Category Archives: Arabian Peninsula

Middle East Executions: Twenty Three Maids Waiting in a Row……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

“And the storybook comes to a close.
Gone are the ribbons and bows.
Things to remember, places to go,
Pretty maids all in a row………..”
The Eagles

Media report that twenty three Asian (Indonesian) women are awaiting the executioner’s sword on death row in Saudi Arabia. Several others, imported housemaids, already had their head chopped off. Remember Sakineh Ashtiani of Iran and all the fuss made by the Saudi-owned Arab “intellectuals” and Western media, especially the extremely righteous French media (and rightly so)? Everybody was indignant, so was I, and rightly so, until her gruesome death sentence was changed by the regime in Tehran.
Where are they now? Everybody is so silent about the plight of these numerous women, imported housemaids trapped into horrible situations in a grim society, waiting to have their heads chopped off in the Kingdom without Magic. Yet the kingdom cannot live without these millions of housemaids, and fierce bargaining goes on with the Asian government officials about their wages, work conditions, etc. They are even advertised in the newspapers for sale or “transfer” from one “owner” to another, just as they used to do in Old Virginia when a new shipment of slaves arrived from West Africa. Even Bernard Henri Levy, who was at the forefront of the Ashtiani campaign (and the Libyan campaign), is silent. Amnesty International comments but says they have “no presence” in Saudi Arabia. Of course not, Amnesty and human rights have no presence.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On Gulf Intellectuals, Tribal Liberals and Arab Uprisings, the Edifying Hashtag, Oxymoronic Humor………..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF

What is interesting is that many (Gulf) clerics and shaikhs played the sectarian game, and did not try to distinguish the political issue from the sectarian issue. I was surprised at this huge amount of hatred among some of these people, and these hatreds were reflected in their positions and their statements and their relations with ‘others’. It is sad to say that the Arab Spring has deteriorated to civil war and strife in places like Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria……… Unfortunately the ‘intellectual’ in the Gulf region could not break away from what has been ordained for him, just as he can’t break away from his sector or tribe or personal interest. In Saudi Arabia, I have not seen any brave position from the Islamist or ‘liberal’ intellectuals regarding the events in Bahrain, these Islamist and ‘liberal’ intellectuals were open and shameful reflections of the mouthpieces of the regimes…………..”

Professor al-Rasheed is well-acquainted with the history and ‘cultural’ life, such as it is, of Saudi Arabia (especially) and the Gulf region. She is right about most of the GCC so-called ”intellectuals”:


  • Most Gulf Islamists, especially the Salafis, essentially nurse from the Saudi teats. Most of the time I suspect they are basically a ‘fifth column’ for the Wahhabi state, wittingly or unwittingly. (I do have moments when I feel more gracious toward them).

  • Many Gulf ‘intellectuals’, but not all, be they Islamist or otherwise, are palace ‘intellectuals’, sycophants of one faction or another of the palace. Often, they are sycophants of the Saudi palace, either directly or through the tribe or through other affiliations. I once called them “tribal liberals” last spring.

  • I suspect some Gulf intellectuals think they are “liberals” if they carry a laptop around, sprinkle their speech with a few English terms (they/we especially love the term “hashtag”, it is so edifying) and believe women should ‘eventually’ have the right to drive but in due time. All in due time. Let the princes decide: they know best.

  • All Gulf ‘intellectuals’, shy away from criticizing public beheadings in the streets of Riyadh, maybe because those who are beheaded are mostly poor foreign migrant workers (men and women), but most likely because they shy from upsetting the potentates.

  • Most, but not all, Gulf ‘intellectuals’ also believe that people in places like Syria and Libya should revolt against their oppressors but not people in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Yemen. They take their cue from their regimes, or from the Saudi regime.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were cool and tepid toward the uprisings in Tunisia and especially in Egypt, until the palace accepted the change. Then they were suddenly all for the people’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, after the fact.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were quiet about Syria, until the “palace” and princes started opining, and they all fell in line.

  • Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were always for the regime and against the people in Bahrain, because the “palace” was clearly on the side of the despots: it put troops on the ground to prove it. In this case, they are unfortunately divided by sector.
  • Most ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf fiercely support the right of people to self determination and free elections in places like Iran, Syria, Libya, Gaza (but not the West Bank), but they don’t think any other peoples in the Middle East need to vote in free elections or talk freely against their rulers.

  • There are real free-thinking ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf: I have known some of them and I read for some of them. And no, it is not an oxymoron to say ‘Gulf intellectual’, anymore than it is to say ‘Egyptian intellectual’ or ‘Jordanian intellectual’ or ‘Iranian intellectual’ or ‘French intellectual’. It is not even nearly as oxymoronic as saying “Jordanian humor”. More on this last point in another post.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Fear and Loathing…….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
THE SAUDI royal family is afraid. Very, very afraid. A crisis of leadership is brewing. The king is ailing and his successor, Crown Prince Sultan, is in even worse health. Their hard-line brother, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, is set to take the throne. One of the last absolute monarchies, the Saudi family seems to represent all that the Arab Spring is fighting against: closed societies with unequal wealth distribution; repressed minorities living within manufactured boundaries; strong Islamist sympathies across its lands; a latent Sunni-Shia power struggle embedded in the country’s fabric—not to mention a string of surrounding states struggling to stave off revolutions that could easily have a contagion effect.
We should be careful not to count the al-Sauds out. They are among the world’s most proven survivors………………

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Anti-Terror Law subject to Revision? About U.S. Bible Belt Worries………..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Saudi Arabia has revised an anti-terrorism law and made it less severe than a leaked version that was heavily criticized by human rights groups, a Shura Council spokesman said on Saturday. “The draft that was published is not the final one,” said Mohammed Almohanna, spokesman for the advisory parliament. “It was discussed in a Shura Council session. It was a draft and some changes were made to it to ensure that the law is compatible with Sharia (Islamic law) and does not violate citizens’ rights or the country’s existing laws,” he said. He said the Shura would amend the draft further when its summer recess ends in mid-September before sending it to the king for approval. Amnesty International, which published a draft of the Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism on its website, said on July 22 that the authorities could use the law to stifle dissent…………

This spokesman for the Shura Council talks as if it has any power. The Shura is an appointed advisory council, just like the cabinet, and takes its orders from the ruling family. They basically rubber-stamp whatever is sent over by the princes, which usually is not much. It doesn’t matter what they have on the law books, provided there are any: they do what it takes not just to stifle dissent, but to crush it.
On the bright side, they don’t chop the heads of dissidents anymore. They arrest them and throw them in prison for long periods of time, some without charges or trial.
(Also these guys should not mention the Shari’a Law to the Western press. The folks in places like Oklahoma and Tennessee and Texas get panicky and start voting to ban “Sharia Law”, wtf that be in their own Bible Belt context).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Torquemada: Media Obsession with Jewish Roots……………

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
You’d think Torquemada leads the royal Saudi media. Come to think of it the equivalents of Torquemada do run the media over there, and they run more than that. Thos obsession of the media, especially the semi-official Alarabiya TV which is almost official because it is managed by a royal prince although it is located offshore. Alarabiya is obsessed with the “Jewish” roots of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They report something on it every few months, sometimes every couple of weeks (I posted the last time they did it). They just did one today on their Arabic website (too clever to do it on the English version). I doubt that most people in Iran care either way what his “roots” are. I know the Al-Saud and their Anti-Semetic Wahhabi clergy care, as do their Anti-Semetic Salafi followers around the Gulf. Here they are allegedly quoting a website of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) repeating allegations about these roots and that for the first time the IRGC is paying attention and giving some credence to them. You’d think Alarabiya would be busy, along with its sister semi-official Asharq Alawsat (also royal-owned), disseminating counter-revolutionary messages against the Arab uprisings (which also threaten the theocracy in Iran as much as they threaten the theocratic oligarchy in the Arabian Peninsula). Maybe they are trying to rouse the Salafi faithful during this holy month of Ramadan, but there is no need: the Salafi of the Gulf region are a fully-owned and paid up subsidiary of Riyadh.
It would be interesting if all Arab leaders including the Saudi royals, as well as Iranian leaders, submit samples of their DNA to one of these laboratories that tell what ethnic/racial background they are from (and let’s throw in Mr. Netanyahu and Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh). Now that should be fun, even though it would be as meaningless as the stuff the crazy American “birthers” spread these days. In fact Alarabiya sometimes sounds like an offshoot of the birthers.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Chopping Season Premiere: Saudi Arabia Chops Three Heads Publicly……..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Three Saudis were beheaded on Saturday in the western city of Taif after being convicted of killing fellow citizens in two separate incidents, state news agency SPA reported. Mahfoudh bin Ali Al Kenani was beheaded by the sword for stabbing to death Ali Saeed al-Khazmari because of a feud between them, SPA said. Meanwhile, two brothers, Mohammed and Saud al-Jaeed were also executed for shooting dead fellow citizen Hilal bin Sayel al-Harthi, SPA said in another statement…….

It looks like the beheading season has started again in Saudi Arabia, just in time for the holy month of Ramadan. That “event” in Taif was the premier gala, sort of like the opening gala of the San Francisco Opera season. More to follow.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Real Battle for Iran and Arabia: Tribe and Nation and Islam……….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
The people of the ancient Persian Empire, which in 500 BC stretched from the Indus as far as Libya and the Black Sea, are believed to have celebrated the Persian New Year festival at Persepolis with their ruler. In recent years, modern Iranian families have also started to gather here to celebrate Nowruz, the festival that marks the start of spring, camping on the roadside for miles around. Some 100,000 people visit Persepolis every year. Twenty years ago it was around 8,000…….. “My son,” Darius wrote in his testament, “pray always to God, but never force anyone to follow your faith. Always bear in mind that all people should be free and may follow their own faith and conviction.”……. However, what is more significant than the bad economic situation is the lack of exciting new ideas, the inability of the clerical nomenklatura to propose new objectives, ones for which people would be prepared to be patient and make sacrifices. Instead, the orthodoxy is fighting a paralysing battle to maintain its hard-won position. One man has realised how dangerous this intellectual wasteland could be for the regime, and he has now become one of the figures most hated and feared by the conservatives: Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Ahmadinejad’s friend and chief of staff. Should a theocracy, of all forms of government, be permitted to rely solely on practical power – in this case, armed troops and the secret service – and do without spirituality and visions for the future? At present, the Green Movement is seen as representing people’s dreams of a better future, and the Sufis, who are also combated by the orthodoxy, as the locus of spirituality. Mashaei is feeling his way towards filling the ideological gap with a mixture of rationality and re-ideologisation. He has declared political Islam to be obsolete and its most important symbol, the hijab or veiling of the female body, to be a woman’s free decision. Statements like these are taboo……….

This is not just an Iranian issue, this dichotomy between ethnicity/nationalism and Islam. Islamists across the Middle East have been pushing the idea that “national” identity does not matter, that Islam rules supreme. It is almost a throwback to the European pre-nationalism days a few centuries ago. Yet in reality people identify themselves by other things first: nation, ethnicity, even tribe (as in Africa and Saudi Arabia). In some ‘special’ places like Lebanon people are identified by their faith and sect: Shi’a, Sunni, Maronite, Orthodox, Armenian, etc. Yet there are so many sects that people always identify themselves as Lebanese in the end, especially vis-à-vis the outside world. The ongoing Arab uprisings, from North Africa to the Gulf have tended to strengthen this “national” identity: be it Tunisian, Egyptian, Syrian, Bahraini, etc or just “Arab”. The revolutions of 2011 are called “Arab” revolutions all across the region, never the “Islamic” revolutions. The Iranian mullahs and Arab Salafis (of the Saudi school of thought) have tried to push an Islamic “identity” on the uprisings, each for their own purposes, but it is not working.
Iranians will always be Iranians first and Muslims (or Zaroastrians or Christians) afterwards. Egyptians will always be Egyptians first and Muslims or Copts afterwards. Saudis, somewhat like the Lebanese, are different: they still identify themselves with their individual tribes first, before being “Saudi” or even “Arab” or Muslim. Even the Taliban consider themselves Pushtun first, then Afghans, (or Pakistani?), then Muslims. Most, nay all, Salafis of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula identify themselves with their tribes first, even as they outwardly push an “Islamist” agenda.
The issue may look somewhat different in Europe, with the growing racism and the difficulties of assimilation and the mosque becoming a spiritual and social refuge in “exile”. Besides, to use a cliche, all Muslims may look the same to many Europeans.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi (Arabian Peninsula): Reform or Rebellion……..

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
Government apologists and hired opinion-ators claim that the al-Saud rulers want to reform, that most people don’t want it. In Saudi Arabia the regime has managed to again do what it is good at doing, what all Arab despots are good at: change the subject again, divide the country again. They started by stressing last spring that public protests are the domain of disgruntled Shi’a in the Eastern Province: hinting that no good Wahhabi should protest at the same time as the Shi’as. At least have the decency to wait until the Shi’as are calm, which means never or until hell freezes over, whichever comes first. Besides, didn’t the good palace muftis and pliable Salafi shaikhs say that protests in the kingdom are un-Islamic? Then there is the more crucial issue of women drivers, or non-drivers, much more important than other freedoms. Women still can’t drive, but they did change the subject for a week or two.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Political Nirvana: Hillary Clinton Writes to the Saudi People about Freedom for Syrians…….

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has penned a column for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat (owned by Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud). Her topic is the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime and is titled “No return to the Status Quo Ante in Syria”.
She assures the Saudi people, and any other Arabs who might read that daily, that the Bahraini Saudi Syrian people deserve freedom and the right to choose their own government, that they deserve dignity and freedom from fear. She also said that Bahrain Syria deserves a government that respects the people and seeks a unified and democratic nation…..
Like Mr. Obama in his last speech, she neglected to mention Saudi Arabia and the people of the Arabian Peninsula. They both believe in the principle of selective non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and hence she did not mention Occupied Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or the UAE where many people are languishing in prison for expressing their opinion. Or maybe they believe that the peoples in these absolute tribal monarchies have already attained political Nirvana or, worse, they don’t believe these people deserve what the peoples of other Arab countries (and Iran) deserve.
It is true, not as many people have been killed in most the Gulf states than in Syria or Libya or Egypt. Except for Bahrain where proportionally as much if not more have been killed than in some of the others, given the small population of native Bahrainis and the 33 killed and dozens still “missing”.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Country of Princes on Wheelchairs, Corrupt Men in Suvs, Scurrying Faceless Women……

   Rattlesnake Ridge   Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter   

 
      BFF
But not Saudi Arabia, or so it seems. And not Riyadh. As ever, Saudi men sit in their large SUVs, stuck in traffic between the steel-blue facades of office buildings, and the wives of these men are still having their drivers drop them off in front of the shopping malls in downtown Riyadh, where they scurry from Prada to Ralph Lauren and then disappear into Starbucks for a latte — in the “family department,” a room on the side kept separate from the world of men. The boulevards and promenades of the Saudi capital look as though they had been swept clean, as if some mysterious force had extinguished all public life. Riyadh has nothing like Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis or Tahrir Square in Cairo. In fact, there is no sign in Saudi Arabia of a public political discourse that could be compared with the debates, held in secret at first and then more and more in the open, with which the unrest began in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. Almost every political discussion seems to end with the same words: Long live the king! Saudi Arabia feels like a realm that has come to a standstill in a rapidly changing world. Its leaders, most notably the 86-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, are pinning their hopes on the old principle of stability………….

They call it stability, others call it stagnation. That same argument was used in the swamp that was Egypt under Mubarak for thirty years: they said it was ‘stability’, I called it a swamp. There is not much virtue in stable misery and repression and powerlessness and corruption. Once the fear is gone, the ‘stability’ card is not compelling.
(And then there was/is Khaled al-Jehany, a brave young man, the only one in the city, who stood in a Riyadh street and said that the whole country is a big prison, He was whisked away and his fate is still unknown).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com