29 January 2015
The Arab Spring opened a window of opportunity for activists seeking to modernize Saudi Arabia. The rise of Islamic State has slammed it shut again, leaving little expectation of progress under a new monarch.
The 50 lashes publicly administered to activist Raif Badawi this month after his conviction for insulting Islam were a signal that religious conservatives have the upper hand in a tug-of-war with reformists. His original sentence was increased by Saudi courts that have also convicted a Harvard-trained lawyer for criticizing the judiciary, and are weighing terrorism charges against women for driving cars.
The world’s biggest oil exporter, a key U.S. ally, is in clampdown mode. The succession of King Salman, crowned last week after the death of his half-brother Abdullah, is unlikely to change that. As in past times of upheaval, the Al Saud family is turning to clerics to shore up its legitimacy, and that means setting aside any agenda of social change.
…In the wake of the Paris attack, it became harder to defend a country that flogs bloggers and puts “women who drive in front of terrorism courts,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow in international studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 03/02/2015