Tag Archive | "SAUDI WAR IN YEMEN"

Salafi mission calls into question Saudi concept of moderation and policy in Yemen


NOVANEWS

Muhammad bin Salman and moderate islam

By James M. Dorsey

Plans to open a Salafi missionary centre in the Yemeni province of Al Mahrah on the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia raise questions about Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s concept of a moderate form of Islam.

The questions are prompted by the fact that Prince Muhammad has so far put little, if any, flesh on his skeletal vow last October to return his ultra-conservative kingdom to “moderate Islam”.

The crown prince has created expectations of more social liberalism with the lifting of a ban on women’s driving, a residual of Bedouin rather than Muslim tradition, as well the granting of female access to male sporting events; the legitimisation of various forms of entertainment, including cinema, theatre and music; and the stripping away of the religious police’s right to carry out arrests.

While removing Saudi Arabia as the only Muslim country that didn’t permit women to drive or allow various recreational activities, Prince Muhammad has yet to conceptualise what a rollback of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism would mean in a nation whose public life remains steeped in a puritan interpretation of the faith. (The lifting on the ban of women entering stadiums leaves Iran as the only country that restricts female access to male sporting events.)

Sectarian crutches

The disclosure of the plan for a Salafi mission suggests Prince Muhammad may only want to curb ultra-conservatism’s rough edges. It also calls into question Saudi policy in Yemen that is reminiscent of past failures.

Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a Zaydi Shia Muslim sect with roots in a region bordering the kingdom, dates to Saudi employment of Salafism to counter the group in the 1980s.

The plan harks back to the creation of an anti-Shia Salafi mission near the Houthi stronghold of Saada that sparked a military confrontation in 2011 with the Yemeni government, one of several wars in the region. The centre was closed in 2014 as part of an agreement to end the fighting.

Prince Muhammad’s use of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam in his confrontation with the Houthis was also evident in the appointment as governor of Saada of Hadi Tirshan al-Wa’ili, a member of a tribe hostile to the Shia sect, and a follower of Saudi-backed Islamic scholar Uthman Mujalli. Mr Mujalli reportedly serves as an advisor to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the exiled, Saudi-backed Yemeni president.

“Over the past 40 years, the Saudi government has invested heavily in Salafi-Wahhabi-style madrasas and mosques in the northern areas, only to realise that this programme was jeopardised by the Zaydi revival movement. If the Houthis were to be defeated in their home province, it is likely that the Salafi-Wahhabi programme will be revived, and implemented more fiercely than in previous years,” said Yemen scholar Gabriele vom Bruck.

The disclosure of the Al-Mahrah plan coincided with a damning 79-page United Nations report that condemned Saudi, Iranian and United Arab Emirates interventions in Yemen. The report concluded that Saudi and UAE proxies threatened peace prospects and that a secession of South Yemen that includes Al-Mahrah had become a distinct possibility.

Questionable “moderation”

The questions about Prince Muhammad’s concept of a moderate Islam go beyond Yemen. The arts, including cinema, remain subject to censorship that is informed by the kingdom’s long-standing ultra-conservative values. A football player and a singer are among those who face legal proceedings for un-Islamic forms of expressing themselves.

The government last year introduced physical education in girls’ schools and legalised women’s fitness clubs, but has yet to say whether restrictions on women competing in a variety of Olympic disciplines will be lifted.

The example of Yemen suggests that little has changed in Saudi Arabia’s four-decade-old, $100 billion global public diplomacy campaign that promoted Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism as an anti-dote to revolutionary Iranian ideology.

Similarly, and perhaps more importantly, it has yet to indicate whether male guardianship, gender segregation, dress codes that force women to fully cover, and the obligatory closure of shops at prayer times will be abolished. Also, the government has still to declare a willingness to lift the ban on the practice of non-Muslim faiths or adherence to strands of Islam considered heretic by the ultra-conservatives.

The example of Yemen suggests that little has changed in Saudi Arabia’s four-decade-old, $100 billion global public diplomacy campaign that promoted Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism as an anti-dote to revolutionary Iranian ideology.

Yemen is but one extreme of the spectrum. The Saudi-funded and operated grand mosque in Brussels is the other. Saudi Arabia, responding to Belgian criticism of the mosque’s ultra-conservative management, last year appointed as its imam, Tamer Abou el Saod, a 57-year-old polyglot Luxemburg-based, Swedish consultant with a career in the food industry. Senior Saudi officials have moreover responded positively to a Belgian government initiative to prematurely terminate Saudi Arabia’s 99-year lease of the mosque so that it can take control of it.

In contrast to Yemen, where the use of ultra-conservatism is a deliberate choice, Prince Muhammad may feel constrained in his moderation quest in the kingdom by the fact that his ruling Al Saud family derives its legitimacy from its adherence to ultra-conservatism. In addition, the kingdom’s ultra-conservative religious establishment has repeatedly signalled that the views of at least some its members have not changed even if it has endorsed the crown prince’s policies.

Saudi Arabia last September suspended Saad al-Hijri, a prominent scholar in charge of fatwas, or religious edicts, in the province of Asir, for opposing the lifting of the ban on driving because women allegedly had only  half a brain that is reduced to a quarter when they go shopping. Sheikh Saad made his comment after the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, had approved the move.

Ultra-conservative mood music

By the same token, no public action was taken against Sheikh Salih al-Fawzan, a member of the council, who declared on his website that “If women are allowed to drive they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted”. A video clip of Sheikh Salih’s view was posted on YouTube in October. It was not clear when the scholar spoke or whether he had approved the posting.

A main thrust of Prince Muhammad’s drive to return to moderate Islam is the fight against extremism, involving among others the creation of a centre to oversee the interpretations of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings in a bid ensure that they do not justify violence.

There is indeed little doubt that the kingdom is serious about countering extremism. Opposing extremism, however, does not automatically equate to moderation or concepts of tolerance and pluralism. Prince Muhammad has yet to clarify if those concepts are part of his notion of moderation. His track record so far is at best a mixed one.

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Saudi Zio-Wahhabi strike on refugee boat kills over 44 off Yemen coast


NOVANEWS

At least 44 people have been killed and dozens of others wounded after a Saudi Zio-Wahhabi airstrike hit a refugee boat off Yemen’s western coast.

Yemen’s al-Masirah television reported on Thursday that the boat which came under attack was carrying Somali refugees near Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

According to the report, there are a number of women and children among the victims.

Reuters quoted a local official in Hudaydah as saying that the boat had come under attack by an Apache helicopter.

The refugees were on their way from Yemen to Sudan, the unnamed official said.

Earlier in the day, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi fighter jets bombed a food transport truck in the western province of al-Hudaydah, killing all the passengers, al-Masirah reported, without giving the number of those killed.

The remains of a truck hit by a Saudi Zio-Wahhabi strike in Hudaydah Province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi has been leading a deadly military campaign against Yemen since March 2015. The kingdom has also imposed an aerial and naval blockade on its southern neighbor.

Britain and the US have provided huge amounts of arms and military training to the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi forces.

According to the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, the Saudi military campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.

McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this year that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.

However, local Yemeni sources have put the death toll from the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi war at over 12,000, including many women and children.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Saudi Zio-Wahhabi strike on refugee boat kills over 44 off Yemen coast

MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi Zio-Wahhabi double-tap airstrike in Yemen


NOVANEWS
Image result for SAUDI WAR IN YEMEN CARTOON

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi Zio-Wahhabi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

UK rejects MPs’ calls to stop arms sales to Saudis Zio-Wahhabi regime


NOVANEWS

Image result for UK arms sales to Saudis CARTOON

The UK government has rejected calls by lawmakers to temporarily stop arms sales to Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family over the Kingdom’s war crimes in Yemen.

Britain has signed off £3.3 billion in arms sales to Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime since March 26, 2015, when it launched a war in Yemen in order to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to Saudi Zio-Wahhabi backed C.I.A puppet Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Two committees of MPs recently released a joint report, urging the government to suspend arms sales until the United Nations conducts an investigation into the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi atrocities, The Independent reported Monday.

The committees include the International Development and Business Committee, which both sit on a parliamentary ‘super committee’ known as the Committee on Arms Export Control (CAEC).

The Foreign Affairs Committee, a third constituent committee of CAEC, did not endorse the report, but suggested that British courts should decide the legality of the sales.

Meanwhile, a legal challenge has been launched by Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which is set to be heard in the coming months.

The UK government has rejected the calls by the two committees, saying it “is confident in its robust case-by-case assessment and is satisfied that extant licenses for Saudi are compliant with the UK’s export licensing criteria.”

“We continue to assess export license applications for Saudi Arabia on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application,” The Independent quoted the government as saying in an official response.

The government said that it would continue its arms sales to any country, unless its assessments show that the items are being used in violation of UN human rights laws.

“The key test for our continued arms exports is whether there is a clear risk that those exports might be used in a commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” it added.

The response was issued by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade told The Independent that “the government is in denial about the devastating impact of the Saudi-led bombardment and its own complicity in it.”

Smith called the response “very weak,” saying that it is indicative of the fact that “arms company profits are still being prioritized over the human rights and lives of Yemeni people.”

He noted that those who issued the response “could stop the arms sales right now” instead of “offering uncritical military and political support” to Saudi Arabia.

The UK government is “helping arms companies like BAE to sell even more weapons” to the Saudis, he added.

Since the beginning of the aggression, almost 10,000 people, including over 2,000 children, have been killed.

London has been one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to Riyadh for 40 years.

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