Author and renowned campaigner for peace and human rights, Medea Benjamin, has published her latest book which examines the origins, modus operandi and foreign policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: one of the world’s most puritanical regimes and one of the last remaining absolute monarchies. Benjamin explains how the state came to be founded through to its present day aggressive foreign policy, exemplified by Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen and its support for Syrian terrorists, alongside its dismal human rights record. She shows how although many of the nation’s citizens live in a state that severely curbs their civil liberties, the rights of women, migrant workers, and religious and ethnic minorities are disproportionately debased. Despite some recent minor and mostly cosmetic increases in personal freedoms, Saudi Arabia continues to have one of the world’s worst human rights records.
The book’s short chapters, each focusing on a certain aspect of the Kingdom, provide a much needed illumination of the practices of an autocracy whose injustices are frequently ignored by our media or glossed over by the same Western leaders who are quick to condemn the human rights record of any other nation unwilling to comply with their political agenda.
One of Benjamin’s most fascinating chapters explains how Wahhabism, a doctrine that inspires terror attacks by Islamist extremists , was formulated by a fanatical 18th century cleric whose ideas remained marginalised until he received the patronage of the Al-Saud tribe, the Kingdom’s future rulers, in exchange for his unconditional support for the dynasty. As the nation came into being and found itself in possession of oil rich lands, Saudi Arabia’s religious-industrial complex was further strengthened through an alliance with the USA and the support of its military-industrial complex. A close and curious relationship thus blossomed between the land of the free and the kingdom of the unjust, for the mutual benefit of both.
Despite the Al-Saud regime’s apparently unwavering control over their oil rich nation, Benjamin shows how recent plunges in the price of this fossil fuel, alongside increased consumption in the wake of a rising population, are starting to undermine the stability of their despotic rule. How long this anachronistic autocracy can cling onto power remains an open question.
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek