Monday, April 20, 2015

One of the more important reasons for the Saudi War on Yemen: divert attention elsewhere and stifle internal dissent

    Monday, April 20, 2015   No comments

Wartime climate in Saudi puts calls for reform on hold
An electronic billboard at an upscale Saudi mall flashes an advertisement for a designer fragrance before switching to images of soaring F-16s and King Salman saluting the troops. "The response has come to you who threaten the nation," the caption says. "To those who test me, take this war as a reply."

The message is directed at the Iranian-allied Shiite rebels in Yemen who have been the target of a three-week Saudi-led air campaign. The nationalist fervor whipped up by the war has put calls for reform in the kingdom on hold as people rally behind their king, the troops and the status quo.

State-run newspapers, radio talk shows and TV programs are almost entirely focused on the war against the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, with local media portraying it as part of a regional struggle against Tehran and its allies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Saudi human rights activists who consistently speak out about the need for political and societal reforms declined to speak to The Associated Press or did so only on condition of anonymity, saying they fear arrest in the current climate. In neighboring Bahrain, at least three people have been detained for criticizing their country's participation in the Saudi-led campaign.

One Saudi rights activist said she and a group of academics were planning to launch a campaign and release videos this month challenging Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws, which give men powerful sway over women's lives and require females to seek a male relative's permission to travel abroad or undergo certain medical procedures. The project was indefinitely suspended, with those in charge of its research saying that it was inappropriate to talk about such issues while the country is in a state of war.

Another political activist, who is facing trial, said people fear being seen as traitors if they question aspects of the war or press for reforms.

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Ed Isr

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