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Can Saudi Arabia Ever Be Reformed While Steeped in Archaic Practices?

Can Saudi Arabia Ever Be Reformed While Steeped in Archaic Practices?


154 in 2016, 146 in 2017, and 48 till April of this year – that’s how many people have been publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia over the past two years. And no one seems prepared to do anything to change it; contrarily, and one might say ironically as well, Saudi Arabia continues to sit unimpeded on the UN Human Rights Council. What is the reason behind the continued implementation of such a medieval exercise, one might ask?

‘Crimes against the establishment’, apparently, would be the answer to that.

While it is true that not everyone punished in this manner must have been completely blameless (alleged rape and murder is no joke after all), it is also true that some of these stories also hold a significant undercurrent of bias and suppression. The Esra Al-Ghamgam controversy just a week ago is proof of this:

Opinion circulating on social media leans strongly towards citing the ridiculousness and cruelty of such an act. Fighting for human rights is hardly an atrocious crime deserving of an all-out execution. People are demanding to know where the ‘liberal-minded’ crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is at a time like this when he is most needed.

More than that, where are activists and politicians all around the world who have the voice and authority to be able to put a stop to this?

What is perhaps most concerning is – why is this still happening even in today’s free, modern world? Unfortunately, the answer to this is pretty simple. Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) is said to operate essentially according to the king’s orders. What the king says, goes. It is not due to a deep-rooted, cultural flaw or a complex political agenda. Saudi Arabia still belongs to the few who rule it.

Esra Al-Ghamgam was reportedly a Shia Muslim activist – considering the Saudi government-led executions of Shia protesters and overall oppression of the people of this sect, it becomes a little easier to imagine why she was targeted in this way.

In a country that has been labeled ‘Chop Chop Square’ by some, new pseudo-liberal legislations such as women being allowed to drive are just that – pseudo-liberal. It’s difficult to measure real progress when that same progress is stemmed in by blatantly archaic practices such as these. 

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