A few days ago, I came across a news report saying Saudi Arabia was chosen earlier this year to head a key UN human rights panel. I was planning to write a post about it, expressing my disgust at the UN’s apparent disregard for human rights, but I got side tracked with other things, and the post never got written. Yesterday, more than 700 people were killed during a ‘stampede’ of pilgrims at the Hajj, and Saudi Arabia’s apparent lack of regard for human life is in the news again.
I’ve have always understood that the west’s (particularly America’s) positive relationship with Saudi Arabia has been based on the country possessing large oil reserves. I mean, we want to keep the lights on, don’t we? And we want to keep driving around in our cars. We can overlook a lot of things in return for that. But the thing is, those oil reserves are … well … not as extensive as they used to be, so things are likely to change in the future once the leaders of other wealthy countries start to realise Saudi doesn’t have much to offer other than sand, and there isn’t that much demand for sand …
Anyway, back to the present.
I probably don’t need to mention Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes simply for speaking out against repression.
Then there’s Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, sentenced to death for taking part in anti-government protests. He was only 17 at the time of his ‘crimes’ and is 21 now. Apparently, his sentence is crucifixion, and I think we all know what that means … except that the modern version of it is more merciful (my choice of words), and he will actually be beheaded before his body is displayed so people can see what happens to anyone who speaks out against the government.
My first instinct when I heard that was to imagine myself in his place. Never mind that I’m 20 years older than he is, I think the experience of being crucified would be pretty much the same regardless of how many years you’ve spent on the planet. Oh, but it isn’t so bad because his actual death will be relatively humane (or at least, quick), and it’s only his body that will be put up on display.
I actually caught myself thinking that, and it shocked me because it really is a bit of clever marketing on the part of the media, designed to make Saudi Arabia seem less barbaric than it really is. Is our western media still trying to present the country in a good light so they don’t get too pissed off with us and turn off the oil pumps?
Moving on. After the Hajj deaths yesterday, the Saudi health minister blamed the pilgrims themselves for “not following instructions.” Excuse me! There’s accommodation in place for 2 million pilgrims. They know how many people to expect, and they manage to provide accommodation for them, but they can’t manage to provide effective organisation to keep that number of people safe. According to news reports, the annual pilgrimages bring billions of dollars to the economy, so of course they want the people there, but they’re not prepared to make the investment to look after them properly.
(OK, so I should mention here that King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ordered an inquiry into the tragedy, but it isn’t the first time something like this has happened, so I can’t help thinking it’s too little, too late, and it was probably only done in reaction to international pressure.)
In light of all this, Saudi Arabia has been chosen to head a UN human rights panel. Is this an attempt by the UN to make a mockery of itself? How can a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world honestly be expected to perform that role? While charitable organisations around the world are campaigning to improve human rights, the UN seems to be working to undermine them.
I know our society is in the early stages of collapse, and as it progresses, things like human rights can be expected to go out the window, but it all seems to be happening far too soon.
(Photo: Stoning of the Devil at the Hajj.)