I was raised in Dubai, so I’d prefer to believe I have a fairly reasonable understanding of the Gulf, how Gulf countries function, and how their political systems (if applicable) are controlled. I love Dubai, and yes it definitely has its flaws just like every other developing city in the world, but there’s a certain charm to it that I’ve always been fond of. At the end of the day it is home to me, and it is familiar.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia, and I am the kind of person who prefers to form opinions of the doctrine on her own, as opposed to listening to the opinions of others – however, everything that I’ve come to know about the House of Saud, has left me with nothing but a bitter taste in my mouth (perhaps the blood of all the innocent civilians they kill inhumanely) and no desire to ever step foot in the country.
Firstly, the fact that Saudi Arabia has refused to accept Syrian refugees after the ISIL takeover is selfish and inhumane. Regardless of the fact they accepted refugees post the Syrian civil war, the Gulf countries don’t want to tarnish their ‘luxurious’ image with refugees running around the place, and they believe Syrian Muslims to be religious ‘traitors’ because they refused to follow their extremist practices and instead, became a more liberal Islamic society. As far as I’m concerned, Islam promotes selflessly aiding your Muslim ‘brothers and sisters’ as effectively as possible.
The abhorrent lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia is something the world should be extremely concerned about. Public beheadings, thousands of lashes and stoning. How can we allow capital punishment to exist in modern society? Freedom of speech is something every human being must be granted. Freedom is not something that humans must be granted, it is our birth right and the nature of life, the law of the world that humans have freedom. It can be suppressed through mind control and physical force, but never granted or given.
If we remind ourselves of Raif Badawi, Fouad Al-Farhan, Ashraf Fayadh and the other cases of creative and political open-minded, free-thinkers who have been incarcerated or even killed for speaking their mind, we come to realize it is something we need to stop turning a blind-eye on.
Human trafficking is another issue that needs to be touched upon. Saudi Arabia, as well as a handful of other Middle-Eastern and South Asian countries, are well-known for their modern-day slavery and abhorrent treatment of human beings as not just slaves, but sex workers, domestic maids, etcetera. It is a medieval way of treating people, something I had been accustomed to as a child and something that I never, ever thought could ever be justified. These countries have done virtually nothing to correct this mistreatment, because it would be too great of an inconvenience to them to do so. Why rid yourself of a certain kind of luxury that you are so accustomed to and that is so readily and easily available?
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is an equivocal, yet a slowly evolving issue. Women being disallowed from driving, something many of us are aware of, has no logical explanation except for the fact that the patriarchal society of Saudi Arabia refuses to permit women the freedom to travel as they please, as women also require a male guardian’s permission to essentially do anything. I, as a South Asian female who grew up in the Middle-East and in an Islamic household, know for a fact that the coerced obligation to cover your head is most definitely a sign of oppression and patriarchal rule. For example, women from the ‘elitist’ society in Pakistan are absolutely not required to cover their heads unless they choose to. This is because they like to believe they are a more educated, liberal and reformed part of Islamic society (which in many ways is true and is not).
Government and Religion
The House of Saud is authoritative and monarchial, with an anti-democratic stance which makes them, in my opinion, rather primitive. It is because of the House of Saud that the Wahhabism expansion occurred, Wahhabism is an exceptionally intolerant sect of Sunni Islam (especially to other Muslim sects) and is certainly the reason we have extremist, radicalized terrorist groups causing mass destruction. The execution of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr is another proving standpoint that religious differences are not tolerated and nor is freedom of speech.
Saudi Arabia has an innate desire to overthrow other Islamic governments they see as a threat to their economic welfare, and have done so (i.e. Yemen, Iraq and as of recently, trying to throw Iran under the bus as well). However, according to the Saudi Ministry of Finance, oil revenue had decreased by 23 percent in 2015, compared to 2014 statistics. The fall of oil prices equals the fall of the Saudi Riyal, which has been on par with the US dollar for a long time.
I believe its time we stopped indulging in ignorance and avoiding the larger spectrum of events – The House of Saud has affected the entirety of the world we live in, it has affected my homeland (Pakistan) and many others’. It’s strict monarchial rule, desire to overthrow other governments, non-existent human rights laws, Wahhabism and Salafist regimes that condemn modern society, freedom of speech and free elections and yet, they have managed to enamour Western superpowers because of the oil under their possession, it has proven to be rather difficult to disregard the doctrine.
Eventually when their oil does cease to exist, I am certain they will be left with nothing but the residue of their own destructive patterns.
photo (oh the irony of it) credit: tumblr