Saudi Arabia Prohibits Dissent
by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)
All despotic states prohibit dissent. So do fantasy democracies like Israel, intolerant of Palestinian speech, media and academic freedoms.
According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), Israeli occupation forces “carried out 375 attacks” on Palestinian journalists in 2017.
Over the last 10 years, over 18 Israeli violations against Palestinian media freedom occurred monthly on average – last year over one a day on average, a disturbing record unlikely matched anywhere worldwide.
In America, censorship is the new normal. Social media in cahoots with US dark forces increasingly want online content conflicting with the official narrative suppressed, a flagrant First Amendment violation.
Facebook purged around 800 pages, including some alternative media ones with millions of followers.
Clearly FB wants alternative views silenced, claiming it’s for “inauthentic behavior” the fabricated pretext used. Twitter targets alternative views the same way.
In Saudi Arabia, speech, media, academic, association, and public assembly freedoms are banned. The kingdom tolerates no criticism, including abroad at times – why journalist Jamal Khashoggi was abducted and murdered in Turkey.
Throughout its history, Saudi ruling authorities criminalized these fundamental freedoms, routinely imprisoning and at times assassinating critics.
Precise numbers are unknown because Riyadh suppresses them. Independent journalists, bloggers, human rights workers, Shia clerics opposed to extremist Wahhabism, and other dissidents are considered enemies of the state.
So-called Saudi counterterrorism regulations are used to suppress free political expression and dissent.
Last year, the kingdom imprisoned all founders of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights (human rights) Association (ACPRA). They’re serving long sentences for “sedition and giving inaccurate information to foreign media” – trumped up charges with no credibility.
Founded in 2009 by 11 human rights activists and academics in response to state-sponsored oppression, the group is now banned. So are similar ones.
Religious worship other than Islam is prohibited in the kingdom, Shia Muslims often persecuted.
Sharia is national law. No formal penal code exists. Prosecutors and judges can charge and convict targeted individuals for catch-all offenses like “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom.”
Women and children are treated as harshly as men. Judicial fairness is nonexistent. So-called courts are consistently rubber-stamp, enforcing hardline regime rule.
Sentences include public whippings and/or beheadings. Regime critics are often harshly detained for months or years uncharged and untried.
Forced confessions are obtained by torture. Individuals guilty of nothing usually say anything to stop pain harsh enough to cause death if continued too long.
Minority Shia face severe persecution, limiting their religious freedom, their right to work, and receive state services.
Shia activists face arrest, imprisonment, and at times death following rigged trials against them. See below.
In summer 2017, Saudi forces attacked Awamiya, a Shia town with an estimated 25,000 population.
Heavy weapons were used against defenseless civilians, parts of the town systematically destroyed, essentials to life cut off, unknown numbers disappeared or killed, many dispossessed and left homeless.
Prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr came from the area.
Targeted for his activism in 2014, he was beaten, shot, arrested, tortured, and denied vitally needed medical treatment for expressing his views freely.
Last year, he was executed for nonexistent sedition, authorities falsely claiming he was involved in “foreign meddling in (Saudi affairs), disobeying its rulers, and taking up arms against the security forces.”
Not a shred of evidence proved it. He justifiably criticized repressive Saudi rule, calling it “particularly reactionary.”
He opposed violence and “murder in the name of God.” He called for open, free and fair elections, advocating governance “based on justice and liberty” – entirely absent in the kingdom.
He publicly denounced Saudi oppression of Shia Muslims, enjoyed widespread popularity for his views, and was eliminated to silence him – part of Riyadh’s campaign to crush dissent.
Human rights defender Ali Shaaban was arrested and imprisoned for expressing solidarity with Awamiya residents.
Anyone supporting Iran or Syria risks public whippings, imprisonment or death.
According to Interior Ministry statements, Saudi authorities executed 138 individuals through early December last year, mostly by beheadings, often done publicly, a barbaric intimidation tactic to discourage dissent.
Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and murder nearly two weeks ago in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate caused an international uproar.
It disrupted but hasn’t changed longtime US/Saudi relations – not as long as its oil keeps flowing and tens of billions of dollars of kingdom wealth remains invested in US assets.
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