Why Are Saudis Boycotting Amazon?

Published November 12th, 2018 - 07:42 GMT
Since the boycott started Saudi social media users have forwarded images showing them deleting the Amazon application from smartphones or cancelling online accounts. (Shutterstock)
Since the boycott started Saudi social media users have forwarded images showing them deleting the Amazon application from smartphones or cancelling online accounts. (Shutterstock)

An unofficial boycott of Amazon was initiated in Saudi Arabia over what has been perceived as the Washington Post’s biased reporting of the killing of former government adviser turned critic Jamal Khashoggi.

The Arabic hashtag “Boycott Amazon” was trending in Saudi Arabia, with thousands of social media users urging Saudis to shun Amazon.com and its regional subsidiary Souq.com. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013.

Since the boycott started Saudi social media users have forwarded images showing them deleting the Amazon application from smartphones or cancelling online accounts.

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“The Washington Post has consistently published offensive articles against Saudi Arabia, to serve the enemies of the kingdom, and now we call on everyone to defend our country and stand with our leaders and to confront anyone who wishes to harm our nation,” Saudi journalist Bandar Otyf tweeted.

“We will start with boycotting Amazon, to send a message to its owner over for him to understand the scope of the damage he caused.”

Many Saudis said they feel their country is under attack.

Khashoggi, a well-known media figure who fell out with the Saudi government over his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood movement, was killed October 2 by Saudi operatives at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials first denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts but later said he was killed in a “rogue operation.”

Since then the kingdom has detained 18 individuals it said were tied to the operation and dismissed high-ranking officials in the intelligence community and the Royal Court. The investigation continues.

The Post published an opinion column by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 2 in which he claimed that the order to kill Khashoggi “came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”

“It became clear before our eyes that this is an organised media war,” wrote Otyf.  “As Twitter users and activists and citizens, we don’t have power abroad but we have simple things like boycotting.”

“I’m taking a stand for my country. Apparently, you don’t know the ABC’s of loyalty or standing for anything,” wrote clinical pharmacology student Razan of her reasons for boycotting Amazon.

“It’s not acceptable, the [Amazon] owner is the same owner of the paper that attacks our nation and its leaders,” said another Twitter user, CNN reported.

Some Saudi users attributed a Washington Post editorial calling out Erdogan’s hypocrisy in the Khashoggi affair due to the hundreds of imprisoned journalists and academics in Turkey.

“The Washington Post is trying to get out of the hypocritical trap it has put itself in. As the Arabs say, we hit two birds with one stone,” wrote Ahmed Almamy with regards to an editorial critical of Erdogan.

Some users dismissed the boycott, with some arguing that Bezos was not in charge of the newspaper’s editorial policy and others said they would use Amazon as long as it continued providing competitive deals.

The government-regulated Saudi media has hardly reported on the unofficial boycott, which is usually an indication of a lack of official support. Traditionally the Saudi government discourages politically motivated boycotts due to the adverse effects on the domestic and regional economy, with Souq.com, which was acquired last year by Amazon, as an example.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, do not see eye to eye with Turkey on several issues, especially its support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is outlawed in all three countries.

Besides suspicions related to Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Ankara has backed Qatar, with which the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties in June 2017 over what they described as Doha’s interference in their countries’ internal affairs and its support for radical groups, such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In an interview during a visit to Cairo this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said Turkey, Iran and radical Islamic groups were a “triangle of evil” and that Ankara was trying to re-establish an Islamic caliphate system of government.


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