Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Can the Saudis Escape Arab Revolt?
A CDHR Analysis
March 28, 2011
Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Washington DC
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
Freedom of Expression
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
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
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.
Fear of Revolt not Controversial Reports
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.
The Saudi Monarchs, Allah and the West
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.
Excluding Women, Again?
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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