Saudi Princess: Muslim Brotherhood was doomed to fail
Tyrants are tyrants only when they are backed by the global powers, according to Saudi Princess Basmah Bint Saud. As an activist, writer and a businesswoman, Basmah Bint Saud is known for her strong support of those suffering from military, humanitarian, or civil crises in the Middle East. On SophieCo, the member of the royal family speaks about the Egyptian coup, Syrian mass genocide, and the forces that drive revolutions.
Sophie Shevardnadze: We are witnessing a coup in Egypt, but half of the population, that’s millions of people, are celebrating. Is this a military coup or a victory of the people?
Basmah Bint Saud: It is both. The victory of the people is the victory of the army itself because maybe it is foreign to other people to know that army in Egypt has for so long protected the people rather than the government. So it is not something unusual for the army to abide by the people’s law.
Basmah Bint Saud: Since Morsi has been in power by democratic election the army has fought very hard to be independent and Mr. Morsi has fought very hard to have the army under his power. It is just a very normal reaction from the army to be where he is, and definitely celebrating that the army certified his identity and cut away from the political game.
Sophie Shevardnadze: What about the Muslim Brotherhood? It’s a very well organized political machine with millions of supporters. How do you think they will react to the coup and overthrowing of their man?
Basmah Bint Saud: The Muslim Brotherhood up to ten years ago was considered a terrorist party and it hasn’t been recognized by the Islamic community in Egypt and the Arab world, except recently. We are not talking about a great party that has been in power for a long time. It has been considered a terrorist party for a long time.
The Muslim Brotherhood should not be very surprised about their short time being in power because they have not been supported by Egyptians themselves for a long time. Rather than celebrating the Muslim Brotherhood failure, I don’t think by any means that Muslim Brotherhood is a political movement, it is rather a religious movement, politicized by other powers in the world.
Sophie Shevardnadze: It’s not just MB in Egypt. Political Islam in general – we see it taking up the vacuum of overthrown dictators of the Arab Spring states. Why is that?
Basmah Bint Saud: Tyrants could never be tyrants if they are not backed by big powers. Systems cannot survive on their own in this globalized world. And the fight over the Middle East and its gas and its petrol has been going on for the last two centuries. We are just seeing the results of who wants more rights now, rather than any other meaning, which is superior and divine, which everybody have been singing for the last two – three years on the Arab spring. It has nothing to do with God, with quality or humanity. It has to do with who has more power on the ground. You take a tyrant, you put another. Nothing changes. If we don’t change the systems themselves, we can never actually change what is happening on the Middle East, whether now, or in ten years, or in twenty years. The people would still be rising, like in Iraq. Iraq had Saddam, and was broken down in the name of democracy. And in the 10 years after the fall of Saddam, what do we see in Iraq? Destruction, wars, bombs, fighting over your day to day bread, people are insecure, girls are being raped. And this never happened in the time of Saddam. I’m not saying that Saddam was a good one. But I say: what is the alternative? We are making wars and revolutions, but we are not thinking about the consequences. What is the solution? Who can we put instead of Morsi, Mubarak and all this tyrants? They are all the same for me. They are all accessing the same power. If we don’t put a system in place, we are looking for a long-term revolutions in Middle East. It will never quite down. It will be another Afganistan, Iraq, Syria. So, we are just creating terrorism, as we are going along down the way in the name of democracy.
Sophie Shevardnadze: So, you think this coup, which just took place in Egypt could actually spill over in the region?
Basmah Bint Saud: I don’t think it’s going to be the end in Egypt, it’s going to spill over the whole region. It's not only the whole region, it’s the whole globe, that is undergoing the shift. And economy, Europe, Spain, Greece, the States, South America, North America, Brazil. Look at the globe. What’s happening? You have to connect things together. You cannot just talk about Egypt, without talking about Syria, Brazil or Europe. Economy everywhere is driving the revolutions. And this is that nobody have seen. We are naming actually revolution by the religions, but basically its economic: unemployment, not giving the proper human rights, the social human rights, security, social security, environmental security, child security, government security, borders security. This is all our issues, which are really important for today's person. And we are not actually addressing this issues, we are looking at it in a very secular, political way. And we name the religion the cause of reform or revolution. It is not, it is economic, and that’s what we are seeing right now.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Qatar and Saudi Arabia today expressed no objection to a military court in Egypt, but there are supportive of a hard line in Syria, they are pouring huge amounts of money, weapons into a country as part of a savage war. Why such a dramatic difference in dealing with those states?
Basmah Bint Saud: I would like to ask that question to myself. There is so many contradictions. Even the States, I meant, when we look at President Obama’s remarks about bringing down of Morsi, and saying it’s undemocratic. Well, you can’t say anything except it contradicts every single vibe and any human being in the Middle East. Who should be saying, what’s democratic and what’s not. If I do not exercise democracy in my country, how can I ask it from other countries? There’s a lot of contradictions on the political scene. And everybody is confused and confusing the masses about the messages they are sending from the top P5 security club.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Would you agree that the two countries Qatar and Saudi Arabia are actually competing in exporting hard line Islam to the region, and that is all comes out to control, who control the regions through hard line Islam?
Basmah Bint Saud: Saudi Arabia and Qatar could not do anything on their own. There is support from the different parts of the world for these things. As Russia supports Syria, Saudi Arabia is against. It’s like a game, like a football game. Everybody trying to put the ball in the other person’s goal. It’s a game of power. It’s not about Saudi Arabia, it’s not about Qatar, it’s about who has more power in the region, and whether it is Islamic agenda or democratic agenda or whatever agenda you can put to it. It’s a fight for power.
Sophie Shevardnadze: You are a Saudi Princess, who grew up in Lebanon and is half-Syrian. The Syrian conflict must be a very personal thing for you. What’s your take on the whole thing?
Basmah Bint Saud: Definitely. I can never distant myself from my origins, my mother’s actual background and my family in Syria. I have a big family in Syria who is suffering right now along with millions of other Syrians. My heart goes to all the Syrians, including my family, and the refugees I have seen on the borders of Jordan and Lebanon. And my heart goes out to the governments who are responsible for such horrendous genocide. And I mean genocide. I’ve been there, I’ve seen what’s happening over there. Children are being slaughtered down the streets when they’re crossing the border.
Sophie Shevardnadze: What do you mean under governments?
Basmah Bint Saud: I mean all the governments in the world whoever has responsibility for this thing. Either the opposition, or the governments. Both of them are in the game themselves. And I think, if both of them were reasonable, we wouldn’t be seeing 10 million refugees on the borders. The game is helped by both parties – the opposition and the government. I think we should sit down and think about who is benefiting from all of this. I’m sure, the Syrian people are not. I’ve been there, I talked to these refugees, I talk to my family on a daily basis, definitely they’re not happy with the situation. And they say that if they could go back to their own country, they wouldn’t care what happens over there and who rules, as long as they could go back under their own roof. This is what I’ve been hearing from mothers, from wives, from children, from heads of tribes. And whoever is transmitting the picture in the media from both sides – the government and the opposition – are not seeing what’s happening or they choose not to see it. It’s really a tragedy, a human tragedy – bigger than you ever saw in Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s a mass genocide, that’s what I call it.
Sophie Shevardnadze: For the West it all comes down to Assad should go. What do you think, should Assad go?
Basmah Bint Saud: That’s a very hard question to ask on air. I’ll tell you something. I’m not with Assad and I’m not against him, and I’m not with the opposition or against it. I’m with the people of Syria. Whatever the Syrians choose to have they should have. We should not be putting our heads and arms inside Syria, Syria should solve its problems on its own, as should every country in the world. Everybody should choose their own governments and their own solutions. Nobody should put his leg or hand inside other people’s problems.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But unfortunately, it seems like in case of Syria, they really don’t have much say in what happens to them, I mean Syrian people.
Basmah Bint Saud: That says a lot about both sides – the opposition and the government. I wouldn’t choose either of them to be the spokesman of the Syrian people.
Sophie Shevardnadze: And what about Lebanon when you say it’s a global thing. Cause people always talk about Lebanon and how beautiful and multi-ethnic it was back in the 70s. And that’s also under threat of extinction right now, especially with the Syrian case next door.
Basmah Bint Saud: Lebanon has been the field for everybody for a long time – for the Palestinians, for the Israelis, for the Syrians. It’s the field of many wars, everybody fights and battles on the land of Lebanon – the most beautiful country in the world. I grew up in Lebanon, in those beautiful mountains, and in the society that didn’t know what religious sects are all about, other than being Christian or Muslim or whatever. They lived peacefully among themselves. And then the game started in Lebanon in 1975, and the army engaged with the Palestinian refugees. It started as an argument and it ended in a civil war. I think it didn’t happen by accident, it was an articulated plan to take the war further ahead. And that’s why the civil war stayed in Lebanon for 20 years. And don’t think that the war has ended in Lebanon, it’s a continuous war but in a different phase.
Sophie Shevardnadze: How do you regard the Saudi society right now? I remember you saying that it is more backward, fot the lack of a better word, than it was in the 80s.
Basmah Bint Saud: Every year that passes I saw things going more and more backwards. Up to the time of King Abdullah. I’ve been really impressed by King Abdullah up until two years ago - his policies, his governess, he took the woman straight ahead, he put her on TV, he turned his deaf ear to the voices of extremists who were calling to imprison the women behind the closed doors. He did not listen, he went along with his agenda that I thought was the core of Islam and what people are not used to in Saudi Arabia. He was acting as a Bedouin man who had been taught Islam in its basic form rather than any university that teach you extremism.
Sophie Shevardnadze: If it was up to you, what would be the first think that you’d change for women in Saudi Arabia.
Basmah Bint Saud: The very first thing is establishing the law to recognize the woman as a human being. To give her equal rights and punishments. Rewriting of a constitution, or rather righting one, because we have laws, we don’t have a constitution.
Sophie Shevardnadze: You are a very outspoken person. How did the Saudi royals react to that? Aren’t you afraid that you may be called back to Saudi Arabia and punished for what you are saying and what you are fighting for?
Basmah Bint Saud: I do not. I’m not fighting Saudi Arabia, or the law, or the government, or the king. I’m not fighting anything, I’m calling for reform, I’m not calling for revolution. I respect my king and my government. I’m for the government, I’m for the very wise men in Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of men and women in my family and the government that know and exercise what I say. What I’m calling for is the reform of the existing system, so there is no fear in my heart when I’m telling the truth and calling for the truth. And if you go back to the Saudi Arabian government, there is a lot of misjudgment about our country and people who come out to the media. Now everything is being unveiled, you can go to twitter and see what people talk about and really get to the core of the problem. I’m not afraid because my family is not the monsters that people are trying to draw. And I'm a proof of that. I’ve been writing in my country for 7 years about the subject that I’m talking about, and the king was all for it and encouraged me to speak my mind, he was never against it and he isn’t now. Otherwise, I would’ve been stopped a long time ago. I’m calling for reform on executive level, not the upper level, and everybody knows that.