The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 November 2007

Will Saudi Arabia ever change?

Stephen Browne of Rants and Raves talks to Dr Ali Alyami, head of the Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a US-based institution that hopes to change the rules in Riyadh.

The Center, it appears, has its work cut out for it:

"If you ask why women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia," Alyami said, "they will tell you, 'It is our religion.' But in reality it's politics and now it's becoming a big business for younger princes. If women are allowed to drive that would eliminate importations of millions of expatriate drivers who normally pay good money to middle men, princes, to get visas to work as drivers for Saudi families. The same for alcohol, the princes make money importing all the good liquor in Saudi. If it becomes legal, they would lose monopoly over the illegal trade."

And what do the Saudi royals want?

Dr Alyami said that the only agenda item the Saudi royals [have] is to stay in power, pure and simple. To that end they want to make Arabs and Muslims in general hated throughout the world. They hope that hatred will push them together and prevent their assimilation into modern, secular, tolerant society.

The Center's agenda:

Given its trenchant influence on 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide and its position in the world’s oil market, Saudi Arabia cannot be disregarded or surrendered to an absolute monarchy that encourages the oppression of women and religious minorities, and fosters domestic extremism and international terrorism. A constitutional, democratic government combined with the rule of law, is the best hope for the long term prosperity and unity of the people of Saudi Arabia. This prospect will give Saudi citizens a say in decisions that impact their daily lives and empower them to join the international community as respected equals. A democratized Saudi Arabia will no longer be an incubator for intolerance and terrorism; instead, the result will be a responsible, accountable and productive society, ruled by laws created by its members, not by leaders who invoke fear and resentment. This outcome is in the best interests of the Saudi people, the United States and all democratic societies.

So far, our politicians seem to be more or less evenly divided between "disregard" and "surrender."

Stephen Browne said he posted the interview at Rants and Raves "because there isn't a lot of interest elsewhere." Let's see if we can't stir up a little.

Posted at 8:00 AM to Political Science Fiction