Saudi Arabia’s Hold on the West : What Can You Do About it?
In March 2018, over 100 Russian diplomats in western countries were expelled back to Moscow following ‘the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of Sergei Skirpal, a former Russian intelligence official, and his daughter, Yulia’. More than twenty western allies including North America, Germany, France and Poland expelled these diplomats as a show of solidarity to the UK government. The mass expulsions showed Russia that the West would not tolerate the use of chemical warfare in the west and that there would be grave consequences for any further attempts of attacks such as the Skirpal poisonings. It is also worth mentioning that there has been no such reaction following chemical attacks in Syria which have ravaged 17 locations since 2013 . It’s a stark example of how in the eyes of Western governments, one Western body is considered worth more than hundreds of Syrian lives.
On 2nd October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a renowned journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi government was brutally murdered and supposedly dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia, after initially denying the death of the journalist, backtracked and revealed that Khashoggi had indeed been murdered. The West’s reaction? Not a single Saudi Arabian diplomat was expelled from the West. Despite a call for sanctions, the US and UK both acknowledged that they would not be ending arms deals or imposing harsh sanctions against the Saudi Kingdom.
So what’s the difference between the Skirpal case, that invoked a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats, and the Khashoggi case that ended in nothing but a bit of bad press for Saudi Arabia? Well, for a start, the former didn’t succeed. Mr Skirpal and Yulia survived the attacks, meanwhile, the latter resulted in the brutal death of a man who had been seeking asylum in another nation to protect himself against the Saudi regime. Secondly, Russia simply isn’t a significant trading partner in the West. In contrast, Saudi Arabia boasts lucrative arms deals that provides the US with a revenue of $3.4 billion, the UK with $436 million dollars and France with $27 million dollars. The fact is that whilst the Saudi Kingdom continues to be a key trading partner for Western powers, we won’t see real sanctions being imposed on the nation. The UK and US arms deals are directly killing innocent citizens in Yemen. A bomb supplied by the US killed scores of children, meanwhile reports have shown that British weapons have been used by the Saudi-led coalition to violate international law. Despite calls for the UK to halt arms deals with the Middle Eastern power, the government has insisted that such retaliations would be too detrimental to the UK’s relationship with a ‘key trading partner’, no matter how many people are dying at its hands.
While the US and UK governments are quick to condemn attacks committed by terror groups or less-important trade partners, they remain silent on the atrocities committed by the Saudi regime. Amnesty International reports that authorities in Saudi Arabia continue to ‘repress peaceful activists and dissidents, harassing writers, online commentators and others who exercised their right to freedom of expression by expressing views against government policies’. Despite the government’s promised reforms on women’s rights, women continue to need permission from a male guardian (their father, husband, brother, or son) to enrol in higher education, seek employment, travel or marry. Critics of the Saudi Kingdom face unimaginable punishments, as the case of Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison for using his liberal blog to criticise Saudi Arabia’s clerics. According to Human Rights Watch, in the first four months of 2018, the nation beheaded 48 people under the death penalty, more than half of which were for non-violent crimes. Saudi Arabia doesn’t even try to hide its human rights violations, atrocious criminal justice system and blatant misogyny against women.
What can we do at a local level to show our solidarity with the people who have to live with Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations on a daily basis?
We can write.
Write to your MPs, write articles, make videos and share them with everyone you know. Just like every other piece of news, the Khashoggi case is no longer in the headlines, and there is no widespread coverage of the atrocities being committed by the Saudi Arabian government. We can’t let the government think that we’ve forgotten. Or that we’re happy to supply weapons to a regime that continues to commit such heinous human rights violations.
If you live in the UK, here are some useful tips on how you can contact your MP and let them know how you feel: Contact your MP .
Article by VERVE Operative & Blogger Chanju Mwanza