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Can the Saudis Escape Arab Revolt?

A CDHR Analysis

 March 28, 2011

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC (CDHR’s)
Crushing Bahraini Revolt CDHR’s Analysis:

It should not have come a bit surprising that the Saudi autocratic ruling family dispatched its merciless forces to (help) crush the oppressed Bahraini people’s revolt against the ruling Al-Khalifah family. The Saudi repressive ruling system is designed to serve the interests of two families, the political House of Saud and the theocratic House of Al-Shaikh and their descendants. They consider themselves the owners of Saudi Arabia, its people, wealth and they way citizens should live and believe. They see this as a birthright. Based on this historical premise, any hint of public demand for political participation is considered illegitimate, illegal and an infringement on the established order and the men who created it and own it. Given this perceived and practiced way of thinking, any perceived or real threat to the status quo from within or out will be met with deadly force as we witnessed in Eastern Saudi Arabia on March 11, 2011, when a planned demonstration by citizens across the country to demand political reforms was never allowed to materialize.

The system mobilized its multiple ferocious security apparatus, set roadblocks and issued calamitous warnings to anyone or group who dare take to the streets and stipulate any change in the established order. In addition some royals, like Princess Norah Bint Bandar, and former Saudi Ambassador to Brittan and the US, Turki Al-Faisal, attacked the pro democracy Saudis and told the population they should shut up and be grateful to the ruling family for feeding and protecting them.*

Sending their soldiers to (help) crush the Bahraini people’s legitimate demands for freedom and justice is an extension of the autocratic Arab dynasties of the Gulf region’s domestic policies and practices. They have two objectives: One is to send a deadly message to their captive citizens and the other is to draw Iran into the conflict so the US will come to their rescue and destroy Iran’s military and economic infrastructure. This would eliminate the last rival to the Saudi domination in the region. Once this is done, the Arab despots of the Gulf would turn to China and Russia for full partnership on the expense of their long time Western allies and defenders.

Iran has a clear design on the small Arab Gulf weak Emirates, Sultanates and Kingdoms where many oppressed, marginalized and threatened Arab Shiites reside. However, if it were not for the Sunni Arab ruling families’ maltreatment of their religious minorities, Iran's success in making headway in the Gulf would be very limited. Arab Shiites are culturally, linguistically and historically Arabs. However because of their oppression by their government due to their religious orientation, they seek help from Iran with whom they share religious belief. Oppressed, marginalized and threatened people seek help from anyone who is willing to lend a helping hand.

Arab and Muslim Libyans beg Christians to invade their country and save them from their own Arab and Muslim butchers on Saturday, March 19, 2011. Bosnian Muslims were saved in 1995-6 by Christians when their Muslim brethren stood by while they were massacred by the Serbs.

The Saudi absolute monarchy’s (intervention) of Bahrain, under the disguise of restoring order in that little autocratically ruled island of 600,000 people, mostly Shiites, is to prevent democracy from taking place next door, at home or anywhere in Arab and Muslim countries. More dangerous, the Saudi ruling family wants to draw Iran into the fray so the US would find it necessary to come to the Saudi and other despotic dynasties defense.

What Washington and its Western allies should be doing in earnest is to help expedite democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia before they will have no choice, but to intervene militarily to protect the oil fields of Arabia and its shipping routs in the Gulf region without which the world economy would collapse, at least at this juncture.

Saudi King’s Speech

CDHR’s Analysis:

Looking frail and sounding slow, King Abdullah read a prepared statement on his government’s TV on Friday, March 18, 2011, where he stressed the importance of the very same policy that millions of Saudis, especially the young men and women (approximately 60-70% of the population is under 25) are rejecting: religious totalitarianism, along with its extremist enforcers, the Ulama (religious scholars), and their ferocious religious police. The king praised the religious establishment, the military men, and the security forces for their dedication to “religion and nation.” After his religious blessings and greetings, King Abdullah said, “Allow me to address the high ranking Ulama (the main ruling family’s defenders and source of legitimacy) and those outside of it, those who stood up and made their indebtedness to God the highest call in confronting the voices of agitation and divisiveness.” He went on to say “I will not forget the people’s thinkers and writers who were arrows in the jugulars of the enemies of religion, the people and the nation.”

The agitators and dividers King Abdullah mentioned in his three minute address are the millions of aspiring young Saudi men and women who tried to follow the examples of their oppressed counterparts in Arab neighbors, Yemen and Bahrain. Their planned “Day of Rage” for March 11did not materialize at the scale for which many hoped. This is due to the government’s mobilization of overwhelming military and security forces and threats to strip demonstrators of their citizenship, long prison terms, and heavy monetary payments.

After the king’s speech, an impressive list of handouts totaling $67 billion was released. Prominent among the immediate projects, the King ordered the hiring of sixty thousand security personnel for the Ministry of Interior, which administers internal security, religious police, and prisons while indirectly weighing heavily on the Saudi religious judicial system. The package promises large numbers of housing units for low income citizens, but it focused mostly on the state security apparatus and the strengthening of religious institutions, clerical power, and memorization of the Quran.

Notably absent from the king’s speech and his $67 billion package are improvements of the lagging Saudi educational system and political reforms that many Saudis have been asking for including petitioning King Abdullah for a constitutional monarchy. Customarily, the Saudi ruling family does not respond to demands directly. Culturally, this would be considered a sign of weakness and recognition of the rights and legitimacy of their opponents. King Abdullah’s package is being mirrored by others like the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. Prince Faisal bin Salman, chairman of the company and King Abdullah’s nephew, announced on Saturday, March 19 that the company will grant employees a two-month salary bonus.

Despite the Saudi government’s controlled media, some Saudi commentators, the government’s defenders, and wishful thinkers and apologists in the West assert that the Saudi ruling family is stable and that the Saudi people are content with the status quo, defying reality. On March 18, about 10,000 demonstrators in 12 cities in the oil rich region of Saudi Arabia took to the streets to protest the Saudi invasion of Bahrain. Most of the demonstrators are religiously oppressed and economically neglected Shi’ites, but their grievances are shared by many of their compatriots, regardless of religious orientation.

The Saudi ruling family has to acknowledge the glaring realities in and around its autocratically ruled kingdom. Bribery, politics of sectarianism, use of religious edicts, and a repressive security apparatus may work for a short time, but people are becoming increasingly restless, fearless and more convinced that only public politicization of their demands will bring about reform. This can be done peacefully, and the Saudi monarchy’s powerful and most trusted ally, the United States, can play a pivotal rule in facilitating the transition from hereditary, autocratic rule to a participatory political system where citizens have a say in the decision making process and control over their lives and livelihood.

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Freedom of Expression

CDHR’s Analysis:

Rattled by the unprecedented and contagious revolts befalling Arab despots around them, the Saudi monarchy has realized that bribery is not enough to placate their disenfranchised citizens. The Saudi Minister of Interior, Prince Naif, issued a stern warning against any public demonstration by anyone at anytime in the repressive desert kingdom. As usual, his royal warning was immediately echoed by the top religious clerics including the Saudi Mufti, Al-Shaikh. According to the Imam of Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in Madinah, Al-Hudaifi, “Laws and regulations in the Kingdom totally prohibit all kinds of demonstrations, marches and sit-in protests as well as calling for them as they go against the principles of Shariah and Saudi customs and traditions.

Given the sweeping Arab uprisings against their autocratic ruling elites, it is unlikely that the Saudi royals will be spared. Their people have suffered more from social, political, economic, religious, gender, and ethnic oppression than any other Arab society. Segments of Saudi society have expressed displeasure with the ruling family since the 1950s, a time when the oil industry’s maltreated employees conducted massive demonstrations in Eastern Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi ruling family has been able to survive and thrive until now because Western countries, especially the United States, committed to protect it from external and internal threats, including Egypt’s 1964 invasion across the Southern Saudi border and Saddam Hussein’s assault on Kuwait and subsequent march into the shared Saudi-Kuwait Al-Khafji oil field in 1991.

Since the inception of the Saudi state in 1932, the US-Saudi relationship has produced mutual economic and strategic benefits at the expense of the Saudi people. However, relations have been severely scarred by recent developments, particularly by Saudi nationals’ vicious attack on the US on September 11, 2001. In addition, Saudi Arabia has been a major breeding ground for anti-American religious sentiments and an exporter of extremism. Furthermore, State Department documents publicized by Wikileaks suggest that Saudi Arabia has been a major financier of extremist groups worldwide.

The Arab World, including countries bordering Saudi Arabia, is being swept by public revolts against oppressive regimes. What should the United States do when the Saudi people demand drastic political reforms or the overthrow of the ruling family altogether? Should America stand by the Saudi people as it stood with the Tunisians and Egyptians (and to a lesser degree with the Bahrainis, Libyans and Yemenis)? Should it send its uniformed men and women to defend the last absolute monarchy in the world? The prudent, pragmatic, and morally correct response is to stand by the Saudi people. To continue supporting an oppressive regime loathed not only by the Saudi people but by the international community would be costly to the Saudi people, American interests worldwide, the international economy, and established order.

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Fear of Revolt not Controversial Reports

CDHR’s Analysis:

Two highly qualified, female Saudi journalists, Amal Zahid and Amira Kashgari, were fired by a prominent Saudi daily owned by the governor of Mecca, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal. In Saudi Arabia, the authorities do not and are not required to give reason for their actions and when they do, such as in this case, they give reasons that may appeal to some segments in society, but not to many if not most Saudi citizens. They said the paper fired these to popular and sophisticated reporters (thinkers) because some religious extremists and traditionalists consider their critical writing to be “against Islam and local traditions”. This argument did not satisfy readers who know of the Saudi officials’ and religious establishments’ relentless war against Saudi women, especially those who raise their voices, let alone influence public opinion.

The war against Saudi women is likely to intensify given the remarkable role Arab women are playing in the unprecedented revolutions sweeping the Arab World. In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, Arab women are on the front lines demanding democratic reforms and the removal of absolute dictators whose institutions and policies have rendered women second-class citizens—or in case of Saudi Arabia, not citizens at all.

Even though these two journalists were fired for their sophisticated analysis and ability to handle any position in journalism, the Saudi minister of information and culture, Abdul Aziz Alkhoja, was quoted as saying that he does not mind a if woman heads a local newspaper, “But the problem is that there are no qualified women to take up that post”. With a friend like this high ranking official, the Saudi women need not look far for enemies.

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The Saudi Monarchs, Allah and the West

CDHR’s Analysis:

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, has been inundated with inquiries about the stability of the Saudi monarchy and whether the Saudi royals could survive the unprecedented and contagious Arab raging revolt that has brought the government of the most populated, militarily powerful and culturally influential Arab country, Egypt, down.

The shortest answer is:

The Saudi royals will last as long as the West, especially the US, protects them from domestic and external threats. It gets more complicated when some inquisitors insist on clean and convincing reasoning, especially since the US has no more or need for military bases in Saudi Arabia and imports more oil from Canada than from the Saudi desert kingdom.

Saudi Arabia sits atop a quarter of the world’s known oil reserves and has potentials to mobilize more than one billion desperate Muslims to wage religious war against the ‘infidels.” In addition, the Saudi government has financially penetrated every aspect of the West’s political, economic, military, businesses and educational institutions in ways that look harmless on the surface, but in reality designed to extract heavy political, strategic and economic prices such as maintaining the House of Saud in power and keep the West dependent on Saudi petroleum.

These are some of the reasons that the Saudi monarchy can count on its Western allies to protect it from immediate dangers even at a time when all Arab autocratic regimes are facing uprisings that are for the first time changing the political, economic, gender and social landscape of the Arab World.

Like the Saud ruling princes, the West best and long term interests could be served by a democratized Saudi society where people are empowered to charter a safer and better future for themselves and future generations to come. This is doable, pragmatic and is in all parties, including the autocratic and detached from reality Saudi ruling men.

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Excluding Women, Again?

CDHR’s Analysis:

One of the reasons the Saudi government gave for delaying municipal national elections, first held in 2005 and scheduled to be held again in 2009, was to prepare for women’s inclusion. As they were barred from running for office or voting in 2005 due to lack of enough time to erect segregated polling locations, it is inexplicable that the Saudi authority announced recently that elections will be held in April 2011, but women may not be allowed to participate. Given the revolt against marginalization, oppression and corruption roiling the Arab East, it’s hard to understand the Saudi ruling men’s mindset and detachment from reality. In a recent discussion with an angry (and justifiably so) Saudi woman, she argued that “the Saudi system and Saudi men, in general, need genealogists and psychologists” to analyze their state of mind and obsession with fear of women’s empowerment and full citizenship. I found this assertion hard to contest, given the realty on the ground in Saudi Arabia in the 21st century.

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Join us:

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.

The Center could not undertake this important task without the active support of visionary individuals and foundations. CDHR needs the support of people who understand the importance of building a united, prosperous and tolerant society in Saudi Arabia where people are empowered to determine their destiny and the fate of their important, but unstable country. Please visit our website ( to learn about our work and see what you might do to support the many Saudi men and women who risk their livelihood and lives to promote a just political system that rejects all forms of incitement, religious hatred and oppression at home and abroad.

Your financial investment in democracy building in Saudi Arabia will benefit the Saudi people, the Middle East, the Muslim world, and the international community. Your contribution will make a difference and is greatly appreciated.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about our mission and what you can do to promote a non-sectarian, accountable and transparent political system in Saudi Arabia where all citizens are treated equally under the rule of civil laws.

Contact us:

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1050 17th Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: (202) 558-5552, (202) 413-0084

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