This week’s reading covered the influence that the wealthy conservative nation of Saudi Arabia had over the Arab spring and how they effected the regime changes around the region to benefit their values and political agendas. The Muslim Brotherhood and other factional groups have been fighting for political influence of the entire region. It’s highlighting the support through funding different military groups in an attempt gain more political power over the surrounding nations. The struggle specifically between the Sunni and Shiite powers in the middle east continue and Saudi Arabia has been stirring the pot between the two factions for years now but since 2011 tensions and regime changes have been increasing over the years.
It’s really frustrating to witness the puppetry being done by the Saudi ruling class over some of the surrounding nations, profiting from the struggle in Syria and doing almost nothing to combat the wildfire like spread of ISIS over the war torn nations of Iraq and Syria. This article made me consider the possible reasoning for Saudi Arabia trying to stay out of the fight against ISIS and to some degree it’s not surprising that they aren’t involved considering that some of their law in place are very consistent with the same Sharia law that ISIS operates by.
Saudi Arabia seems to intervene in other countries struggles only when in benefits their political interest but when the Plague of ISIS is committing atrocities next door they stay silent. If the mid-east region is to see true change and progress towards peace the first step is by getting a response coalition that doesn’t just involve putting more US troops back in the front but rather a coalition of troops from the entire region and support from NATO nations.
Lacroix’s third section caught my attention the most; entitled “The Re-emgergence of Saudi Constitutional Reformists,” this section names key players in the Arab Spring reformists. I recognized some of the names in the section, including Muhammad Al-Ahmari and Abdallah Al-Hamid, and this is the first time that any of these names or subjects of the class connected between weeks.
Saudi Arabia is unsurprisingly the most conservative and stable monarchy in the Middle East. Not only is there geographical and economic ties to the West of extreme significance but also their stance on the current issues concerning the region. Stephane Lacroix highlights the effect of the Arab Spring nonexistent to the core of Saudi Arabia’s politics and instead made the kingdom highly alerted and initiate stronger law enforcement. This was evident when the population of the Shia minority began to rally for reform after being inspired by the Egyptians and Libyans. This was seen as a very large threat to the Salafi traditions and customs that many in Saudi Arabia are loyal to.
The case in Saudi Arabia is considerably different because many of the important and conservative leaders of Islam feel that any kind of protests and change to the established way of things concerns Islamic principles as well as religious establishment set in the country. Many see Saudi as an special case because it contains Islam’s holiest site, Mecca that hosts millions of pilgrims every year from around the world for a religious pilgrimage. It’s important to note that Saudi Arabia is not the only country that harshly silenced the protests, Bahrain has the largest population of Shia Muslims that received harsh police brutality for protesting the inequality and discrimination received by the Sunni monarchy.
That being said, the Arab Spring did little to no change in the Arab Gulf and in fact created an even highly secure state. Since then, there has been a rise in digital activism with a wave of social media from the “forgotten prisoners” to police brutality and even women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Lacroix also provides the idea that Saudi Arabia was saved by many of the Islamic clerics and imams who would feature on TV to warn people to not protest and instead blame the rise of uprisings on those who were enemies of the Ummah. However, due to the rise of digital activism the youth in particular were adamant to produce change. To compensate and prevent any kind of mass uprising King Abdullah began to appoint some reforms.
I think after reading the article, the major issue that Saudi Arabia wanted to avoid was a whole wide demonstration for human rights which was the main driving point of the Egyptians and Libyans. This poses a threat not only to the politics of the country and the region but also to the Saudi royal family that upholds maintaining power of the country and keeping things the way they are.
It was interesting to read how different groups within a nation can influence groups of power such as the regime and inspire others to rise. Media, specifically social media, has allowed a population of young activists to rise. These activists range from 20`s to early 30`s and stand with different groups within Saudi Arabia. Although the article contained a lot of details that broke down the political perspective of Saudi Arabia I was surprised there wasn’t more details that directly addressed the Women2Drive issue although they did tie in women briefly, but it mainly focused on the pressure put on the regime to change. The use of media has allowed not only for these groups of protestors to exchange ideologies, but also as a communication device to gather together and essentially keep their “campaigns” alive and updated to the public. Although the groups had different individual goals they all had the similar goal of getting the regime to do something for the people of Saudi Arabia.
In the reading by Stephanie Lacroix, we learn about a variety of social activist groups and how they continuously reformed, even though the Regime would shut them down. Some of the earlier movements started in the 1970’s and defied the royal families. One of the larger, well known movements was the of the Sunnic Islamic movement, also known as the Sahwa. They protested and lead many of them to be imprisoned. The movement eventually split into two different groups, one which focused on “society” issues and the other on “political change”.
If we look at movements in more current times, it is easy to see how much technology advancements have impacted social media movements. Lacroix explains in her journal, “the young themselves were becoming more actively politicized” through the new media platforms such a Twitter and Facebook. Thus, opposing a new threat to the Regime and demonstrating the ongoing issues in Saudi Arabia. A number of Sahwa activists were able to establish the Kingdoms first political party, known as the Islamic Umma Party. As a result of, allows people to question the royal families power and the government system they have in their State.
Throughout the piece, I am able to see how social movements create a new threat to the Regime. Not just by it being virtually available, but because it was easier to get people together to protest. The more people are able to see the problems they have in Saudi Arabia, the more effective their movements will be. I feel there are still too many things left to be acknowledged and gradually changed but these changes have been embedded since the 1970’s. There will be a change, if not know, there is hope for tomorrow. As Lacroix states towards the end of her article,”Though the royal family has undoubtedly won the first round of the game, it could therefore experience more challenges to its authority in the not-so- distance future.”
The article Saudi Islamists and the Arab Spring by Stéphane Lacroix, addresses the influence of revolutionary protest and deadly repression. The article does an impressive job applying contextual knowledge to research. Lacroix’s writings discussing the Saudi Arabian royal family’s response to the Arab Spring is narratively written and well balanced on the development of the Arab revolutions’ Saudi Arabian interests. I think Lacroix made some really insightful representations of both sides. With Saudi Islamists playing a pivotal role in the new political generation of Saudi youth, the importance of the subject was received in respect to the prevailing religious and cultural experiences. I found the information presented by Lacroix, establishes a curvilinear between oppositions within reach of resolve. However, even-tempered as the opinions may seem the unification of ideas is further from the truth.
The current debate within Saudi society, is introducing a whole new perspective on the significance of the Sunni Islamist Sahwa movement in the Saudi Arabian political environment. The Sahwa, meaning the Islamic Awakening, is infusing the pervading social movements of the Saudi youths with strong social and political protests against the royal family. However, these demonstrations have been severely met with heavy resistance from religious detractors. The revolutionary stance by Saudi Islamists on the social activism of Saudi youth and the disparaging political oppositions against constitutional reformists have been strongly influenced by the development and use of social media in Saudi Arabia.
Through communication and technology, both Saudi youths and reformists were able to grow convincingly influential by politically challenging the traditional authority of Saudi government. Intellectually funding the legitimacy of their social activism, young reformists developed an extension of their political positions, through demonstrative writing and academic pursuit. Three separate petitions for reform, represented by the different activist groups, were effectively influential on the overwhelming religious authority among the Saudi public. However, by taking both an economically supportive stance in favor of funding Saudi society and then subsequently incarcerating the youth movement’s most influential activists, the Saudi government furtively discredited the accomplishments of Islamists further dividing Saudi society by minimizing the issues.
This week’s article by Lacroix, “No Spring in Ridayh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution”, talks about the inability of different groups of people to create a large enough impact to change the broken governmental system that desperately needs change. The common goal towards bringing change to Saudia Arabia is described in the reading by having different activist groups come together but as Lacroix states, there were always disagreements that would eventually separate the activist groups.
I think its very important the anti-government demonstrations continue to fight the repression that the people face in their everyday lives. The article mentions the protests of the 90’s, but I think its important to emphasize the role that social media has played in the Arab Spring that has contributed to a larger and more widespread response from the Arab region. These repressive actions by Saudi Arabia, for example, have sparked organization and social media activist groups such as #Women2Drive that have specifically targeted the issue of women not being able to drive. I think actions like these are the ones that will eventually change the views that the repressive government holds as well as the public’s. In order to bring major change into region, the different activist groups need to come to a resolution that will bring about a common goal.