Saudi Digest #64



Saudi authorities detained a Saudi activist Noha al Balawi for questioning the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. She is reported to have posted in the social media: “There is not a single benefit for Arabs when we normalise relations with Israel. It only serves the best interests of the Zionist state.” She faces imprisonment up to five years if convicted of cybercrime.
Al Balawi’s detention highlights the repression directed by the Saudi ruling elite against those who oppose the growing covert relations between Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel. Thousands of opponents of the regime including human rights activists and Islamic scholars are in Saudi prisons and subjected to torture.
The failure of the big powers to take action to stop the gross violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the bombing, killing and starving of the people in Yemen by their military forces needs to be condemned. Both Britain and the United States are supplying the arms with which the Saudi-UAE forces are killing men, women and children in Yemen, and creating a humanitarian disaster. Yet, hypocritically, Britain is proposing a resolution in the UN Security Council to condemn Iran for supplying arms to the Houthis who are resisting Saudi-UAE aggression.
The Saudi-UAE ruling elite has abandoned the Palestinian cause, including the liberation of Masjid al Aqsa from Zionist occupation, and are collaborating with Israel and the US to bring about, in Iran, a regime change. Iran’s only crime is resisting US hegemony and supporting the liberation of Palestine and the forces resisting US imperialism.
Last month the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung reported that there is a secret alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel to confront Iran’s “expansionism”. It said “the two countries are cooperating significantly in the areas of military issues and security on strategic issues, despite the fact that they have no open diplomatic ties.”The Swiss report claims that in October, intelligence officials from both countries met in order to tighten cooperation, and discussed holding an additional meeting with intelligence leaders of both countries. Riyadh had requested Israel to supply anti-tank defense systems and the Iron Dome anti-missile system through a third party.
The Saudi absolute monarchy, with its ownership of all the nation’s resources, is an anachronism in the twenty first century with its ethos of democracy, human rights and social justice. It was created by the British, with the name of the state chosen by a British colonial officer, to serve colonial and imperialist interests. It is using the nation’s enormous oil wealth to keep the US and British economies going and propping up dictators like Egypt’s al Sisi. Global civil society and progressive governments must support the Saudi activists, struggling under extremely difficult conditions, to put an end to the absolute monarchy and usher in democracy based on human rights and responsibilities.

Mohideen Abdulkader, Citizens International and Universal Justice Network


Saudi Arabia, member of the UN Human Rights Council, has faced international condemnation for its role in the crackdowns on political dissidents, the persecution of the Shiite population and in the Yemen conflict. For this reason, the much-vaunted modernization in the country have been accused of bringing only cosmetic changes, whereas serious human rights violations, both at home and abroad, remain the major obstacles to meaningful reform.

This has been further demonstrated last month by the harsh sentencing of Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi to several years of imprisonment on false accusations. As also publicly condemned by the EEAS Spokesperson’s office, their sentence confirms the fact that the new leadership of Mohamed Bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

In the same vein, a campaign to remove Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council has been launched by a group of British lawyers, who argue the kingdom’s membership of the body is “contradictory and ironic”. The two lawyers, Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Ken Macdonald QC, have published their report and legal opinion on the mass arrests and detentions occurred as “part of a long-standing pattern of systemic human rights violations” by Saudi authorities.

According to the lawyers, the suspension of membership is not only a hypothetical possibility. There is a precedent in 2011, with the suspension of Libya in the course of the uprising against the Gaddafi regime.

Further Reading

This Pro-Saudi Tory MP Was Paid £15,000 For His Work On A Conference Criticising Qatar (BuzzFeeds)

Saudi Arabia’s robot citizen is eroding human rights (QuartzMedia)

Saudi Arabia feminist activist detained as country claims it is increasing women’s rights. (Newsweek)

OIC human rights commission calls for respecting cultural and religious diversity (Arab News)