by Azza Rojbi, published by Fire This Time Movement, July Issue
It’s an honor to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia. And I think especially what you’ve done for women.
-U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP in conversation with Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) at the G20 conference in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019
This absurd quotation is from what amounted to a lip-service and back-patting session between Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince, just two days after the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was presented with the report on the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But of course, at this meeting Trump did not say a word about it and when two journalists asked him to address the murder of Khashoggi, Trump awkwardly pretended that he didn’t hear them.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was forcibly restrained, drugged, and killed. His body was cut into pieces by a team of 15 Saudi military and secret police operatives sent to Istanbul, Turkey specifically to murder Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.
Almost nine months after Khashoggi’s murder, Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, presented her findings on the case at the UNHRC. The report concluded that,
“Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law”.
The report also found,
“there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s” and further indicates that, “the Saudi investigation into the murder was not conducted in good faith, and might amount to obstructing justice.”
Despite the UNHRC report on this atrocious crime committed by Saudi Arabia’s government, Trump continued praising the Saudi Crown Prince and turned a blind eye to the findings of this report. Of course, justice and human rights have never been a concern of President Trump.
Saudi Arabia: a Terrorist State
The latest findings by the UN special rapporteur are not an exception or an isolated case. Saudi Arabia is a country lacking any democratic institutions and is in fact a despotic monarchy where decisions are made by the ruling family and their clique.
Basic human and democratic rights are denied in Saudi Arabia. The existence of independent human rights groups is forbidden, as well as public gatherings and demonstrations. Women in Saudi Arabia are deprived of their basic rights and live under the oppressive male guardianship system where a senior male family member controls their life from birth to death. Saudi human rights activists who defy and challenge these undemocratic, repressive, and inhuman laws face arrest, persecution, imprisonment, and even execution.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. In 2018, the kingdom carried out 149 executions mostly by beheading. According to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESHR), 107 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year and the number is expected to rise drastically.
On April 23, 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 prisoners in a mass execution across the country. Thirty-two of those executed belonged to the country’s oppressed Shi’a minority. Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International said that this mass execution,
“is a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life. It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority”.
In addition to persecuting human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and his ruling clique have been tracking down and silencing dissenting and critical voices abroad, the case of Khashoggi is far from being an isolated one.
On October 12, 2018, The Intercept, an online news media source reported,
“the government [of Saudi Arabia] has continued to exert its control on dissenting voices beyond its borders… In March 2017, prominent human rights activist Loujan al-Hathloul was arrested in the United Arab Emirates, where she was studying for her master’s degree. She was forced onto a private plane, flown back to Saudi Arabia, and jailed briefly, then placed under a travel ban. Later, in May 2018, Saudi security again arrested al-Hathloul at her home amid a wider crackdown on activists.”
Loujain al-Hathloul, a University of British Columbia graduate (in Vancouver, Canada) was an outspoken women’s rights activist and actively campaigned to push for women to have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She was arrested along with other prominent women’s rights activists just a few weeks before the Saudi government lifted the ban on women driving. Those who continue to praise the Saudi Crown Prince for being a modernist and reformer for lifting the driving ban are dishonest, as MBS continues to take credit for the sacrifice and human rights campaigning of Saudi women for women’s rights. Loujain and other women’s rights activists are still detained in Saudi jails. Amnesty International reported that they have been subjected to torture and sexual harassment.
Saudi Arabia: Terror Abroad
The government of Saudi Arabia is not only criminal and repressive at home, but also abroad. In 2009, Wikileaks published leaked diplomatic cables written by then-U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on terrorist financing. The leaked memo stated that,
“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” and that, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban… and other terrorist groups”.
Despite the government of Saudi Arabia and its stooges claiming that this is no longer true, more recent events and facts show the clear continuation of this pattern. In another Wikileaks file of a private speech by Hillary Clinton in 2013, she acknowledged that,
“the Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years”.
In June 2012, the UK’s Guardian Newspaper released reports that showed how so-called “Syrian rebels” were on Saudi payroll to fight against the legitimate government of Syria. Wikileaks also published an email from Clinton in 2014, where she refers to Saudi Arabia’s support for ISIS/ISIL in Syria. She explains,
“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region”.
This is interesting because it is a clear admission from the now-former U.S. Secretary of State during the first term of Obama presidency.
Another example of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in funding terrorists is in Libya. An article by the British Daily Mail from March 2011 this subtitle reads,
“U.S. asks Saudi Arabia to supply rebels with weapons, in a bid to avoid direct military involvement in Libya unrest”.
The Saudi regime continues meddling in Libya today, an article published on April 12, 2019 by the Wall Street Journal reports that,
“Days before Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital and attempt to unite the divided country under his rule, Saudi Arabia promised tens of millions of dollars to help pay for the operation, according to senior advisers to the Saudi government.”
The United Nations’ Libya envoy has described Haftar’s attempt to take Tripoli as a coup.
It is also important to remember that in 2011 during popular uprisings in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent in troops, tanks, and Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) to violently quash the peaceful protests in order to keep their puppet Bahraini monarchs in power. Those Light Armoured Vehicles that Saudi Arabia used in Bahrain were the ones that the Saudi regime bought from Canada throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and continuing through to today. In May 2015, The Globe and Mail Newspaper reported that when, “asked if it believes the Saudis used made-in-Canada LAVs when they went into Bahrain, the Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened.”
A new and more sophisticated version of these armored vehicles are being sold today to Saudi Arabia by the government of Canada for the sum of $15billion. In addition, Canada is also selling them rifles and other military equipment. This continues while Canada is completely ignoring Saudi Arabia’s ongoing brutal and inhuman actions at home and abroad, including the war on Yemen.
Saudi Arabia: Leading the Criminal War on Yemen
“The first is the disastrous war in Yemen. The facts are well known but bear repeating. A Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the majority of the war’s tens of thousands of deaths and has perpetrated “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians, according to experts reporting to the U.N. Security Council. The coalition’s blockade is the leading cause of what is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 85,000 infant children thought to have died from starvation since 2015. Washington and London have been the facilitators of the carnage, providing vital assistance that the Saudi-led bombing campaign simply could not function without.”
This quotation (above) is from a June 27, 2019 New York Times article titled, “Saudi Arabia is running out of friends.”
The humanitarian crisis that the Saudi-led war on Yemen has created is so immense that even the mainstream media in the U.S. must break its silence to expose it every once in a while. As the U.S. backed Saudi-led aggression in Yemen enters its fifth year, a recent report on June 18, 2019, by the U.S. based research group, Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) shows that the death toll from the war is approaching 100,000 people.
In addition to all the civilian deaths, the Saudi-led bombing campaign has destroyed schools, hospitals, cultural centers, homes, roads, markets, factories, water and sanitation systems and several other vital infrastructures. The living conditions of the Yemeni people continue to deteriorate daily. If they survive the bombing they might die of hunger or succumb to cholera and other diseases. According to the UN, every ten minutes, a child under five in Yemen dies of preventable causes and over 22 million people in Yemen—or three-quarters of the population— need “urgent humanitarian aid and protection.”
Saudi Arabia: An Imperialist Puppet
Looking back at the havoc, killings, wars, and terrorism that the Saudi government has helped foment at home and abroad, Saudi Arabia is a friend only to those who are the enemies of the people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). For decades, Saudi Arabia has played an important role serving the interests of imperialism in the MENA region. Saudi Arabia has been doing the dirty work of the U.S. and other imperialist countries in the region and constantly intervening as a destabilizing and destructive force in the Middle East and North Africa in favour of imperialist countries especially the United States.
As the Saudi government defines its relation with the United States in the website of its own embassy in Washington DC:
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America have a longstanding relationship dating back to the 1930s, when American businessmen first traveled to the Kingdom to help develop the country’s natural resources. Today, the Saudi-U.S. relationship is stronger than ever. On issues of national security and economic opportunity, the Saudi-U.S. relationship is vital. The Kingdom remains one of America’s closest allies and strongest economic partners in the Middle East.”
Saudi Arabia is in fact an important ally for the U.S. expansion and hegemony in the Middle East and North Africa. The Saudi regime is a friend of imperialists, and a foe of anti-imperialist and liberation movements, a foe of Palestinians’ aspiration for freedom and self-determination. Recently the England-based website, The Middle East Monitor stated that Saudi Arabia has bought $300 million worth of spy software from Israel, a deal which includes small tracking devices that can be placed in the target’s mobile phone. Saudi Arabia is betraying the Palestinian cause, buying Israeli spyware to harass and persecute their own people and Palestinians. The cooperation between the Israeli and Saudi regimes extends to military, information, and security throughout the whole Middle East and North Africa. Both countries collaborated and coordinated the war against Syria’s Bashar Assad government and the people of Syria from the outset of the war. For instance, while Saudi Arabia paid the ISIS/ISIL terrorist fighters in Syria, Israel was treating them and providing medical care when they were injured in Israel (UK Independent).
Saudi Arabian Regime: An Enemy of People
As peace-loving people around the world, it is our duty to stand with the people of Saudi Arabia in their fight for democratic and human rights. We must stand with the people of the Middle East and North Africa who suffered from the war mongering of the Saudi regime for more than forty years from Afghanistan to Iran and Iraq, and from Libya and Syria to the ongoing genocide against the people of Yemen. We must expose and condemn this imperialist den that created and founded terrorist groups from Al Qaida to ISIS/ISIL and Daesh to spread hatred, genocide, destruction and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and North Africa. And of course, we must condemn the human rights abuses committed by the Saudi regime when it meddles in the internal affairs of other countries throughout the region. We must hold respective governments in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. accountable for their silence and complicity with Saudi regime.
Brave human rights activists in Saudi Arabia continue to speak up despite all of the persecution, jailing, and threats against their lives, which they are subjected to by the Saudi regime. The brave people of Yemen continue to resist the criminal war and blockade on their country despite being victims of daily bombing and aggression by the Saudi-led coalition. Poor and oppressed people in the Middle East and North Africa share the aspiration for independence, freedom, and prosperity. Fighting for a brighter future is standing up against despotic U.S. puppet regimes, like Saudia Arabia, in the region.
From Sana’a to Riyadh to London to Ottawa and Washington, we demand:
Imperialists Out of the Middle East and North Africa!
Saudi and U.S. Stop Bombing Yemen!
U.S., Canada, and Europe Cancel All Arms Deals with Saudi Arabia!
Free Loujain Al-Hathloul and All Political Prisoners in Saudi Arabia!
*Featured Image: President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Azza Rojbi is a Web Developer, Human Rights Advocate and member of the Vancouver based peace and justice organization, MAWO (Mobilization Against War and Aggression). Follow Azza Rojbi on Twitter: @Azza_R14