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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - May 31, 2010
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Saudi News & Analysis

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami

May 31, 2010

Determined to Fail

Director’s Comment: Despite irrefutable signs of civil strife due to public frustration, the Saudi ruling family continues to insist on pre-modern methods of governance. Like most people in the world, Saudis have become more educated, exposed to other cultures, different and more fulfilling lifestyles, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, political participation, and the rule of law, accountability and transparency. This has led to unprecedented domestic demands for political, social, religious, educational and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia. Demands for change are especially felt among women, religious minorities and youth—the most marginalized and neglected groups in Saudi society. According to the government, young Saudi males are resorting to drugs, among other things. This can be attributed to the lack of fulfilling employment opportunities, stifling social taboos and paucity of free expression.

In response to this growing drug culture, the Saudi government “… plans to set up youth clubs across the Kingdom to give young men the opportunity to spend their free time fruitfully.” The question is how government-created and managed clubs would prevent youth from using drugs? Are the Saudi youth using drugs for thrills (as happens in free societies) or in order for them to cope with their unparalleled oppressive environment? What will these clubs offer to divert Saudi youth’s attention from using drugs or joining Al-Qaeda, where they feel empowered and free to kill? Will there be gender and other social interactions, worldly entertainment, freedom of expression, music halls and religious freedom? If the answers to theses questions are yes, then why have government-run clubs.

Given the Saudi ruling elites’ methods and sense of birthright ownership of the country, its wealth and people, these clubs will be designed to control the restless Saudi youth just as the mosques are designed to control peoples’ minds, bodies and whereabouts at all times. Like the government’s rehabilitative centers for former terrorists and aspiring recruits for Al-Qaeda, the proposed clubs will serve as religious and loyalty indoctrination and reprogramming centers. Memorizing the Quran and Shariah, defend Islam and total submission to the king and his family will be the objective of these clubs. The problem with this project is it will not work, because the Saudi people are ahead of the men and the pre-modern institutions that rule them.
Read Article (in English)

Ghostization of Saudi Women Reinforced

Director’s Comment: The royal appointment of Norah Al-Fayez as Deputy Education Minister for Women’s Education on February 15, 2009 made a huge splash in Western media and Saudi public relations (including Saudi embassies and the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations) offices worldwide. This euphoric foreign reaction to King Abdullah’s appointment of a Saudi woman to look after Saudi girl’s affairs at the Ministry of Education did not impress many Saudis, especially women. The appointment of Mrs. Al-Fayez was largely crafted to silence democratic reformers in and outside the country, minimize global criticism of Saudi segregationist policies and oppression of women and strengthen King Abdullah’s position in the country. The appointment of Mrs. Al-Fayez has a short-lived positive impact on the psyche and ethos of Saudi society, but it has evaporated, as many in the country knew would be the case

Knowing their male chauvinistic-dominated society and the autocrats who rule it, the resilient women of Saudi Arabia did not expect meaningful changes to their intolerable present status after the appointment of Norah Al-Fayez, but they had hoped things would move forward. As evidenced by the attached article and pictures, the result of the appointment of Mrs. Al-Fayez is what Saudi female reformers are fighting against: justification and re-enforcement of gender segregation and male sense of superiority.

Appointing Mrs. Al-Fayez was not designed to inspire Saudi women to do better and obtain their usurped rights but to accept the unnatural subjugation as dictated by their government and Saudi male, extremist-dominated society.
Read Article (in Arabic)
Picture of Norah Al-Fayez when the media announced her appointment
Picture of Norah Al-Fayez after her appointment

A Princess’s Message to her 50,000 Students: Fear and Submission

Director’s Comment: In a recent statement to the Saudi government controlled media, Princess Al-Johara said that women who are not completely enveloped in black have no honor. She accused Saudi male liberals and human rights activists of being no more than failed Westernized decadents, men who claim to be for women’s rights and equality when in reality they are driven by sexual motives. Such statements are to expected from the government’s heavy handed extremist religious police whose assignment is to intimidate and subjugate people, especially women, in the name of God and cultural supremacy.

Princess Al-Johara happens to be the president (rector) of one of the Saudi government’s largest universities, Princess Norah University, with more than 50,000 students. Her statement to the media raises questions about her education, management skills, objectives and whether she is an educator or an agent of the system whose policy is to marginalize, segregate and keep the overwhelming majority of Saudi women totally dependent on men; in effect, to keep women as perpetual minors.

Like many interested parties, the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, was curious to find out about Princess Al-Johara’s scathing attack on uncovered women and liberals. On May 3, 2010, CDHR’s director wrote an analytical and inquisitive commentary titled “University Rector: Only Covered Women Have Honor.” Established to promote non-sectarian democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia, CDHR wanted to find out about Rector Princess Al-Johara and whether she would be an enlightened and progressive educator or a royal agent given the job to make sure her family’s control remains supreme. In fairness to the Rector, the commentary was emailed to her, care of her three immediate assistants, deans 1, 2 and 3. No direct response was expected nor received.

As stated in the attached article, Princess/Rector Al-Johara sadly reiterated her position: Women should observe Saudi traditions, obey their parents and above all fear God and submit to the masters of their destiny, the Saudi ruling princes (Oli’ya Alamr). One can conclude that Princess Al-Johara was given the job not to create and implement a knowledge-based academic curriculum and empower her students to be self-reliant, but make sure students in her large university continue to learn about religion, tradition and total submission to God and King.
Read Article (in Arabic)

Bravo King Abdullah, Better Late than Never

Director’s Comment: It could be climate change, artificial (use of science to make rain) or coincidence, but some regions in Saudi Arabia have been getting unprecedented, albeit sporadic, heavy rainstorms in recent months. On Nov. 25, 2009, the Saudi economic, intellectual and liberal capital, Jeddah (dubbed ‘The City by the Red Sea’) was hit by a few hours of heavy rain. This should have been a welcome event because it hardly rains in Saudi Arabia. Instead, it became a terrifying experience for the residents of Jeddah, especially the destitute and marginalized citizens and immigrants. Due to an inexcusable absence of adequate, let alone modern, drainage and sewage systems, the water from the rain inundated dry riverbeds outside Jeddah, mixed with waste material from Jeddah’s sewage dump (known as Musk Lake), and flooded the city with over three feet of water. More than 100 people lost their lives, hundreds more were injured and thousands of homes, businesses, and cars were destroyed and swept away.

The Jeddah flood and subsequent disasters (as in a similar, albeit less destructive rainfall in the poverty-stricken Jizan region in April, 2010 and recently in Riyadh on May 3, 2010) could have easily been avoided had there been systems of prioritization, accountability and transparency where public funds are accounted for, spent on immediate and relevant projects and corrupt officials held accountable to the people. Sad to say, but none of these protective mechanisms exist. This is due to the nature of the political structure and the institutions that manage the country. Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy who claims ownership of the country which is named after the men who rule it.

For example, after the Jeddah flood tragedy, King Abdullah called on his nephew Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca, to form a committee to investigate the causes of the system’s failure to protect the residents of Jeddah and report his findings to the King. Instead of appointing independent infrastructure experts, surveyors, engineers and members of the communities hard-hit by the flood, Prince Khalid appointed some of the officals who squandered public money and failed to do their job. The committee reported to the King three months later and nothing came out of it until May 11 when the King announced that he wants the perpetrators tried for their crimes. No one expects any meaningful results because the court system takes its instructions from the king and other princes.
Read Article (in English)

Support Malaysia’s Democratic Movement

Director’s Comment: Turning our back on democratic reformers, women and minority rights in autocratic and theoretic Arab and Muslim countries is not only antithesis to everything America stands for but is also a foreign policy blunder. Embracing and supporting dictators for short-term interests have brought us to a situation that is potentially harmful to our life, liberty, and democratic system. It is time for the Obama Administration to reconsider its appeasement of Arab and Muslim autocratic regimes whose policies and institutions produce, finance, and provide safe heaven for extremists.

A democratic Malaysia will serve the best interest of its diverse population, the Muslim people, and the international community. The West cannot win the war of ideas without drying the swamps that breed and nurture extremists. The U.S. government may indeed secure a short-term benefit by supporting Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia but at what cost. Mr. Najib, like his predecessor Prime Minister Mahathir, is accused of using character assassination and smear tactics to discredit an ardent advocate of democracy, Mr. Anwar Ibrahim. Merely being accused of sodomy in the Muslim World is a political death sentence. According to the attached article, Mr. Najib, like his predecessor Mr. Mahathir, is accusing Mr. Ibrahim of having sex with another male. President Obama’s Administration should not fall for these types of tactics which have troubling implications for the people of Malaysia and beyond.
Read Article (in English)

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The Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization based in Washington, DC. CDHR provides new and accurate information for the benefit of the public, the business community and policy makers about the current situation in Saudi Arabia. CDHR’s goal is to help bring about a peaceful democratic transition from a single-family autocratic rule to a participatory political system where the rights of all Saudi citizens are protected under the rule of civil laws.

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