October 3, 2019 0

10 Brutal Realities of Life in Saudi Arabia

The United States of America has a befuddling
relationship with the largest oil exporter in the world. They are allied to the US and its largest
client for weapons, even though the Joint Congressional Inquiry report from 2002 reported
(in pages that were censored until 2016) that terrorists that took part in the 9/11 attacks
had considerable financial ties to the Saudi royal family. The relationship has been strained recently
by such scandals as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the killing of 40 children in a bus in
Yemen by a missile fired by the Saudi military, and yet the hundred billion dollar arms deal
the United States has with the Middle Eastern country and the importance of having an ally
in that part of the world is considered by some to be too important to end the arrangement. This state of affairs made TopTenz curious
about what living conditions are like in Saudi Arabia. On one hand, it has the 10th lowest poverty
rate in the world. On the other hand, there are the following
10 points… 10. Public Executions You might have heard about the ongoing practice
of public beheadings in this country, but the sheer number of them is really extreme. In 2016 alone there were 150 of them. And that was actually a little bit of a slow
year, since in 2015 there were 158 of them. In 2019, the very first day of the year was
marked by three of them. On a single day in July 2017 there were six
beheaded. On a single day in 2015, it was 47. Considering that the minimum age for being
put to death was 15 as of 2016, there should be limited expectations of leniency. In Saudi Arabia’s defense, these numbers
of executions are still fewer than the number in Pakistan and India over the same general
time periods. You might be inclined to think that the US
is way higher, but it’s been trending downwards in recent years. Only 23 people were executed in America in
2017 in the 31 states where it’s legal. Yet the point is that many will argue other
nations shouldn’t put fact executions happen in Saudi Arabia on a negative pedestal. Still, there’s also the issue of what could
cost a person their life. 9. The Witchcraft Hunts Witchcraft and sorcery are capital offenses
in Saudi Arabia, as the Prophet Muhammad said of them in the Hadith that “Whoever goes
to a fortune teller or a diviner and believes him, has, in fact, disbelieved in what has
been revealed to Muhammad.” In 2007 a pharmacist named Mustafa Ibrahim
was beheaded for it, specifically citing to his possession of candles, “foul-smelling
herbs,” casting spells to cause a man’s wife to leave him, and bringing the Koran
into a bathroom. In 2011, an Indonesian visitor suffered the
same fate. Two Asian women working as housemaids in 2013
got off relatively lightly with only one thousand lashings and 10 years in prison when they
were found guilty of having “talismans” and other magic items in their bedrooms. As of 2011, there is no outlined standard
in Saudi Arabia for proving that someone is actually guilty of sorcery or what fits a
penal standard, meaning that a person can get in legal trouble for anything from astrology
to running a psychic tip line. Enough resources have been devoted to this
that there are nine bureaus in the Anti-Witchcraft Unit across Saudi Arabia. 8. No Criticizing the Government It’s one thing to live under Sharia law
where living a lifestyle opposed to the teachings of the Koran is illegal. There are no verses in the Koran which demand
that all criticism of the political structure of a nation under Sharia law or the people
in power. Yet criticizing the Saudi royal family is
punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of roughly $5,000, and a thousand lashings. One of the most well-known people to be convicted
for this was blogger Raif Badawi in 2016, who was also lashed so severely every Friday
for 20 weeks that there were fears it would kill him. The Arabian government’s largest scale raid
in recent years related to anti-government criticism came in November 2017. Dozens of ministers, staff members, and others
who had been critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were arrested. Such are the flimsy legal justifications needed
for what was very likely a purge. 7. Surgical Punishment Symmetry We previously mentioned in our article about
The Handmaid’s Tale how there is legal precedence for eye trauma as a punishment, but that’s
not the entire story. Applying “eye for an eye” punishments
has extended to taking the time and effort to inflict harm in ways including the fate
of Ali al-Khawahir. When he was 14 he stabbed his friend, and
the stab wound got infected and resulted in the friend being paralyzed. Al-Khawahir served 10 years in prison, and
then in 2013, he was surgically paralyzed. This may seem especially cruel considering
that it very likely extends the punishment to his family and acquaintances while using
medical resources that could be used for other people’s healthcare. But others might feel the extremity of the
crime could justify it. But the nation also continues to punish theft
with the millenia-old method of amputating limbs, and many will find that harder to justify. 6. Drug Epidemic Despite Death Penalty It’s extremely difficult to get an accurate
figure on the percent of the population that uses drugs in a country where using or trading
them is illegal. Drug offenses are the leading reason for executions. In 2018, half of the executions were for for
non-violent drug offenses. Still, there are telling signs that Saudi
Arabia’s drug problem is unusually pervasive. The single most dramatic is that in 2010,
the 12.8 metric tons of amphetamines seized in Saudi Arabia by anti-narcotics agents were
more than half of the total seized world wide (24.3 tons). That’s especially bad because a large amount
of the amphetamine comes in the form of Captagon pills. Captagon often contains lead and mercury,
greatly increasing the neurological harm these drugs inflict. 5. LGBT Association Danger It’s well known that Sharia law doesn’t
provide rights for homosexuals, but someone can be a lifelong heterosexual and still get
in trouble with the law completely innocently just by being in proxy to public displays
of it. In January 2018, police arrested a group of
men for being in a video where two men had confetti thrown at them, one while wearing
a bridal veil. It was noted that several of the people in
the video looked surprised by the antics, but apparently not being part of staging the
video did not clear them. Now consider that in 2007, Atlantic magazine
reported that homosexual communities were still widespread in Saudi Arabia, and it means
there could be many people who risk arrest for years old video of them surfacing of them
in oblivious proximity to something implicitly forbidden by the Koran. Although having a gender change surgery is
illegal in Saudi Arabia, it can allegedly result in the use of deadly force. At a Pakistani ceremony in Riyadh celebrating
transgender people in March 2017, 33 attendees were arrested. Two of the transgender attendees were placed
in sacks and beaten to death, according to human rights groups. The Saudi authorities claimed that one of
them had died of natural causes, specifically a heart attack. But even if that is true, every person released
from that arrest had to pay more than 30,000 euros, just for associating with the event. 4. Desalination Pollution Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading producer
of desalinated water, or sea water that has been made fit for human consumption, producing
five million cubic meters a day. For a nation with so much arid land, this
is completely necessary. Unfortunately there is a massive drawback
to the process as it currently exists. It’s not unique to Saudi Arabia at all. As of January 2019, though, Saudi Arabia’s
plants are having trouble with efficiency and maintenance. For every cubic meter of water, 1.5 cubic
meters of water with toxic levels of copper, chlorine, and other pollutants is created. In Saudi Arabia’s case that means roughly
20 million oil barrels-worth of sludge, which Bloomberg pointed out is roughly twice the
amount of actual oil barrels that get produced by Saudi Arabia a day. Most of this pollution is pumped back into
the ocean because the alternatives of filtering the sludge water is even more expensive and
energy consumptive than the original process. Until the process is made financially viable
for the Saudi government, this pollution poses a growing threat to the nation’s marine
life. 3. Lashings for Bad Language If many people were beaten every time they
used profane or obscene language, they would be beaten somewhere between halfway and entirely
to death. That’s not a droll hypothetical for roughly
34 million people in Saudi Arabia. In March 2015 a woman was fined $5,300 and
lashed 70 times for insulting a man, supposedly for “tarnishing his reputation” even though
it was through a private messaging service. She could have faced a year in prison and
as much as $132,000 in fines. In April 2012 another woman got 50 lashes
for using a swear word in a text sent to her friend. It’s not gender-specific. In November 2018 a man was sentenced to 40
lashings for sending abusive texts to his ex-wife. Although considering that he sent 600 of them,
it might be a sign that Saudi courts are easing on sentencing for this offense. 2. Locust Swarms Swarms of locusts have been symbolic of potentially
apocalyptic disaster since the agricultural revolution. But there’s nothing symbolic about the threat
that locust swarms (that have been known to number as many as 80 million locusts) pose
to Saudi agriculture. While there is nothing anomalous about their
arrival there is not a predictable pattern. For example there was an eight year gap between
a massive locust invasion in 2005 and 2013. But there was only six years between the 2013
one and the infestation of February 2019. But there was also an invasion in 2004, only
a year before the eight year gap. They can last extremely long too, with one
that began in 1987 lasting until 1989. Even with modern technology such as satellite
photography the swarms are difficult to combat, since they move fast (as many as 310 miles
in a day) and spread so far that their breeding areas are known to be at least 300 square
miles. To get some sense of the economic devastation
they represent, the 1989 invasion cost $300,000,000 to combat. The 2004 locust swarms caused $100,000,000
in damage, which is considerably more devastating for a single nation than it might sound. 1. The Unsafe Royalty Despite the naked social stratification of
Saudi Arabia, as would be expected of any nation where there is a royal family, that
doesn’t mean that people in places of power and influence are necessarily safe. Regarding the November 2017 purge mentioned
we mentioned previously, one of those arrested was Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, who was also
a multi-billionaire. Neither his wealth nor his connections kept
him from being tortured, stripped of his money, and still under house arrest more than a year
later. But at least the fate of that prince is known. As of October 2018, three Saudi princes are
missing. Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, Prince
Turki bin Bandar of Paris and Prince Saud bin Saif al-Nasr were abducted from their
homes in Europe between 2015 and 2016 and returned to Saudi Arabia, the last that was
heard from them. There wasn’t even safety for the elite who
were out of the country. Still, it seems the position of the Saudi
government is to not risk letting Saudi elite potentially escaping its borders, especially
female citizens. In 1978, Princess Mishael was publicly executed
for adultery. In the wake of that momentous event, the Saudi
government instituted a ban on women leaving Saudi Arabia without the permission of a male
guardian. Not only are the higher classes unsafe, but
their legal punishments can have devastating effects for the lower classes.

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