Saudi Arabia Launches New Crackdown on Political Dissidents, Journalists—US Stays Silent

Saudi Arabia is being accused of launching a new crackdown on political dissidents that has specifically targeted journalists, writers and bloggers. Yet officials in the US have remained noticeably silent. 

Rights groups are now speaking out and claiming that the Saudi government has arrested at least 8 people in the last 10 days, specifically targeting journalists, for the crime of criticizing the government. 

They say the arrests started around 4pm on Saturday, November 16, in Riyadh where at least four well-known writers and journalists were arrested and their laptops and phones were seized.

On the same day, another writer and political analyst was arrested, and his home was raided in Medina. Then two days later, the home of a sixth writer was also raided, and he was arrested on November 18. After another two days, two more homes were raided on November 20 and 21. In both cases, writers were arrested and their devices were seized.

It is not clear yet what charges each of these individuals is facing, but rights groups have claimed that while they criticized the government in the past, they have never threatened to commit violent acts.

Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for a pattern of human rights abuses, and a major part of that stems from how the kingdom’s judicial system.

For example, Saudi Arabia uses “special criminal courts,” which they say are reserved for terrorism suspects. But we have increasingly seen a trend in which those courts are used to try political dissidents in secret. And the punishments these individuals receive for simply speaking out and criticizing their government includes the death penalty, which can be carried out through hanging or crucifixion.

That gruesome death penalty has been handed down to men, women, and even children alike, and right now there are a multiple women who are still in jail because they called for the kingdom to let women drive last year—and they have alleged that they have been tortured and sexually abused in custody.

Many were hopeful that Mohammed bin Salman would bring about new reforms in the country, but he is now being criticized for not doing nearly enough to stop humans rights abuses. And while there has been some international pressure, it has done very little to make a difference.

In fact, a director for one rights group argued that the only thing the Saudi government has “learned is that they can avoid international pressure with sports and entertainment and P.R. campaigns.”

As for the US, we have heard very little from President Trump or top officials, and it remains to be seen if they will actually move to stand up to Saudi Arabia over the latest troubling human rights abuses.

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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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