by Zafar Bangash (Editor's Desk, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 12, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1434)
Since Saudi Arabia acts as America’s and indeed of the west’s cash cow, its crimes are habitually glossed over. The recent case of two university professors, imprisoned for merely asking that people’s human rights be respected, illustrates the point.
The US and Saudi Arabia are close allies and not merely for the huge amounts of oil the Saudis pump to grease the US economy. Since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Saudi Arabia has become even more critical to US strategic interests. Add to that the new alliance between the Saudis and Zionist Israel, and the picture becomes clear.
Another fact that binds Saudi Arabia to the US is that both keep large numbers of people in prison. Saudi Arabia may not match America’s 2.3 million prisoners as the Saudi population is only 28 million compared to the US, which has 330 million. There are at least 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi prisons where the conditions are appalling.
People have not called for the overthrow of the regime; they are only asking for some basic rights and to be able to have a say in how the country is governed. Such thoughts are considered heresy by the Wahhabi kingdom’s religious establishment that holds archaic views.
While Saudi Arabia allows some freedom on al-Arabiya satellite channel and al-Hayat newspaper (because these are watched or read mostly by people outside) those in the wretched kingdom continue to suffer imprisonment. Two leading human rights activists — both academics — were recently sentenced to long prison terms for no other crime than asking for basic rights. Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid were sentenced without evoking any response from Western governments or the numerous human rights organizations.