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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis Intimidation and Incarceration are Not the Answers to Saudi Arabia’s Multitude of Domestic and External Perilous Challenges

Intimidation and Incarceration are Not the Answers to Saudi Arabia’s Multitude of Domestic and External Perilous Challenges

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

September 18, 2017

Royals’ Vulnerability, Impact of Regime’s Policies, Women and Municipal Elections

CDHR’s Analysis and Commentaries

Intimidation and Incarceration are Not the Answers to Saudi Arabia’s Multitude of Domestic and External Perilous Challenges

CDHR Commentary: The recently reported rash of arrests of anti-government elements in Saudi Arabia is caused by repression, economic hardships and by King Salman's and sons' belligerent domestic and foreign policies. Since Salman and his sons inherited the Saudi throne in January 2015, they introduced severe economic measures of the kind most Saudis have not experienced. They started a war in Yemen, strengthened their occupation of Bahrain, blockaded Qatar and marginalized most of the experienced and powerful Saudi princes. The latter is a recipe for disastrous consequences not only for Saudi Arabia, but for its major ally and defender, the United States of America.

King Salman believes in and is committed to ensuring his family’s eternal ownership of Saudi Arabia. This is mostly the reason behind his empowerment of his sons and relegation of anyone he thinks might share power with the commoners. He loathed his predecessor, King Abdullah, for introducing window-dressing reform steps such as allowing women to vote in meaningless municipal elections and appointing a few women to the powerless Majlis Al-Shurah (consultative council), where appointed women have to enter the structure through the back doors.

King Salman is a staunch supporter of the Wahhabi anti-modernity and anti-human rights doctrine, which he believes is the true Islam that must be exported worldwide.

Blaming external powers and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood for the brewing discontent among millions of disenfranchised Saudi women and men is a futile attempt on the part of Saudi rulers to avoid dealing with the root causes of the people’s frustration, anger and marginalization. Faced with unprecedented and formidable economic, political and royal challenges, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is resorting to the same policies and practices his family, especially his father, is notoriously known for, brutality.

The guarded optimism many Saudis, especially his age group felt when Crown Prince Mohammed was propelled into powerful positions since his father inherited the throne two years ago, is being slowly replaced with cynicism and loss of hope for a better future under his watch. The novice Crown Prince may end up being  remembered as the Prince Of Chaos that he and his father, King Salman, myopically created.

“Saudi Arabia's Missing Princes”

CDHR Commentary: We hear short-lived news stories about arbitrary arrest, incarceration, flogging and mass beheadings of non-royal Saudi dissidents and alleged “terrorists,” many of whom promote democracy, free speech, religious tolerance, women’s rights and civil society. However, we hear almost none about reformers from within the autocratic Saudi ruling family who have spoken out against their family’s rampant corruption and draconian policies, as this account demonstrates.  Lack of recognition of and disregard for the efforts of royal dissenters, like Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz and the younger princes like Khaled Bin Farhan spring from worldwide cynicism about the Saudi ruling family as a whole.

Lack of international support for royal dissenters stems from fear that the influential Saudi monarchy would interpret it as an effort to undermine its legitimacy and to destabilize Saudi society. Support for royal dissenters by human rights groups is likely to be interpreted by critics of the regime as indirect support for the monarchy, since none of the royal dissenters has called for outright removal of the royal family from power.

Sympathizing with royal Saudi reformers, whether domestically or externally, is difficult for most people. This is due to the ruling family’s repression of their people, the Saudi association with extremism and terrorism and some royals’ behavior and actions at home or when they travel abroad. These are facts only the ruling family can change, but that is unlikely to happen as long as they consider the country their private property and have the blessings and protection of Western powers.

While global repulsive sentiment toward the Saudi ruling family’s repressive and denigrating policies and practices and its exportation and financing of extremist ideology is understandable, support for royal dissidents should not be ignored. Regardless of the reasons behind their willingness to speak up and expose the monarchy’s bankrupting corruption and severe political repression, the royal dissidents are advocating representative government, accountability and transparency, values that put them in the league of political reformers and advocates of social justice.

The Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia promotes gender equality, religious freedom and human rights and supports political reformers, including the Saudi princes who are willing to risk their lives to promote accountability, transparency, non-sectarian rule of law and a representative form of government in Saudi Arabia.

“IS THE U.S. TURNING ITS BACK ON THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN ITS FIGHT AGAINST EXTREMISM?”

CDHR Commentary: This analyst wrote a comment in response to an article about Muslim minorities in Europe a while back stating that, "It's only a matter of time before Western and other non-Muslim societies turn against Muslims, starting with Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries.”

As this article (by a Muslim) correctly stated: “Just saying that Islam is about peace, mercy and forgiveness is not enough. Nor is saying that the clear majority of Muslim people did not create terrorism, or even help in its emergence. We are, and we will be charged with this accusation at least until we demonstrate a much stronger effort to reform. Not doing so will result not only in the marginalization of Muslims in Western nations, but in banishing us from their social circles altogether.”

In other words, instead of quoting selective verses of the Quran to silence critics of Islam’s role in extremism and terrorism, Muslims have to prove that extremism and terrorism are alien to their cultures, religion and traditions. This assertion, which most Muslims have used, is unconvincing (even to many Muslims) given the raging carnage committed by Muslims against each other because of different interpretations of Islam, as in the Sunni versus Shi’a schism.

Accusing the US of “turning its back on the Muslim community” which is trying to separate its religion from extremism and terrorism only serves to deflect blame from its real target. While most Muslims are not extremists or terrorists, the burden lies on    Muslims’ shoulders here and around the world to eradicate the root causes of Islamic extremism and terrorism within their communities. Modern interpretation of Muslim texts is not only overdue, but will liberate Muslims from centuries old cycles of violence, intolerance and backwardness.

“US slams China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia for religious repression”

CDHR Commentary: Every Secretary of State and every State Department's Annual Report have condemned the same countries for the last two decades. The State Department has designated countries like Saudi Arabia a "Country of Particular Concern" due to its religious oppression and discrimination, but follow up is not pursued and no one is held accountable.

Democratic Western governments, businesses, learning institutions, media, many think tanks and labor unions keep supporting and emboldening violators of religious beliefs and basic human rights. This practice is not only endangering US global interests and national security, but contradicts the empowering democratic values upon which this great and free nation was founded.

As has been abundantly documented by multitude of prominent Muslim and non-Muslim historians, scholars and researchers, including Saudis and major Muslim institutions, like the Al-Azhar University have implore Muslims and non-Muslims to defeat Wahhabism, which inspires groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Saudi people will be the first to admit that their society suffers economically, scientifically and socially Wahhabi religious constrictions.

Yemen:The Photos the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Don’t Want You to See”

CDHR Commentary: By the time the Saudi-led (hired) Muslim/Arab coalition is done with their onslaught, Yemen will be no more than piles of corpses, pulverized mud dwellings and heart-broken mothers comforting their children dying from starvation, cholera and shrapnel from falling cluster bombs. As this wrenching account and the UN state, the Saudis are committing war crimes in Yemen with the complicity and support of the most powerful and democratic countries in the world, the  U.S. and the U.K.

The autocratic Saudis, their multitude of lobbying firms, “pragmatist analysts,” arm sales merchants and most Western powers are either silent or support the Saudis’ invasion and destruction of Yemen. They support the Saudi claim that invading Yemen is a defensive measure to prevent the Iranian theocracy from establishing a Shi’a proxy on the southern Saudi borders. If this is the Saudi and their allies’ real objective, why not go after the Iranian Mullahs instead of committing war crimes against the poorest Arab country, Yemen?

As in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the ravaging war in Yemen is increasing, not decreasing, Iran’s influence. Additionally, millions of Yemenis are likely to seek revenge by joining extremist and terrorist groups, not only against the Saudis and their coalition, but their allies and supporters as well.

Sheikh of UAE: “Empowering Women”

CDHR Commentary: Swathed in his nomadic desert white robe and sandals, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the absolute ruler of the UAE and one of the wealthiest men on earth, stood in front of a group of privileged women clad in black abayas and head covers and claimed that “Some people still wonder about the empowerment of women in our society. Such questions come most often from abroad.” This is correct because indigenous people can incur harsh royal punishments if they express their opinion and feelings about his regime’s draconian policies and practices.

The question the iron-fisted Sheikh should answer is: has he abolished the Shariah law and the four wives systems, both of which denigrate women and put them under men’s total control? These misogynistic systems must be delegalized, delegitimized and their upholders ought to be brought to justice, not under Shariah law, but under a non-sectarian rule of law that is applicable to rulers and ruled. This rule of law should apply not only in the UAE, but in all of the dynastically controlled Gulf Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, whose record of oppressing women exceeds all others.

These are embryonic steps that must be implemented before his Royal Highness Sheikh Maktoum should claim that women are fully empowered and free to choose.

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