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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis Qatar Crises Widened and Debating Women’s Rights Intensify

Qatar Crises Widened and Debating Women’s Rights Intensify

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

July 31, 2017

Qatar Crises Widened and Debating Women’s Rights Intensify

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

The Two Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia

CDHR Commentary: For most Westerners and others, there is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the only country named after the family that rules it, “Saudi” Arabia.) But for non-royal Saudis and those who work (or have worked and lived in Saudi Arabia), there are two distinctly separate kingdoms, one for the royal family and its religious establishment and the other for the population and the 11 million maltreated Asian and other expatriate workers. Only when royal crimes against non-royals become public do most people see or hear of the difference between the two Saudi kingdoms. The cases of this submissive non-royal Saudi and foreigners like William Sampson, a Canadian who endured cruel abuses for crimes he denied committing, illustrate the other Saudi kingdom.

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia has received inquiries, three of which stood out regarding the vicious attack on an innocent citizen by a Saudi prince. One, what did the victim do to incur such humiliating social and physical abuse? He parked his car close to the prince’s property, according to what the prince said in Arabic on the video. Two, why didn’t the victim defend himself? In Saudi Arabia, standing up to or challenging a member of the royal family is illegal. Defying the supremacy and legitimacy of the ruling family is considered challenging the supreme authority of the king. Three, why did it take the king to order the arrest of the abusive prince? No members of the royal family are subjected to the state’s ferocious security personnel or to the punitive religious and political laws and policies which non-royals have to endure.

Regardless of their political status or royal lineage, every member of the vast Saudi ruling family considers the country his/her property by right of birth; therefore, the state’s religious and political laws are not applicable to them. Given this claim of ownership, the estimated 10 to 30 thousand members of the ruling family are not only protected from the state’s punishing laws,  but receive a generous monthly allowance, ranging from $270,000 for senior princes to $ 8,000 for distant relatives such as children of liaisons with maids and slave mothers. The allowances continue even when the country is going though dire economic hardships.

Given these privileges, Saudi royals can do whatever they wish, including the importation of alcohol and hard drugs, which they consume freely and sell on to the public. However, non-royals incur harsh punishment (including death for drug traffickers) if caught consuming or selling these forbidden substances by the ubiquitous security personnel, who dare not apply the same rules to the royals. Unlike non-royals, who are constantly surveilled and quixotically arrested for minor offenses, only the king can order arrests of royals, which only happens when royal crimes become public.  ­­­­­

These have been the state’s policies and practices since its founding in 1932. However, a new generation of royals are now in power and many young Saudis hope that things will change for the better; but thus far, there is no indication of that happening soon, at least as long as King Salman remains in the throne. He believes the country must remain the property of the ruling family under the control of his uncompromising Sudairi branch. This is why, many Saudis believe, he put the state’s internal and external decision-making authority in the hands of his iron-fisted son, Prince Mohammed.


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. Continue:  www.cdhr.info

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.

Gulf Crisis Highlights Discrimination Against Women

CDHR Commentary: Arab women, in general, are among the most marginalized and oppressed people in the world, and no group has it worse than women of the Gulf Arab states, especially in Saudi Arabia. This is due to religious totalitarianism, nomadic culture, backward educational systems and anti-modernity dynastic rule.

Wretchedly, the heads of states in the Gulf Arab countries are praised by Western governments, institutions and businesses for political stability (albeit by the sword,) welfare systems (handouts and bribery,) their war on terrorism and loyalty to the West. Courting and appeasing the Gulf Arab autocrats and tolerating their denigrating policies toward women, their intolerance of religious minorities, maltreatment of expatriate workers, and their indoctrination against non-Muslims will not defeat, but escalate extremism and terrorism despite Gulf rulers’ claims to the contrary. As social, political and economic conditions continue to deteriorate due to declining global dependence on fossil fuel, a Gulf Arab Spring will erupt, with women at the forefront.

In the event a Gulf Arab Spring occurs, Arabists and bandits at Middle Eastern and Islamic Study Departments in American and other Western universities will lament, “we did not see this coming,” just like they said when the current raging Arab Spring erupted. Stay tuned.

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.

Qatar Blockade: A Misleading Power Play

CDHR Commentary: Three of the four Arab autocracies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain) that are demanding Qatar raise the white flag are threatened by domestic political restlessness, pro-democracy movements, economic hardships and home bred extremism and terrorism. These countries continue to emphasize that they are blockading Qatar largely because of its support for terrorism.

Claiming to fight terrorism has become a powerful tool in the hands of dictators who use the slogan to deceive the international community, especially gullible Westerners. It’s hypocritical that the Saudis are punishing the Qataris for supporting terrorism when the two regimes were allies in arming and financing Syrian opposition groups, some of whom were Al-Qaeda’s affiliates, like Jabhat Al-Nusrah.

By claiming to fight terrorism, the Qatar blockaders are diverting attention from their problems at home and hoping to hide their real agenda, which in the case of the Saudis is to colonize the smaller and weaker states of the Arabian Peninsula, as exemplified by Saudi actions in Bahrain and Yemen.

While Qataris are by no means Jeffersonian democrats, nor can they claim to be innocent regarding support for extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood and its Qatar-based spiritual advisor, Shaikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi, comparing the Qatari regime with the Saudis, the Qataris are socially and politically more advanced, stable and by far more tolerant.

Unless the current Saudi-instigated turmoil in the Gulf is resolved quickly and peacefully, the consequences could plunge the US into a larger crisis involving Iran and Turkey. The US has a vast economic and strategic stake in Qatar. That small, but wealthy country sits atop the largest natural gas reservoir in the world and is home to America’s largest strategically located air base in the Middle East. These are the reasons Secretary of Defence Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson denounced the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, despite their boss’s uninformed compulsive support for the blockade.

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