Saturday, 24 January 2015

RIP King Abdullah - NOT!

Flags on government buildings in Australia were at half-mast commemorating the death of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah. The Saudi Arabian Royal family is the last absolute monarchy in the world. Their government brutally suppresses dissent and women are considered second-class citizens. Since 2011 there has been protests asking for women to be given the right to vote, the right to drive and the right to leave their houses without having to get there their fathers or husbands permission to do so. The Saudi government also actively suppresses those who do not follow the state religion of Wahhabi Islam.

Saudi Arabia only formed relatively recently. In a remote part of Saudi Arabia an alliance was formed between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab. Wahhab gave bin Saud political legitimacy and in turn bin Saud helped to spread Wahhabi Islam. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire In the aftermath of World War I, the house of Saud gained enough followers to proclaim the formation of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The Wahhabi form of Islam is considered to be ultra-orthodox in fact they stamp other Islamic groups as being apostates. This gives some Islamic fundamentalists “permission” to commit atrocities against other Muslims particularly the Shia community. Far more Muslims have died at the hands of terrorists than any other group.

Many peaceful protests have ended in violence with security forces using live ammunition. Dissidents are jailed often without trial. Saudi Arabia also has draconian legal system similar to something you would have seen in fourteenth century Europe. For those found guilty there are public executions featuring stoning, people who steal have limbs cut off, some are even publicly flogged just for daring to criticise the government.

Most other countries would feel intense pressure to reform, but Saudi Arabia is blessed with massive oil resources. Many Western countries are terrified by what would happen if Saudi Arabia cut off their oil supply.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria tried to invade Israel in an attempt to win back territory they had lost during the Six Day War in 1967. The US strongly supported Israel and the Arab states were pushed back. In response the OPEC nations proclaimed an oil embargo on the US, The Netherlands and the UK. Of course the US craped themselves using their great power and influence to end the war ASAP. The war soon ended and the OPEC nations lifted their embargo. This event greatly strengthened Saudi Arabia and since then western nations have bent over backwards to keep them happy.

The weakness of western nations to hold the rulers of Saudi Arabia to account has only perpetuated this regime and continuing human rights violations. I do worry that Saudi Arabia may fall victim to its own success. One day the Arabian Peninsula will run out of oil. When it does the Saudi regime will no longer be propped up by huge amounts of oil money, western nations will no longer feel obliged to keep the house of Saud in power. If Saudi Arabia falls in a similar way to what Syria has it would be a global catastrophe. Saudi Arabia is stocked full of the finest Western weaponry it could be really nasty if those weapons fall into the wrong hands.

The Saudi regime should have been undergoing reform, but they haven’t done that. Only recently has some small reform measures happened. It was only in 2011 that women were finally given the vote and even then it is a pretty useless right as Saudis only have the right to vote for half of the seats in municipal elections and none at all for higher bodies. There have been one or two other concessions, but not nearly enough to stave off a potentially bloody revolution. We shouldn’t be showing the rulers of Saudi Arabia any sort of respect - they don’t deserve it.

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