Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Faiza's Barometer for Change in Saudi Arabia

When I picked up the Sunday paper in my favorite coffee shop this past weekend, I had just had a discussion with an Iranian friend of mine about the state of civil liberties and human freedom in the Middle East. More specifically, we compared Saudi Arabia to Iran in terms of human rights, governance, and women's rights. I told him that I found it disturbing that Saudi Arabia where women are fully segregated; can not drive; can not share public spaces with men; and can not vote, receives docile criticism from the US when Iran where there is an electoral process (though circumvented by the ruling Mullahs) and where women are much less segregated; can drive; can share public spaces with men; and can vote is demonized and vilified continuously. We agreed that U.S. interests and American values are, after all, not as aligned as the president had claimed in his inaugural speech.

Not that we were exonerating the repressive regime in Iran by comparison to a more repressive regime. In fact, we both agreed that Iranians live under a theological tyranny that must be denounced for the decent and bright people of Persia to regain their freedom and dignity. But I was reminded by my reading of Alexis de Tocqueville that comparison is fundamental to all human thought; that comparison is, indeed, the methodological core of the scientific study of politics. So we compared Iran and Saudi Arabia and the more we did, the more agitated I became about the deafening silence on this side of the hemisphere about the cruelty of Saudi society.

My friend left and so I tried to relax myself by reading the paper. I came across an article on Saudi Arabia by Faiza Saleh Ambah and thought ‘how timely’. I must admit that it put my optimism about further Middle Eastern reform into perspective and as such I recommend that you too read this courageous and thoughtful article.

The Case The Saudis Can't Make (Click HERE for the full article)
By Faiza Saleh Ambah

"It's hard not to be intoxicated by the breeze of democracy wafting across the Middle East. An Arabian Spring, analysts call it, heralded by round-the-clock demonstrations in Lebanon, suffragists out on the streets in Kuwait, rare protests in Egypt, voting in Iraq and reform even here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where limited municipal elections are being held this year. But just as I'm about to get carried away by the spirit of hope, my mind stops, does a U-turn and returns to three men -- two academics and a poet -- who've been behind bars in Saudi Arabia for a year. Their case, and not the ballot box, has become my barometer for real change in the kingdom."


Blogger secretdubai said...

Thanks for your kind words in my blog. I will certainly be a regular reader of yours.

When I think of Iran recently, I cannot get out of my mind the girl in this story - also an Amnesty report here. I know this is just one of many similar horrors in Iran, but it really haunts me.

April 01, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

What a terrible story! The problem with human rights organizations is that they can't really enforce those rights.

April 02, 2005

Blogger Khalij-Khazar said...

What one of those fellows said: "lets nuke them from orbit", is even worse than the story itself.

These horrendous occurences are few and far between...Iranians, for the most part, have learned when and where to shut their mouths. This particular girl was bent on making a point, and unfortunately it didnt work out for her.

articles such as these do a good job of inflaming the hearts of people who want justice and peace on this planet, but they also blind us with anger and help spawn misdirected enegies.

For example, President Bush cited the movie "Osama" as a great portrayal of Middle Eastern Societies, and used it as an eventual justification for the United States involvement in the Middle East, when in fact movies are never a complete and accurate representation of complex processes of entire societies.

The same goes for articles such as this one...sometimes they do more good than bad for certain people who never learned to take things with a grain of salt.

Iran has undergone a tremendous change over the past 25 years. If the same type of accusations were brought against this girl 25 years ago, she would have been killed on the spot by people who arrested her.

Time heals all...Although it would seem Iran is caught in the stone age, it is unfair to make judgement of things from afar. So do the right thing and just chill

April 02, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Whereas I agree with you on the part that you can't get the full story from just one article, and you shouldn't judge the country by one incident, I think that particular situation is indeed worthy of condemnation. I agree that people should do a lot of research before coming to any conclusions, but unless we make ethical judgments, we cannot help other people.

April 04, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

SecretDubai: Glad to have you. Thanks for adding to the post with additional information on human rights violations.

Khalij: I agree with Irina's last comment. I also clearly see your point. Too much dramatizing obstructs people's view of other realities. It relies on the emotional as opposed to the rational. In fact, that is exactly why I wrote about comparing Saudi Arabia to Iran. Many people on this side of the Atlantic love to demonize Iran when Saudi Arabia (US ally) is without a doubt more repressive.

April 05, 2005

Blogger Khalij-Khazar said...

I agree with you Irina. As well as with you Jawad. What I wrote was a reaction to the fellow who wrote: "lets nuke them from oribit".
Unlike people who post on this forum, it seems the majority lack a rational capacity.
Newspaper columns and video are essential tools in learning the world and empowering people. It just gets frustrating when people improperly use them.

April 06, 2005


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