Saudi Arabia must tell the world the crime it sees in color & poverty

12 Dec

by Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory

Ethiopia’s colossal human airlift from Saudi Arabia, which appeared in the Times Live issue of December 12, 2013, has brought into sharp focus the painful humiliation and physical and mental anguishes tens of thousands Ethiopians have suffered in Saudi Arabia.

We read in the article real victims talking about their excruciating experiences in purgatory – unthinkable in this age and time. Therefore, the whole thing becomes terribly troubling, since this cruelty has come, as it does, from a country masquerading as the guardian of Islam. I accept that Saudi Arabia should smile and dance to the tune of its influences, influence being its huge the foreign policy tool petrodollar has bought it. I cannot, however, hide my repulsion at its contrived glory, anchored on its guardianship of Islam and the custodianship of its Two Holy Mosques.

The consequence of the latter is that we are jerked hard to remember that history too is man’s creation. It means that it cannot be exempt from the foibles and failings of the species, as the famous Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle noted in mid-19th century, when the world was reeling from revolutionary fervor and the zeal of those that thought only their views were right, not the other side – old or new. My fear is that these Saudi crimes would also cast Islam in a negative light. It would have no divine providence to shield the beastly excesses of the medieval sheikdom.

Troubling as it is, Saudi Arabia has also become the newly minted member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It would serve for three years in that capacity for the period from 2014 – 2016. This has shocked and hurt a lot of people across the globe, as the media have repeatedly shown since its election by the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in mid-November 2013.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia should be ready that henceforth its image around the world has been linked to the sight of a horrible violator of human rights. The complaints and accusations against the Saudis would increase their decibel frequency in three weeks time, as Riyadh dons the mantle of hypocrisy of the international system that has proffered upon it membership in the 47-member body. Ironically, its tasks would be serving as one of the judges and juries on the United Nations human rights forum that examines the human rights performances of other member states, as if Saudi Arabia has ever respected most of them.

Courtesy of Zehabesha

Courtesy of Zehabesha

On this issue, we Ethiopians are now deeply involved, because we come with first hand experiences and lessons. We easily relate to the pain this has caused in Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia. We have brothers beaten or killed in Saudi Arabia; sisters quietly daily shedding tears, as they struggle with thoughts of suicide after gang rapes – shockingly in one instance 17 Saudi dogs of hatred over one woman – not to speak of the hunger and thirst of many more that still are holed in desert concentration camps.

There is no better description of the violence and extent of breaches of human rights of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia than a summation put across by a returnee in Addis Abeba. The gruesome details of the cruelties these individuals have suffered are of gargantuan proportions, even when he spoke in brief generality he shared with Times Live.

Agony and pain (Credit: Youtube)

Agony and pain (Credit: Youtube)

The state the returnees are found in at the moment, as he put it, says a lot: “We are trying to keep ourselves together, but that’s not how it really is, we are broken inside.”

That is why, in this 21st century Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of its efforts as ensuring respect for its labor laws don’t add up – no matter how the House of Saud dices it – especially seen against the benevolence Islam teaches. This is just a simple evidence of the catastrophe Saudi violence has caused to citizens of another country – a poor African country whose government for reasons of concealed interests cannot assume its responsibilities in proportion to the challenge.

Given the low-level of skills these individuals possess, the joblessness, questionable health conditions and the intolerance and heavy-handedness of the regime are now lurking in the corner as present and future challenges for these people and the broader Ethiopian society in the months and years ahead.

Therefore, the Saudi calculation has seen that, they could do whatever they needed with Ethiopian immigrants, they cannot do, for instance, to the Indians, which have government that knows its reponsibilities toward its citizens (see Indians in Saudi Arabia: A totally different treatment by the Saudis as well as by Indian state of its citizens). In the case of the Ethiopians, the Saudis found a free hand to do whatever they liked to selectively calm the anger of their people against immigrants. They chose to punish the poor for journeying through hell to escape poverty and oppression.

But by this action, nonetheless, they showed that they and their vigilante dogs are guiltier than the undocumented immigrants that have illegally crossed into their country. With an echo of history at the background, the mind is troubled by African sufferings during the slave trade, with the Arabs as intermediaries. In more recent times, similarity of today’s overtones and actions with hostilities in the Europe of the 1930s and early 1940s are more than real. In this age and time, Saudi Arabia has taken the liberty to reduce itself into a world theater where punishment with single blow at the color black and poverty were performed in November 2013.

It cannot all be negative however, can it? There is something for everyone – except the returnee immigrants, who have lost everything – including themselves. The Saudis got to satisfy the rising level of anti-foreign sentiments in their country, as a measure aiming to strengthen the monarchy’s clutches on power. Beatings, blood and rape were administered as the prices for this, which Ethiopians are made to pay.

Ethiopia’s authoritarian leadership has for a long while been positioning itself to take credit and the dividends from a mission forced upon it by protests of the Ethiopian diaspora around the world. Surely, the logistical side of things is partly complete with foreign financing, also partly paid from the paltry resources snatched from the immigrants.

Photo courtesy of AFP

It is for this day and situation that Addis Abeba has prepared itself, to relish success. It was even faster in that sense than the portrayal in today’s Times Live that put the human movements “as one of the largest human airlift operations in recent history.”

In reality, however, the regime has angered the country, due to its modus operandi, usually characterized by intrigues, lies and all forms of duplicity, an uncommonly persistent proclivity to misrepresenting facts, events and numbers. The English refer to this as the habit of speaking on both sides of its mouth.

In these two decades, like all its other actions pertaining to human dignity, freedoms and rights, the Addis Abeba regime has in the process ended up hugely devaluing the time-honored principle of respect for rights and privileges of citizens, inherent in citizenship especially when they travel or live in foreign lands.

As to what next, it is time to launch and coordinate robust international campaign for Saudi Arabia to get Saudi Arabia into rectifying its the ills it has caused its Ethiopian victims. Sadly, its eyes on Riyadh’s investments in Ethiopia, the Addis Abeba regime could not be a part of it. Already when the nation has gripped with anger about the violations of its children in Saudi Arabia, a few days ago Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Shahri, head of the Saudi Agriculture Investors Association in Ethiopia, told Al Hayat – a pan-Arab and pro-Saudi newspaper – of the Ethiopian regime’s commitment “to protect Saudi investors as well as investments in Ethiopia.”

The paper proved right; no matter what happened to Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, including the over 30 deaths and numerous rapes, Addis Abeba has stuck by Riyadh.

The response by Ethiopians is that they they are not prepared to dishonor their human dignity for “some pieces of silver”, important as they may be. Nevertheless, as the campaign continues to expose Saudi crimes, the recompense must begin with the kingdom putting aside its arrogance and obeying its Islamic teachings to give effect to the following three proposals in the order they are listed:

      • Firstly,   Saudi Arabia must apologize to the victims for its barbarism.

      • Secondly,   Saudi Arabia must return properties and monies looted from the immigrants.

      • Thirdly,   Saudi Arabia must pay the immigrants generous compensation for all forms of damages they have suffered. The objective here is to restore the faith and confidence of these people in themselves, damaged by the violence Saudi society has inflicted upon them.

From there, Ethiopians must proceed to putting their house in order. There is no question about it that Ethiopia’s primary enemies are the depressing poverty, the denial of freedoms by bad politics.

The Ethiopian situation has been rendered worse by the bankruptcy of the country’s ethnic politics. This has reduced the country into breeding ground for nepotism and corruption, archaic and strongman politics has spawned.

Noticeable on the ground is that, beyond mere talk of high sounding politics and plans, the real life of Ethiopians is one long story of bad governance. This has forced the country to endlessly wallow in backwardness. Development measured in terms of buildings and roads has not been doing the tricks. These have only forced the country to march in its blindness into missing one good opportunity after the other.

That is why whatever is implemented is not serving the best the interests of the country and ensure the wellbeing of its people.
 

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  1. Israel Follows Saudi Arabia to Demand Deportation of Ethiopians | Ethio Andinet ኢትዮ አንድነት - December 13, 2013

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