Tag: Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Entrepreneurs

Friday, 1 March, 2019

The image titled “Riyadh Entrepreneurs” is by Nyree Cox, an Australian photographer who’s been living in Saudi Arabia since 2015. Her snap was a National Awards Winner in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards competition.

Riyadh Entrepreneurs

“The 10 Open category winners will now go on to compete for the Open Photographer of the Year, winning $5,000 (USD). This photographer, along with the Professional categories’ winners, will be announced at an Awards’ ceremony in London on 17 April 2019.”


Saudi Barbaria

Sunday, 14 October, 2018

“The fate of Khashoggi has at least provoked global outrage, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. We are told he was a liberal, Saudi progressive voice fighting for freedom and democracy, and a martyr who paid the ultimate price for telling the truth to power. This is not just wrong, but distracts us from understanding what the incident tells us about the internal power dynamics of a kingdom going through an unprecedented period of upheaval.”

So writes John R. Bradley in The Spectator. His article is titled What the media aren’t telling you about Jamal Khashoggi. Among the things we don’t hear in the reportage about the disappearance in Istanbul of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is his view of democracy. “In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy,” writes Bradley. “In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record.”

Bradley portrays the struggle for the soul of Saudi Arabia is one between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabi movement. Both hate each other and they’re united only in their hatred of the West:

“The Wahhabis loathe democracy as a western invention. Instead, they choose to live life as it supposedly existed during the time of the Muslim prophet. In the final analysis, though, they are different means to achieving the same goal: Islamist theocracy. This matters because, although bin Salman has rejected Wahhabism — to the delight of the West —he continues to view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat most likely to derail his vision for a new Saudi Arabia. Most of the Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia who have been imprisoned over the past two years —Khashoggi’s friends — have historic ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi had therefore emerged as a de facto leader of the Saudi branch.”

And, says Bradley, there’s another issue: “Khashoggi had dirt on Saudi links to al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks.”

Bringing Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century — or even the 19th — was never going to be easy, but the feeling in the West up to now has been that if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could pull it off, the results would be worth it. The brutal reality is that it’s always one step forward, two steps back in the barbaric monarchical autocracy.


Behind the veil in Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 27 August, 2016 0 Comments

“On every vacant lot in time appears the jumble of brownish brick, the metal spines of scaffolding, the sheets of plate glass; then last of all the marble, the most popular facing material, held on to the plain walls behind it with some sort of adhesive. From a distance it lends a spurious air of antiquity to the scene.” Hilary Mantel’s Saudi Arabia, as depicted in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, is a place of impersonal ugliness and stifling heat, a kingdom of sexual repression, corruption and violence.

Andrew Shore, a civil engineer, accepts a lucrative package from a British firm that has been commissioned to erect an opulent office building for the Saudi government. When his contrary, independent wife, Frances — a cartographer by trade — arrives in Jeddah to join Andrew, she’s instantly disquieted by the city and soon finds herself despising this masked society peopled by expats, who are mostly alcohol-sodden mercenaries, evasive Muslim neighbours and cruel, capricious officialdom. Confined in her apartment for most of the day, she begins to hear sounds of suffering from the supposedly empty flat above. Shopping provides some relief, but not much:

In the supermarket, Francis bought mangos. She put them in a plastic bag and handed them to a Filipino. He weighed them, twisted the bag closed, gave it back to her, but he did not even glance her way. Around her, women plucked tins from shelves. Women with layers of thick black cloth were their faces should be; only their hands reached out, heavy with gold.

She caught up with Andrew, laying her hand on the handle of the trolley beside his, careful not to touch.

“I didn’t know the veil was like this,” she whispered. “I thought you would see their eyes. How do they breathe? Don’t they feel stifled? Can they see where they’re going?

Andrew said, “These are the liberated ones. They get to go shopping.”

Thirty years after its original publication, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street is still as disturbing as ever. Frances Shore is not a radical feminist but Hilary Mantel’s character is a dedicated opponent of fabricated separatism: “I would like to stride up to the next veiled woman I see and tear the black cloth from her face and rip it up before her eyes. I know that would be wrong, but I would like to do it.”

The naqab


The cruelty and inhumanity of the “brothers”

Friday, 4 September, 2015 1 Comment

The image of Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach is being portrayed as Europe’s disgrace. What it really illustrates, in fact, is the cruelty and inhumanity the wealthy Gulf Arab states that are refusing to help Syria’s refugees. On Wednesday, Amira Fathalla of BBC Monitoring sought to explain “Why Syrians do not flee to Gulf states.” The harsh reality is that “Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen,” she wrote. One cannot imagine that there’s a long line of refugees waiting to enter Sudan and Yemen.

Today, in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor follows up and spells out the inhumanity of the neighbours: “The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees.” Here, he names and shames: “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” Shame be upon them.

Arab states


“To drive a car in Arabia is not only wanton”

Tuesday, 19 May, 2015 0 Comments

“In her Saudi Arabia homeland, Lubna Olayan can’t drive, show her hair in public or leave the country without her husband’s permission. She can, however, run one of the nation’s biggest conglomerates.” So begins Devon Pendleton’s profile of the Olayan Group and its manager in the Financial Review.

It is undeniably true that our world has progressed dramatically since Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock became the first woman to fly solo around the world in 1964. Back then, she piloted a single engine Cessna 180, nicknamed “Charlie”, through a flight that took 29 days and covered 22,860 miles (36,790 km), but despite this achievement some things have remained stubbornly the same. From Three-Eight Charlie, her memoir of that historic flight, this is the touchdown scene in Saudi Arabia:

“Dhahran Airport may be the most beautiful in the world. Its gleaming concrete strip is 10,000 feet long, and the marble-columned terminal is a worthy reminder of the graceful grandeur of the Islamic architecture of the Taj Mahal. A U.S. Navy Blue Angel jet was taking off as I came into the traffic pattern. Several hundred white-robed people were crowded onto the broad steps of the terminal, waiting to see the first flying housewife to venture into this part of the world. As I climbed from the red-and-white plane and was presented with a huge bouquet of gladioli (they had been flown in from Cairo especially for me), they saw from my blue skirt that I truly must be a woman, and sent up a shout and applauded.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the most puritanical, or orthodox, of the Muslim countries, and the Islamic religion makes the laws of the country. From the time of the Prophet Mohammed, Arabian women have been hidden from all but their immediate families. They may not see, or be seen by, the outside world. To show one’s face or even wear bright clothes is a great sin. For a woman to drive a car in Arabia is not only wanton but prohibited by law, under penalty of her husbands being sent to jail. While European or American women are permitted to go in public unveiled, even they may not drive. So the men were puzzled. Probably no one had thought to make a law saying a woman couldn’t drive an airplane, but somehow the men thought it couldn’t be happening.

Then, in the excitement, one of them evaded the handsome airforce guards that Prince — later King — Faisal had sent to look after Charlie and me. He looked into the crowded cabin, saw the huge gasoline tanks that filled the inside of the plane, except for my one seat. His white-kaffiyeh-covered head nodded vehemently, and he shouted to the throng that there was no man. This brought a rousing ovation.”

Jerrie Mock

Although she was warmly welcomed by her hosts, Jerrie Mock was not tempted to stay in the Kingdom. “It sounds terribly romantic, but as long as Islam rules the desert, I know that if I find a black camel-hair tent and venture in, I’ll be hidden behind the silken screen of the harem, with the other women, and my dinner will be the men’s leftovers.” Much has changed for the better since 1964, but Lubna Olayan still can’t drive, show her hair in public or leave Saudi Arabia without her husband’s permission.


Horripilation: Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Monday, 31 March, 2014 0 Comments

Each week brings with it dreadful stories that would make one’s hair stand on end. Take the one about the four princesses who say that they have been trapped in the Saudi Arabian royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. The mother of the four girls was married off to King Abdullah at the age of 15, and she claims that they have been subject to constant abuse and are effectively being held under house arrest. Sadly, such tales about court intrigue are not new and Shakespeare captured the horror of it all some four centuries ago in Hamlet, where the ghost addresses the young prince:

But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Language note: Shakespeare’s “porpentine” is better known today as the porcupine, and the idiom of hair standing on end refers to the sensation of hairs, especially those on the neck, standing upright when the skin contracts due to fear. This phenomenon was once called “horripilation” and was defined in 1656 as “the standing up of the hair for fear… a sudden quaking, shuddering or shivering,” by Thomas Blount in his splendidly named Glossographia, or a dictionary interpreting such hard words as are now used.


Shia and Sunni and the Thirty Years scenario

Monday, 27 January, 2014 0 Comments

“This is a conflict which is not only bigger than al-Qa’eda and similar groups, but far bigger than any of us. It is one which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam.” So writes Douglas Murray in the current issue of The Spectator in a piece titled “Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East’s 30 year war.” Murray contends that the slaughter in Syria is, in reality, a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam. “There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out,” he says, warning that the current savagery will be exceeded in barbarity when the “gloves come off.”

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is sounding a similar alarm. “Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles” he claimed in yesterday’s Observer. Citing a “ghastly roll call of terror attacks” in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Burma, Thailand and the Philippines, he declares that these “are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.”

If there is to be peace, we need to study faith and globalisation and agree on the place of religion in modern society. With this in mind, in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School, Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, will launch a website later this year that will provide “up-to-date analysis of what is happening in the field of religion and conflict; in-depth analysis of religion and its impact on countries where this is a major challenge; and basic facts about the religious make-up and trends in every country worldwide.” It’s not a solution, but it is a sign and it’s a necessary sign because the latest Pew report on global religious Hostilities doesn’t make for pretty reading. “The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.”

Meanwhile, a glance at the devastating history of the original Thirty Years’ War should encourage everyone to work to prevent a modern-day re-enactment.

War


The Saudis and the Brotherhood: love turns to hate

Tuesday, 20 August, 2013

“On Monday, Saudi Arabia promised to compensate Egypt for any aid that Western countries might withdraw in response to the harsh tactics employed by Egypt’s leaders to quell protests by supporters of the country’s deposed president, in which nearly 1,000 people and more than 100 police officers are reported to have been killed.” — Backing Egypt’s generals, Saudi Arabia promises financial support

Later in her Washington Post report, Liz Sly writes, “That Saudi Arabia is prepared to confront Washington over the crisis is an indicator of how deeply Saudi leaders were unsettled by the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood consolidating its hold over the Arab world’s most populous nation, analysts say.”

Muslim Brotherhood Times have changed, especially in the relationship between the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1952, Gamel Abdel Nasser and a group of fellow military officers overthrew King Farouk and turned to Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood for popular support. However, the Brotherhood wanted to outlaw alcohol and introduce the religious law of Islam, sharia, in the new, post-monarchical Egypt, a price that was too high for Nasser and his Revolutionary Council. It banned the Brotherhood in 1954, then undid the ban, but after an attempt on Nasser’s life, reinstated the ban.

In Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman notes what happened next:

“Leading figures from the Muslim Brotherhood fled from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi rulers welcomed them, and put them to good use. The Saudi princes were determined to keep their own country on a path of pure adherence to Saudi Arabia’s antique and rigid version of Islam; and Egypt’s Islamist intellectuals, with their stores of Koranic knowledge, had much to offer. The Egyptian exiles took over professorial chairs in Saudi universities. And their impact was large. Qutb’s younger brother, Muhammad Qutb, a distinguished religious scholar in his own right, fled to Saudi Arabia and became a professor of Islamic Studies. One of his students was Osama bin Laden.”

Sayyid Qutb, however, stayed in Egypt and Nasser hanged him in 1966. By then, though, the damage was done and the religious fascism represented by Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood has since left a trail of death and suffering that stretches from the banks of the Nile to lower Manhattan. It has also steered Saudi Arabia towards barbarism and although it’s a bit late in the day for the princely descendants of the princes who imported Qutb’s toxic ideology to acknowledge their capital mistakes, it is better that it’s done late rather than never. Unless they wish to be devoured by the radicals, the Saudis and the Egyptians know that the Muslim Brotherhood must be smashed.