“DUBAI: An Arab News panel discussion held on Tuesday proposed solutions to the Middle East’s image problem in the West, as new research emerged illustrating the severity of the US “knowledge gap” about the region. The panel, held at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, detailed the importance of cultural diplomacy, effective government communication and the importance of student exchange programs in boosting awareness…….” Arab News (Saudi)
Sometimes I suspect that the ruling Arab oligarchs can never learn. In fact I am convinced that they can never learn about some issues. So many of these media events are staged, all blaming outsiders (the West) for the lousy image Arabs have.
I’ve got news for them, but I suspect they already know: the blame lies squarely with the Arab ruling classes. They are almost uniformly oppressive. At best these ruling classes are incredibly mediocre, at worst they are incredibly criminal (including many regimes perceived as being allies of the West).
So this panel, and many other events before it and after it, all seek ways to to improve the “image” of Arabs in the world. Meaning to improve the image of Arab regimes: the potentates, princes, and dictators. Arab regimes, mostly corrupt and repressive, confuse the image of their countries with their own image.
Such staged media events are part of a “real” and not just perceived Arab problem. The “image” is bad because the “reality” as imposed by the ruling oligarchs is bad. Staged media events or highly-paid lobbyists in Washington and London cannot hide the reality.
Arab regimes and their controlled media want to change the image without changing the reality. Getting rid of the symptom will not cure the illness. Morphine makes the pain go away but only for a while. The disease outlasts the patient if a serious “cure” is not applied.
How about ending the wold-class repression and corruption: that should go a long way towards improving the “image” of Arab oligarchs.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
There are more recent reports of something called an Arab Human Rights Court, what I (and anybody with sense) would call Mother of All Contradictions. Reports that the Arab League’s current owners have chosen Bahrain as headquarters of the so-called Arab Human Rights Court are apparently not a joke or a prank.
There is or will be an entity called the Arab Human Rights Court. I am guessing, an expensively educated guess, that its specialty will be to prosecute human rights advocates in the Arab countries. And to try and bully foreign and international NGO’s who support them.
The report of its location in Bahrain? Just adding a bit of insult to injury, telling the Arab peoples what their rulers think of them and of their level of intelligence. But then they don’t care what their peoples think anyway.
It is aimed at the outside world. An Arab court can and will always issue verdicts in support of these despotic regimes. Friendly Western media from the Washington Post to CNN, and friendly Western regimes like the one in Britain can point to these verdicts and repeat them like mindless zombies, as alibis.
Terrible. Yet when I first read about this project months ago I could not help laughing. Imagine four terms: Human Rights, Justice, Arab League, Bahrain. How can they all fit in one sentence, one paragraph, or even one page without provoking frustrated mirthless laughter?
Frustrated mirthless laughter is supposed to be more seemly, for men at least, than frustrated weeping which would be the more honest relieving reaction.
This is the equivalent of having a huge sign hanging over the whole bloody Arab World:
Arbeit Macht Frei……..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Saudi Arabia enjoys a spectacular level of impunity from international accountability. This is not only because it has the world’s richest and largest royal family with influence spread far and wide. And it is not even just about oil, although having a quarter of the world’s pre-fracking energy reserves still engenders utmost deference from those many modern economies that will depend on Gulf oil and gas for as long as the precious black stuff lasts. However, the recent election of Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council, partly due to a secret vote swap with the UK, seems to have crossed a line. Mainstream eyebrows that have usually looked the other way when it came to the Saudi record on human rights have now been raised. And if that was not enough of an affront, the Saudi UN ambassador has just been selected to chair the influential Human Rights Council “consultative panel” that recommends to the president of the council a short-list of whom shall be appointed as Special Rapporteurs, including on such issues as rights of women, freedom of expression and religious freedom…………..”
When we were kids on the Gulf, a joke was making the rounds back home and in some foreign media. It quoted the late humorless Saudi King Faisal Al Saud that the world was not bi-polar, that there were in fact three superpowers: USA, USSR, and Kuwait. The king was quoted as making an uncharacteristic joke here, perhaps with a tinge of jealousy. At that time Saudi Arabia was not ‘rich’ yet, and Kuwait was the major oil producer and most advanced state on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf.
Now it almost seems that the new uni-polar world has several superpowers. That the Al Saud are often being treated by Western salesmen-leaders as one of them. If not, then they are at least considered untouchable by Western governments. In America they would be one addition to the untouchable issues of politics in Washington: perhaps a ‘fourth rail’ added to the ‘three rails’ of politics. Just look at the record:
- They behead and crucify people in public, including common criminals, hapless foreign laborers, witches, warlocks, magicians, as well as members of the political opposition who are not of the Wahhabi faith. The only regime that does so with impunity. ISIS (DAESH) cutthroats are correctly criticized by official Western hypocrites when they do that. The Iranian regime is also rightly criticized by official Western hypocrites when it hangs people in groups, including drug dealers and others. But no official criticism is heard anymore, especially from the US, British, and French governments, of the more barbaric Saudi practices.
- They ban all other religions and religious practices except Wahhabism. The Muslim Shi’a minority are third-class citizens at best, but they are barely tolerated and only because they were in the Eastern Province long before the Wahhabis conquered it during the last century. Only ISIS (DAESH) is more intolerant.
- For months they have been bombing the poorest Arab country, Yemen, with the latest lethal weapons the Western governments can sell, including cluster bombs. They and their fellow tribal potentates and hired Afro-Arab mercenary regimes. No complaint or criticism is heard from Washington, London, or Paris. In fact I suspect that the targets (the victims) are often picked and located for them by Western intelligence and satellite technology.
- This least democratic, most repressive and backward tribal regime is allowed the chutzpah of claiming to be working to bring democracy and free speech to other countries, especially Syria and Yemen.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“I had been looking forward to this year’s International Human Rights Rank Indicator (IHRRI) which was due to be issued tomorrow but – alas – it has suddenly, and without explanation, been postponed for several months. The IHRRI is (or perhaps was) an international league table of human rights, covering 216 countries. Last year, unbelievably, it placed the United Arab Emirates in 12th position worldwide – between New Zealand and Iceland. No other Arab country came anywhere close to the UAE in terms of human rights performance; Morocco was nearest, in 67th position. When this claim about the Emirates was noted (and ridiculed) on social media, IHRRI deleted the entire league table from its website – again, suddenly and without explanation…………….”
It is not the first time Western experts, pundits, journalists, even some politicians, have confused luxury accommodation and wining and dining with human rights. Especially in the Persian Gulf states. It is the traditional Arab hospitality of the Gulf, misunderstood in the West. This often happens for visitors to the United Arab Emirates-UAE. I have in the past commented on articles by Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen (I usually enjoy reading Cohen) and possibly David Ignatius (Washington Post) and how they confuse things like luxurious 6-star hosting and accessibility to ‘human rights’ and ‘credibility of leaked information’.
Of course the overwhelming majority of residents of the UAE and other places on the Gulf (95% of them) cannot afford the luxury of these 6-star hotels. So they probably don’t merit human rights.
It is usually hard to be critical of those who offer you 6-star hospitality. Although I recall that Nicholas Kristof (N Y Times) visited Iran a year or two ago and came back to write in favor of tougher economic sanctions against Iran. I am assuming Kristof did not get 6-star or 7-star hospitality from the mullahs in Iran. I doubt that they have it in Tehran now. I blame the Western blockade……..
So maybe the folks at IHRRI are waiting for the UAE to mend its ways so that it can merit being placed next to Iceland on human rights. Perhaps in a year or two, or maybe when hell freezes over……….
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Saudi Arabia has refused to accept four tiny Amazonian monkeys from a Swedish zoo because of a diplomatic row, Swedish media report. The pygmy marmosets at Skansen zoo in Stockholm had been destined for a Riyadh zoo. “They didn’t want the monkeys anymore because of the political situation,” said Skansen zoo boss Jonas Wahlstrom. Last month the Saudi ambassador to Sweden was recalled, after Sweden ended an arms deal in a human rights dispute. Weighing just over 100 grams (3.5 oz) each pygmy marmosets are the smallest primates in the world. “It’s a little comical. I’ll just have to wait until they grant visas to Swedish businessmen again. Maybe monkeys will get visas then too,” said Mr Wahlstrom………….”
It started when the Saudis vetoed a scheduled speech by the Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström to an Arab League meeting. The princes, who fancy they own the Arab League (they do), feared that the female minister would remind the Arab potentates and their minions of the HR words, Human Rights. So the dispute started and escalated.
The Saudis have not only refused to grant visas to the Swedish pygmy monkeys as well as to Swedes in general, they have also recalled their own
marmoset ambassador from Stockholm, who is not a pygmy. Besides, my incredible source report that one famously loquacious traveling prince snorted, tongue-in-cheek, that “We don’t need them and their f–king monkeys. We have thousands of our own within the family”.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recalled the UAE ambassador to Sweden in wake of comments the country’s foreign minister made about Saudi Arabia. In addition to recalling the ambassador, Sultan Rashid Al Kaitoob, the ministry also summoned the Swedish ambassador to the UAE, Jan Thesleff, and delivered a formal memorandum of protest over Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom’s remarks, state news agency Wam reported. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, highlighted the “condemnation by the UAE of strong statements made by the Foreign Minister of Sweden to the Swedish Parliament against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its judicial system”. Dr Gargash stressed that these statements violate the principle of sovereignty……………..”
This show of outrage by the princes and potentates and their minions. Supposedly ‘sisterly or brotherly’ outrage as Gulf media and officials like to call it. This outrage would be funny if it were not outrageous. Coming from Persian Gulf potentates who meddle in Libya and Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain and Egypt, among other places. Who paid billions to crush the Tahrir Uprising by the military and help repress Bahrain even as they claim to seek to liberate Syria and steer it towards the joys of Wahhabism.
So why would the Abu Dhabi potentates protest a diplomatic issue between two other countries? Maybe it is a case of “If the shoe fits, wear it“. In Arabic it would be “He who has a bump on his head will reach and touch it” (اللي على راسه بطحة يتحسسها).
Likely it has to do with a (non-mathematical) principle of transfer. They also do it, so maybe they expect the Swedish diplomats to mention them as well at some point. They feel entitled to certain consideration and accommodation, because they can threaten to block lucrative contracts (some may consider it a sort of blackmail). You never see the British or French governments talk about human rights in these countries. Why do you suppose that is so? Certainly it has nothing to do with principles: both these European governments leave their principles on the other side of the Mediterranean before they hit our shores. They always have.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Reports tell us that American diplomats in Cuba met with Cuban dissidents yesterday. They shared a meal together and talked. That is in Communist undemocratic repressive Cuba. The Cuba that restricts its people from coming to the USA even more than the USA restricts its people from going to Cuba.
Now to U.S. allies, non-communist anti-democratic allies:
A few months ago an American undersecretary of state was kicked out of Bahrain because he talked with some opposition leaders. Three years earlier another American diplomat was hounded out of Bahrain because he talked about human rights.
Can an American delegation meet and talk with local dissidents of whom there are many (in and out of prison) in Saudi Arabia? Or in the United Arab Emirates? Or even in Egypt? Would they dare?
Of course it is possible that because Cuba is in the Western Hemisphere, geographically and culturally, we should expect more of her. Which is like saying that Arabs (and Muslims) either do not deserve or don’t want democracy and freedom of expression. Which may not be as bigoted as it sounds. I know that, based on painful experience, most Arabs (outside Lebanon) are wary of the freedom of expression: mostly it gets you prison, torture, premature death, exile, or a combination of the above.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Have Yourself a Merry Little——-> Kenny G. Holiday
“Saudi Arabia has executed at least 19 people since August 4, 2014. Local news reports indicate that eight of those executed were convicted of nonviolent offenses, seven for drug smuggling and one for sorcery. Family members of another man, Hajras bin Saleh al-Qurey, told Human Rights Watch on August 17 that they fear his execution is imminent. The Public Court of Najran, in southern Saudi Arabia, sentenced al-Qurey to death by beheading on January 16, 2013 for allegedly smuggling drugs and attacking a police officer during his arrest…………….”
Not quite a merry little holiday season in the realm of the absolute princes. This is not the first magician or sorcerer to be executed by beheading in the Kingdom Without Magic (KWM). There have been others. He will not be the last one.
Just think about it: Al-Qaeda Wahhabi terrorists are offered rehabilitation, provided with jobs and even dowries for brides. Harmless sorcerers have their heads chopped off. It is against Islam of course. Those who take a life are supposed to be executed, if you feel the need to spill some more blood, not sorcerers or charlatans. Come to think of it again, and speaking of charlatans: not even palace clerics nor fake pastors should be executed.
Not even corrupt absolute princes who loot whole countries’ resources and do so much harm should be executed. Probably not even with pitchforks………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
It is a common headline, it has been for some time. The new media and technology makes it impossible to cover up most of it. A black teenager or a black man, almost always unarmed, is shot or killed otherwise by the police who are on-duty or off-duty. It is never one bullet, it is never two bullets. Mostly a whole magazine of a gun is emptied in a living body, sometimes more. Occasionally some civilian idiot takes the law into his own hands and follows and shoots an unarmed black man for being in the ‘wrong’ neighborhood. Or a black child is riddled with many police bullets while playing with a toy gun in a park.
In all cases, at least those cases that are publicized, the killer(s) get off free. Always. We are told that ‘race’ has nothing to do with it. So what then? Is it the economic class that dehumanizes some? Which brings us to the same point.
Soon after every killing, Republicans, at least those who express an opinion, and their media side with the police or with the vigilante who killed the unarmed black boy or man. Democrats wait briefly before jumping in by obliquely criticizing the police. There are protests, complaints, handwringing, bluster, investigations, even some singing of kumbaya………
Then bang! It happens again, the widely-accepted modern equivalent of lynching………
The beat goes on. The song remains the same………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Saudi Arabia has several different kinds, actually strains, of opposition to the Al Saud rule and policies. It is a diverse rainbow of opposing opposition groups. There are three main strains:
- There are relatively liberal human rights advocates among the educated city folks, but they are mostly heavily monitored and repressed. These are focused on the domestic issues of freedom and corruption and advocating for a civic society. Often they are thrown in prison on trumped up charges, as many ACPRAHR leaders are.
- There are the marginalized restive Shi’as in their native homeland of the Eastern Province who have been restless and in an uprising mood for years.
- Then there is a more interesting but growing animal, the relatively recent Wahhabi opposition. A Wahhabi opposition to a Wahhabi theocratic monarchy. Needless to say, these latter are groups that were born of the domestic and foreign efforts of the Saudi system itself.
This last one is a bit odd, since the Salafis, like the rest of the Saudi political and religious establishment, believe in obeying the Wahhabi ruler no matter what. In that they rely on an old Hadith, or a quote that alleges to quote the Prophet Mohammed about obedience to a ‘Muslim’ ruler. By their doctrine they can justify it only by insisting that a particular ruler is “not Muslim”, which these days means “not Wahhabi enough”. Of course they believe that anyone who i not a Wahhabi/Salafi is not a Muslim: that is how they justify blowing up Iraqi and Syrian civilians and beheading them and enslaving their women as sex concubines.
Needless to say much of this last Wahhabi opposition supports the more extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, AQAP, and especially the Caliphate of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front and their ilk in recent years. They focus exclusively on aiding these Jihadist groups from Yemen to Syria and Iraq and beyond. Yet like some other tribal/Salafi opposition movements on the Persian Gulf these latter are violently against the continuing Bahrain protests and are happy to have the Al Saud help crush them. These groups are also very active on the Internet social media. Some of their top “activists” have followers in the millions. They seem to have three main complaints:
- the Al Saud are not following the true Salafi line of Islam. That is the only way a Salafi can justify disobedience;
- the Al Saud are too nice to the local Shi’as (as well as to those in Iran and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen);
- the Al Saud are plotting with all of the above as well as with Al Assad of Syria against the true faithful of the ISIS Caliphate and Al Qaeda. Occasionally they throw in Israel and the United States, probably just to cover all their bases. This line in support of ISIS is also taken by other such Gulf groups, including much of the Kuwait opposition which also, oddly, rejects any local criticism of the Al Saud even as they blast the local ruling family.
These are Wahhabi ‘activists’ on the social media, although I believe the more prominent ones are doing it from the safety of Western capitals. None of them, as far as I know, has offered to relocate in Raqqa (Syria) or Mosul (Iraq). Mostly the more prominent among them comment openly under their own names. One of the most popular of them goes under the nom de plume of Mujtahidd (various meanings in Arabic: hard working, originator of ideas, interpreter of Shari’a, etc). He is not shy to comment freely, but is too ‘shy’ to write under his own name, which some might think makes him a bit less “hammam” than he claims to be in his brief Twitter bio. But he claims to have access to insider information deep within the Saudi power structure, sort of like those Hollywood gossip columnists of a bygone pre-Internet era.
Good news for the Al Saud: these various ‘opposition’ groups seem like young children, playing around each other rather than with each other. Studiously avoiding crossing paths. Ideological, tribal, and sectarian factors keep them separate and that keeps the Al Saud happy. This division of the opposition is certain to continue.