Judging Syria: Saudi Arabia’s double standards
This week Hillary Clinton sets off on a Middle East journey where she will attend two international conferences focused on stopping bloodshed in Syria. On Friday and Saturday, she will visit Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh to talk to King Abdullah and join an event dedicated to strategic co-operation between the US and Persian Gulf states Syria’s transition to democracy likely top their agenda.
Clinton will then move on to Turkey, where she will take part in Sunday’s 60-nation “Friends of the Syrian People” conference in Istanbul.
Washington and Riyadh concur that that a year of violence has stripped Syrian President Bashar Assad of all legitimacy.
Human rights movements, however, point out the irony of Saudi Arabia weighing in on human rights issues. After all, it’s a country where protesting can be considered an act punishable by death.
In March, the Kingdom’s religious council issued a fatwa directly condemning social unrest.
Four protesters have been killed in Riyadh this year alone, with up to 50 arrested.
“Demonstrations in Saudi Arabia are simply illegal,” Dr Ibrahim Alloush, a professor at Zaytouneh University in Jordan, told RT.
Yet, despite harshly cracking down on its own protesters, Saudi Arabia has been very supportive of revolt elsewhere.
Riyadh was among the first to push for international intervention in Libya.
Likewise, Syrians have regularly accuse the Saudi’s of financing rebels in the conflict-torn country. Saudi Arabia has reportedly sent military equipment to the Free Syrian Army via Jordan.
For all its rough tactics at home and abroad, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is never scolded by the USA. Riyadh and Washington are currently negotiating a $60 billion sale of advanced American weapons. Albeit brothers in arms, they are conveniently not each other’s keepers.
Saudi Arabia is a country where women’s rights are strictly curtailed. To get a job, Saudi women need permission from their male guardians. They can also forget about driving, as it is banned.
The royal family that has been keeping these rules in place claims they are part of Saudi heritage and therefore should be respected. But while prescribing this restrictive lifestyle for its citizens, some members of Saudi elite do not seem to think these rules should apply to themselves.
Particularly, when it comes to cutting loose abroad, some of the Saudi establishment does not exactly present a picture of religious piety. In neighboring Lebanon, the most liberal country in the Arab world, Saudi princes have been seen raining hundreds of thousands of dollars on women in night clubs. Perhaps they justify their behavior by only using foreign currency.