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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - January 26, 2010

Newsletter - January 26, 2010

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Unsettling Events in Saudi Arabia

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami


"One of the Best Countries"

Director’s Comment: In a recent speech to thank some of his Ministry retirees for their sacrifices to defend Saudi Arabia, Interior Minister Prince Naif is reported to have “…stressed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (his family’s domain-Ali) is one of the best countries in the world in terms of security and economy.” Prince Naif made three points worthy of rebuttal: First, Saudi Arabia is not the best country in the region financially or in terms of security. Many of the living standards, income and social services in its neighboring Gulf countries are superior to those of Saudi Arabia. In addition, many of the highly publicized projects such as King Abdullah’s economic cities exist on paper only. Not only that, but most of the Saudi infrastructure is dilapidated. Major cities have no sewage or drainage systems, like Jeddah, the center of Saudi trade and culture. Even streets and homes are not numbered.

Second, Saudi Arabia is threatened from within and without. Domestically, Prince Naif’s Ministry keeps announcing foiling plots by “deviant” people who conspire with the state’s enemies to “destabilize the country” (overthrow his family). More dangerous, millions of restlessness young Saudi men and women (70% are under 30 years of age) are demanding better social and political life as well as rewarding jobs. Externally, Saudi Arabia is quagmired in a vicious boarder conflict with fierce Yemeni tribesmen who have been fighting their oppressive central government in Sanaa for more than four years. According to Saudi media, a group of Yemeni warriors crossed Saudi Arabia’s southern border late last year, killed some Saudi border patrolmen and occupied Saudi villages. In response, Saudi Arabia, with the help of the Pakistani Army, began intense air bombardment of Yemen’s Northern region, Saadah, where the rebels reside. In addition, Iraqi democracy, which the Saudi and other Gulf rulers consider a threat to their autocratic systems, is steadily evolving and gaining strength. Iran and its formidable proxies (Hezbollah and Hamas) are gaining power among Arabs and Muslims, further undermining Saudi influence in the region and globally.

Third, is what Prince Naif did not spell out but implied, according to the attached blurb. He was only reported to have said, Saudi Arabia “…is one of the best countries in the world in terms of security and economy.” Known for his opposition to democratic reforms, Prince Naif is finally agreeing with what the world already knows and what many native Saudis have been fighting to change, the nature of the Saudi system which is considered one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.
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Saudi Women Inmates Riot Against Rampant Abuses

Director’s Comment: Like all Saudi ministries the Ministry of Social Affairs, which administers women’s prisons among other things, is designed to serve the system and camouflage its omnipresent failures to meet people’s needs throughout the country. Even under the best of circumstances, the majority of Saudi women are the recipients of the cruelty of the austere Saudi nomadic based political, social, educational, religious and economic system. Not only are they relegated to second class citizenship in every way, but women are blamed for the state’s (ruling family and its “yes men” ministers and media) failure to attend to the needs of all citizens. Culturally, women are considered weak, emotional and incapable of looking after themselves and manage their affairs without men. The problem with this argument is baseless because women worked along side men before the formation of the Saudi State and since then, women who have had opportunity to go to school and work have proven superior to men in a ll fields.

Despite their severe institutionalized oppression such as forced body coverings, gender segregation, inequality in education, high unemployment (80%), and male control over every aspect of their lives, many Saudi women are not only vocalizing their rejection of their marginalization by the Saudi government, but demanding change in the educational system, business and labor laws, rules and regulations. They are petitioning the Saudi government’s ministries to hire women to work, especially in businesses that cater to women’s needs, to get business licenses and manage their businesses independently from male encroachment (sponsors) and to rid themselves of the most unnatural and humiliating male guardianship system where most women cannot make any move without a man’s presence or official (written) approval.

In addition, some abused Saudi women are taking the law into their own hands. Saudi newspapers report some women are inflicting death and destruction on their abusers, mostly husbands, and recruiting their relatives to take revenge. Women’s rejection of oppression, male control and discriminatory policies by their government are exemplified by the recent riots in Mecca.

Empowering Saudi women to realize their natural and full citizenship rights is not only morally right, but is in the best interests of the Saudi people and Muslim women throughout the world. This is due to Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Islam and domination over its holy sites. Saudi Arabia plays major role in Muslims’ lives, thus empowering Saudi women will resonate through out Muslim communities worldwide. This is the best, safest and quickest way to undermine and defeat religious extremism in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim World and globally. Since Saudi Arabia and its ruling family have been Western clientele, especially the US, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and other supporters of the Saudi ruling elites will be ill-advised if they continue to ignore the oppression of Muslim women in general, but specifically Saudi women.
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Pinning Islamist Terrorism on Land Disputes and Separatist Movements

Director’s Comment: In a review of a recently released book, Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror, authored by former Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan and current Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Asseri, the reviewer reiterates contradictions and unconvincing arguments that have been rehearsed for the last twenty years. If the review is accurate, these are arguments that no one buys except the recipients of Saudi largess.

The book appears to attribute Islamic terrorism to oppression of Muslims, not by their autocratic ruling elites and their violent institutions, but by non-Muslims. The review cited the Serbian-Bosnian, the Russian-Chechen, the Kashmiri-Indian and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts as the root causes of the unprecedented rise in and violent actions of Muslim extremists, mostly against their own people but also against non-Muslims, especially in Western democracies. Like many other accusers of non-Muslims for Muslim’s tragic state of affairs, the author, according to the review, failed to explain that the examples he cited are actually disputes over land and wars of separatist movements. Regrettably, he is not the only one who takes the easy way out, as many Western news organizations, Arabists, defenders of Muslim regimes and Islam, prestigious educational institutions, some politicians, think tanks and some religious institutions in the West also blame the increase in terroris t groups and their attacks on mistreatment of Muslims by non-Muslims. This is nonsense because Muslims are primarily victimized by their own governments and by religious extremists as punishment for breaking social taboos and thinking independently of their governments’ authoritative commands.

However, Arab resentment toward the West, especially, is mostly due to the West’s support for oppressive Arab regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among others. Tragically, Arab authors, journalists, intellectuals and businesspeople have aided their oppressive regimes’ failures to lift up their lagging societies by blaming Arab shortcomings on others. What these authors, journalists, intellectuals and others fail to comprehend and accept is that people interested in Arab affairs and root causes of terrorism tend to be well-read, analytical and knowledgeable of Arab political structures, their failures, deflective excuses and religious indoctrination against non-Muslims. Arab authors, journalists and intellectuals can best serve their disenfranchised peoples by focusing on Arab political, economic, social and human development failures and religious indoctrinations against non-Muslims, Muslim minorities and women, which are the real root causes of terrorism and bac kwardness.
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Gulf Ruling Families' Fear of Iraq

Director’s Comment: It has been extensively reported and fervently argued by Sunni Arabs, some Western media and among high level political and military strategists that Iraq will eventually ally itself with Iran and pose a greater threat to the Arab Gulf states and their ruling families. The Arab Gulf States’ rulers and controlled media have used this argument to justify their support for Iraqi Sunni insurgents against their Shiite compatriots. After seven years of vicious attacks on the majority Shiites by Saudi nationals and other suicide bombers and by well financed Iraqi insurgents to keep Iraq unstable and divided, the Iraqis have not allied themselves with Iran and their democracy seems to be holding and moving forward.

CDHR has been arguing for years that fear among the autocratic ruling families in the Arab Gulf states has less to do with the Iraqis becoming Iranian stooges, thus a threat to their thrones, and more to do with overflow of Iraq’s democracy into their politically disenfranchised societies and with production of greater quantities of Iraqi oil. The later is being done. The Iraqis are contracting with major multinational companies to modernize their oil facilities, increase Iraq’s oil production and explore for new oil fields. The combination of thriving democracy in Iraq and substantial increase in Iraq’s oil production will increase the Gulf people’s demands for democratization and severely undermine the ruling families’ influence regionally and globally.
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"Spread the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah Throughout the World"

Director’s Comment: It’s reported that “Saudi Arabia has launched two satellite TV channels to spread the messages of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah (life and teachings) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) throughout the world.” According to the attached article, “King Abdullah wanted the two channels to reach all Muslims in the world.” Curiously, the target audiences are Muslim minorities in non-Muslim societies and Muslim countries whose languages are not Arabic, the language in which the Quran is written and spoken only by Arabs. “The two channels could be viewed by people in Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, North Americas and Hawaii.”

The question is what messages would be spread by Saudi clerics, who are known for their intolerance of non-Muslims, Muslim minorities, women and even of majority Muslims who do not adhere to the austere and literal Saudi-Wahhabi interpretation of the Quran and Shari’ah (Islamic law.) There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where worshiping is not voluntary but physically enforced by the Saudi government. People who don’t stop whatever they might be doing and head to mosques when prayer callers scream from minarets get beaten, yelled at or taken to the government’s religious police interrogation centers.

Non-Muslims can not practice their religious rituals publicly in Saudi Arabia and if caught doing so in the privacy of their residences risk physical assault, confiscation and burning of their holy books and deportation. If this is the situation in Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to imagine Saudi clerics instructing their TV audiences to accept and respect other faiths, because these clerics consider other religions incomplete, false and unfulfilling. They fervently believe that Islam is supreme and exists to correct the religions that preceded it or came after it.
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Only in Saudi Arabia where School Children are Sentenced to Flogging and Imprisonment

Director’s Comment: A school girl was sentenced to 90 lashes in front of her classmates and two months in the slammer for bringing her cell phone to school, which was in violation of the school’s ban on cell phones. It’s reported that the student was enraged when the head mistress furiously grabbed her cell phone, an act that enraged the student and led her to spank the head mistress. In a civil society and under the norms and rules of modern institutions, incident like this would have been discussed with parents, the school principal, teachers and school counselors; and the worst that could have happened to the student could have been a few days’ suspension.

However, this is Saudi Arabia where flogging and incarceration are common practices and in most cases not because of the severity of the crimes committed (real criminals are protected from justice), but to cow people into total submission, not to God, but to the King and his institutions. This is evidenced by the cruel sentencing of this school girl as stated by the head mistress; “Because the purpose of it is to serve as a lesson in behavior…” which means instill fear of authority in children’s minds to ensure their submission at an early age. Wrenchingly, the severe sentence rendered by the Saudi arbitrary court system and its execution in school in front of other students were based on the school mistress’s advice who termed the harsh punishment “satisfactory.”

One can only feel for Saudi young students and the country when children are condemned to enduring nightmares, degradation and terror, instead of rehabilitation and nurturing childhood and fond school memories. No doubt the King will pardon the child so he can be seen as the savior of his subjects even though it’s his institutions that allow for the behavior and practices of authorities that befit the Stone Age laws, if even that.
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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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