Posts Tagged ‘Whipping’

Empire Files: Saudi Arabia’s History of Thuggery

January 17, 2016

Yesterday I put up a number of posts criticising and attacking Saudi Arabia and its brutal use of the death penalty, following the complaint of the Saudi Foreign Minister, al-Jubair, that the kingdom had an image problem because of it, and moaning that people should respect their use of the death penalty ‘Because it’s the law’. This is another, very informative, and grimly fascinating video discussing Saudi Arabia’s long history of repression, violence and brutality from its very foundation. The video’s from Empire Files, which is another news agency specialising in criticising and documenting the corruption and political oppression committed by the American Empire.

Presented by Abby Martin, the video begins with shots of the western great and good meeting and praising various Saudi royals, mentioning the country’s election to the UN Human Rights Council. It then goes on to discuss the Saudi use of public executions. Among the crimes liable to the death penalty are atheism and adultery. 43% of all executions are for non-violent drug offences. It also discusses the execution of Ali al-Nimr, a democracy protester, by crucifixion and beheading. These cases are judged in secret courts, and other punishments include amputation and whipping.

The programme also goes on to examine the almost complete absence of rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Despite having been given the right to vote, women in Saudi Arabia require the permission of male relatives or guardians to go to school, work or even receive medical treatment. They may also be punished for their own sexual assault. The video cites a rape case, where the victim received more lashes than her attackers. Women constitute only 17% of the Saudi work force. 77% of female graduates are unemployed.

The kingdom has also been actively clamping down and suppressing protesters and activists campaigning for democracy. Many of these have been arrested and tried in secret courts. The punishments include execution, or transferral to re-education centres. The attacks on democracy campaigners escalated after 9/11. Before hundreds were being arrested. Now it’s thousands. Furthermore, no civil rights organisations are allowed in the country.

The programme then moves on to describe the history of the kingdom. It’s an absolute monarchy, ruled by a single dynasty. The current king’s personal wealth is estimated at $18 billion. Despite the obscene wealth of its rulers, 20% of its population live in abject poverty, with a youth unemployment rate of 30%.

Thirty per cent of the country’s population is composed of migrant workers, who are virtually slaves due to the system of kafala, sponsorship, through which they are imported. The programme describes their exploitation, with 15 – 20 hour working days, maltreatment, confiscation of passports on arrival, and adverts for runaway labourers and domestic workers, similar to those for de jure slaves in the American West.

Martin then talks to the Saudi dissident, Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the Gulf Institute. Al-Ahmed states that part of the problem is that the country’s vast wealth is confined to the king, his relatives and cronies. The present king can in no way be described as a great reformer. He imprisoned his four daughters for 14 years, and to this day no-one knows what happened to them. The king is an absolute monarch. The Saudi parliament is only partially elected. It is also partly appointed, and wields no power. As for the judicial system, al-Ahmed describes it as medieval and tribal. It deliberately excludes women, blacks, ordinary people and the Shi’a. It is similar to ISIS. And the bond between Saudi Arabia, America and the West is money. Bill Clinton and George Bush have both visited Saudi Arabia, probably secretly looking for Saudi sponsorship for their election campaigns. Al-Ahmed states that this should be investigated by the FBI. It appears to be a case of the Saudis trying to buy off prospective American presidents in the aftermath of 9/11.

The kingdom itself was founded after 20 years of warfare and campaigning by Ibn Saud, who declared himself king in 1925. Ibn Saud was aided in his rise to power by a religious militia. These later revolted, and so Ibn Saud had them massacred. The conquest of what is now Saudi Arabia was complete by 1932. Ibn Saud tried, and failed, to conquer and incorporate what is now Yemen.

The Saudi family struck oil after World War I, and invited the Americans in to exploit it. The Americans were only too pleased, after having been shut out of the rest of the oilfields of the Middle East by the triumphant European colonial powers. The American oil company, Chevron, staked its claim to the Saudi oilfields in 1933. This resulted in the formation of Arab-American Oil – Aramco. Despite the name, Aramco was 100 per cent owned by the Americans. It is the property of four American oil companies, including Chevron and Mobil. These oil companies paid a small proportion of their profits to the Saudi royal family as royalties.

Italian bombing during the Second World War severely disrupted oil supplies. In 1943 President Roosevelt declared that the defence of the Saudi oilfields was a national priority. Two years later, in 1945, Roosevelt signed a treaty with the Saudis giving them American protection in exchange for oil. This was the start of the network of American army and naval based in the country. In 1953 15,000 or so oil workers went on strike, demanding a union. The monarchy responded by assassinating the leaders and promulgating a royal decree banning working class organisations. In 1962 a left-wing revolution broke out in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UK responded by supporting the royalist counterrevolution.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the West has not gone untroubled, however. There was a rift following the foundation of Israel. In response to Israeli victories during the Arab-Israeli wars, the Saudis launched their oil embargo, sparking the energy crisis of the 1970s. This did not, however, bother Nixon and Kissinger very much. If the worst came to the worst, they planned on bombing the kingdom in order to secure the vital supplies of oil. In the event, they didn’t need to take such drastic action. The Saudis were alarmed by the spread of Communism. So Nixon and Kissinger convinced the Saudis, along with the UAE, Qatar and Bahrein to back their war on Communism and specifically the conflict in Vietnam.

In the 1980s Saudi Arabia was the major backer of the Mujahideen. In 1979 there was a religious uprising in imitation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It was suppressed, and the 60 leaders executed. Saudi Shi’a were also attacked for celebrating a Shi’a religious festival. Following the killing of a student, there were mass demonstrations by the Shi’a, women’s organisations, the Communist party and the religious community. In retaliation, the Saudis deployed 20,000 soldiers, strafing the Shi’a communities with helicopter gunships. And Ronald Reagan pledged his support in suppressing any revolution. Saudi Arabia was, of course, the major American base in 1990 for the Gulf War.

The Saudis’ response to the Arab Spring was, predictably, also harsh. The regime issued a ban on all journalism that dared to question or criticise the monarchy, and the internet was subject to even heavier censorship. Saudi troops helped to crush the Arab Spring in neighbouring Bahrein. Despite this, people are still fighting and dying for their right to freedom in the east of Saudi Arabia. There was another uprising in 2013 following the shooting of another young person. Saudi Arabia has also responded to the threat by making massive purchases of arms. It is the biggest customer for American weapons, having bought $5.5 billion of them c. 2012. The kingdom is also a major financier of al-Qaeda and ISIS. This was admitted by Hillary Clinton in documents revealed by Wikileaks. They are estimated to have given $100 billion to terrorists.

They also had strong links to the 9/11 hijackers. 28 pages of the official inquiry into 9/11 remain classified, but the leader of the inquiry has stated that the material points to Saudi Arabia as a major funder. Nevertheless, the current crisis in the Middle East has alarmed them so much, that the Saudis have held secret meetings with Israel. The Saudis have also been active trying to suppress the rebellion in Yemen. So far, half of those killed have been civilians. Saudi arms have levelled the ancient and historic city of Sanaa, and there are cases where civilians and rescue workers have been attacked and killed.

This is a brutal, authoritarian and cruel absolute monarchy, responsible for the savage suppression of human rights and democracy throughout the Middle East. It is scandalous that the West continues to support this murderous regime, although not surprising given the vast profits from and the dependence of the West on Saudi oil, while western arms manufacturers make money from selling to them.

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Secular Talk on Saudi Arabia’s Use of the Death Penalty, even against the Children and the Disabled

January 16, 2016

Okay, this is another piece I thought should be put up in response to Mike’s post, over on Vox Political, about the Saudis’ complaint about the world’s reaction to their mass execution of 47 people last week. Their foreign minister, al-Jubair, complained that they have a bad image because of it. They’re right, but that’s only one reason. Other reasons include the almost complete lack of rights for women, freedom of belief and conscience, and other barbaric parts of their legal code, such as whipping and amputation. Oh yes, and their enslavement of foreign workers, although it is never called that.

But to go on, al-Jubair also complains that the world should respect the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, ‘because it’s the law’. They maintain that they don’t look down on Britain, because we don’t have the death penalty.

I don’t think that’s quite the whole reason, why they’re offended because we don’t respect them for their use of the death penalty. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state with shari’a law. My guess is that what really offends them is that the rest of the world hasn’t given their legal system the automatic respect they feel it deserves due to its religious basis. In Saudi Arabia, other religions apart from Wahhabism, even other forms of Islam, such as Shi’ism, are banned. Used to the automatic enforcement of respect for their religion in their home country, they’re annoyed and upset when the rest of the world doesn’t similarly acquiesce, and respect their legal code.

In this piece from the atheist news programme, Secular Talk from 2015, Kyle Kulinski discusses how the Saudis executed 102 people just that half year alone. This is up from the 127 people they executed in 2014. Those executed include children under 18 and the disabled. The crimes for which these people were killed included acts, which are not crimes in the West. Like adultery, apostasy, witchcraft and atheism. They also execute for crimes that aren’t considered so serious that they require the death penalty in the west, such as marijuana possession or smuggling.

Kulinski goes off at the end on a rant about how nonsensical Islam, and by implication, all religion is. I don’t share his atheism or secularism, and so don’t support his views in this part of the show. But apart from this, it makes excellent points about the injustice and brutality of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Kulinski, however, is not a hypocrite and makes it clear that he is opposed to the death penalty everywhere, including America. He states very clearly that Saudi Arabia should suffer the same kind of punishments that have been inflicted on other oppressive regimes, such as sanctions and the divestment of commercial interests.

Vox Political: Saudis Want Britain to Respect them for Executions, Because it’s the Law

January 16, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a report from the Independent, reporting that Adel al-Jubair, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, has given a press conference recognising that the kingdom has an image problem over its use of the death penalty. They criticise the West for its outrage over this, saying that their use of the death penalty should be respected because ‘it’s the law’. They also state that they don’t disrespect us for not having the death penalty’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/16/saudi-arabias-foreign-affairs-minister-urges-britain-to-respect-the-kingdoms-use-of-the-death-penalty/

Way back on 26th August 2014, The Young Turks did an item on their show commenting on the Saudi use of the death penalty. After first discussing ISIS’ beheading of a suspected informer, they remarked on how Daesh weren’t alone. Saudi Arabia also inflicted the death penalty. That month the state had executed 23 people, often for minor or trivial offences. Four men from the same family were killed for importing marijuana. Another man was executed because he practised ‘black magic sorcery’. And another man, who was mentally ill and suffered from auditory hallucinations, was also killed for drugs offences.

It’s unclear whether any of these people were actually guilty. It is common practice in Saudi Arabia to force confessions from the accused. In the case of the mentally ill man, the son states that it was he, who actually did the crime. He has been sentenced to 11 years or so and something like 1,000 lashes. When the family members complained to Amnesty International, they were threatened by the authorities.

The Turks’ quote Said Boumaha, Amnesty International’s deputy director in the Middle East, on the illegality of most executions, which take place far beyond the actual remit of the law. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading practitioners of the death penalty. It is the fourth on the list of countries with the most use of the death penalty. No. 3 was Iraq in 2012, #2 was Iran, and no. 1 was China. America was no. 5. They condemn the various miscarriages of justice which have sent innocent people to the chair or the gas chamber in America, including cases where the mentally subnormal have been killed. The Turks state that it is hypocritical for America to condemn atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, while refusing to condemn the Saudis for their use of the death penalty.

Here’s the video.

It isn’t just the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which appals and offends. Most Brits would probably vote to reinstate the death penalty if they could. This would be a mistake. There have been too many miscarriages of justice to ensure that it would only be the guilty, who would meet the hangman. Exonerating a person after their death does not bring them back, nor is it much comfort to their bereaved. As for it being a deterrent, Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman, stated that in his experience it had no deterrent value whatsoever. It was merely a state sanctioned form of revenge. He later changed his mind shortly before his death, but this observation – from the man, who actually did the job, deserves serious consideration.

What is particularly horrific about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is the medieval brutality of the executions. In the West since the Enlightenment, it’s been intended to be quick and painless. Hence the limitation of the methods of execution to hanging, electrocution and gassing. These can be horrific enough. There’s a film, starring Michael Caine as a attorney, which contains a scene in which his character explains just how horrific the electric chair can be. There are two electrodes, attached to the heart and the head. The shock from one stops the heart, while the other destroys the brain. If the electrode on the head works, but the other doesn’t, the result is a blubbering vegetable. Other results can include the executed man literally frying, and cases where the liver has shot out of the man’s body through the force of the electric shock.

As for hanging, before the invention in the 19th century of the ‘long drop’ method, which breaks the criminal’s neck, death was by strangulation. This was slow and agonising. Recent films set in the past, which have hanging scenes show the friends and family of the executed man running forward to grab his legs. This is actually historically accurate. They did so in order to put their weight on the man’s body to hasten his death. Other results of the asphyxiation was that the eyes would pop out, along with a tongue that would go black. The reasons why the condemned traditionally wore the black mask was not to save them from the terrible sight of the hangman and his tools in the last moments of their lives. It was to conceal their faces, with the hideous rictus of death, and stop it from scaring the crowds.

Execution in Saudi Arabia may be worse, much worse, than this. Their methods of putting someone to death include crucifixion and beheading. In the latter, the brain may live on several seconds or even moments afterwards, so the victim may well be conscious as their head separates from their body. And scientists have also suggested that it may be accompanied by excruciating pain.

And very little needs to be said about how horrific and barbaric crucifixion is. There’s a reason the Romans used it so much on their enemies: it was the most painful, drawn-out and humiliating form of execution they could devise.The victim dies from slow asphyxiation over hours or, in some cases, days. It was used on Spartacus and his followers, and by the Romans, when they conquered Palestine. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Romans put to death 19,000 Pharisees when they suppressed a Jewish revolt.

Given the rampant injustice in its application, and the sheer horrific nature of the means of carrying it out, I see absolutely no reason why anyone should respect the death penalty, whether in Britain, America, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the world.

CNN Interview with Female Former ISIS Fighter

April 7, 2015

Yesterday I put up a couple of videos from The Young Turks internet news show discussing the issue of young women and girls being lured away from their homes and families to join the genocides and butchers in ISIS. This has also happened in Britain, the most recent and notorious examples being the three girls from Bethnall Green in London, who fled to Syria. There was a brief feature about it on the One Show, where one of the Beeb’s female newsreaders discussed the possible reasons why some British girls would find it attractive. The Beeb is also screening a full length documentary on it some time this week.

This is another video, which also gives some insight into the lives of women joining ISIS. It’s an interview with a female defector from the terrorist outfit, broadcast by CNN. The woman is heavily veiled, her voice disguised, and given a pseudonym to protect her identity. She was a former junior school teacher, who became radicalised in the uprising against Assad in Syria. When it first broke out, she was very positive and optimistic, but then said she was drawn to a darker and more violent path when the country descended into civil war and the bombing and shooting started.

She states she was also drawn into the organisation through her love for a Tunisian man she met on the web. They travelled to Raqqah in Syria, where they were married. She also had a female cousin, who had already joined the al-Khansa women’s brigade. This cousin took her to meet the brigade’s leader, tall and fearsomely equipped with combat rifle, guns and dagger.

The woman says that she initially felt happy carrying a gun. It was new to her, she felt powerful, but she didn’t feel she was scaring anyone. Her job was to make sure that women obeyed the strict dress code. If they didn’t, they were punished. This could include whipping, and she was forced to do this. Eventually ISIS’ brutality was too much for her. She was especially upset by the image of crucified boy, who had been convicted of rape.

This last is a very interesting perspective, as there are many in this country, who’d applaud such a severe measure against rapists. However, it also shows the human cost on some of those meting such punishments out, and who have to live in a society where such judicial brutality is normal.

She also states that the brutality was not confined to criminals, but was also inflicted by ISIS members on their wives. She states that ISIS had an office in Raqqah, where they arranged marriages for their members. She was taken to this by the Tunisian she had met when they moved to the city. These marriages were not just arranged, sometimes they were forced. She states that most of ISIS’ fighters were foreign, and that they abused and brutalised the local people. They also beat and raped their wives. This could be so severe, that in one instance one of the women had to be taken to A & E at the local hospital because of the sexual violence.

Sick of ISIS, the interviewee decided to get out. She states that she wants to go back to the happy, carefree young woman she was before she joined.

This video is just the perspective of a very courageous and moral woman, who found the regime’s brutality too much to stomach, and took the extremely dangerous step of leaving. She may be just one of a small minority. As the BBC’s newsreader said on the One Show, very few of the girls recruited to ISIS are likely to come back, because they want to be there. The video made by French TV made the same point, when it showed French women in the chat rooms arguing with their parents, telling them that they weren’t going to return to France.

It does, however, show the reality of what joining the regime is actually like, and the cost it has on the humanity of its recruits. They are stripped of decent human compassion in order to become the obedient servants of a violent and pitiless regime. It is an organisation that treats the indigenous people of the area it conquers with contempt, and whose thuggery even extends to violence against the women it forces to marry its fighters. As I said in one of my articles, there are passages in the Qu’ran and Hadith where Mohammed encourages men to treat their wives well. However, an army of brutal, extremely violent men, who twist the Qu’ran to justify their mass murders, aren’t going to be too particular about observing these milder texts.