FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saudi Arabia’s Free Pass

by SERGE HALIMI

Saudi Arabia’s record is no better than Iran’s when it comes to respect for human rights. Yet the international community always manages to overlook the Wahhabi monarchy. Could this be connected with Saudi Arabia’s status as top oil-producing country and trusted ally of the US?

Saudi Arabia can intervene in Bahrain, crush democratic protests there, execute 76 people in 2011 (including a woman accused of “sorcery”), threaten to execute a blogger who posted an imaginary conversation with the Prophet on Twitter, sentence thieves to amputation, announce that rape, sodomy, adultery, homosexuality, drug trafficking and apostasy are to carry the death penalty, and nobody except the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights seems to care. The UN Security Council, the G20 (of which Saudi Arabia is a member), the International Monetary Fund, whose director recently visited Riyadh and expressed her appreciation of the kingdom’s “important role” in supporting the global economy: none of them care.

This monarchy still refuses to allow women to travel by car unless accompanied by husband or chauffeur, or to participate in the Olympic Games. Although the latest breach of at least two principles of the Olympic charter (1) hasn’t caused much of a fuss. If Iran had been guilty of such sexual apartheid, international protests would have been organised and widely reported.

The Tunisian prime minister Hamadi Jebali has provided another example of the preferential treatment automatically accorded to the Saudi monarchy. Jebali, who belongs to a movement savagely repressed by former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, praised his Saudi hosts on one of his first official visits abroad. Yet Riyadh, which supported the Ben Ali clan to the bitter end, refuses to extradite them and provides a safe haven for their finances. Gulf money also helps encourage the Salafists’ provocative behaviour in Tunisia, funding TV channels that spread their medieval interpretation of Islam.

In January 2008 French president Nicolas Sarkozy claimed that Saudi Arabia, “encouraged by His Majesty King Abdullah”, was promoting a “policy of civilisation”. Four years on, this country riddled with corruption is the Arab world’s foremost proponent of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam. Riyadh’s elders, who see the protests of young Saudis as a “new form of terrorism”, only care about peoples’ rights when they can be used as a weapon against the “radical” or Shia regimes of their regional rivals. The kingdom thinks it will be shielded from popular protests by spending a drop of its oil revenues on social services, by its Sunni majority’s contempt for the 10% to 20% of Shia nursing their grievances in the eastern part of the kingdom, and by the fear of Iran. The international indulgence of the Saudi monarchy is an added comfort.

SERGE HALIMI is director of Le Monde Diplomatique. He has written several books, including one  on the French press, Les nouveaux chiens de garde and another on the French left in the 20th century – Quand la gauche essayait – both are fine works.  He can be reached at Serge.Halimi@monde-diplomatique.fr

Notes.

(1) Principle 4 of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism states: “Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind.” Principle 6 says: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail