Saudi opposition and other activists have scorned efforts made by religious officials at mediating between the Saudi authorities and the Muslim extremists in the kingdom to prevent more bombings like those Riyadh had witnessed recently. The opposition feels that such efforts will only reach deadlock with the government.
Abdullah Naser Al Subeihi - a psychiatrist at Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University and one of the key mediators - announced that a group of scientists and religious figures are holding talks with the Saudi government to formulate an understanding between the Saudi authorities and the opposition. The initiative came to life after the recent attack on Muhaya compound, which resulted in the death of 17 and injury of more than 120.
Prominent opposition leader Sa’ad Al Faqih described the initiative “as a sincere push for peace and an attempt to reach a middle-ground with the Saudi authorities,” although he expects the efforts to end with no real results from the Saudi government. Elaborating on the initiative, Faqih said, “The religious officials came up with this initiative as they felt they were to blame for not being able to prevent such attacks, in addition, the Saudi public is also beginning to blame them for not being able to do anything to stop this.”
Faqih added “the Saudi regime is dealing with the issue as a ‘security concern’ rather than an irrational cultural, religious and emotional phenomenon that requires a more analytical and intellectual approach. Also, the government thinks that it can solve its security problems by suppressing both the hard-line [opposition] groups as well as the more peaceful [opposition groups] ones… it thinks it can convince the Saudis groups that they only have two options ahead of them, either complete obedience [to the Royal family] or counter-violence by the government.”
He suggested that “the Saudi authorities should not deal with this as a security threat, but instead, they should start opening channels of dialogue with the peaceful groups as well as the more hard-line opposition groups…otherwise, the whole country will slip into an endless cycle of violence.”
Faqih believes that the most recent bombings are indicative of two things - namely the lack of intelligence amongst the Saudi authorities as well as poor handling of the situation on the ground following the May attacks.
“Firstly, all security procedures the Saudi authorities have taken since the first bombings last May in Riyadh have done nothing to prevent this [recent] bombing from happening. Second, this [recent] bombing came after several ‘measures-of-suppression’ the Saudi authorities have moved on to quell their [the Saudi opposition groups’] desire for more freedom of speech and political reform. Numerous Saudis have been taken into custody, and many more were humiliated and tortured for demonstrating peacefully under the leadership of the Al Islah movement," said Faqih.
Faqih, however, agreed that the most recent bombings have lowered the public’s support for the more hard-line groups in the Kingdom. “People are not happy about the bombings themselves; however they are happy for the reason that such actions embarrass the Saudi government.”
It should be noted that Faqih does not believe in the legitimacy of King Fahd’s throne and rule over Saudi Arabia.
Ali Al Ahmad, editor-in chief of the Saudi News Agency - part of the Saudi Research Institute in Washington – believes the initiative at mediating between both parties is not a bad one, however, he doubts that anything will come out of it.
“Even if the government responds [positively], this will only be an attempt at manipulating the situation to overcome the existing crises…the Saudi government has no intention of improving the political situation in the Kingdom,” said Ahmad.
Ahmed described the most recent political changes - that are expected to bring about constitutional elections - as a “big lie” as half of the population [being women] is not granted the right to vote.
Regarding the elections, Ahmad emphasized “that they only give us the right to elect those we would like to see, rather than the more important right which is the right to freedom of speech…without that [freedom of speech] violence will only grow in Saudi Arabia."
He ended by saying “Al Qaeda would not have existed if Osama Bin Laden was granted the basic right to freedom of speech in his own country - Saudi Arabia.” (Albawaba.com)
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