Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saudi holds a protest

(late October, 2013)

Saudi Arabia withdrew from the UN Security Council. I say good riddance. To hear what lots of people across the Arab world had to say, the BBC Arabic had a call-in show to solicit various opinions. I guess Saudi Arabia's government withdrew from the Council because it wanted to be shocking, and it wanted to be a hero, and it wants to pretend it stands on some sort of principle. Luckily, things did not go entirely according to plan, as you can see here.

Opinions of random people on the Jordanian street:

A man: I don't support the Saudi withdrawal because you have to solve your problems by facing them, and withdrawal is negative. People are being slaughtered in Syria? That doesn't mean that Saudi should withdraw and turn its head. It should advance ideas for solving the problem.

Another man: I support Saudi because it is the leader of the Arab nation! And knows all about the failure of international organizations in solving Arab problems.

Another man: I support the Saudi position because when it comes to Arab and Islamic affairs, the Security Council does not care, and our Saudi brothers caught on to this!

Another man (apparently there's only men on the Jordanian street!): I support it because whether Saudi Arabia is on the Security Council or not won't make any difference for Arabs.

Another man: I think they made a huge mistake in withdrawing. Arab countries should be members on the Council.

Note: I just want to make sure everyone sees the irony in Saudi Arabia's government trying to lecture everyone else about international law, which it doesn't follow itself. Saudi Arabia allows Sudan's president (who is an Arab) to visit. Sudan's president is wanted on charges of genocide at the International Criminal Court. International law states that if Sudan's president strays into your border, you need to pack him up and ship him off to face trial. Does Saudi Arabia's government do this? No, it does the opposite and welcomes him with kisses. So why is it all of a sudden so concerned about bloodshed in Syria, when clearly it are not shocked by bloodshed in and of itself, seeing as it is friends with the guy at the helm of so much of it in Sudan?

An Arab living in Great Britain called to say it was clear the real concern to Saudi Arabia is that the US is becoming buddy-buddy with Iran. Saudi Arabia does not like Iran, and I guess vice versa, and both are Muslim countries. Isn't that just lovely! (So don't take it personally when we don't like the west, because we clearly don't like ourselves, either!)

The man from Great Britain had two other theories as to why Saudi refused the seat: because Saudi's current king is too old and infirm, and couldn't deal with the extra stress involved with a UN Security Council seat; and because Saudi knew its reign on the Council would be ineffective for Arab and Muslim causes, and instead of enduring the embarrassment of this in front of the whole Arab world to see, they took the easy way out and withdrew.

And he concluded, how in the first place did a government like Saudi Arabia get nominated to be on the Security Council - a country that is without rights, either for humans or for animals? A country in the 21st century that still now treats its citizens like slaves! Ouch!

Then a man called in to say that the real issue was Security Council reform; and at one point in the past, other countries like Germany, India, South Africa, and Brazil asked for permanent Security Council seats. They didn't get their way, so I think he was saying, Saudi Arabia probably isn't going to get a lot of results from their protest, either.

But then, a man who works at an economic newspaper in Saudi Arabia said, no, no! We Saudis understand that we are not as crucial a country as Germany or Brazil or India (listen to that modesty!) And also, even if the US getting buddy-buddy with Iran had an effect on the Saudi decision, it was not the main cause. We have been saying for over a year that the Security Council really needs to do something about Syria, and this was long before Iran and the US started softening towards each other.

A proud Saudi man sent in his thoughts through webcam: I am against Saudi membership in the Council. The true desire of the Council is to promote the floundering US policies. The Security Council has been deficient in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Arab world; gives double-standards to Israel and Iran; and has not succeeded in anything except for what is on the agenda of the five permanent members, and the Saudi Kingdom refuses to be part of this! Ah, but I guess you are not against being best friends with Sudan's president.

Now, here are some comments of people who wrote in. Keep in mind that 300,000 people were killed in Darfur, either by Sudan's Arab government or by militias backed by Sudan's government, and 3 million people were routed from their villages and made to walk to the border with Chad and live in refugee camps there. I think this happened between 2003 and 2006. And Saudi Arabia's government even now welcomes Sudan's president with open arms. But these people don't seem to know that, they apparently think everyone except for themselves is evil:

Ahmed Saeed says: Saudi made a great decision, because it sends a message to the world about the corruption in the Security Council (and there's  no corruption in inviting a president wanted on genocide charges?)

Mohamed Ismail says: the Saudi decision is a good one, it's just too bad all the other Arab and Muslim countries didn't do this earlier. And by the way, where are the Security Council resolutions against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, even after it's been going on for sixty years? (that would be nice, but since you're so committed to basic human rights, a word of protest against Sudan's policies in Darfur would also be appropriate.)

Siaad al-Ameri says: Saudi Arabia is the best country for representing the Muslim world, and I support their decision! (oh my God, if he thinks Saudi Arabia is representing me, I am going to scream.)

Opinions of random people in Beirut came next:

A lady: I support Saudi's decision.

A man: it is crucial to have an Arab country on the Council. But how to advance the Arab agenda, that is the real question.

A young lady: I think she said it doesn't matter either way.

A man with sunglasses: it's important to have an Arab member on the Council.

A man with a smug expression: Thank God they quit, I don't want any Gulf Arab country to be on the Security Council!

A man: you have to be on the Council in order to have an impact.

A man: I think there should be a voice for Arabs.

A lady: it is crucial for an Arab country to be on the Council.

A man: the Security Council is controlled by the US and Russia, and they toss us around like pebbles.

Then came a short interview with an analyst. Here he is via video linkage with BBC presenter Resha Qandil:

First, he called out the "weak, sickly Arab political culture." Then he said Arabs have very little confidence that they can have an impact on the world stage, mainly because they have not been able to advocate for Palestine, their chief cause for 60 years. And when there are Arab-led initiatives for peace, they are ignored.

He continued: there's lots of suspicion directed towards the reasons Saudi gave for turning down the Council. Most people don't believe it was an act in solidarity with Palestine, because that has to be done in a systematic way. The analyst suggested the proper execution would be as follows: all the Arab and Muslim countries get together and plan and take the decision together, that if problems in Palestine are not immediately addressed, they are all going to withdraw from all international bodies.

And finally, opinions of random people on the streets of Baghdad:

A man: there's important issues on the table, it would have been best if Saudi had taken the seat and done something about all these problems.

An old man:

I don't at all support Saudi's withdrawal, or the withdrawal of any Arab country from the Security Council. This weakens our cause and it steals away from us our voice.

A man: Saudi did right.

Two men: I didn't understand

An old man man: I don't support the Saudi withdrawal, and I wish they were present on the Council, even though, if they were present, it wouldn't have made a difference. It's just a symbolic seat, and it only lasts for two years, you can't really do anything in that time.

Lots of interesting opinions!

Some new Arabic words I learned:
محرج - mohrij - embarrassing
يضر - ye-thir - hurts

You can watch the program here.

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