Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Saudi Arabia - why do we let them get away with it?

You know the deal.You need urgent heart surgery but have to wait six months, but if you flash some cash somebody will say 'step this way, sir...and would you like to see some dirty pictures?' Money talks is what I'm saying, but it also stinks! And what pisses me off no end is the way that we, the British, and probably the Americans too, and 'the West' in general, are quite happy to let the Saudis do what the hell they like, just because we have 'lucrative deals' tied up with them in terms of arms and oil contracts.

The Saudi Arabian flag (note sword)
Alright, just because we trade with a country doesn't mean they have to do what we tell them to do; they are, after all, a sovereign nation in their own right and if they want to engage in awful practices, like beheadings and cutting off people's hands, that's up to them. Perhaps we shouldn't interfere, but the problem is we DO interfere and my argument is that if we're going to condemn some nations for their atrocious behaviour while turning a blind eye to others, that's plainly wrong and hypocritical.

We bleat loud enough about human rights abuses in parts of the world where we can afford to be critical, while painting ourselves as whiter than white. We're happy, for instance, to lie about 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq and so-called 'extraordinary rendition' in places like Libya, and, to be frank, we're clearly not as clean cut and morally superior as we make out. We went to war in Iraq on the back of a lie just so we could rebuild the place afterwards, and we turn a blind eye to what goes on in Saudi Arabia for one reason – business. As soon as the Saudis aren't important to us commercially, we'll probably end up bombing them on some spurious pretext cooked up alongside the Americans, but at the moment they can't put a foot wrong. Beheadings, the chopping off of limbs, even alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade  Centre in New York hasn't turned the West against the Saudis. They're untouchable!

I bet there are lots of people living in Saudi Arabia who disagree with the poor human rights record of the regime, but can't say anything because of the way things are – they're liable to have their limbs chopped off or be given 1,000 lashes and a long prison sentence for exhibiting dissent, like that blogger chappy. Conversely, we're all prepared to complain about Syria's President Assad, but in human rights terms, is the Syrian regime really any worse than that of the Saudis?

We can't afford to be selective with those we condemn for human rights abuses, basing our decision purely on commercialism along the lines of he can chop off heads and hands because he buys our guns, but if so and so does anything that might conflict with our contradictory take on human rights – let's face it, when the chips are down we're no angels – well, we must condemn, condemn, condemn! That word 'hypocrisy' comes up again and again and I really wish we'd just stop supporting any country that shows such disdain for human rights.

Prince Andrew loves the Saudis regardless of what they get up to. He knows perfectly well what's going on, but he chooses to ignore it for the sake of those aforementioned contracts. Incidentally, whatever happened to that American businessman? What's the latest on the court case and the allegations levelled at the Duke of Pork? It's all gone suspiciously quiet. Perhaps somebody's 'had a word'.

You might be wondering why I'm so angry. Well, it's because I've just read that a maid from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu has allegedly had her hand chopped off by her Saudi employer for complaining about her work conditions.

Kasthuri Munirathinam, a 55-year-old woman is now in hospital in Riyadh and the Indians, quite rightly, are 'much disturbed over the brutal manner in which (this) Indian lady has been treated'. Too right they're disturbed! Surely, if the allegations prove true, something ought to be done. At the very least the person concerned should be slammed in jail. Nothing is too harsh for people who feel they can cut off another person's hand.

But David Cameron has no intention of taking the Saudis to task (or the Chinese for that matter) – he wouldn't dare. Quite the contrary. Did anybody see an excellent interview by Channel 4 News? Jon Snow took Cameron to task on the UK's decision last November – you won't believe this – to back Saudi Arabia's membership of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations as long as they, Saudi Arabia, backed the UK's membership of the same organisation. Why? Surely it's a ridiculous notion that the Saudis could ever be considered part of such an organisation? It's a bit like Tony Blair being appointed Middle East Peace Envoy. Oh, hold on, he was appointed wasn't he? Equally, what nation would want Saudi Arabia's blessing on human rights issues. "Oh, they must have a clean record on human rights, Saudi Arabia said so!" Oh dear!

Cameron weedled and slime-balled his way out of the question – his greasy, spivvy, Private Walker, barnet reinforcing his slug-like intentions – by suggesting that the Saudis provided the UK with life-saving intelligence on terrorism. Oh, well, that's fine then! They can cut off as many hands as they like! Echoes of Blair's excuse for invading Iraq in a sense – faulty intelligence meant 'it wasn't the Government's fault if the intelligence was faulty' so don't blame them for invading Iraq, it was an 'accident'. Clever move, but an even bigger lie than 'weapons of mass destruction' in my view. In the Jon Snow interview, Cameron was coming at the same lie from a different angle. He was saying, 'let the Saudis be as evil as they like, we have no choice, they're saving lives!' He wants us to believe this so that, unhampered by protest, the Saudis can get on with their barbaric activities and we can continue selling them arms. It's all a case of creating a climate of fear among the general public: 45 minute warnings, weapons of mass destruction, our personal safety – our very lives no less – depend upon the Saudis... repeat and fade  .

But, as Snow quite rightly pointed out, the Saudis are also responsible for exporting terrorism. Remember that 9/11 allegation?

News reports claim that Munirathinam suffered a catalogue of abuse since taking up a post as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia three months ago, according to her family.

"Her right hand was chopped off by her employer when she tried to escape the daily harassment, torture and abysmal work conditions," her sister S Vijayakumari told AFP by phone from Tamil Nadu's capital Chennai.

Munirathinam had gone to Saudi Arabia to help pay off her family's debts and had been promised a monthly salary of around $180. But she wasn't paid, was barely given enough to eat and was not allowed to speak to her family, it is alleged.

Make no mistake, this is not an isolated incident. According to the same on-line report, hundreds of thousands of Indian migrants work in households in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Complaints about their treatment often make headlines back home. A video showing a male Indian worker being beaten by his Saudi employer went viral in September, sparking a widespread backlash on social media.

According to media reports, 'there was also widespread anger last month in India when the first secretary at the Saudi embassy left India under diplomatic immunity (what a sham!) having been accused of holding captive and raping two Nepalese maids in his home. Hunt him down! Throw him in jail! Throw away the key! Why is the Indian government so lenient with the Saudis?

We, the British and the Americans and the Western world in general, should make a stand on this sort of thing. There's no point moaning about Syria's President Assad or the bloke in charge of North Korea or Boko Haram or ISIS if we're cosying up to tyrants like the Saudis just to make a few bob. Notice also that the Saudis' little war in the Yemen is being largely ignored by the West (ultimately, of course, we're funding it through arms sales). Make a stand and don't let them get away with it!

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