Amazingly, Saudi Arabia will allow women to start driving cars as from June, 2018. It is a complete revolution, because it means women drivers may not wear the veil, while driving.
The country is also taking the amazing step of allowing women to go to the sport stadium from 2018. Three stadia in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah are being configured for this rarity.
When I was in the International Labour Organisation Governing Body, there were constant complaints against Saudi Arabia violating all known labour laws against migrant workers. They, at a time, simply sacked or deported tens of thousands, especially Indians, Filipinos, Ethiopians and Pakistanis, without paying them backlog of salaries. In one operation, after rounding up migrant workers for deportation without salaries, the Saudis simply forgot them for days, leaving them stranded without water or food.
Many do not sanction capital punishment, but for the Saudis, it is a way of life. A human being can be beheaded for a sundry of reasons, including murder, treason, espionage and rape. But there are others like apostasy and blasphemy. If you are an atheist, and so disclose, your head is severed. It is difficult to prove sorcery and witchcraft, but if a person is in possession of talisman, according to the Saudis, he is guilty, and a candidate for execution.
Execution is primarily, beheading with a sword called ‘Sulthan’ and the most infamous star in that art is Muhammad Saad al-Beshi, who described his first execution in 1998: “The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword, I severed his head. It rolled metres away...People are amazed how fast (the sword) can separate the head from the body.”
Its manner of fighting corruption is also novel. Last month, it simply rounded up 208 rich Princes, ministers and businessmen, packed them in the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel and told them to release 70 percent of their wealth in order to regain their freedom. On November 28, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the powerful 65-year old son of late King Abdullah, checked out of the five-star hotel after a three-week stay; the bill he agreed to pay the state was $1Billion. I remember him as the Saudi Minister of the National Guard, who rolled troops to repress the 2011 popular ‘Arab spring Uprising’ in Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia cannot but charm the world with its unique style. Until now, what happened to Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, when he visited that country last month, remains a mystery. Hariri had on November 4, gone on television in Riyadh to announce his resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon. Hariri, whose father, Rafik, was assassinated in a car bomb in 2005, claimed his decision was based on his suspicion of a plot to assassinate him.
First, it was strange that the leader of a country would on a visit to another nation, resign, in fact, resign on air. It would have been less puzzling if Hariri had then sought political asylum. But he did not; rather, he denied claims that he was actually in detention or had been forced by his hosts to resign. It was difficult to fault Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah’s claim that the Saudis forced Hariri to resign.
As this drama played out, it was announced that Hariri had accepted an offer by youthful French President Emmanuel Macron to visit Paris. He left for France, then Lebanon, where he said his resignation had been rejected by President Michel Aoun; so he was resuming as Prime Minister.
Nobody is talking about crimes against humanity because the Saudis have powerful friends in the United Nations and the “international community’. Many want a slice of the huge Saudi arms budget. When American President Donald Trump visited Riyadh this May, he smiled home with a $350 Billion arms contract for his country
That is not the only Saudi international maneuvering in recent weeks. Its known policy is not to ally with Israel until that country withdraws from the Arab lands it seized in 1967 and allows an independent Palestinian State. So, the world would have been dazed when the Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, disclosed that Israel had held covert meetings with Saudi Arabia on how to jointly fight Iran. There is no love lost between Saudi Arabia ,which sees itself as the custodian of the Sunni Movement, and Iran, which sees itself as the guardian of the Shiite Movement. So, can this be the policy of ‘My enemy’s enemy, is my friend’? It should come as a surprise that a Muslim country is working out an alliance with a Jewish state to attack a sister Muslim country.
Saudi Arabia does not waste time rolling out its military might to achieve political goals. For this, it invaded Bahrain in 1994, and when there was a popular revolt against the Al-Khalifa Monarchy, Saudi Arabia on March 14, 2011, again invaded Bahrain and crushed the protests.
But it is in Yemen that Saudi Arabia has most displayed it its military prowess. There had been an uprising against the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A combination of Houthi rebels and Yemeni military loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had removed Hadi. An angry Saudi Arabia fell on Yemen, bombing large parts into near extinction. Everything is game to the Saudi bombers, which first obliterated schools and hospitals, then turned its fury on any gathering; markets, weddings, even funerals. It also imposed a blockade. Over 12,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed. Also, 3.3 million children and nursing mothers are suffering from acute malnutrition, and cholera is rampant, yet Saudi Arabia and its allies will not relent. The cemeteries are over-flowing so much that a good foreign investment in Yemen would be the building of new cemeteries.
Nobody is talking about crimes against humanity because the Saudis have powerful friends in the United Nations and the “international community’. Many want a slice of the huge Saudi arms budget. When American President Donald Trump visited Riyadh this May, he smiled home with a $350 billion arms contract for his country. With this, it was not difficult to get America to endorse Saudi Arabia’s illegal blockade and sanctions against tiny Qatar, who was told to either accept a 13-Point Saudi Demand, including the closure of Al Jazeera, or face annihilation.
Perhaps only the Basir al-Assad government in Syria has been able to checkmate Saudi Arabia, which, with its allies, had established, trained and funded terrorist forces like the Islamic State (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front, to seize Syria.
Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are.
•Lakemfa, a labour union activist, his former Secretary General of the Nigeria Labour Congress