In light of Donald Trump’s recent executive order, which bans immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries, I immediately realized there was a specific country left off the list: Saudi Arabia. It is clear that Islamic extremism does take place within the countries Trump included on his banned list, but the fact of the matter is not a single person from the 7 countries named have caused a fatal terror attack on US soil in the past 30 years. However, Saudi Arabia has. It is a little-known fact that most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.
Not only is Saudi Arabia, commonly referred to as The Kingdom, explicitly tied to the worst terror attack in history, but also they unquestionably have one of the most brutal regimes in the entire world.
Saudi Arabia is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with a small percentage of the population identifying as Shiite Muslims. Approximately 10-15% of their population consists of Shiites. As an authoritarian government often does, they seek to suppress the minorities within their borders. The government expresses that Sunni worship must dominate the country and anything else is unacceptable and basically outlawed. This was particularly exemplified when the Saudi government executed prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr Al-Nimr. He played a large role in Shiite demonstrations during the Arab Spring in 2011. Shiites are also rarely awarded senior public sector jobs and seldom get permits for places they can practice their brand of Islam.
Shiites are not the only people the Saudis discriminate against; women are considered second-class citizens in The Kingdom and do not enjoy nearly the same rights as men do. Despite widespread condemnation from around the world, the government does not allow women to drive a car or wear clothes that “show off their beauty”. Moreover, female citizens in Saudi Arabia must limit the amount of interaction they have with men to whom they are not related and cannot use public swimming pools that are used by men.
Saudi Arabia may have the most extreme and cruel criminal justice system in the world since beheadings and torture are commonplace. In 2015, the government carried out a minimum of 157 executions with beheadings being the most common method of capital punishment. That marks Saudi Arabia’s highest number of beheadings in the past 20 years. Capital punishment is augmented in Saudi Arabia because judges have widespread discretion to rule on cases that are not defined in their interpretation of Islam. What this means is if the offense is not mentioned in their religion, then the judges have the authority to issue whatever punishment they deem necessary. This includes drug offenses and according to Amnesty International, 63 people had been executed for drug offenses throughout this time. Also, Human Rights Watch states of the estimated 157 people that were executed in 2015, 100 of the cases were based on judicial discretion. Cruel and unusual, is it not?
Now when it comes to torture, Saudi Arabia seems like a medieval country trapped in the modern era. Alleged criminals receive heinous punishments such as flogging and amputation. Consuming alcohol is forbidden in The Kingdom and when they get caught, the offenders are repeatedly subjected to lashings. In terms of amputations, during the period of 1981-1999, Amnesty International says an estimated 90 amputations took place although that figure is most likely higher.
All of those acts fall within the realm of domestic policy; I have not even talked about foreign policy yet. It is hard to make the argument that the Saudis are more brutal overseas than they are within their own borders, but the Yemen conflict makes it possible. Perhaps the most disregarded war in the world right now, Yemen has seen an average of 13 civilian deaths per day since the war broke out.
The total amount of civilian deaths is considered to be in excess of 3,000. This is primarily attributed to the Saudi government, who leads the coalition in the fight against the Houthi rebels. After former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted from power, the rebels took up arms to try and regain power. Subsequently, the Saudi government got involved and committed various travesties during their campaign. Before the Saudis began their campaign, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East; who would have thought the situation could get any worse. Unfortunately, it has. The Saudi-led coalition, which includes countries like the US and France, have been accused of committing war crimes and violating international law. Currently, 83% of Yemenis require humanitarian assistance and 2.5 million people have been displaced on top of the drastic amount of civilian casualties. Other countries in the coalition deserve part of the blame because they have agreed to enormous arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the past. For example, the US has given the Saudi government $35.7 billion in arms deals since 2013.
The case has been made for Saudi Arabia being one of the most brutal regimes in the world, especially in terms of modernized nations. Their basic disregard for human rights is stunning, yet the US is allies with them? Why could this be? We will save that for another time.
–Contributed by: Bobby Amendola