06/21/2011, 00.00
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The desert of Saudi Arabia against the Arab Spring

by Bernardo Cervellera
In Riyadh the "jasmine revolution" has been largely "virtual", expressed by bloggers and petitions. But it was quickly stifled, accused of being a "sedition" against Allah and maneuver "Iranian". Some protesters have disappeared in police custody. The demand for a constitution "written by man," considered an insult to the Koran ("not written by human hands"). Western governments unconditional support for Saud has also played a role.
Venice (AsiaNews) - The Arab Spring, which is transforming the face of society in North Africa and the Middle East has a tomb: Saudi Arabia. And this not because of religious fundamentalism, but the strength of a political power that "submits" religion to its rule. This very special picture of the Saudi kingdom emerged today on the second day of the meeting of the Scientific Committee of the magazine Oasis, which is reflecting on the future of the "Arab Spring".

Professor Madawi al-Rasheed of King's College London delivered a key note speech on the exceptional impact of "jasmine revolution" in the Saudi kingdom. "The regime - she said – deployed religious economic and security strategies to suppress even the tiniest virtual sign, before it turned into a real protest."

At the beginning – continued Madawi - Saudi rulers did everything they could to claim that Saudi "is different" from Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, they "were almost prepared to say that we are not Arabs!". In fact, the social situation in Riyadh is very similar to other Arab countries: 30% unemployment, especially among young people, 78% of educated women without work, corruption, a management of power that is akin to "the ancient principalities of the Italian Renaissance."

Since social control is extensive, the "jasmine revolution" in Saudi Arabia has mainly found expression on the web. "In February 2011 many petitions circulated on Internet sites, demanding political reform." But the regime blocked them all. The distribution of outpouring of economic benefits was intended to appease the unemployed people’s demands for more wealth. But the petitions have not stopped.

Among the most persistent questions in addition to the recognition of human rights, political participation, the end of corruption, is the request for a constitution "made by human hands": the Saudi rulers, in fact, say that the country has no need of a constitution, because "our constitution is the Koran (not “made by human hands, but by Allah ")."

Even the "day of wrath", which in other Arab countries saw millions of people take to the streets, were held only on the web in Saudi Arabia, with the signing of petitions and proclamations and with practical information on how to bypass the official censorship.

The initial intervention to quell the riots in Bahrain allowed the Saudis to stigmatize all Arabian riots (and especially the one at home) as a "conspiracy of Iran", led from the outside, backed by dark foreign powers ( Western).

By exploiting " iranophobia" and using harsh methods (death in police custody, such as that of the young blogger Muhammad al-Wadan), even some small hints of protest were successfully quashed.

Even religion - with Koranic scholars who are actually in the pay of the ruling bureaucrats - has been used to stigmatize any desire for change, seen as an attack on Allah, as an invitation to chaos (fitna).
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