Saudi Arabia: to Anticipate or Resist?

Saudi Flag

The Arab Spring has taught autocratic regimes important lessons yet countries like Saudi Arabia refuse to heed them.

Although it may seem impervious to the Arab Spring, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is experiencing some problems in its Eastern side of the country, where the Shiite minority settled. This community is demanding justice and equality; the release of all political prisoners; political reforms in the Kingdom and, is calling for the Saudi royal family to step down.
Saudi Arabia’s reaction to these protests has been unreasonable (e.g. the arrest of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr - a prominent Shiite cleric - for criticising the Royal Family and the regime's persecution of Shiites; the killing and injuring of protesters with live fire and repressive tactics to suppress demonstrations and, the inhibition of freedom of movement and economic activity as collective punishment); as a result, the protesters feel even more emboldened to fight for their rights. Moreover, there is a risk of contagion: soon, the Sunnis that dream of a less strict Saudi society will feel inspired to fight and demand changes as well.

I respect royal families: they gave their blood to form nations; they conquered land and fought for their people, culture, traditions and (why not) religion. But this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t listen to their subjects’ needs, au contraire.
The Saudi Kingdom is before a great opportunity to avoid a situation similar to Syria’s. Therefore it should reform the regime, hasten to bestow more rights to the people, to grant freedom of speech and, to work towards democracy (not necessarily one based on the western model) while keeping the monarchy intact – it is quite possible; vide Morocco.  
The Saudi regime should grant, to its people (men and women), freedom to think, to speak, to write, to seek information, to assemble, to decide, to criticise, to drive etc – because if it doesn’t, sooner or later, the freedom-thirsty citizens will fight for it with the support of external forces, whose sole ambition is to see the Flag of Democracy hoisted around the world (N.B: and Saudi Arabia must remember that this is not 1973: it will not be able to use its oil to blackmail the West; not when western countries are reaching energetic independence through new technology).

Analepsis: in 1979 and 1980, Saudi Arabia witnessed many Shiite anti-government uprisings in the same Eastern Region (which interestingly enough, is where the oil fields are located) inspired by the Iranian revolution; and, the seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Islamists who didn’t view the Saudi regime as being Islamic enough. The response of the royal family was to enforce a stricter observance of traditional Islam.

Today, the Saudi Kingdom is fighting a similar battle; only this time, the Sunnis will also hit the streets and demand an opposite response from the royal family: the separation between the Muslim Church and the State (just like in Turkey and Azerbaijan)...

Anticipation is the name of the game, so I wonder:
Is the Saudi Establishment going to be smart or witless (like Bashar al-Assad)?

Comments

  1. Max, good call to remind the saudis that this time they won't be able to pressure us, by causing oil price to soar, like they and their business partners did in the 70's. This is why energy independence is paramount. Looking at the region right now, the saudis should hearken to their people's wishes lest the royal family falls in disgrace and the regime falls by force.

    Good call, lass!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joe :D!

      "Max, good call to remind the saudis that this time they won't be able to pressure us, by causing oil price to soar, like they and their business partners did in the 70's. This is why energy independence is paramount."

      Thank you *bowing*. I agree with you: we need to have energetic independence; that way we will have more leverage in the diplomatic stage (quite useful in negotiations too).

      "Looking at the region right now, the saudis should hearken to their people's wishes lest the royal family falls in disgrace and the regime falls by force."

      True. If I were the royal family I would quicken the reforms (since King Abdullah has already started gradual changes); but I understand the complexities of meddling with the establishment...

      "Good call, lass!"

      Thank you so much *bowing*.

      Joe, thanks for your most valuable input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  2. Saudi Arabia needs to grant more freedom to women cause they are the backbone of any successful society. You speak of letting women drive, Princess Basma said there are more urgent matters to address:

    "I would like to see a proper constitution that treats all men and women on an equal footing before the law (as we have been instructed to do by the Koran and by our prophet)"

    "Today in Saudi, women are either at the mercy of their husbands or at the mercy of judges who tend to side with the husbands. The only circumstance that a woman can ask for a divorce or a 'khali' is when her husband is in total agreement with her or if she comes from a very powerful family who decide to back her up."

    "Another of our laws that is in direct contradiction to the Koran and that is used to control women is that of 'Al Dali'. 'Al Dali' is a sentence imposed by a judge whereby a man can stop his daughter, sister, cousin or whoever from doing anything she wants to do in life, be it marrying, working etc."

    "The way women today are treated in Saudi Arabia is a direct result of the education our children, boys and girls, receive at school. (...) our young are taught that a woman's position in society is inferior."

    And this is just a small example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And what were the saudi men's reaction to Princess Basma's suggestions?

      Hassan Mahfooz said (note he calls the Princess "Basma" as if she were his wife),
      "One piece of advice for Basma. Please read and analyse the divine texts without any preconceived biases to be able to come to a right conclusion. You are trying to superimpose Western secular liberalism on Islam and trying to push that as a system here which, in my opinion, is unreasonable"

      Paul, in Riyadh said,
      "The second point is that, yes, they cannot drive, but the overwhelming majority of Saudi families have a driver to whom they pay a pittance. Even if women could drive by law, they mostly wouldn't. The real social injustice in Saudi is the disgustingly low wages paid to family drivers"

      Abdossalam Madkahli said,
      "I come from a relatively conservative family but that didn't stop any of my sisters or female cousins (and they are many) from getting their higher education completed, and working in different institutions and being independent caring mothers and loving spouses."

      Wow, what else should we expect from men? Of course for them everything is cool and perfect but this is not about them it is about the saudi women. What do we want? RIGHTS for SAUDI WOMEN! When do we want it? NOW!!!!!

      Delete
    2. Hi Celia :D!

      "Saudi Arabia needs to grant more freedom to women cause they are the backbone of any successful society. You speak of letting women drive, Princess Basma said there are more urgent matters to address:"

      I agree that women are the backbone of any successful society. King Abdullah has given steps in that direction so, I believe that gradually we will see some changes...nevertheless, it is always good to remind the Saudis of this, right?
      I remember reading an article concerning Princess Basma's opinion on Saudi Women's demand to drive (many of them have driving licenses from abroad) and what she shared about the state of affairs in Saudi Arabia is shocking while enlightening at the same time.
      I thank you for re-sharing some of her views here.

      Celia, thanks for your most valuable input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
    3. Celia,

      Well, the males' reactions were expected.

      "Hassan Mahfooz said (note he calls the Princess "Basma" as if she were his wife)"

      Well, if Hassan is a commoner and called Princess Basma by her name only, then he was quite disrespectful; but if he is a member of the Saudi royal family himself, he can address her by her first name.

      "Of course for them everything is cool and perfect but this is not about them it is about the saudi women. What do we want? RIGHTS for SAUDI WOMEN! When do we want it? NOW!!!!!"

      Indeed, it is about the women. LOL you kill me, girl!

      Cheers

      Delete
  3. I am unlikely to see it in my life time Max, but you will see the Arab desert parts go back to their bedouin and camel ways leaving countries of the African North to flourish due to non oil economics. Possible exceptions being parts of the UAE and some parts of Yemen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rummy :D!

      "I am unlikely to see it in my life time Max, but you will see the Arab desert parts go back to their bedouin and camel ways leaving countries of the African North to flourish due to non oil economics. Possible exceptions being parts of the UAE and some parts of Yemen."

      I am counting on any kind of change so, it will be interesting to witness that scenario.


      Rummy, thank you ever so much for your most valuable input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  4. Max, my only beef with Saudi Arabia is the following: they pretend to be moderate when in truth they are more radical than the Iranians. I don't understand why women can't drive, why they can't walk around town without a babysitter and why don't they evolve once and for all and stop stoning people? But more importantly why aren't Saudi women willing to die for their cause if necessary? Revolutions and the fight for Rights have a cost; are Saudi women willing and ready to pay for them? I don't think they are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ana :D!

      "Max, my only beef with Saudi Arabia is the following: they pretend to be moderate when in truth they are more radical than the Iranians."

      That is my impression as well; but from what I have gathered their radicalisation was a reaction to Islamists who didn't view the Royal Family as Islamic enough. They yielded and let the poisonous snake in, settle and breed (if you know what I mean) - now they may find it difficult to kick the snake out.

      "Revolutions and the fight for Rights have a cost; are Saudi women willing and ready to pay for them? I don't think they are."

      That is a great question...

      Ana, thank you ever so much for you most valuable input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  5. Olá Max,

    First, congratulations for this superb article!

    Second, Saudi Arabia needs to heed the Iranians who may take advantage of the Shiite uprising in its Eastern region and encourage the Shiites to sabotage the oil fields.

    Third, if Saudi women want more rights they should fight to get them. They should face the men (who, like Celia suggested, are the first to hinder progress) first, then the government and appeal to the Royal Family perhaps (who gave signs of wanting to grant them more rights) - ultimately, they fight is theirs not ours.

    Good luck to Saudis though.

    Tchau

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. Olá Celeste :D!

      "First, congratulations for this superb article!"

      Thank you *bowing*.

      "Second, Saudi Arabia needs to heed the Iranians who may take advantage of the Shiite uprising in its Eastern region and encourage the Shiites to sabotage the oil fields."

      Do you think Iranians would dare?

      "Third, if Saudi women want more rights they should fight to get them. They should face the men (who, like Celia suggested, are the first to hinder progress) first, then the government and appeal to the Royal Family perhaps (who gave signs of wanting to grant them more rights) - ultimately, they fight is theirs not ours."

      I understand where you are coming from. They have a lot of obstacles in their way though: it won't be a smooth ride.

      "Good luck to Saudis though."

      Most definitely.

      Celeste, thank you so so much for this most valuable input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  6. The problem is when someone visits a new place, if he/she always roam with someone in front of him, the person will never learn direction as he always feels secure and complacent but once you leave him alone, then only he/she can learn proper directions. I guess the same is happening with Saudi, whose rulers knows that big bro is behind its back, come what may and the big bro has its own compulsions, as there is no good secure alternative as its base to make its presence be felt in the Asian continent with the Dragon almost throwing its tentacles in the world economy to a great extent and the Indian sub-continent too lucrative a market along with its lax laws but a very unreliable friend to be with. Saudi may be a little ahead of its counterparts in west Asia, but then its complacency which can bring down the silent tyranny that prevails within.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kalyan :D!

      "I guess the same is happening with Saudi, whose rulers knows that big bro is behind its back, come what may and the big bro has its own compulsions, as there is no good secure alternative as its base to make its presence be felt in the Asian continent with the Dragon almost throwing its tentacles in the world economy to a great extent and the Indian sub-continent too lucrative a market along with its lax laws but a very unreliable friend to be with."

      Spectacular criticism. Preach it, brother!

      "Saudi may be a little ahead of its counterparts in west Asia, but then its complacency which can bring down the silent tyranny that prevails within."

      Do you reckon they are a bit ahead of its counterparts in West Asia? I am not sure they are, nevertheless I understand where you are coming from.

      Kalyan, thank you ever so much for your input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
    2. "Do you reckon they are a bit ahead of its counterparts in West Asia? "

      I say that in the context of its neighboring countries...Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and a few others who all follow similar belief systems in Governance as far as use of religion is concerned but then Saudi Arab is a little better of them in Governance, economic and other fronts.

      Delete
    3. Kalyan

      Thank you for enlightening me.
      I think Saudi Arabia is actually stricter than Iran (when it comes to the rights of women and teh religious police, for example); but the Saudi ambiguous diplomacy caused them to enjoy good trade relations with the west which helped them having a better economic front, indeed.

      Delete
  7. Not sure what to say about Saudi Arabia, except that the flag is really cool. Wish I could read all the script!

    There is a longer article on Saudi Arabia's social dynamics at the Middle East Research Institute:

    http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6618.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Looney :D!

      "Not sure what to say about Saudi Arabia, except that the flag is really cool. Wish I could read all the script!"

      LOL yeah, the flag is cool. I don't read Arabic either...but let me look for its meaning...the inscription is the Shahada (the Islamic creed) “to know and believe without suspicion, as if witnessed, testification”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada

      "There is a longer article on Saudi Arabia's social dynamics at the Middle East Research Institute:"

      Thank you for this article: it sheds even more light into the whole affair (I will read it carefully - mainly the reactions of the clergy). The youth is impecable.

      Looney, thank you ever so much for your input :D.

      Cheers

      Delete

Post a Comment

Dissecting Society welcomes all sorts of comments, as we are strong advocates of freedom of speech; however, we reserve the right to delete Troll Activity; libellous and offensive comments (e.g. racist and anti-Semitic) plus those with excessive foul language. This blog does not view vulgarity as being protected by the right to free speech. Cheers