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Guess the country I’m talking about.
It’s a country where women don’t have the vote and aren’t allowed to drive; where they are forced to cover themselves from head to toe while out in public; where gender apartheid is practiced in schools and institutes, and where a woman is not even allowed to leave the house without the express permission of a male family member.
A country where there is only one sanctioned religion to which all its citizens must belong or face the vicious legal wrath of the religious police; a country where shops and offices must close five times a day for prayer, where school textbooks refer to Jews as “apes” and Christians as “swine”, and where the youngest children do exercises such as: “Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ——- is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ——-.”
A country where public demonstrations and criticism of the government are forbidden; where satellite television, trade unions and political organizations are banned.
A country where all sexual activity outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage is illegal, and the punishment for being openly gay is imprisonment or a lashing.
A country where amputaton of hands and feet is a normal punishment for theft, where public floggings, beheadings and stonings are common, and even execution by crucifixion is not unusual.
Surely, if ever a country deserved criticism from the civilized nations of the world for its flagrant violation of human rights, this is one?
And yet, instead of voicing dissent, self-professed champion of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, President George W Bush has publicly stated that he values the close partnership between America and this country, and refers to its unelected undemocratic leader, (who has been a guest at the Bush ranch in Texas), as ‘my friend’.
And rather than isolating this country and applying sanctions to put pressure on it to reform its oppressive regime, it is Britain’s biggest defense customer and most powerful ally in the Middle East. In order not to upset the sales of jet fighters and military equipment worth billions, the British government refrains from criticising this country’s gross abuse of human rights.
According to Prime Minister Tony Blair: “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country, in terms of counterterrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel/Palestine, and that strategic interest comes first.”
Shame on him for putting profit before humanity; selling weapons of war to arm one of the world’s most oppressive, hate-preaching regimes. A country which produced 15 of the 19 brainwashed fanatic terrorist highjackers who carried out their inhuman mission of mass murder in America on September 11th 2003.
MICHAEL DICKINSON is an English teacher who lives and works in Istanbul. He can be reached through his webpage at the Saatchi gallery.