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​Supporting Saudi Arabia is supporting violations of human rights

John Wight is a writer and commentator specializing in geopolitics, UK domestic politics, culture and sport.

Published time: August 29, 2014 12:11
Members of the Saudi Police show their shooting skills during their graduation ceremony at the Public Security Training City in Riyadh (Reuters / Fahad Shadeed)

Has there ever been a more vile and repugnant regime than the gang of bloated potentates that rules Saudi Arabia?

Responsible for fomenting chaos and carnage beyond their own borders, while at home brutalizing their own people, surely it is time for the international community to turn its attention to the Saudis and their utter and complete disregard for anything resembling human rights.

The scale of the human rights abuses that are a regular occurrence in this oil-rich kingdom is reflected in a recent surge of executions by beheading that have been carried out there, involving 19 people since August 4. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) seven of those executed were found guilty of non-violent offenses, while a further seven were found guilty of drug smuggling. One victim was executed for sorcery, whatever that means.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, said: “Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious.” She went on: “There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.”

Let’s not equivocate: in 2014 the idea of state-sanctioned execution of prisoners by beheading with a sword in public is beyond barbaric. Worse, Saudi Arabia remains a close strategic ally and economic partner of western governments, whose failure to confront or challenge the kingdom on its serial human rights abuses smacks of immorality and hypocrisy.

In February this year, British defence firm BAE agreed a deal to supply the Saudis with 72 Typhoon fighter jets, worth £4.4 billion (just over $7 billion). The deal was agreed around the same time as Prince Charles paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is a frequent visitor. When asked, the prince’s office denied any connection between the BAE deal and his visit to the country.

Britain's Prince Charles (C) and Saudi Minister of Tourism, Prince Sultan bin Salman (R) visit a building under renovation in the old city of al-Diriyah on February 19, 2014 on the northwestern outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. (AFP Photo / Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Arabia has been a very lucrative market for British arms firms over the years. British author Nicholas Gilby, in his book “Deception In High Places” (Pluto), traces the covert deals and “commissions” which have punctuated the murky relationship between the Saudi government and British arms firms and their representatives, among them members of the British government and royal family.

Gilby claims that various Saudi princes received tens of millions of pounds in these so-called “commissions” as a reward for granting arms contracts to British firms. Between 1989 and 2002 the Saudis received over £60 million in gifts and cash from BAE, the writer reveals.

This is corruption on a grand scale.

The very fact that Britain, the US, and every other Western government cosies up to the Saudis in the full knowledge of the living hell in which many of its citizens are forced to endure, is nothing short of scandalous. That they do so while lecturing the rest of the world about democracy and human rights merely adds an extra layer of hypocrisy to the equation.

Women in Saudi Arabia, along with minorities regardless of gender, are regarded as chattel, with little if any rights that most would consider compatible with a civilized society. It is a medieval system, underpinned by the most extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, which at the time of writing is playing a key role in spreading religious fundamentalism throughout the region.

Reuters / Arko Datta

Saudi donations and money have verily flooded into the coffers of groups such as IS (formerly known as ISIS), enabling them to sustain and consolidate their presence as they set about turning the region into a graveyard for anyone who does not subscribe to their poisonous ideology, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

The only country in the world named after a family, Saudi Arabia is the world’s petrol station and has been since the 1930s, when the country came into being. US oil companies were present in the country before the US Embassy, whose original office was located in the headquarters of the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO).

This close relationship between US oil interests and the Saudis, which has dictated US government policy in the region to a large extent, has never waned. In particular the relationship between the Bush family and the Saudis has attracted controversy over the years.

In his bestselling book “House of Bush, House of Saud” (2004) American journalist Craig Unger asks who gave permission for prominent Saudi nationals to fly out of the United States immediately after 9/11, when all passenger and civilian aircraft were meant to be grounded. Given that 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 were also Saudi nationals, the fact that these individuals were allowed to leave the US came as a startling revelation.

To date no explanation has been given.

Public beheadings, human rights abuses, the funding of terrorism, arms deals, bribes, connections with the British royal family and leading US political figures – taken together it sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie. Sadly, it is all too real.

Saudi Arabia is a vast criminal enterprise masquerading as a state.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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