domingo, 1 de outubro de 2017

Reality check on Saudi Arabia lifting the ban on women driving

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a media-savvy man, and he has just pressed the button he knew would make headlines: Saudi women will be able to drive for the first time in the history of the kingdom.
And the act begat the headlines and the headlines begat a tweet from the President of the United States who himself begat a $110bn arms contract with the Saudis three months ago. And so it came to pass.
For 24 hours, the world was told about the lifting of the driving ban rather than the chopping-off of heads, the arrest of human rights activists and the horrific war in Yemen.
And even then, it transpires, it will be next summer before Saudi women can start driving their sports cars around Riyadh or taking their children to school – for one of the prominent campaigners has claimed that she for one will buy a Mustang.
First of all, a “commission” has to enquire into the lifting of the ban. But will it have the right to place restrictions on the new law? An age limit, perhaps? Married women only? For when a Saudi cleric said a week ago that women should not drive because they have “a quarter the brainpower of men”, there will surely be some limit to this new freedom.
There’s no doubt that Saudi Arabia needs some good news.
Its fury at Shiite Iran – where women have been driving for decades – has turned out to be just another Sunni-Shia hate campaign.
Its attempt to isolate Qatar is failing.
Its war in Yemen (10,000 dead; 40,000 wounded) is viewed with increasing distaste by the Saudis, let alone by the Yemenis themselves whose country’s destruction has led to a cholera epidemic and whose destitution means that more than half the population live in poverty; and who cannot dream of feeding their children, let alone buying a Mustang. Many Saudis have Yemeni origins – remember the bin Ladens? – and the country’s Shiite minority are against the bombing of their fellow Shiite Houthis in Yemen.
But since the West adopted the women of Saudi Arabia’s cause in their desire to drive, the lifting of the ban must be regarded as a giant publicity step forward in human rights, for women’s equality in the Islamic world, and for Saudi Arabia’s “progress” in the Gulf – albeit that every other Arab country in the region has allowed women to drive cars for years.
King Salman, of course, signs the decree; but we know that the Crown Prince is behind all this, just as he was behind the ambitious new economic plan to move away from the world’s oil “greed”, which has even now been watered down by Saudi officials, its ambitions extended in time or abandoned altogether. Many oil analysts fear that Saudi oil reserves are not as large as the kingdom says; that Iran’s oil reserves may be underestimated; that even Syria’s may be higher than believed, especially if the Mediterranean coast is tapped.
In law, too, women in Saudi Arabia are still subject to the rule of their menfolk. Lifting a driving ban will not damage a patriarchal society whose very Sunni faith is dominated by the puritan teachings of Abdul Wahab, the 18th-century aesthete who formed an alliance with the House of Saud.
Like all immensely wealthy states, Saudi Arabia could be capable of enormous good in the world. But Yemeni wars, feuds with Iran, medieval laws and an orgy of Islamic school-building – let alone an orgy of American arms-buying – are no way to achieve this.
If the Crown Prince had spent more time reflecting on the development of the rest of his Arab neighbours, on humanist education and justice for the people of the region (Palestinians, Kurds, Iraqis, yes, and Syrians too), then he might reflect what Saudi Arabia is entitled to do in the Middle East to establish its place in history.
A new museum dedicated to Abdul Wahab has opened in Riyadh. Women are no doubt welcome. But they may not choose to drive into the museum car park on their own. Besides, they have to wait until next summer – and it took only three months to dilute the Crown Prince’s economic plan this year.


If you are in London this Fall, go to the Young Vic Theater to see:

Following last Tuesday's lethal attack by a Palestinian worker on Israeli soldiers in the West Bank Zionist colony of Har Adar, there have been disagreements between the Israeli government and the IDF (Israeli occupation forces) over what measures should be taken to reduce the number of such attacks and whether steps should include the collective punishment of Palestinians. As if Israel has never yet used collective punishment.
It would be laughable if the the main tool for collective punishment - preventing Palestinian workers from entering Israel - wasn't so tragic. Or in harsher terms, it is another step toward separation, closure, and isolation. Which is certainly not a new concept for Israel.
Let's not forget that the millions who for years have been under siege in Gaza and who are subject to the whims of the Israeli government, whether it is a war with thousands of casualties, disconnecting the Strip from electricity, forbidding the entry of electrical equipment or the exit of the sick are victims of collective punishment, which is forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
And for decades Palestinians in the West Bank have been living under a permit regime in which Israel decides who will be able to travel where and when. He ignores the mass arrests; the checkpoints and closures; and the cinder blocks and and makeshift checkpoints in East Jerusalem and the West Bank — perhaps because all of this has become routine for non-Jews.
And let’s remember the fact that following every act of violence by a Palestinian, the Israeli occupation army immediately puts his village or town under closure. His family members have their permits revoked, their homes are demolished, and their residency rights are subject to revocation.
One cannot suppress a popular uprising for more than seven decades and maintain a military occupation for 50 years without collective punishment.
Although the Israeli army has been playing the role of the “responsible adult” over the past few years — as the sole voice tempering the nationalistic bombast of the political échelons — let's not kid ourselves, in reality the IDF remains the central body that protects the Jewish illegal settlers and maintains the occupation.
There is no doubt that the decision to revoke work permits from tens of thousands of Palestinians will be a drastic step. But like we have learned for almost 70 years, Israel has many sticks and very few carrots up its sleeve, and it does not hesitate to use them.

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário