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Ed Webb

Kuwaiti activists targeted under GCC security pact - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middl... - 0 views

  • Kuwaiti civil society is one of the most vibrant in the Gulf, hence its early rejection of the GCC Internal Security Pact, which was interpreted as yet another attempt to silence dissent in their own country. Many Kuwaiti activists resented Saudi hegemony, which the pact is meant to strengthen not only in the small emirate but the other ones, too. It is evident now that criticizing Saudi Arabia is taboo, the violation of which definitely leads to perhaps several years in prison. Kuwaiti apprehensions were not unfounded but they couldn't do much about the treaty that was ratified by their parliament. Several opposition groups boycotted the elections that eventually produced a docile body.

    On the other side of the border, there was no debate or controversy related to the pact as Saudis are completely disenfranchised. The only consultative council they have is appointed by the king and has no power to discuss security pacts with the GCC or other countries.

  • there is more to the recent detentions at the request of Saudi Arabia than simply freedom of speech. Regardless of their ideological affiliations, all the detainees belong to tribes that have historically lived between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also all the detainees have gone beyond their Bedouin way of life to acquire education, political visions and determination to be part of states established when they were lacking skills. The governments of most GCC countries prefer the tribal Bedouin population to remain as part of folklore. Their ancient tents, camels and coffee pots are a reminder of a pure Arabian heritage, lost under the pressure of globalization, foreign labor populations and the ethnic diversity of the coastal states. So Gulf leaders, including the Kuwaitis and Saudis, prefer the Bedouin to be in the museum and the folklore heritage festivals rather than in public squares, demonstrating against corruption and calling for true citizenship
  • Today, not only Saudi Arabia but also Kuwait have to manage a different citizen, namely the "tribal moderns” who speak the language of human rights, freedom of speech, civil society, accountability, anti-corruption, elections and democracy. Such slogans are written on placards, chanted in demonstrations in Kuwait and virtually circulated in Saudi Arabia, as demonstrations are banned.
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  • The tribal moderns may endorse Islamism, or liberal democracy, but the fact of the matter remains constant. From the perspective of regimes, they are a dangerous bunch, simply because if they invoke tribal solidarities, they may be heeded by their fellow cousins, both imaginary and real.
  • No doubt, activists in Kuwait and other GCC countries will fall under the heavy weight of a pact designed above all to control, monitor and punish dissidents. The GCC itself may not move from cooperation to unification in the near future but it has certainly become yet another mechanism to silence peaceful and legitimate opposition across borders.

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    Madawi Al-Rasheed

    Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed is a columnist for Al-Monitor and a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalization, religious trans-nationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

Ed Webb

Slaves of Babylon | Souciant - 0 views

  • Guest workers often live in villas that “vary from unfinished to decrepit,” several men to a bedroom, kitchen, or toilet, with inadequate sanitation on the outskirts of the urban centers. There are also laws that limit when and where they can take their weekend breaks, even to the point of barring them from certain public parks, beaches, and during certain times of the day – a restriction that Human Rights Watch says is primarily enforced against South Asians, and not Western or Arab expats. As Andrew Gardner and Autumn Watts – anthropologists studying transnational migration in the Gulf – these workers are Invisible Men and Women. They are the largest single demographic in some of these states, but are effectively unseen unless they gather in such numbers to inspire unease among full citizens:

    “Labor migrants are, of course, visible everywhere in the city — in large work crews, in matching uniforms, on the buses that carry them between labor camps and construction sites — but those encounters from a distance are the limits of typical interaction between them and the middle and upper classes of both foreigners and citizens who make a home, however temporary, on the peninsula.”

  • Qatar is even more heavily dependent on migrant workers than Saudi Arabia. 87% of the population consists of migrants, and 94% of the entire labor force is from overseas – which means that only 6% of the workforce, as native Qataris, can legally form a union or leave a job without their employer’s permission
Ed Webb

BBC News - Egyptian protests over detained lawyer shut Saudi embassy - 0 views

  • Observers say it is the worst diplomatic falling-out between the two regional powers since Saudi Arabia severed ties after Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979.
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