Friday, December 7, 2012

Lessons for the Rest of the Arab Autocratic Dynasties in the Gulf

CDHR’s Commentary: The ruling Al-Sabah Family of Kuwait is known as the least oppressive of the Gulf rulers. The family has also been throwing monies into people’s pockets, as well as into social programs, education, the health care system and even generous dowry stipends for decades. Politically and socially, the rulers of Kuwait are fairly liberal by the Gulf Arab standards. Obviously, these generous handouts and lenient ruling methods are not good enough for the Kuwaitis, especially the social media generation, as recent protests have shown.

People want the freedom to think for themselves and to rule their country in accordance with 21st century’s values: individual liberty, accountability, transparency and rule of law instead of family, religion and men’s rule. This is what the Bahraini people are fighting and dying for and soon the same will erupt in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Emirates. Unlike any other Arab country, violent unrest in Saudi Arabia will cause unimaginable bloodshed even by the Iraqi, Yemeni, Libyan and Syrian standards. This is due to the violent nature of the Saudi system, partially instigated by the rulers' claims of ownership over the country as well as unresolved tribal, religious and regional issues. This scenario can be averted, but time is running out.

Instead of focusing on buying sophisticated military hardware for billions of dollars, the Saudi ruling family should wake up and embark on extensive reforms such as elections of the Shura Consultative Council and local municipal councils by all Saudis, men and women, above the age of 18. They should also transform the judicial system by staffing courts with capable and well-versed people instead of religious judges. 

Ignoring the inevitable or continuing to buy their way out of trouble is not going to be enough for the Gulf rulers and what is happening in in Bahrain and Kuwait is a glaring lesson that should not be overlooked as people are forced into violence in order to obtain their legitimate rights. 

If the Saudi rulers continue to manipulate power and public wealth, they will find themselves in the same position that the rest of the Arab rulers have and still are facing. This position is exemplified by the recently installed Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, whose palace in Cairo is surrounded by demonstrators chanting “Erhal”, or “leave” in Arabic.. The Gulf ruling families' allies in the West should be advising their clients to change the course before they lose it all.

1 comment:

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