SF Bay Area

Why Were the Saudi Streets So Quiet?

unnamed-4.jpg

By Medea Benjamin

With the world’s media focused on President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, it’s curious that the streets of Riyadh were so empty. Unlike most of Trump’s public appearances, there was not a protester in sight. Saudi women could have used the occasion to push for their rights. They could have put out a national call saying that as soon as Trump began to speak, women should walk out of their homes with their heads uncovered and dressed as they pleased, just like Melania and Ivanka Trump. They could have raised their arms in the air, waving the petition thousands of them signed calling for an end to the guardianship system that gives men control over their lives. They could have taken to the road behind the wheels of their family cars, openly defying the retrograde Saudi ban on women driving. But alas, there was not a Saudi woman in sight.

While Mexicans pour out on the streets to protest Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, bashing Trump piñatas and burning U.S. flags, there was nary a Saudi protester chanting “Trump: Go home.” In this very religious country, no one seemed interested in demonstrating opposition to Trump’s derogatory comments about Islam nor his attempts to impose a Muslim ban back home.

Where was the Shia minority who make up 10 percent of the population and suffer ongoing repression? Why didn’t they come out to call for the freedom of political prisoners, like the three young men on death row who were arrested as juveniles for protesting? The Saudi military is presently occupying the Shia town of Awamiyah, shooting at civilians and terrifying the townspeople. Yet there was not even graffiti on the streets of Riyadh saying “Military Out of Awamiyah.”

Raif with his children.

Instead of hiding behind their computers, Saudi youth could have flooded the streets demanding the right to free speech and free association. They could have marched together demanding an end to gender segregation in the schools. They could have made hundreds of copies of the face of Raif Badawi, a young man sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for blogging, and held them for the visiting delegates to see.

Foreign workers from countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines could have picketed outside the hotels where the foreign dignitaries were staying, demanding they not be treated as indentured servants under a sponsorship system that doesn’t even allow them to go back home without their employer’s permission.

Christians could have organized a “preach in”, taking to the street with Bibles to assert their right to build churches and publicly worship their God. Non-believers could have used the visit to insist that atheism should not warrant the death penalty.

Poor Saudis—yes, there are plenty of them—could have taken a page from the Brazilians during the Olympics and protested the millions spent on hosting the opulent gathering. Better yet, they could have complained about their rulers investing $115 billion in weapons instead of people’s needs.

And where were all the environmentalists? Aren’t there Saudi chapters of Greenpeace or 350.org? Why didn’t they bring out that the big, plastic pipeline they use in so many international protests, demanding that the Saudis stop pushing cheap oil to keep the planet addicted to fossil fuels? Why weren’t they out in force calling for the Saudi oil company ARAMCO to invest millions—no, billions—in solar energy.

Oh yeah, silly me. I forgot. Protest is illegal in the kingdom. It’s also against the law to “distort the reputation of the kingdom” or “break allegiance with the ruler.” A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including “calling for atheist thought,” “contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom,” and “seeking to disrupt national unity” by calling for protests. People who dare dissent are publicly flogged, tortured in prison, and sometimes publicly beheaded.

Thanks to U.S. weapons makers and arms deals signed with successive U.S. presidents, the Saudi rulers have more firepower than they could ever need to put down any form of dissent.

No wonder the streets of Riyadh were so quiet.

Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin, is key to stopping the arms deal.  Send an email to Senator Cardin: Stop Trump’s $100 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia! Instead of more weapons sales, we need a ceasefire and negotiations to end the devastating conflict in Yemen. Don’t forget to share on Facebook and Twitter.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK and author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connections. Medea and all CODEPINK Members want to help the women of Saudi Arabia . Please Join US!

cp_banner
CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


 

Actions
Mar
5
Fri
5:00 PM Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Mar 5 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the Street. @ In front of MLK Library
End Endless War Remaining silent is not an option. We can either have a culture of complicity, or a culture of resistance. With no public opposition we will have a culture of complicity. Public acts[...]
Gatherings
Mar
1
Mon
3:00 PM Peace Collective Gathering: How ...
Peace Collective Gathering: How ...
Mar 1 @ 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Peace Collective Gathering: How to Start a Divestment Campaign
The Peace Collective was created and started by the twenty-somethings at CODEPINK for the young folks (up to age 29) that want to become a part of the peace movement, raise hell, and just do some cool[...]
6:00 PM Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Mar 1 @ 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Restorative Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Description This Yoga class is a one hour practice the is meant to restore, rejuvenate and provide a restful strengthening session for the body, mind and spirit. Please wear comfortable clothing. No prior experience is[...]
Mar
5
Fri
5:00 PM Haiti: What’s Imperialism Got To...
Haiti: What’s Imperialism Got To...
Mar 5 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
What: Haiti: What’s Imperialism Got To Do With It?! solidarity event When: Friday, March 5, 8pm ET / 5 pm PT Where: RSVP for Zoom info  WHEN March 5, 2021 at 5:00pm – 6:00pm (PST)  WHERE Zoom  CONTACT Leonardo Flores[...]
Mar
6
Sat
9:00 AM Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Mar 6 @ 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Description This is a morning yoga class focused on strengthening, calming and centering the body, mind and spirit. No prior experience in yoga is required. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3090894469?pwd=V1lqRk9odTY3OGZLM3ZXbXlPYjkzZz09 Meeting ID: 309 089 4469 Passcode: 712607 https://www.paypal.me/thepeacedancer Contact: Khalilah[...]
12:00 PM The Mauritanian – Film Screening...
The Mauritanian – Film Screening...
Mar 6 @ 12:00 PM – 3:30 PM
The Mauritanian - Film Screening with Q&A
Join the movement to #CloseGITMO and be a part of a conversation about The Mauritanian, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Tahar Rahim, and Jodie Foster. Based on a true story, The Mauritanian follows attorney Nancy[...]
Mar
8
Mon
3:00 PM Peace Collective Discussion: Sin...
Peace Collective Discussion: Sin...
Mar 8 @ 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Peace Collective Discussion: Sinophobia & Manufactured Consent
The Peace Collective was created and started by the twenty-somethings at CODEPINK for the young folks (up to age 29) that want to become a part of the peace movement, raise hell, and just do some cool[...]
4:00 PM Women’s Voices from Central Amer...
Women’s Voices from Central Amer...
Mar 8 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Women's Voices from Central America: Impacts of US Policies on Migration
On International Women’s Day, we will hear from women in three Central American countries that have been heavily impacted by U.S. foreign policy: El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Through a video montage of interviews they[...]
Mar
10
Wed
4:00 PM Divest From the War Machine Camp...
Divest From the War Machine Camp...
Mar 10 @ 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Divest From the War Machine Campaign Zoom Meeting
Chicago, we’re taking on the war machine! Join us for our monthly Chicago Divest from the War Machine Meeting.  WHEN March 10, 2021 at 4:00pm – 5:00pm (PST)  WHERE Zoom  CONTACT Cody Urban · cody@codepink.org Can we count you[...]

PinkBridgeDivider

 

WORLD

PinkBridgeDivider

ARTS

PinkBridgeDivider

GREEN ECONOMY

PinkBridgeDivider

From our National Site

The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!