NRC Handelsblad featured recently an article about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his discontent about young Saudis travelling to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad.  Although King Abdullah would prefer to see Bashar al-Assad resigning rather sooner than later, he is afraid of the impact of Al-Qaeda-influenced interpretations of Islam which tend to be very close to the Saudi Wahhabi interpretation with the slight difference that Al-Qaeda does not approve of the Saudi royal dynasty. Therefore a new counterterrorism law has been implemented which allows to prosecute people who travel to Iraq or Syria to fight abroad. It seems as if Saudi royalty is getting nervous, as not only calls for democracy threaten their role, but even those of more conservative (or more violent?) Islamists.
In line with these fears is also the jailing of Shi’ite demonstrators in Qatif on the basis of the new law which allows Saudi authorities to detain anybody who sympathizes with the wrong group or that they “deem extremist”.
In addition, a convicted murderer was beheaded last week, as crimes such as “rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Sharia.”
According to Elham Manea, the suppression of women in Saudi Arabia is possible because the royal house gave the Wahhabi establishment a carte blanche to implement its conservative norms, especially concerning women, in exchange for its legitimacy. Thus, the religious leaders in Saudi Arabia (at least not the ones who have the power) are not criticising the royal house, because it allows them to implement (almost) freely whatever they wish to implement.
Jadaliyya posted an article about a petition by Arab intellectuals who want to free the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh from a Saudi prison where he has been detained two months ago due to the “complaint of a reader’s interpretation”. The charges against him are “insulting the Godly self and having long hair”.
News from KSA imply that the authoritarian regime is strengthening its grip on its people.
Prince Charles visited Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States last week; in Saudi Arabia he performed a sword dance at a cultural festival in Riyadh. Amnesty International had encouraged him to raise human rights issues during his Middle East tour, but there were no reports dealing with Prince Charles following this advice. Possibly that is due to royal solidarity? Instead, BAE systems, a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company managed to negotiate new prices for the 72 Eurofighters that KSA ordered in 2007. It can be assumed that Prince Charles was involved in this deal, as it was announced a day after his visit and also Andrew Smith, spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, stated that he is convinced that Prince Charles had been used by the British government and BAE as arms dealer. A spokesperson of Prince Charles insisted that the crown prince was not involved in this deal.