BY FARZANA HASSAN
While many Western nations line up to sign business contracts with Saudi Arabia, they turn a blind eye to its medieval laws and policies.
The recent ban on electronics larger than a cell phone from the cabins of direct flights coming into the U.S. from 10 countries included Saudi Arabia.
But U.S. President Donald Trump’s second attempt to temporarily ban visitors from six countries judged to be incubators of terrorism didn’t, even though most of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia.
The oil-rich kingdom remains a Western ally despite its human rights violations and the religious fundamentalism and parochialism still featured in its textbooks, and which it still exports to Middle Eastern and South Asian nations.
Saudi Arabia’s excesses could fill a book, ranging from abusing the rights of women, to its mistreatment of foreign workers, to persecution of anyone espousing a non-traditional view of Islam, or daring to have a different sexual orientation from the one sanctioned by the state, under its draconian religious laws.
Yet Western nations continue to reward the oil kingdom.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved an arms contract with Saudi Arabia, arguing it was a legacy of the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
As for the UK, Saudi Arabia remains its largest market for arms sales, under the specious argument it has the same right to self-defence as any country.
As the UK petition notes, such cooperation leaves no doubt of implicit Western support for a Saudi regime that does not meet basic, universal standards of human rights.
Badawi is a Saudi writer and blogger,who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 on a charge of “insulting Islam”.
According to Peter Tatchell, a human rights lawyer who is one of the authors of the UK petition, “The Saudi regime ought to be treated as a global pariah. Its courts sentenced Raif Badawi to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for the crime of expressing the wrong opinions ... But there is no sign that this sadistic cruelty is disturbing the close and decades-long friendship between London and Riyadh.”
Other human rights abuses are even worse.
According to another petitioner, Claire Brand, “For two years, UK-made bombs have been falling on Yemen. The consequences have been devastating, with thousands being killed and whole communities being ... destroyed. The UK government's response has been ... to sell even more weapons. If (Prime Minister) Theresa May and her colleagues want to do what’s right for the Yemeni people, then they must end their complicity in this destruction.”
There are other alleged human rights abuses that the petition does not address.
For example, two Pakistani transgender women were recently murdered in Saudi Arabia -- a charge the kingdom denies in the face of strong evidence to the contrary -- according to Pakistani news reports.
In any event all alleged Saudi crimes will almost certainly go unpunished.
Women generally remain largely marginalized in the oil kingdom.
Saudi authorities have not relented in their position on Badawi despite Western demands and requests by human rights agencies.
It is past time Western leaders had the backbone to stop kowtowing to Saudi Arabia.