Week 4: Villain – King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

by George_East on January 25, 2015

This Week’s Villain of the Week is the King of Saudi Arabia who died this week

The death of the Saudi King, Abdullah bib Abdulaziz Al Saud at the age of 90 years old saw the welcome end to one of the world’s worst tyrants.   You can tell how bad he was by the fact that Tony Blair was one of the first out of the blocks in praising him (as a ‘great reformer’ no less) and the world fell about fawning over him, seemingly forgetting that his regime sentenced a blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes for the ‘crime’ of insulting Islam. A tweeter, Hamza Kashgari was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment for sending a tweet about the prophet in 2012.

Abdullah, who has ruled the Saudi Kingdom since 2005, was an absolute monarch. There can therefore be no question of pretending that what happens in Saudi Arabia was somehow nothing to do with him. And what happens is horrendous – public execution for offences as bizarre as sorcery; as well as moral ‘crimes’ like adultery (by stoning, no less) and homosexuality. When the Kingdom is not busy executing its citizens (and those of foreign countries) it is maiming and torturing those who depart from its strict interpretation of Sharia law.

As well as inflicting a brutal, authoritarian rule on his own people, Saudi Arabia under Abdullah also exported the most extreme versions of Sunni Islamism across the world, supporting and funding groups that are responsible for terrorism and repression across the Islamic world. The recent uprising of the Shiite majority in Bahrain was brought to a violent end by forces from Saudi Arabia.

Of course for Abdullah and the rest of the Saudi family the whole country is essentially a big personal piggy bank. Abdullah himself was estimated to be worth $18Bn from the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia.   Yet ordinary Saudis do not get so much as a sniff of a say in how the country is run – if you are a woman you aren’t even allowed to drive (and will be punished if you are caught doing so).

Unfortunately Abdullah (and his predecessors) was seen as a key ally and his brutality was indulged (and even facilitated through supply of weapons and torture instruments) by the West.   Unlike Saddam or Assad, he is, to quote John Foster Dulles, ‘our sonofabitch’.   The West’s support of the Saudi regime was always one of the clearest examples of the hypocrisy of its interventions in the middle east in the name of freedom and democracy (or Freem and Moxy, as Steve Bell memorably coined in the Bush years).

One can only hope that the death of the old tyrant Abdullah will lead to a re-evaluation of this relationship –I am not holding my breath.

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