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Saudi Arabia and the Dawn of a New Radical Wahhabism

28 May

Alwaleed meets the Duke of Westminster

Recent events in Saudi Arabia have highlighted a growing abuse of human rights, increasing Islamic radicalism and a disgraceful treatment of foreign nationals. Even worse these events seem to provide evidence of a growing link between Western government and the Saudi regime, on the wider Middle Eastern foreign policy and guess what! Like normal they are unreported by the Western Press.

Western diplomacy and arming the Syrian opposition

On the 27th of May three interesting development’s happened in relation to the Syrian conflict. The U.S Senator John McCain travelled into Syria to visit the rebels, making him the highest ranked US official to travel into Syria. While, in Paris US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kerry commented that they are both “deeply committed” to a transitional government in Syria chosen by mutual consent. On the other hand, the European Union foreign ministers have agreed not to renew the union’s arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, giving EU nations the green light to arm the Syrian rebels. In one day the EU and America made leaps and bounds in their Middle Eastern policy of arming the rebels and toppling Assad.

However, beyond the high profile diplomatic meetings a less known and unreported diplomatic meeting happened the day before in Saudi Arabia. On the 26th of May Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, receives at his office in Riyadh Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster. The Saudi Gazette reported the meeting as being to “discussed the importance of the long-established Saudi-British relations, as well as regional and international developments.” We can only speculate on what the real reason for this meeting was. Nonetheless, the meeting of the two wealthiest and most powerful men in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, meeting only a day before the highest profile diplomatic meetings since the Syrian conflict began, makes Syria the most liable talking point.

It’s quite obvious to anyone that has followed the Syrian conflict that Saudi Arabia has been supplying the Syrian opposition since the conflict began. Alternatively the US has denied directly arming the Syrian rebels, while the EU has been blocked by the EU embargo. However, what is unclear is who is arming the Al-Nusra Front and other likeminded Islamic extremist. The US and EU have always ambiguously stated that the supplying of arms to the rebels, have resulted in some arms accident being transferred to radical Islamic groups. On the other hand, Iran and Russia have accused Saudi Arabia of directly arming and funding these groups.

The lifting of the EU arms embargo, following the diplomatic meeting between Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and Riyadh Gerald Grosvenor, could hint at a high level diplomatic meeting to persuade the Saudi regime to stop arming radical Islamic groups in Syria. In order to meet EU requirements of lifting the EU arms embargo, the UK would need to provide evidence that those arms are not going to be placed in the hands of radical Islamic groups operating in the region. We will probably never know the real reason and content, of this high profile diplomatic meeting. However, if this was a diplomatic effort to stop Saudi Arabia from arming radical fundamentalists in Syria, it will prove that the Saudi regime is violating human rights, responsible for war crimes and Western governments were aware of this violation.

Increased Conservatism in the Wahhabi Movement

In an article published by Amnesty International which reports a worrying rise in state executions. Amnesty International has recorded 47 state killings, following the recent execution of six reported murderers.

Five of the six men were Yemini nationals who were beheaded and ‘crucified’ in Jizan, while the remaining man, a Saudi, was executed in the south-western city of Abha. Crucifixion in Saudi Arabia is when the body, or head if beheaded, is placed on public display to act as a deterrent.

The penalty of execution in Saudi Arabia can be given for a variety of crimes including adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug smuggling, kidnapping, rape, witchcraft and sorcery. The five Yemini men were found guilty of forming an armed gang, armed robbery and the murder of a Saudi man.

Amnesty International reports that the 47 state killings has increased by 18 compared to last year’s number, and a rise of 29 compared to the same period in 2011. Out of the 47 executed at least 19 have been foreign nationals.
The Saudi Gazette reported this week that the general court in Riyadh sentenced two Asian housemaids to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for the practice of black magic. Both women were placed under arrest when their employer filed a complaint with the police, accusing the two women of using black magic to cause harm to his family members.

Earlier this year housemaid and Sri Lankan national, Rizana Nafeek was beheaded after losing her 8 year-long battle with the Saudi legal system. Nafeek was accused of strangling the 4-month-old-boy she was looking after, by her employee’s family, although she had always maintained the infant had accidentally choked on milk. The execution caused outrage in Sri Lanka and among international human rights organizations, for its brutality and illegality, yet was completely ignored in much western media. Nafeek was only a teenager herself, arriving in Saudi Arabia at the tender age of 17 on falsified papers to say she was 23, after being recruited by a recruitment agency.

The dramatic rise in Saudi executions, cruel inhumane punishment, superstitious prosecutions and increased persecution of foreign national, seems to hint that an ultra-conservative brand of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism has just got more conservative. With Wahhabi radicalism growing in Saudi Arabia and a violent sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Islam, spreading between the Fertile Crescent and the Iranian plateau, it is questionable how much the House of Saud is spreading its radical form of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam.

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