players in the Saudi-led coalition (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt) thus intend to control Qatar’s domestic and foreign policies, in the guise of starving terrorism and stabilizing the Middle East.

It’s incredibly ludicrous that the Saudi regime and its like-minded cohorts are blockading Qatar, allegedly to defeat terrorist villains, while conscripting war criminals like the President of the Sudan, Omar Hasan Al-Bashir, to inflict death and destruction on the poverty-stricken Yemeni people.

Shouldn’t hiring Al-Bashir’s army to inflict death and destruction in Yemen be considered the pinnacle of terrorism? Hasn’t Saudi Arabia been branded as a financier of Sunni terrorism worldwide and the “Fountainhead of Extremism and Terrorism,” not only by its enemies, but by its closest allies -- including our own eminences, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Trump?

Despite their public pretences, the Saudis’ objectives are plainly to even old scores and in doing so to pummel Qatar into submission.

The Saudi strategy to control Qatar dates from Qatar’s independence from the British mandate in 1971. When British colonial rule ended, the Qatari dynasty rejected a British/Saudi proposal to become part of the Trucial States, which includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujair, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al-Quwain. These are now collectively known as the United Arab Emirates.

After Qatar’s independence from Britain, Saudi Arabia took on the role of “protector” of Qatar.  The Emir took policy directions from Al Saud” (the Saudi kings.)

However, Saudi dominance over the Qatari domestic and foreign affairs suffered when Crown Prince Hamad Al-Thani (the father of the current Emir) deposed his father Khalifa in 1995. Emir Hamad embarked on massive political, social, educational and economic reforms. The Saudis and other Gulf rulers resented this for a variety of reasons. These included their fears that the initial bloodless palace coup could set a precedent to be emulated in their own kingdoms.

The overthrow of Emir Khalifa in 1995 initiated a series of events that led to the current Saudi/Qatari crisis. The Saudis were riled by the defiant new Emir’s pursuit of independent domestic and foreign policies of a sort and scope which, in the Saudi view, threatened their regional and global preeminence, and conceivably their political survival.

One of the first bold and most far-reaching actions that Emir Hamad took was the establishment of the pan-Arab satellite channel Aljazeera in 1996. For the first time in their history, the Arab masses were granted a forum where their voices could be heard and where all subjects and opposing views were discussed freely by provocative personalities, including severe critics of authoritarian Arab regimes, former Muslims, religious extremists, Israeli officials and journalists and harsh critics of Shariah law.

Discussions of Arab regimes’ intolerance, corruption, oppression, institutionalized taboos and inequality could now be watched 24 hours a day. The Gulf Arab rulers have thus accused Aljazeera of being a destabilizing tool used to undermine their dynastic legitimacy and to incite their disenfranchised populations, especially their repressed Shi’a minorities, to revolt.

For example, Aljazeera’s unrelenting and unabashed exposure of the Arab regimes’ tyranny was blamed for the unprecedented Arab mass uprising known as the Arab Spring. This toppled the Saudis’ autocratic allies in Egypt and Tunisia and paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to win the Egyptian presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood’s charter calls for the abolition of hereditary rule.

In addition, Qatar adopted a policy of reaching out to all Muslim regimes and groups, including Iran, Hamas, the Taliban, Hezbollah and others. The Qataris have seen this as a defensive, self-preservation practice.  The Saudis, obviously see it as support for the Saudis’ regional hegemonical competitors. The Saudis therefore seized an opportunity to achieve objectives that they had shelved for decades.

This Saudi instigated maneuver is likely to fail or to create another Middle East hot spot where external powers, like Turkey, Iran and Russia, unfriendly to the Gulf rulers and to their Western allies, will take advantage of the current turmoil to advance their own interests and undermine the Americans’.

President Trump, whose unfamiliarity with the complexity of the situation is exceeded only by his eagerness to strike a bold posture, has made a misstep. Qatar hosts the United States’ most important military instillation in the region. This is in part because the Saudis would not tolerate the US presence on their own soil. Instead of heating up rivalries in the Gulf area and becoming more of a partisan than a moderator, President Trump’s impetuosity could result in long term damage to American strategic and economic interests.


“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

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“Saudi Arabia is a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery”

CDHR Commentary: After a recent meeting at the UN about human trafficking, the Saudi deputy representative to the UN, Saad Al-Saad, was quoted saying that “Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its strong rejection of all forms of human trafficking and promised to double efforts to eliminate it in coordination with the international community, by ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking.”  He continued, ‘…the majority of victims {of human trafficking} are women, girls and children.’

The Saudi representative to the useless international forum, the UN, is right about the victims of human trafficking. Tragically, Saudi Arabia (the government he represents) has one of the world’s worst records on human rights in general, specifically as they relate to “women, girls and children.”

“Ratifying international conventions and treaties on human trafficking” is worthless unless implemented, enforced and scrutinized by independent civil society and a free press, none of which is permitted in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory to its stringent, wide-range shielding rules and regulations regarding women’s equality and migrant workers’ and their families’ rights. Yet, Saudi women remain marginalized, and abuses of migrant workers, especially maids, are rampant. This is mostly due to the fact that universal declarations on human rights are conveniently considered un-Islamic; therefore, implementing them would be considered blasphemous repudiation of Islam’s unsurpassable teachings. However, this male self-serving arrangement is being increasingly and impatiently challenged by its primary repressed targeted segment of Saudi society, women, as this video demonstrates.

By definition, “Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery and for… providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage.”

Under the Saudi/Wahhabi retributive Shariah-based judicial system, child marriage is legally enforced, gang-raped women can be sentenced to flogging and imprisonment for luring men and polygamy (up to four wives per man) are normal practice. The unspeakable practice of child marriage is religiously sanctioned as stated by the Saudi Mufti, the highest religious authority and overseer of the Saudi educational system and enforcer of the state’s smothering social taboos, which are based on his and his subordinates’ (senior clerics) arbitrary interpretation of proper social conduct.

Why Saudi Arabia is branded “a Destination for Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery?”

It’s estimated that there are between 9 and 10 million defenseless expatriate laborers in Saudi Arabia, of which two to three million are maids. These maids are mostly poverty stricken Asian and African women who traveled to Saudi Arabia in the hope of earning honest income to feed their starving families they left behind in their poverty ravished homelands. As has been abundantly documented by human rights groups and some western governments, they are not only overworked and underpaid, but many (if not most of them) are sexually abused, beaten, starved and burned.  The inhumane treatment of many of the maids in Saudi Arabia has been highlighted by this organization (CDHR), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US Department of State, among many others, including some Saudi newspapers.

However, maltreatment of Saudi women is producing a corps of right activists, mostly women, but some men too. They are saying enough is enough, not only to institutionalized male domination, but to the ruling elites, the real culprits behind child marriage, human trafficking and doctrinal extremism. Despite the deleterious conditions under which they operate and the heavy price they pay, Saudi women are in the forefront of challenging one of the world’s most extremist and misogynistic ruling class that treat women with utter contempt for no other reason than their gender.

Supporting Saudi women’s struggle against vilification and exploitation serves far-reaching objectives, including extracting the claws of religious extremism and its byproduct, terrorism.

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