Submitted by George Callaghan…
By many measures Saudi Arabia is the most unfree country in the world. The country is an absolute monarchy and the most oppressive theocracy of all. People have no right to vote, no right to speak freely, no right to access information, no right to a fair trial. In short, they have no rights. Women have no right to leave the country without permission. Women are always under the thumb of a male relative due to the pernicious guardian system.
The situation in Saudi Arabia is so horrid that it makes even Islamic fundamentalists blanche.
Trials in Saudi Arabia are notorious for their opacity. They do not adhere to international standards. Judges are selected for their obscurantism.
Alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). As the British ambassador in the 1970s noted wryly ‘Saudi is a dry country in which it is possible to find a government minister drunk in his office at 8 o clock in the morning.’
The last country in the world to allow women to drive was Saudi Arabia. Why did Riyadh deny womankind this right? It is because the Prophet Mohammed said that no woman should ever control a camel or horse. She could sit on the beast but it must be controlled by a man. The Wahabis updated this stricture to apply to vehicles which are the 20th century version of a quadruped. Womenfolk are finally permitted to drive an automobile in Saudi. This is progress!
Despite the appalling conduct of the Saudi Arabian regime it enjoys a cordial relationship with Washington and London.
In recent years a jaw dropping axis between Riyadh and Tel Aviv has emerged. Time was the twain were at daggers drawn. They sharply disagreed over Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and over Israel’s very existence. The Saudi Arabians have largely abandoned their downtrodden Palestinian cousins. The Saudis have reluctantly accepted that their proxy in Syria (ISIS and the Al Nusra Front) has been mainly defeated. The Saudis no longer care overmuch for the Sunni minority in Lebanon. Far more salient is Iran. The Israelis are also itching to attack Iran. In Yemen a civil war is raging. The Saudi Arabians are fighting on one side. Their hereditary foe the Persians are assisting the Houthi insurgents.
Saudi Arabia perceives herself as the big daddy of the Sunni World. In surveys KSA often lists its populace as 100% Sunni. This is a stinking lie. There is a significant Shia minority. The number is difficult to estimate but most educated guesses are about 10%. Besides that there are expatriates in Saudi who are Christians, Hindus and other faiths. The Shia indigenous minority are heavily oppressed. They are severely discriminated against in education and employment. There are virtually no Shia in the police or the armed forces. They have not received permission to construct another mosque or open a new graveyard for decades.
In Saudi Arabia the mildest and fairest criticism of a Saudi monarch – living or dead – is a crime. Further, peaceful protests is officially called ‘terrorism’. The same goes for atheism. Becoming an apostate is punishable by death. This is no idle threat.
Trials in Saudi are notorious for their opacity. Torture is commonly used. Britons who have been arrested on suspicion of possession of alcohol were often tortured. If even a privileged Westerner from a pro-Saudi state is tortured for a minor crime then what happens to someone from an underprivileged country or a nation that has poor relations with KSA? I shudder to think.
Saudi Arabia uses the death penalty promiscuously. KSA is unique in using the barbaric method of public decapitation. If the swordsman has been chewing khat then he might haphazardly hack at the victim. The blade could cut into the shoulders several times before finally finding its mark. Drug dealing is punishable by death in this country. Oddly buying and selling the narcotic khat is entirely legal.
Witchcraft is illegal in Saudi Arabia and indeed attracts the death penalty. Prosecuting an offence such as witchery indicates how farcical and manifestly unjust the Saudi judicial system is. Do their witches fly on broomsticks like ours used to?
Girls are married off at an age which is well below the age of consent in any civilized country. Marital rape is permitted.
Slavery exists in Saudi Arabia despite the law against it. Bonded labourers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan the Philippines and so on are brought to KSA under false pretences. Their passports are confiscated. Trades unions are illegal. Strikes are banned. These luckless labourers find themselves toiling in the broiling heat without any days off for years. They might not be paid their pittances of a salary for months. Even then it might be decidedly less than they were promised in the contract. They have no rights and no recourse to justice. The courts are entirely on the side of the employer.
Donald Trump prides himself on shooting from the lip. His brusque style won him plaudits from many people in the USA. He threw brickbats at Islam. Trump was cheered to the rafters for plaining speaking on the villainy of Muslims. Donald J takes no prisoners. People said, ‘’He told it like it is about radical Islamic extremism’’. Yet when he became president he literally embraced the king of the most Islamic extremist country on earth.
The president vowed to prevent all people of the Islamic faith entering the US. It was to be ‘’a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the country’’. Does that include American citizens? How would you know if someone is a Muslim? If someone was in Al Qa’eda he would lie about his religion. It was an utterly asinine and unworkable policy. Would foreign diplomats be banned? In the end Trump imposed a ban on certain Muslim countries with exceptions for some citizens of those countries. Note that the ban took no account of religion! A Pakistani Christian would be banned. A Muslim from Kuwait would be allowed in. It was as moronic as can be.
Saudi Arabia was not on the list of countries whose citizens were prohibited from entering the US. Trump hates Muslims. But business is business! You Muslims cannot kill Americans! Unless you are rich in which case it is ok.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Al Qae’eda. It has used its petrodollars to turn ordinary Muslims into zealots through Wahabist preaching. It is against the values of the Enlightenment. Saudi influence is baleful.
Why is it when it comes the epicenter of Islamist terrorism the US is purblind? Could it be the financial links to Saudi that Trump boasts about on television? He had Mohammad Bin Salman to visit him in Washington. On camera Trump said how elated he was to sell property to MBS.
The US often preaches democracy whereas it has so often destroyed democracy around the world. This false gospel sticks in the craw. Saudi Arabia is one of the most anti-democratic states on the face of the earth.
Iran has many faults. But it has a semblance of democracy. Every man and every woman is allowed to vote. Even at the height of the Islamic Revolution women were allowed to be judges. It has had women athletes for 20 years. Women were always permitted to drive. Religious minorities can worship freely. Even the Jewish community is guaranteed a deputy in the Majilis. There is no doubt who wins the beauty contest between Teheran and Riyadh. Let us stop this pernicious persophobia.
The US and other Western countries are buying Saudi oil. In that wise they bankroll oppression. There are alternative sources of hydrocarbons such as Russia. Green energy is also a solution.
Let no one imagine that I am in the least anti Saudi Arabian. I lived in Saudi Arabia. There are many Saudis who are fantastic. But I do not want them to be deprived of freedom.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.