The Saud regime’s oppressive decree banning calls for reform, exposure of corruption or withdrawing allegiance from the king has had exactly the opposite effect. People are openly challenging the regime on YouTube and Facebook.
There is a limit to how much oppression people will tolerate. When they reach a critical point, they lose fear and stand up to challenge their oppressors regardless of the consequences. This is what is currently underway in the Arabian Peninsula (aka Saudi Arabia).
When the aging King Abdullah imposed a draconian decree (no. 44) banning calls for reforms in the kingdom or exposing corruption upon pain of prolonged imprisonment, the people’s reaction turned out to be exactly the opposite of what was anticipated. The regime thought people would be cowed into submission; they will not speak out against lack of representation, gross injustices, and massive clampdown on lawyers, academics and human rights activists demanding fundamental rights. Much to the chagrin of the regime, the decree has had exactly the opposite effect.
People have taken to posting videos on YouTube and messages on Facebook demanding fundamental rights. And they are not doing so anonymously. Instead, they are speaking out openly even displaying their identity cards to let everyone, especially the authorities, know who they are. Such postings have received millions of visitors and messages of support from within the Kingdom. This is definitely a new phenomenon, unheard of in the Kingdom where few people in the past wanted to confront the rulers so openly.
What has caused such open defiance of the House of Saud in the face of clear danger? It seems the latest decree proved to be the last straw; people have had enough of oppressive rules imposed on them by a family that has usurped the country’s wealth. It treats the country’s vast revenue from oil amounting to some $300 billion annually as a family fortune while ordinary people suffer economic, social and political deprivations. There is no judicial system to speak of; the whims of parochial judges pass for law. Often, the accused has no access to a defence lawyer. Even if one were permitted, the judges can do whatever they like. Most people are not even brought to court; they are simply thrown in jail after being arrested on the most flimsy of charges.
There are at least 30,000 political prisoners in the Kingdom. This number is rising fast as more people defy the oppressive laws, fearlessly demanding fundamental rights. Even as the regime’s oppressive tactics escalate, so does the people’s defiance. If this phenomenon continues — and all indications are that it would — soon there may not be enough space in prisons to detain all the people. What would the regime do then? Resorting to detaining people in open-air prisons may be a possibility but given the myriad problems the family-ruled kingdom faces, the situation is likely to become unmanageable soon.
There is also the problem of succession as the sons of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal Saud have reached the critical and vulnerable age bracket. They have no control over the biological clock. In recent years, several have gone to their graves; others are shuffling there. The next generation is waiting in the wings to take over but without an established mechanism of succession, the senior members of the family are very worried. And worried they should be. They can only blame their father for his irresponsible production policy but cannot reverse what has happened.
The Saudi regime has also badly miscalculated in Syria but it seems the more the problem gets complicated, the deeper the Saudis dig themselves into the hole. If they had sense, they would cut their losses and quit but sometimes people become blinded and lose all sense of reality. The regime has further complicated its situation by allowing thousands of mercenaries from the Kingdom to flood into Syria. It is also financing tens of thousands of mercenaries from around the world to go to Syria. As the Syrian government shows resilience and has managed to survive more than three years, the Saudi policy, backed by the US, Zionist Israel, Turkey and other troublemakers, lies in shambles. The battle-hardened Saudi mercenaries will return à la al-Qaeda of the 1990s posing a serious challenge to the regime if it survives until then.
The most serious dilemma for the Saudi regime is that the Americans have soured on them. Unlike the past — for instance, with al-Qaeda — Washington has little incentive to save the House of Saud anymore. The Americans may already have someone else lined up to take over from the old and decrepit Saudi family.
The worries gripping the House of Saud are real but there may be little it can do about them. History may finally have caught up with a regime that was an anachronism to begin with.
By: Zafar Bangash, Director of Canada-based Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought
Source: Crescent International