Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Questions concerning the demonstrations in Saudi Arabia | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Did the call for demonstrations in Saudi Arabia fail to convince the people? Yes. Was the main reason that people rejected this call based on fear of the security forces? No. Did the refusal to demonstrate mean that there are no popular demands and no important observations of the government’s performance? Of course not. What about the young men who were behind the movements and major changes in several Arab countries, have their Saudi counterparts realized their ambitions or the majority of them to the degree that they rejected the call to take part in these demonstrations? No. Did their refusal to take part this time mean that they will reject this call every time? Not necessarily. Does the rejection of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins mean that the popular belief is that this is not the only way to make their voices heard and to achieve demands and to develop government performance and fight corruption. Yes. Would the government be wrong if it slowed down the process of fixing financial and administrative corruption and solving the main problems concerning the youth as a result of relying on the popular refusal to demonstrate? Yes. Were the religious scholars – whether they belonged to the Council of Senior Ulama or any other government body – the only ones who warned the Saudi population against demonstrating? No. Were there some preachers among those who warned against demonstrating who were themselves at odds with the state once upon a time? Yes. Did the government force them [to issue] these warnings? No. Did the government even suggest that they warn [the people] against demonstrating? No. Did any of those preachers who stood firm against those demonstrations and sit-ins sign statements and raise the level of demands to a degree that disturbed the government? Yes. Isn’t this considered a contradiction? No. Those who do not sympathize with these positions do not understand the structure of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled in Saudi Arabia.

Therefore it is not appropriate to look at what happened in Tunisia or Egypt and other Arab countries going through change and applying the “cut and paste” method. Whoever says that every Arab country is different is not lying. The strongest evidence of this is what is happening in Libya and what happened on the island of Bahrain as the circumstances and the givens, the situations, the structures and the capacities of the peoples, and the types of governments and their references make up a complex mixture thus making every Arab country individual. It is just like the doctors who are strict with their patients about not taking medication that is prescribed to another patient, unless they are given an approved prescription, even if they suffer from the same illness or share similar symptoms. Those who suffer from heart problems do not all require the same operation of opening the chest, bloodletting a vein, and cutting nerves and flesh. A catheter is sometimes a successful solution and if the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan and Yemeni peoples were forced to open the chest then the majority of Saudis proved last Friday that the “heart” of their country does not require major surgery, which comes with its own risks and complex calculations. They are still waging on [the idea] that a small catheter will eliminate the deposits of corruption that have clung to the veins of the heart of the kingdom and this is more than enough.

I believe that the next step (which is the most important) is for the Saudi government to reward its people, and the youth in particular, for the noble position they took last Friday in rejecting the call for demonstrations. It would be better if this reward does not come in the form of an improvement to the financial conditions only but [there should also be] bold and tangible reform steps regarding strengthening the principle of transparency and accountability. The best reforms are those that come in response to the beauty of the people who demonstrated their loyalty in difficult times and not as a result of pressure exerted through demonstrations, marches and arm twisting to the degree that it is broken, which is what happened in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria.