Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia Newsletter Message

سيد أبوالدهب في الثلاثاء 25 يونيو 2013


Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC
June 24, 2013
Saudi and Regional State of Affairs
Commentaries and Analysis  
 
Arabs: Trapped in Their Superiority Complex  
CDHR’s Commentaries: The ongoing bloody battles between Sunni and Shi’a (Shiites) Arabs in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain demonstrate the perilous stagnation of educational, social, political (freedom of expression) and economic progress Arab societies have suffered from for centuries. Having deluded themselves into believing in their cultural and religious supremacy, the Arabs missed at least 100 years of transformational developments which include scientific and technological advancement and the evolution of democratic institutions which made it possible for the individual to think analytically, to explore and invent freely.    
As correctly pointed out by historian Bernard Lewis in his famous book, What Went Wrong, the Arabs isolated their societies from the transformative processes that shaped and propelled much of the world from agrarian subsistence into scientifically and politically flourishing nations. In an unprecedented interview on a Saudi satellite channel, a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, gave a rare assessment of the reasons for Arab backwardness. He, like Bernard Lewis and some notable Arab critics, attributed the lack of Arab political, educational, technological, economic and social progress to Arabs’ rejection of the Industrial Revolution and its empowering values. However, Al-Buleihi went further, saying that the Arabs have submerged themselves in a false sense of religious and cultural superiority which he feels prevents them from benefiting from the gargantuan political and scientific achievements of other societies, especially the West.  
During the Western transformational era (Industrial Revolution), Arabs refused to relinquish their centries old social and political arrangements such as political and religious totalitarianism and discouragement of self-reliance. In reality Arab regimes, especially in the oil rich Gulf Arab countries, are still encouraging their populations’ dependence on the state. By clinging to old traditions of isolation and rejection of empowering modern democratic values, the Arab autocracies not only isolate their captive populations from the age of enlightenment, but from each other. Additionally, the false sense of religious, ethnic and cultural supremacy that made most Arabs scornful of non-Arabs and non-Muslims was and still is used by some Arab regimes to turn their people against each other and against Arab and non-Arab societies.
Generations of Arabs have been trained to be suspicious and distrustful of each other within each country based on religious, ethnic and gender differences. This prejudice colors their perception of and relations with their Arab brethren. Moreover, beliefs about who are “the real Arabs” play a major role in Arab societies and how citizens of each country relate to other Arabs. For example, desert dwellers, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, consider themselves “the real Arabs”, but are considered by other Arabs to be backward nomads.    
The killing and destruction that are engulfing most Arab countries now, especially the carnage in Syria, are symptomatic of religious intolerance, social stigmatization, gender segregation, political oppression, corruption and scientific backwardness that have resulted from Arabs’ self-inflicted stagnation. For example, the daily atrocities committed by the autocratic Alawite regime in Syria (aided in part by Lebanese Shi’a Hezbollah) and their mostly Sunni opponents (supported by the Qatari and Saudi autocracies and inspired by the lethal Saudi Wahhabi doctrine) have their roots in similar centuries-old religio-political animosities.  
The bloody Shi’a -Sunni conflict raging openly in Syria and other places has detrimental implication for all Muslim societies. A segment of every Arab and Muslim society is Shi’a who have been oppressed by their governments and resented by their Sunni compatriots. The strategic-turned-religious war in Syria is spelling over onto Shi’a citizens in other Arab countries, especially in the oil rich Gulf region, where sizable segments of those societies are Shi’a.
A recent announcement issued by the ministers of the autocratically ruled Gulf Arab states, known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), threatened to punish known Hezbollah sympathizers working, residing and doing business in the Gulf Arab states. The reason given is retaliation against the Lebanese Hezbollah outfit that is fighting on the side of Syria’s autocratic Shi’a dynasty. GCC’s ministerial announcement to punish members of Hezbollah residing and doing business in the Gulf Arab states, was echoed by the Qatar-based extremist spiritual advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Alarmingly, Al-Qaradawi was complimented by the Saudi Mufti, Abdul Aziz Al-Alshaikh, for calling on Sunnis to go and fight Shi’a in Syria. Calling on Sunnis to fight Shi’a in Syria will strengthen oppression of Shi’a by their Sunni governments and will heighten resentments of Shi’a by their Sunni compatriots in their own homelands.  
Despite centuries of failures, setbacks and disappointments, one would think that the Arab regimes and societies would have learned that their entrenched ways of doing things have failed them miserably. Sadly, Arab autocracies and theocracies, especially in influential countries like Saudi Arabia, continue to use and emphasize the same values and methods that contribute to social chaos, impede political reforms and prevent technological and scientific advancement.
This is still happening at a time when most Arab citizens, men and women, are educated, aspiring to a better future, economic opportunities and freedom of expression. By continuing their tyrannical and divisive methods of ruling, the remaining Arab autocracies are perpetuating suffering and encouraging violence in their individual countries and among Arab states as evidenced by the current tumultuous state of affairs in Arab World.  
Qatar: Peace Facilitator or Dealer in Extremism and Terrorism?
CDHR’s Analysis: The autocratic Sunni ruling dynasty of Qatar, the Al-Thani family, recently invited the extremist Taliban to open an office in Doha, Qatar. The given justification for inviting a well-known terrorist group, the Taliban, to establish a legitimate presence in Qatar is ostensibly to facilitate peace negotiations between the current government in Afghanistan a rival organization (the Taliban), that hosted and supported Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist Al-Qaeda’s attack on the US on September 11, 2001(9/11).
The autocratic Al-Thani ruling dynasty of the tiny, but wealthy and strategically located emirate of Qatar has become a global player despite its reliance on the US for its survival. Why would this defenseless ruling dynasty legitimize a group globally known for its reign of terror when it ruled Afghanistan prior to the US invasion of that country in response to the 9/11 attack? How would opening an office for a well-known murderous group facilitate peace in Afghanistan given the group’s bloody record and declared objective of ensuring the implementation of their abundant practices that have shown its brutal nature? 
Was not the Taliban the same group who “shot Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck while she sat with classmates on a school bus as it prepared to drive students home” because she was advocating education for disinherited and poverty stricken Pakistani girls? Does not the Taliban under its revered chief Mullah Muhammad Omar consist of terrorist and mercenary individuals and groups including Al-Qaeda?
The autocratic Qatari dynasty’s objective is more than facilitating peace negotiations between the Afghani antagonists. Betting on the Taliban taking over the country after US and other foreign troops leave in 2014, the Qataris want to influence the future of Afghanistan through the Taliban. Additionally, like their Saudi rivals who have used the threat of terrorism as a bargaining tool and have used Al-Qaeda to achieve their objectives, the Qatari rulers want to use the extremist Taliban not only against democratic movements, but against those they consider a threat to their tyrannical rule.
Inexplicably, the present US administration is insisting that the current Afghani government, under America’s hand-picked leader Hamid Karzai, enter into serious negotiations with its sworn enemy, the Taliban whose objective is to turn Afghanistan into an Islamic Caliphate as evidenced by the title of their newly opened office (embassy) in Qatar, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Why is the Obama Administration legitimizing the Taliban, a violent sworn enemy of the US and its democratic values, when we are still at war with them? Is it because we are expecting them to take over the Afghani government after foreign troops leave and we also wish to exert influence over them just as the Qataris and before them the Saudis have planned?
Saudi Judicial System: Punishment is Always Disproportionate to Alleged Crimes
CDHR’s Commentary: Fearful of a spillover of the Arab Spring to their restless society, the Saudi rulers are unleashing their handpicked, empowered and highly compensated sectarian judges to punish anyone who advocates justice through peaceful means. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni, two well-known Saudi women human right activists, were sentenced to 10 months imprisonment and a two-year-travel ban for trying to help a starving Canadian national and her three children who were locked up by her abusive Saudi husband. The two activists “…received a text message from Nathalie Morin, the Canadian woman, saying that her husband had locked the whole family in the house and left for a week-long visit to see relatives in another town.”
Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni did what decent and caring human beings do when someone is in desperate need of help. According to this article (in Arabic), they purchased a food supply and took it to the starving family’s home. By the time they arrived at the family’s home, members of the omnipresent Saudi security police were waiting for them. They were interrogated and detained by the police and after signing a statement promising to stop all communication with Natalie Morin, they were released.
This all happened in June 2011. In July 2012 the two humane activists were summoned by the Saudi authorities for questioning and consequently were sued for allegedly trying to turn a wife against her husband. This is a crime in Saudi Arabia because husbands legally have total control over their wives and children. Given the nature of the Saudi judicial system and the sectarian judges who operate it, the women’s fate was predetermined because they are women and because they are from the Shi’a segment of Saudi society.
The religious-based Saudi judicial system applies strict Shariah law (Muslim law) which discriminates against women, religious minorities and non-Muslims, according to secular and ex-Muslims. As expected, Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were handed extraordinarily punishing sentences in June 2013 as stated above.   
These two courageous and dedicated Saudi women activists are not the only ones who are punished for doing good deeds and promoting peaceful reforms where all citizens’ rights are guaranteed by a non-sectarian constitution and the codified rule of law. Mukhlef Al-Shammari is a well-known defender of women’s and minorities’ rights and critical of corrupt governmental agencies. He has been in and out of prison, but recently was sentenced to five years imprisonment, a 10 year travel ban and prohibited from writing for or appearing on any news outlet. He is accused of tarnishing the government’s image domestically and globally and threatening the country’s stability and security by pointing out social injustices.
Tragically, Western supporters of the Saudi regime and liberal Western mainstream media hardly ever report on or criticise the autocratic Saudi regime’s gross violations of basic human rights. This ambivalence is not only hypocritical, but poses real threats to Western vital interests and national security because many aspiring Saudi men and women are becoming increasingly impatient with the West’s support for their repressive regime. 
Saudi Clerics: Women’s Rights an Alien Concept
CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi religious establishment’s animosity toward women continues to be an obsession of disproportionate dimensions. In recent years, physical violence against women by their fathers, husbands and brothers began to surface due to bold Saudi women’s right activists who use the social media to expose the Saudi regime’s institutionalized discrimination against women and its impact on every aspect of their lives and livelihood.
One recent Saudi activity to educate men about violence against women was borrowed from the “Canadian White Ribbon campaign.” Established in1991, the ‘White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.’ The movement’s founders “…asked men to wear white ribbons as a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”
As soon as news of the anti-violence-against-women project (White Ribbon) became public, the Saudi religious establishment went on the social media and on the air to condemn its founders, Abdullah Al Alami and Samar Fatany. Led by a well-known misogynistic cleric, Sheikh Nasser Al Omar, who ‘instructed all Muslims” to reject the campaign of Abdullah Al Alami and Samar Fatani, whom he accused of being ‘advocates of immorality.’ By describing CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) as an “evil and a westernising plot to demoralise Muslim societies,” this popular cleric and many of his influential Saudi cohorts admit that women’s rights are an alien concept to the current Saudi theocratic system. 
The Saudi religious establishment’s relentless attacks on women and on those who advocate equality for all citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious orientation could not continue to occur if a non-sectarian codified rule of law were drafted and implemented. To ordain a non-sectarian rule of law would require the autocratic Saudi monarchy’s desire and willingness to eliminate the use of religion as a tool of discrimination and oppression. This is unlikely to happen because without the religious establishment’s support for the monarchy, it would have no legitimacy other than the support of global powers that benefit from current political arrangement in Saudi Arabia.
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