Arabia Saudí

Despite the claims of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his enablers, Saudi Arabia is not rolling back the hard-line religious establishment. Instead, the kingdom is curtailing the voices of moderation that have historically combated extremism. Numerous Saudi activists, scholars and thinkers who have sought reform and opposed the forces of extremism and patriarchy have been arrested. Many of them face the death penalty.

Salman Alodah, my father, is a 61-year-old scholar of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, a reformist who argued for greater respect for human rights within Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran. His voice was heard widely, partly owing to his popularity as a public figure with 14 million followers on Twitter.…  Seguir leyendo » “My Father Faces the Death Penalty. This Is Justice in Saudi Arabia”

Jailed Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloul

On Thursday night, Mariah Carey will perform on stage in Saudi Arabia. This concert is a pathetic attempt to show that the country is becoming more tolerant toward women.

But there are many women languishing in Saudi prisons, simply for campaigning for the better treatment of women.

Some of them have been brutally tortured and sexually assaulted. One of these women is my sister, Loujain Alhathloul. As a fan of Carey’s work, I’d like to see her ask for the release of my sister while she is on stage.

After eight months of praying that she’d be released, I am here to tell her story.…  Seguir leyendo » “While my sister is in a Saudi jail, Mariah Carey could use her voice to help her”

As of this month, women in Saudi Arabia will be informed by text if their husbands are divorcing them. Prior to this technological update, husbands could divorce their wives without even notifying them. On its website, the Saudi Ministry of Justice claims that the measure will protect “the rights of female clients.”

However, the text is nothing but a symbolic technological advancement to mask a flourishing system that reinforces men’s ownership of women.

Even with a text notification, Saudi women’s marital rights remain largely the same: effectively non-existent. Knowledge of the divorce does not ensure the right to alimony or affect custody of children.…  Seguir leyendo » “Saudi Arabia’s ‘reforms’ aren’t really about empowering women”

Loujain al-Hathloul in 2014, when she took a widely-viewed video of herself as she drove from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.CreditLoujain Al-Hathloul/Loujain al-Hathloul, via Associated Press

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia on Sunday, he is expected to discuss Yemen, Iran and Syria and “seek an update on the status of the investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

I am struck by what is not included in Mr. Pompeo’s itinerary: the brave women activists of Saudi Arabia, who are being held in the kingdom’s prisons for seeking rights and dignity. Mr. Pompeo’s apathy is personal for me because one of the women detained, Loujain al-Hathloul, is my sister. She has worked relentlessly to earn Saudi women the right to drive.

I live in Brussels.…  Seguir leyendo » “My Sister Is in a Saudi Prison. Will Mike Pompeo Stay Silent?”

The tragedy of Fahad Albutairi and Loujain al-Hathloul

A couple years ago, when I was writing for “American Dad!,” I needed an Arabic speaker for a small part. Our casting director recommended a Saudi comedian named Fahad Albutairi, who happened to be in Los Angeles for a couple of months shooting a television show. I looked him up. He was the first Saudi stand-up comedian to appear on stage professionally in the kingdom, the “Jerry Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia.” He had a couple million Twitter followers. (He has none now; I’ll get to that.) He was, frankly, way more interesting than the part.

The day of the recording, I walked to the booth to meet Fahad and direct his session.…  Seguir leyendo » “The tragedy of Fahad Albutairi and Loujain al-Hathloul”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waits for the family photo during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last month.CreditCreditAndres Martinez Casares/Reuters

In November 2015, I spent a couple of weeks reporting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It had been less than two years since my last visit to the country and just 10 months since King Salman’s ascension to the throne, but the mood among local activists and intellectuals had darkened considerably. On my final evening, my friend Fahad al-Fahad, a marketing consultant and human rights activist, offered to take me on a tour that, he suggested, might help to explain the new atmosphere.

We drove to the Jaffali mosque, where, just outside, public beheadings are carried out, and where, earlier that year, Raif Badawi, another Saudi activist, had been flogged before hundreds of onlookers.…  Seguir leyendo » “The Saudi Regime’s Other Victims”

The murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, along with sharply deteriorating humanitarian conditions and growing media attention paid to the war in Yemen, has led to increased pressure on Saudi Arabia to end the war there.

Top U.S. officials are now calling on Riyadh to agree to a ceasefire and participate in U.N.-sponsored talks, and the Pentagon announced last Friday it would no longer provide in-air refueling for Saudi bombing runs. Meanwhile, Congress, led by the new Democratic majority in the House, is credibly threatening to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which countries such as Germany have already done. The growing pressure, a marked departure from the almost-unconditional support the Trump administration has been providing to the Saudis, has led to renewed hopes that the war might finally be brought to a negotiated end.…  Seguir leyendo » “Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has failed”

The rulers of Saudi Arabia derive much of their legitimacy and prestige in the Muslim world from their control and upkeep of the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba in Mecca and the mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Medina. King Salman, like the rulers before him, wears the title of the “Khadim al-Ḥaramayn al-Sharifayn,” which is translated as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” or, more precisely, “The Servant of the Two Noble Sanctuaries.”

Despite the humility of the royal title, the Saudi monarchy has a long history of exploiting the podium of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by using its imams to praise, sanctify and defend the rulers and their actions.…  Seguir leyendo » “Saudi Arabia Is Misusing Mecca”

Iran has long been a leader in the ugly industry of silencing journalists within and beyond its borders, but Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul earlier this month eclipses even Tehran’s depraved treatment of reporters.

Theoretically, the Saudis’ blunder could give Iran a rare opportunity to improve its international standing by correcting its abysmal record on free expression and distancing itself from the growing repression of the media by its Arab and Turkish neighbors.

Early indications, though, are that Iran is determined to continue its tradition of silencing reporters on the flimsiest charges. The detention of journalist Pouyan Khoshhal is the latest example.…  Seguir leyendo » “Iran and Saudi Arabia are vying to have the Middle East’s least free press”

On Oct. 23, three days after Saudi Arabia admitted that its agents had killed the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, headlined a session at an economic conference in Riyadh from which many Western politicians and executives had withdrawn.

In September, when Mr. Khan visited Saudi Arabia seeking aid for his battered economy, he left empty-handed. But last week, as global outrage intensified over Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called Mr. Khan, asking him to attend the conference. Mr. Khan accepted and returned with $6 billion in financial support from the kingdom.

Since Prince Mohammed’s rise to power, the Saudis have pursued a more aggressive and militarized foreign policy, but they have also fallen back on a tactic honed over decades — wielding their oil wealth to buy loyalty in the Arab world and beyond.…  Seguir leyendo » “How Saudi Arabia Wins Friends”

Khashoggi, el caleidoscopio

Es imposible no exaltarse por la desaparición de Jamal Khashoggi, ocurrida en Estambul el pasado 2 de octubre. Pero no sabemos por qué faceta abordarla, ya que es muy compleja y ofrece muchas lecciones. Empecemos por la torpeza de los asesinos: han acumulado tantos errores que nos parece asistir a una película fracasada. Pero estos errores son indicativos del régimen político que los envió a Estambul. Los dictadores, que no escuchan a nadie, son los más propensos a cometer errores: en 1804 Napoleón mandó secuestrar en Alemania al duque de Enghien al sospechar, equivocadamente, que conspiraba contra él. El secuestro despertó la indignación de los tribunales europeos, y Talleyrand, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Napoleón, le dijo: «Señor, más que un crimen, es un error».…  Seguir leyendo » “Khashoggi, el caleidoscopio”

La primera lección del alucinante caso Khashoggi es que la realidad tiene, definitivamente, más imaginación que la ficción. ¿Qué John le Carré, Somerset Maugham o Gérard de Villiers hubiera podido imaginar un escenario tan atroz e improbable? O, ¿en qué novela de espionaje se ha visto al soberano de un país con ambición mundial decapitar, en uno de sus consulados, a un opositor porque le estorbaba?

Y, qué decir de estas preguntas que nos acechan, porque, aunque son reales, parecerían un sinsentido en una película de terror: ¿Le cortaron los dedos antes que la cabeza?, ¿lo habían colgaron incluso antes?, ¿lo estrangularon?, ¿por cuánto tiempo gritó?, ¿lo hicieron, como se ha dicho, entre doce o quince personas?, ¿guardaron una grabación de sus gritos?, ¿se dieron estos placeres como el más cruel de los doce Césares de Suetonio?, ¿lo cortaron en rodajas o fue a tiras, como en El suplicio de los cien pedazos que tanto fascina a Georges Bataille?…  Seguir leyendo » “Las tres lecciones del asesinato de Khashoggi”

El brutal asesinato de Jamal Khashoggi, el periodista saudí que desapareció en el consulado de su país en Estambul hace dos semanas, ilustra, no ya la barbarie de Arabia Saudí (de sobra conocida), sino la desintegración moral de la Casa Blanca.

Desde la llegada de Donald Trump a la presidencia de Estados Unidos, los baremos éticos de la acción política en este país se han ido desplomando en la impunidad. Las acciones de Trump, fiel reflejo de su misoginia, racismo, desprecio y brutal ignorancia, se sustentan en el apoyo de su base de voto (ni siquiera mayoritaria, puesto que perdió las elecciones de 2016 por casi tres millones de votos y se impuso a su adversaria por la peculiar naturaleza del sistema norteamericano), blanca, de clase media-baja, patriotera, de ideología ultraderechista bastante primaria y afincada en el centro del país.…  Seguir leyendo » “Pax americana”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman posing for a selfie at a business conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday.CreditCreditBandar Al-Jaloud/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Oil is flowing again into the free markets of the world,” The New York Times declared in 1954 as Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, visited the United States. The previous year, a C.I.A.-backed coup had overthrown Iran’s elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and within a few years the C.I.A. would help found Savak, the shah’s diabolical security agency, responsible for the torture and disappearance of countless dissidents. According to The Times, however, Mossadegh was “where he belongs — in jail,” and Iran under its monarch was open to “new and auspicious horizons.”

The following year, The Atlantic Monthly hailed the shah as “an articulate and positive force,” summing up the tone of the American press coverage of a ruthless usurper decades before politicians, investors and journalists in the United States began to praise another oil-rich potentate and American ally: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who now stands accused of unspeakable crimes including the murder and dismemberment with a bone saw of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.…  Seguir leyendo » “The Enduring Fantasy of the Modernizing Autocrat”

We Must Stop Helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen

The likely assassination of the Saudi critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi underscores how urgent it has become for the United States to redefine our relationship with Saudi Arabia, and to show that the Saudis do not have a blank check to continue violating human rights.

One place we can start is by ending United States support for the war in Yemen. Not only has this war created a humanitarian disaster in one of the world’s poorest countries, but also American involvement in this war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional.

In March 2015, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates started a war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.…  Seguir leyendo » “Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop Helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen”

Donald Trump enalteció la promesa de ventas de armas al gobierno de Arabia Saudita durante una reunión con el príncipe heredero Mohamed bin Salmán, en marzo. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Hace unos días, el líder evangélico estadounidense Pat Robertson exhortó a Estados Unidos a no exaltarse tanto por la tortura y el asesinato de Jamal Khashoggi porque, dijo, no deberíamos arriesgar “100.000 millones de dólares en ventas de armas”. Me imagino que pretendía invocar un nuevo undécimo mandamiento que dice: “Por otra parte, justificarás cosas como matar y dar falso testimonio si quedan en riesgo los acuerdos de compraventa de armas”.

Bueno, no es noticia que la derecha religiosa se ha postrado a los pies de Donald Trump. No obstante, el intento de Trump de hacer de lado posibles represalias por los delitos sauditas con el argumento de que hay enormes recompensas económicas derivadas de seguir siendo amigos de los asesinos —así como la disposición de los aliados políticos del presidente para aceptar esta lógica— representa una nueva etapa en la degradación de Estados Unidos.…  Seguir leyendo » “Armas, dinero y hombres siniestros”

La estirpe de la casa de Saud

Anclada en la tradición beduina, dos hitos explican la historia de la Arabia Saudí contemporánea y el motivo por el que su régimen ha evitado el destino de otras dictaduras vecinas, pese a su contumaz violación de los derechos humanos. El primero acaeció en 1945 y tuvo como privilegiado escenario el portaviones Quincy. Recién apagada la Segunda Guerra Mundial, el entonces presidente estadounidense, Franklin D. Roosevelt, y el rey Abdalá Bin Abdelaziz, padre del actual monarca Salmán y abuelo del controvertido príncipe heredero, Mohamed Bin Salmán, firmaron un acuerdo parcialmente secreto que desde entonces ha sido respetado por todos los mandatarios norteamericanos, incluidos los más críticos, como Barack Obama.…  Seguir leyendo » “La estirpe de la casa de Saud”

Trump y la hidra de los tiranos asesinos

Cuenta Woodward en su último libro, significativamente titulado Fear, o sea ‘Miedo’, que durante las reuniones preparatorias del viaje oficial a Arabia Saudí, con el que Trump inició su política exterior, hubo un momento de estancamiento.

Que un presidente norteamericano eligiera Riad como su primer destino, tenía que tener rédito económico. Se hablaba de un megacontrato de venta de armas, pero los saudíes no movían su cifra de inversión.

“Voy a hacer una llamada telefónica”, dijo entonces Jared Kushner, yerno y asesor de Trump, al director para Oriente Medio del Consejo Nacional de Seguridad, Derek Harvey. Kushner marcó un número de Riad y habló con su “amigo” en la corte saudí.…  Seguir leyendo » “Trump y la hidra de los tiranos asesinos”

A protestor holds a picture of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate, on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the spring of 2012, I made an extended visit to Saudi Arabia to report on the effects of the Arab Spring there. The arch-conservative oil monarchy was pursuing a robust counter-revolution, but the uprisings had brought new energy to reformers across the region. I was curious to see how Saudis themselves saw their country’s future.

Among the many people I spoke with was Jamal Khashoggi, at the time an unusually well-connected journalist with an irrepressibly optimistic outlook. I also met the prominent reform cleric Salman al-Ouda, who had 14 million Twitter followers; Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the pro-Western billionaire investor; Hatoon al-Fassi, a brilliant historian who viewed the liberated women of pre-Islamic Arabia as a model for change in her own society; Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, a US-educated economics professor; Waleed Abu al-Khair, a Jeddah lawyer; and the young blogger Eman Fahad al-Nafjan.…  Seguir leyendo » “The Khashoggi Killing: America’s Part in a Saudi Horror”

As the fallout continues over the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the government in Riyadh is putting on a tough face. If there are sanctions over the alleged murder of Mr. Khashoggi, the Saudis want the world to know, they will fight back.

On Sunday, the Saudi government released a recalcitrant statement: “The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the Kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy and that the Kingdom’s economy is affected only by the impact of the global economy.”

These are empty threats.…  Seguir leyendo » “Saudi Arabia Has No Leverage”