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Opinion: The US alliance with Saudi Arabia reveals their true stance on human rights

The sad truth is that the enemies of the western powers look pretty good when compared to our close friends in Saudi, writes Diarmuid Pepper.

Diarmuid Pepper

IN LATE JANUARY the pop singer Mariah Carey performed a concert in Saudi Arabia.

Carey, according to her own self-promotion, is a ‘feminist role model’ who is taking a stand by helping other women to take down misogynists online.

It is a pity that she never spared a thought for the jailed Saudi activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, when she visited the kingdom.

Before being dismembered by the Saudi regime, the murdered journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, called for the release of 29-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul and other female activists – who were imprisoned and tortured for seeking permission from the regime for women to be allowed to drive.

Prior to granting women the right to drive, Saudi Arabia imprisoned several of the female activists who lead the campaign.

In the weeks running up to Carey’s performance, the New York Times ran an op-ed by  Loujain’s sister, Lina Al-Hathloul. 

She revealed that the activist was “held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder.”

Loujain Al-Hathoul is still in jail in Saudi Arabia – she is a real feminist role model and worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

A call from Carey for her release would have drawn massive international attention to the plight of the campaigners but despite tweets from Loujain’s family, the ‘feminist role model’ Carey chose not to make a public statement.

Here in Ireland, we must no longer remain silent, as Saudi Arabia jails and tortures non-violent female activists, dismembers journalists and bombs Yemen to the brink of a biblical famine.

Jamal Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia because of his profession. Khashoggi was critical of the Saudi government, particularly of their inhumane treatment of female activists and the war in Yemen.

But Saudi Arabia buys most of its weaponry, which it uses to bomb Yemen, from America and Britain. The UK has sold around £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began.

That country is now grappling with the most pressing humanitarian crisis imaginable; around 10 million Yemenis are on the verge starvation and the country faces the worst famine in living memory.

Theresa May likes to play up to the fact that she’s a vicar’s daughter. If only she would mull over the life and words of the pacifist Jesus Christ before sanctioning yet more arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Back in 2016, May rationalised the unjustifiable – by claiming that the UK’s close ties with Saudi Arabia “keep people on the streets of Britain safe.”

Stateside, her American counterpart Donald Trump is a little bit more honest about the bottom line.

Trump provided a degree of clarity when asked if he would consider sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the gruesome execution of Khashoggi, saying:  “I don’t like stopping an investment of $110 billion in the United States.”

Saudi Arabia’s war on journalists and Trump’s indifference to it ought to send a chill down the spine of the free press.

Khashoggi sought refuge in America where the President routinely labels the press “the enemy of the people.” He was then dismembered with a bone saw in Turkey – a country which jails more journalists than any other nation.

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Perhaps it is unsurprising that under Trump US military advisors continue to assist the Saudi assault on Yemen.

The crucial point is the total hypocrisy of western governments in relation to severe human rights abuses by the Saudi regime.

Now imagine if this were an enemy government. We would be bombarded with information about these human rights abuses daily.

We would be told that we have a moral imperative to intervene in favour of women’s rights, democracy, the freedom of the press and to prevent massive civilian casualties in Yemen.

Not only has the EU failed to take any action against Saudi since Khashoggi’s brutal murder but they can’t even agree to stop supplying weapons to the regime. France like Britain continues to profit from its “long term partnership” with the regime. 

The sad truth is that all the enemies of the west – be it Russia, Venezuela or even the Syrian regime – look pretty good when compared to our close friends and allies in Saudi. 

Can Irish people continue to look the other way if millions starve to death in a man-made famine?

Diarmuid Pepper is a freelance journalist and formerly a teacher of philosophy and religious studies 

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Diarmuid Pepper

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