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Saudis Hoped for Clinton, Instead, They Got Trump

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

December 24, 2016

Trump is not the Saudis’ Choice, Institutionalized Violence Against Women and Relapsing Arab Development

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

Saudis Hoped for Clinton, Instead, They Got Trump

CDHR Analysis: The Saudis’ (and other Gulf Arab ruling families’) vocalized optimism about better relations with US President-elect Donald Trump does not conceal their disappointment over Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Favoring Secretary Clinton does not reflect any desire on the part of the Saudi rulers to empower women. But in this case, having her in the Oval Office would have spared them uncertainties about what to expect from President-elect Trump and his cabinet appointees, many of whom “…are convinced Islam’s moral rules, the sharia, not only imperil the safety of Americans but their very way of life.” The Saudi rulers and businessmen have known and established auspicious official and personal relations with Bill and Hilary Clinton for decades. To the Saudis, Secretary Clinton represents the established American political order with which they are familiar and against which Trump campaigned and triumphed.

Trump’s victory is expected to alter the personalized and cozy Saudi/American relationship and subject it to an intensive examination, even with the appointment of an oil man, Rex Tillerson, to conduct America’s foreign relations. However, Tillerson may be the last person the Saudis and other Gulf rulers want to see in charge of US foreign policy. He has publicly rejected the Saudis’ calculations regarding the US ability to produce more oil cheaply and in a short period of time to ensure that oil supplies remain globally adequate. Moreover, Tillerson has a robust relationship with the Saudis’ top oil producing competitor, the Russians, who resent and mistrust the Saudis for an assortment of reasons dating back to the Russians’ humiliating defeat by Saudi financed and armed Mujahideen (Al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Unlike any of his predecessors in recent history, Tillerson will have no political, business or ideological opponents in the Trump Cabinet, given Mr. Trump’s appointees to top national and foreign policy posts.

While it’s too early to predict how Mr. Trump and his Cabinet appointees will govern when they take office, it’s assumed that they will not deviate fundamentally from their personal convictions and from the promises they made to those whose fears and hopes made their victory possible. One of Mr. Trump’s resonating campaign promises was the commitment to defeat ‘Radical Islam,’ of which Saudi Arabia is considered the epicenter. Pursuing this objective will not only further erode the already frayed US-Saudi relations, but will provide the increasingly isolated and weakened Saudi oligarchs with a lethal tool to mobilize Sunni Muslims against the “enemies of Islam,” specifically Western Civilization.

It’s Time to Take Muslim Terrorists At Their Word

CDHR Commentary: Preserving Western Civilization and evading costly (in human and material terms) lengthy ideology-based conflicts, as stated in this chilling account, demand total defeat of “Radical Islam.” As evidenced by the carnage committed by Muslim terrorists in western countries in recent times, most westerners continue to live in a state of denial, failing to develop an effective strategy to protect their populations and democratic way of life. An effective strategy to defeat terrorism requires addressing “Radical Islam” in its varied forms. This applies to regimes and institutions that nurture, perpetuate, use and disseminate Islam as a tool of violent political subjugation, such as the Wahhabi doctrine.

By deluding themselves and deceptively reassuring their populations that killing a few Muslim “extremists” will win the war against dedicated radical Muslim ideologues, Western governments are neither “degrading nor defeating” terrorism, as President Obama has repeatedly declared.

Institutionalized Violence Against Saudi Women

CDHR Commentary: “Princess Lamia Bint Majed AlSaud, Secretary General at {Prince} Alwaleed Philanthropies,” is quoted to have said that ‘Female victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to speak up about their abuse because of their fear of scandal or the society’s disapproval. Our role as NGO’s is to educate women about their legal rights and remind the society that domestic violence is an illegal crime.’ While it’s encouraging to hear members of the autocratic ruling family speak to the plight of most Saudi women, they are either detached from the reality on the ground, or trying to mislead the world into believing that abused women are entitled to protection by an independent legal system that’s enforceable and applicable to all.

There is no denying that some of what Princess Lamia is saying (such as social stigmatization) is true, but the overriding  reason for Saudi women’s “reluctance” to seek justice is due to the institutionalized injustice and systematic discrimination they face from cradle to grave. As has been amply documented, there is no country in the world where women’s lives, livelihoods, choices and movements are more controlled by men than in Saudi Arabia. The state’s institutionalized male guardian system legitimizes men’s outright control over women, regardless of their age, education, accomplishments or social status. A male guardian could be a woman’s juvenile son.

This debasing institutionalized system is   enforced by the state’s religious police and sectarian court system, which are staffed by the King’s hand-picked religious Wahhabi judges, who consider women inferior and incapable of making sound decisions. Given these judges’ misogynistic prejudices, women are held responsible for a multitude of social wrong doings, including for being raped, as in the case of Bent Al-Qatif, who was raped 14 times by seven men. Instead of helping her overcome her trauma, the judges sentenced her to 6 months imprisonment and 200 lashes. Another heinous example of women’s devaluation under the male guardian system occurred when the state’s cruel religious police prevented young girls from fleeing for their lives from their blazing school because they were not fully clad in state imposed black abayas. 15 girls were burned to death and another 50 were injured.

It’s neither society nor tradition that Saudi royals and non-royals should be blaming for marginalization of and violence against women, but the violent system the Saudi and Wahhabi dynasties created centuries ago and maintain by brute force. If members of the numerous Saudi ruling family (male or female) are genuinely concerned about the rampant domestic violence against women, they ought to confront their family’s draconian policies, misogynistic Shariah-based courts’ arbitrary practices and the archaic parochial educational system. These are the forces that perpetuate the relegation of women to subhuman status and endanger their lives for no reason other than their gender.

Saudi Princes on Women’s Right To Drive

CDHR Commentary: Prince Alwaleed (one of the world’s wealthiest men) recently professed that continuing to prevent Saudi women from driving is burdensome for most Saudi families. He is right, and we have no doubt that he and a small number of the large and mostly detached-from-society ruling princes and princesses would like to see the mortifying and contemptuous ban on women’s right to drive delegitimized, as long as it does not endanger the royal family’s control over the country, its population and wealth.

Like his cousin, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who incorrectly stated that ‘it is up to Saudi society’ to decide whether women should be allowed to drive or not, Prince Alwaleed blames the disenfranchised Saudi society for its ‘unjust act’ against Saudi women. Like the rest of their ruling family, the two disproportionately privileged princes, whose lifestyle does not allow for comprehension of the suffering of the majority of the population, are pointing fingers at the wrong source of women’s usurped fundamental rights.

Contrary to the princes’ condemnation of society’s opposition to women’s rights, the Saudi people have no input in the decision-making processes, nor can they influence the state’s institutions. All domestic policies and decision-making are initiated and executed by the Saudi ruling family with the support of its theocratic religious establishment, which the ruling family uses as a “scapegoat” for the regime’s economic, educational, political and social failures. While misogynic and “dangerous”, the religious establishment is no more than a corps of repressive hatchet men for the ruling family. The clerics are carefully selected, empowered and paid by the government to enforce the ruling family’s legitimacy and absolute rule, using religion to justify their ruthless methods of coercion.

Instead of continuing to blame centuries old tradition and their self-serving interpretation of religion for the repression and marginalization of Saudi women, the second and third generations of royals (many of them educated in modern non-Saudi secular schools) ought to focus on changing their ruling family’s pre-modern thinking and ways of ruling via coercion and claims of the God-given right to rule eternally.

Arabs Are Inching Toward Becoming Global Pariahs

CDHR Commentary: According to this UN Arab Human Development Report (which is worse than the scathing 2002 Report), the Arab World is inching toward anarchical disintegration. Poor education, entrenched stifling social and traditional mores and lack of economic opportunities are attributed to religious and political totalitarianism and squandering of public revenues. These facts translate into a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, extremism and envy, thus fueling a rise in terrorism, death and destruction at home and around the world. Transformation of Arab beliefs, education, perceptions and, above all, political and religious institutions is the only way to save the Arabs from each other and potential global retaliation.

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