I’m the Great Reformer.
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (known as MBS; some say after his initials, some say MBS stands for Master of BullShit), projects an image of himself as a keen reformer and moderniser.
Yes, by golly, he is the guarantor of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to bring the country into the 21st century becoming less dependent on oil revenues. What he is is a moderniser of ways to make money.
He is spruiked as a moderate who respects women’s rights.
Well, this week eleven women are on trial in Saudi Arabia this week, charged with lobbying to abolish the system of male guardianship over women basically. Also for women’s right to have a driving licence without a man’s permission.
Under the male guardianship system, Saudi women are still treated as legal minors. They are assigned a male guardian, who has to approve their applying for a passport, travelling outside the country, studying abroad on a government scholarship, leaving prison, or even exiting a shelter where they might have run for help after abuse!!
Last January a young Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed, barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok, and said that her own family would have her locked up if she returned to Saudi Arabia. She eventually found asylum in Canada.
The 11 women were arrested in May last year, just one month before the Saudi regime finally granted its female citizens the right to ask their male guardian if they may apply for a driver’s license.
They have been imprisoned since then without access to legal counsel, and only learned of what the charges were when they arrived in court.
Prosecutors charged the women with having broken Saudi law, “By taking foreign money to work against the kingdom and communicated with an enemy country and enemy media.”
Oh, thought Jacinta Ardern, if only we had those powers of charge, as it is all I can do is unperson and unname somebody.
An ad-hoc panel of three British MPs drawn from three major parties said that the women activists were being held, in vile conditions. The women “have been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment, including sleep deprivation, assault, threats to life and solitary confinement. Their treatment is likely to amount to torture and if they are not provided with urgent access to medical assistance they are at risk of developing long-term health conditions, the report says.”
Crispin Blunt, former Conservative Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who spoke for the panel said,
“The Saudi women activist detainees have been treated so badly as to sustain an international investigation for torture. Denied proper access to medical care, legal advice or visits from their families, their solitary confinement and mistreatment are severe enough to meet the international definition of torture. Saudi Arabia stands on the brink. It is not too late to alter course and avert the spiral downwards to catastrophe that the detention of these activists represents.”
MBS isn’t exactly in trouble because he wields total power, but he is on the nose after Khashoggi was scratched off the list in the Saudi Embassy, cut into bits, and dumped.
Of course, His Radiance had absolutely nothing to do with that affair.
Not even a tidgy bit.
In a recent televised interview when the question of women’s rights came up he said MBS said that women are “absolutely” equal to men, “We are all human beings and there is no difference. But we have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a workplace. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the prophet and the Caliphs. This is the real example and the true model… The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men. This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”
However, when pressed more closely on the issue of human rights, Mohammad Bin Salman reveals his “alternative approach” to human rights within the kingdom. First, human rights critics are “radicals” presumably because they are perceived as threatening to the stability of the Saudi regime.
He was asked about the “dozens of people who have criticized your government and have been arrested in the last year. They include economists, clerics, intellectuals. Is this really an open and free society?”
MBS answered: “We will try to publicize as much as we can and as fast as we can, information about these individuals in order to make the world aware of what the government of Saudi Arabia is doing to combat radicalism…. Saudi Arabia believes in many of the principles of human rights. In fact, we believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards. I don’t want to say that we don’t have shortcomings. We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings”.
No, they sure dont have the same standards. In fact, it still clearly operates under seventh century standards: Last year they cut the heads off 48 people in eight months. The kingdom also administers public lashings for “criminal offenses” like expressing mild disagreemennt. In 2012, the young blogger with two little daughters Raif Badawi, was arrested for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and brought to court on several charges including apostasy. After his 2012 arrest, Amnesty International designated him a prisoner of conscience, “detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression”. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, then re-sentenced in 2014 to 1000 lashes, ten years in prison and a fine of 1 million riyals (approximately $267,000).
This is what led to his punishment, he wrote, “My commitment is… to reject any oppression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way.”
Just to drive the point home, his lawyer got 15 years, to be followed by a 15-year travel ban.
In the eight months after Mohammad bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince there were 133 executions in Saudi Arabia compared to 67 in the eight months before that.One of the worst cases was that of an Indonesian domestic worker, Tuti Tursilawati, who killed her abusive Saudi employer to prevent him from raping her. The execution went ahead, without either her family or the Indonesian government knowing about it.
Cop this 77% of those executed were foreigners, who also made up half the number of people put to death. Foreigners being another word for servants.and Ali
Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher was arrested when he was 15 years old for participating in a peaceful protest, according to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights. He has been sentenced to death and is still on death row, seven years later.
Ali al-Nimr was accused of participation in an illegal demonstration and other offences, such as “explaining how to give first aid to protestors”
He was tortured and forced to sign a false confession. This was the only evidence brought against him. He was sentenced to ‘death by crucifixion,’ which in Saudi Arabia involves beheading and public display of the body”.
Ali’s uncle is Sheikh Nimr, a cleric who had called for reform before they executed him.
What is the UN doing about this dismal litany of murder, beheading, rape of prisoners, torture??
In 2015, Saudi Arabia was elected chair of a UN Human Rights Council panel with the responsibility for picking experts to investigate human rights abuses.