Saudi Arabia

The Brownnose in the Middle East

The relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East has been turbulent at best. Many Arab nations reject western ways and blame westerners for part of the instability in the Middle East. Within the international arena the U.S. and Saudi Arabian relationship is of interest. One might think that due to the 9/11 attacks that the relationship between these two countries might have become strained (due to 15 of the 19 terrorists being of Saudi decent), however each country is committed to a strong diplomatic relationship.

According to the U.S. Department of State website the U.S. and Saudi Arabia ‘share common concerns and consult closely on wide range of regional and global issues’ and have done so since the 1940’s. One of the main factors of this ‘strong’ relationship is the oil exports out of Saudi Arabia. These two countries have both supported major offensive action against al-Qaeda terrorist cells in Yemen and also supplied arms to Syria. In recent events the Saudi government is pushing the U.S. to intervene in the Syrian war, as Arab intervention has so far failed to ascertain positive results.

The activities of the U.S. in relation to Saudi Arabia is very, for lack of a better term, ‘kiss-arse’. In the past decade the U.S has bowed down to Saudi social and political discrepancies. For example, President Bush and top congressional leaders in 1990 visited the American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia during Thanksgiving. President Bush intended to say grace before a Thanksgiving dinner, however the Saudi’s objected (as there is only one religion in Saudi Arabia: Islam) and Bush and his party instead celebrated on the U.S.S Durham, which was sitting in international waters. A further example of just how far the U.S. is willing to go to accommodate the Saudi international guests was evident during 2002, when Crown Prince Abdallah travelled across America to visit President Bush. The Crown Prince demanded that at the airport there should be no females on the ramp, no female cabin crew and no female air traffic controllers, however the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the State Department both deny that such a request was made. While both these examples have been subjected to the media’s scrutiny, they do illuminate the measures that the American government is willing to take in order to maintain their relationship with Saudi Arabia.

In recent events the Saudi government has had cause for concern. In the past both governments have had diverse views on numerous issues within the Middle East, however recent disagreement over Iran and Syria have caused Saudi Arabia to become weary of the U.S. and a possible ‘hidden’ agenda. Fearing that Washington is preparing a ‘bargain’ with Iran in relation to the nuclear program and that the U.S. intervention into Syria is taking too long, relations between the two countries have become somewhat structurally unstable.

However despite these issues and tensions the relationship between these two countries is likely to continue as it is due to neither having a better alternative partner.

 

U.S./Saudi relationship in a nutshell

(While there are many more examples and case studies that I could have included, the main notion that I wanted to express it that these two countries have a symbiotic relationship and as such the issue of the 9/11 Saudi terrorists has been swept under the rug in place of larger economic relations. The U.S. seems to do little to upset Saudi Arabia and is willing to cater to their every need.)

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Hocus Pocus in Saudi Arabia

In a country that demands strict adherence to Sharia Law, any unfamiliar religious or folk law customs are seen as acts of sorcery or witchcraft. The severity of this issue is highlighted when in 2009 the Saudi government created a special Anti-Witchcraft Unit, which specifically deals with alleged witches.

One of the difficulties of this issue is the interpretation of ‘witchcraft’ through Sharia law. Wahhabism (a dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia) deems witchcraft as a slight to the teachings of the Quran. The Quran itself, touches upon the issue of witches, described as unseen spirits (jinn) and powerful darker forces: “I take refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak, from the evil he has created, from the evil of the darkness as it spreads, from the evil of those who blow on knots, and from the evil of the envious”. Religious clerics preside over trials such as those of witchcraft, and apply the interpretations of the Quran in context to the crime. In the case of accusing one of witchcraft, a witness is needed as well as the ‘magical’ artifact/s within the accused’s possession.

The severity of this issue is further demonstrated through the deaths, usually beheadings as per Sharia law, of numerous foreign domestic workers. Women from countries such as Indonesia, Africa, and Sri Lanka have been convicted of witchcraft and practicing sorcery and await death sentences. Human Rights Watch activists have stated that many women who have been accused of witchcraft are those who have made formal complaints to agencies against their employers; thus the counter-claims of witchcraft. These complaints range from beating to rape and highlight the lack of foreign domestic rights. While a treaty has recently been signed by the Saudi government, the rights of a foreign domestic worker is very basic. For example, under the new law workers are entitled to:

  • An agreed monthly salary (approx. $400)
  • Suitable accommodations
  • 9hrs of rest per day
  • Paid sick leave
  • One month paid vacation after two years of service.

Yet according to Labor Minister Adel Faqih, workers “do not have the right to reject a work, or leave a job, without a valid reason”.  A clear indication that while workers have some rights, they are still only very basic rights.

In addition, the aforementioned comments do nothing to illuminate the sheer scale of such a matter. Organizations such as Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and Migrant Care, work tirelessly to prevent such atrocities, however this issue is far reaching, and is not limited to the Muslim world, or even just Saudi Arabia, or for that matter to only women and domestic workers. Cases of those accused of witchcraft have been found all over the world and will most likely continue to be due to various superstitious beliefs.

Woman beheaded for witchcraft