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More on those (not so nice) Saudis

Sadly, it is reported that over 700 people were yesterday trampled to death in Mecca during the annual Haj there.

In a piece quite unconnected to the tragedy in Mecca, Medea Benjamin in a piece "Ten Reasons to Oppose the Saudi Monarchy" on CommonDreams provides an insight into regime which the US, and other Western nations, regard as their "close friend".    It doesn't make for "pretty" reading!

"During the discussion on the Iran nuclear deal, it has been strange to hear US politicians fiercely condemn Iranian human rights abuses while remaining silent about worse abuses by US ally Saudi Arabia. Not only is the Saudi regime repressive at home and abroad, but US weapons and US support for the regime make Americans complicit. So let’s look at the regime the US government counts as its close friend.

1. Saudi Arabia is governed as an absolutist monarchy by a huge clan, the Saud family, and the throne passes from one king to another.The Cabinet is appointed by the king, and its policies have to be ratified by royal decree. Political parties are forbidden and there are no national elections.

2. Criticizing the monarchy, or defending human rights, can bring down severe and cruel punishments in addition to imprisonment. Ali al-Nimr was targeted and arrested at the age of 17 for protesting government corruption, and his since been sentenced to beheading and public crucifixion. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Waleed Abulkhair is serving a 15-year sentence for his work as a human right attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism. The government tightly controls the domestic press, banning journalists and editors who publish articles deemed offensive to the religious establishment or the ruling authorities. Over 400,000 websites that are considered immoral or politically sensitive are blocked. A January 2011 law requires all blogs and websites, or anyone posting news or commentary online, to have a license from the Ministry of Information or face fines and/or the closure of the website.

3. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The government has conducted over 100 beheadings this year alone, often in public squares.

4. Saudi women are second-class citizens. The religious police enforce a policy of gender segregation and often harass women, using physical punishment to enforce a strict dress code. Women need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport and they're prohibited from driving. According to interpretations of Sharia law, daughters generally receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers, and the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women.

5. There is no freedom of religious. Islam is the official religion, and all Saudis are required by law to be Muslims. The government prohibits the public practice of any religion other than Islam and restricts the religious practices of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim minority sects. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private, it does not always respect this right in practice. The building of Shiite mosques is banned.

6. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia spent $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let's not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself."

Continue reading the list here.


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