Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC
June 15, 2010
Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami
Director’s Comment: Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud recently warned the Saudi royal family to flee the country before an internal uprising overthrows the monarchy. While this advice may seem premature, it cannot be ignored. A Saudi uprising is inevitable unless the government undertakes drastic reforms of Saudi institutions to pave the way for measurable and transparent democratic processes. Prince Turki is a member of a defunct group of Saudi princes, the Free Princes, who called for a constitution in the early 1960s that would have reformed the relationship between the monarchy and its repressed subjects (ra-e-yah, or herd).
The princes, considered a threat to their family’s domain and denounced as Communists by the West, had to flee for their lives to Cairo, Egypt. They were joined by political activists like Naser al-Saeed, a former Aramco employee hunted by the Saudi government’s intelligence branch until he was ultimately gunned down in Lebanon some years ago. Some of these princes are still advocating for a constitutional monarchy, which remains the best and safest solution for this important but unstable country. The Saudi royal family should heed Prince Turki’s advice to “leave this country to its people, whose dislike for us is increasing.” Prince Turki is correct in that the majority of Saudi people and the international community do not want to see Saudi Arabia continued to be ruled by aging men and religious extremists whose institutions and fortunes produce and finance suicide bombers and extremist groups around the world.
Al-Qaeda’s Woman Speaks for Many
Director’s Comment: Saudi women are forced to disguise themselves in disfiguring black garments. They are not allowed to drive, work, travel, receive equal education or get medicine without male permission. This maltreatment of half of Saudi society because of their gender is pushing Saudi women to get back at those responsible for their misfortunes. Recent surveys conducted by Saudi professionals show that women are resorting to violence at home, against the government’s religious police and joining violent groups like Al-Qaeda.
Contrary to the Saudi government’s assertions and its apologists’ misinformation, Al-Qaeda continues to appeal to many Saudis and other Arabs, including women. This does not mean the majority of Al-Qaeda supporters or admirers are religious, poor or are in favor of an oppressive Islamist state like Saudi Arabia. People are forced into supporting and joining Al-Qaeda out of helplessness and desperation as many see this violent group as their last resort against their autocratic regime and those who support it. This is a reality that Western governments, institutions and businesses have to face, and they must re-evaluate their relations with the Saudi autocratic monarchy whose institutions produce more religious extremists and suicide bombers than any other country in the world.
It is worth remembering that the aim of Osama Bin Laden, the wealthy, highly educated and charismatic founder and financier of Al-Qaeda, from the very beginning was to oust the House of Saud. This is not because of the monarchy’s irreligious and corrupt behavior, an argument Bin Laden and his followers use as a recruiting tool. As an astute strategist and avid student of Muslim ideological violent movements and history, especially the Saudi-Wahhabi military expeditions, Bin Laden uses religion to discredit, denigrate and inflict fear and destruction on his opponents.
Bin Laden’s objectives and strategies are identical to those used by the Saudi-Wahhabi movement that began in 1744 and has continued to the present day. Like the Saudi-Wahhabi conquering alliance, Bin Laden indoctrinates, trains, feeds and arms his followers and empowers them to destroy and kill the enemies of God and Islam. Most of Al-Qaeda’s operatives in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere are usually men but the movement appeals to destitute women as well. One of Al-Qaeda’s most formidable indoctrinators, recruiters and fundraisers, Haylah Al-Qassir (nicknamed Mrs. Al-Qaeda), was arrested by the Saudi authorities on February 21, 2010. As the attached article explains, “Haylah Al Qassir is a dangerous woman with a strong personality, and was one of the most active and effective Al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. She is known to have recruited women and youth to Al Qaeda, as well as been responsible for financing.”
The continuation of the intolerable political, religious, social, educational and economic environment in Saudi Arabia will continue to push Saudi men and women into committing violent acts against each other, their neighbors and the international community. The U.S. and other Western countries can propel the Saudi monarchy to begin sharing power with Saudi citizens through local and national elections. The Saudi people, like all people, want and deserve better treatment from their government.
Haylah Al Qassir's Arrest
Educated and Jobless Saudi Women: Ticking Bomb
Director’s Comment: Even the people who proclaim Saudi Arabia’s stability and progress would admit that restless and frustrated Saudi youth, especially women, pose a real threat to the country’s stability and its shaky political structure. One of the major problems Saudis face is a lack of fulfilling and well-paying jobs, except for some government positions.. No segment in Saudi society suffers from this unnecessary and avoidable problem more than educated women. Millions of Saudi women are highly educated and have received advanced degrees, yet they are prevented from working, even if jobs are available. According to inconsistent Saudi statistics, between 6% and 14% of Saudi women are employed, even though the number of educated women exceeds that of men. Many women resent their dependence on men for economic survival among other things. They are forcefully demanding changes to labor and social laws that prevent them from working, becoming financially independent and contributing to the building of their lagging society
Given the fact that millions of Saudi women are educated, able and want to work, preventing them from working is mind-boggling, especially when there are about 10 million imported expatriates doing jobs that could be done by Saudi women. The reason given by the public and private sectors is that Saudis are selective and do not want to hold low paying jobs. This lame argument defies the fact that Saudi women are prevented from working in restaurants, cleaning homes, doing secretarial work or driving busses. Government officials consider these jobs as embodying decadent Western values or as s Prince Naif, the Saudi Interior Minister and a possible candidate to succeed King Abdullah, put it “He who permits his daughter or wife to work as a secretary for another man forfeit his manhood.”
Saudi Female Employment Statistics
Interior Minister Naif's Quote
Al-Azhar Scholars: “Wahhabism: Mortal Enemy of and a Threat to Islam and the World”
Director’s Comment: In an unprecedented conference held on April 25, 2010 in Cairo, Egypt, titled “Wahhabism: Threat to Islam and the World,” a constellation of prominent Muslim scholars and specialists in Islamic movements condemned the Saudi state’s brand of Islam, Wahhabism, as a “mortal threat to Muslims and the world.” The scholars indicted Wahhabism as a mortal threat that “the modern world has not experienced … if it were not for Saudi money and American hypocrisy it would be possible to resist and eliminate Wahhabism. However, America and Saudi Arabia benefit from this perverted idea which is falsely attributed to Islam and is used for terrorism in some cases and blackmail in other cases.”
The scholars went on to say that “… it is a duty to fight this idea (Wahhabism) with all permissible means.” During their deliberation, the high caliber Muslim scholars and specialists from Islam’s oldest and most prestigious institution, Al-Azhar University, said, “Wahhabism, as an idea and a movement, is of the most dangerous enemies of Muslims and the world.” In their research and discussions, the specialists and scholars explained that Wahhabism relies on rejection of the “Other and his thoughts,” and threatens security and peace in the Muslim World. They said that Wahhabism spreads severe criminal and terrorist ideas that propel Muslim youth to commit heinous crimes, inflict havoc among people and destabilize Muslim states and their rulers.
Given the weight and position of the discussants and presenters, the conclusions reached should be heeded by Muslims, especially Saudis, and the West. The only reason the Saudi government spreads its austere brand of Islam is to be able to blackmail anyone at anytime, especially those who may pose a threat to the survival of the Saudi monarchy.
Resurgence of the Ottoman Empire?
Director’s Comment: Like other Muslim regimes and groups, the Islamist leaning Turkish President Abdullah Gul and his Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan are using the Palestinian issue as a tool to promote themselves as heroes and fatten their bank accounts. By challenging Israel’s Gaza blockade and defying the U.S. designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization, the Turks have achieved their intended objectives: money and fame among disenfranchised and marginalized Arabs and Muslims.
The Arab media, including the popular London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, are lionizing Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as “This phenomenal Ottoman Sultan …who sent his armada to break the Gaza blockade is a man of action not words and sentimental speeches.” In a visit to the Turkish capital, Ankara, on June 10, 2010, the Saudi Finance Minister, Mr. Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Assaf, announced his government’s commitment to invest $400 billion in Turkey over the next four years. This is lucrative compensation for sending a few aid boats carrying goods and a horde of Turkish religious extremists, among others, who are driven by more than their love of Arab cultures and political systems, a sense of justice or protection of human rights.
Turkey has been a functioning democracy for the past seventy years, because its founder, Kamal Ataturk, separated the mosque from public policy and government operation. What he could not do was convince the Turks that Islam is a belief, not a way of life. Since men use Islam to control every aspect of Muslims’ lives and their perceptions towards both themselves and non-Muslims, Turkey remained culturally Muslim. Therefore, most Turks remain faithful to Islam and its teachings, which many Muslims and non-Muslims argue is incompatible with plural democracy governed by non-sectarian rule of law, as in Western societies.
Ataturk was aware of the threat sectarian Turks posed to his movement; consequently, he entrusted the military as a safeguard of the newly founded democracy under the rule of law. This unwieldy arrangement still holds, but has been steadily eroding due to regional and global developments and the Islamist-leaning party, AKP, currently in power.
Having failed to meet the democratic standards necessary to secure membership in the European Union and facing economic hardship, the revisionist Turkish President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan began to look for strategic and economic allies in the Arab East with an eye on the oil-rich Arab ruling families around the Persian Gulf. They found receptive partners, especially in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been trying to convince the Turks to rejoin their Muslim brethren for years, but the relationship between the two historically bitter enemies remained strained until the Saudi King, Abdullah decided to fly to Ankara with a coterie of 400 business executives on August 8, 2006.
Despite King Abdullah’s poor reception when he arrived in Turkey, he and the business executives were able to make impressive progress with Turkish officials. They signed a variety of trade and cultural treaties with Turkish officials. Since then, Saudi-Turkish trade and cultural relations have accelerated momentously. These widening economic, cultural and religious ties the Turks intend to use to re-establish themselves as a regional Muslim power are interpreted to be the driving incentive that led the Turks to send their boats to Gaza. They want to convince the suspicious Gulf oilmen and their victory-starved populations that investments in Turkey will produce lucrative dividends. The Saudis are taking credit for the Turkish flotilla episode; consequently the West’s reaction to the incident is favorable towards Arabs. This is attributed to fear of a backlash, including an increase in terrorism against the West and its interests and security.
Former Terrorists: Rehabilitation or Re-indoctrination
Director’s Comment: The highly praised Saudi rehabilitation program for ex-prisoners and captured terrorists can be classified as re-programming, as opposed to deprogramming. Whether they are ex-Guantanamo prisoners or captured in Saudi Arabia, the deviants, as Saudi officials label them, are placed in lush villas and provided with a luxurious lifestyle that the majority of Saudis can only dream of having. After a few days of rest and relaxation, they must complete the government’s intense religious re-training instead of abandoning their violent inclinations and actions. The captured terrorists and religious extremists are instructed to fast certain days of the week, pray frequently and re-memorize the Quran. Not surprisingly, the trainers are the same religious clerics who originally indoctrinated terrorists in schools, mosques and summer camps. Given the nature of the rehabilitative program, some of the terrorists return to their old profession as soon as they leave the villas. Othman Ahmed Al-Ghamdi was a prisoner in Guantanamo for four years and a participant in the rehabilitation program but returned to Al-Qaeda after his release in 2006. Today, he is on a list of the “85 most wanted people by Saudi Arabia.” As seen in Al-Ghamdi’s case, the rehabilitation program does not emphasize the complete avoidance of violence. During their re-education, the ex-terrorists are instructed not to commit crimes against their rulers and countrymen. Instead they are told that it is their duty to defend Islam against its sworn enemies, the infidels. As an ally of the Saudi government, the U.S. ought to investigate the Saudi rehabilitation program and evaluate it for what it is, as opposed to taking Saudi word for it and advice from people, including American witnesses, who lack deep understanding of Saudi religious and cultural backgrounds and methods of operation.
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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