Saudi Arabia has hit international news constantly after the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at their government’s hands, causing outcry from officials and the general populace all over the world. The Islamic country has had spats with human rights groups consistently because of their use of torture, corporal punishment, capital punishment, human trafficking, lack of religious freedom, and abuse of women.
Many countries are toeing the line carefully when it comes to criticizing Saudi Arabia, as the nation is wealthy and often a source of revenue for the manufacturers of weapons and other goods. Notably, President Donald Trump has stated that they stand with Saudi Arabia, no doubt prioritizing his country’s financial relationship over the murder of a Washington Post columnist and other heinous acts.
Saudi Arabia is a prime example of how nations that otherwise defend human rights turn a blind eye to injustices in order to further their own power and influence, and in this case, it is purely economical. Trump’s refusal to condemn the Saudi Arabian government and its crown prince, to the point of denying CIA evidence from his own government, speaks volumes as to where his priorities lie. Because of the $110 billion arms deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, this man who constantly takes action based on his own prejudices despite lack of any evidence, now says that “we don’t know the facts” and refuses to do anything to anger his business partners.
It’s shameful that the United States, a global leader in today’s world, has been known to sit back and watch Saudi Arabia do as they please for decades now. It was not just Trump who was responsible for the constant arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama pushed arms deals with the country despite everyone knowing about their human rights abuses.
This is clearly not just a partisan issue – it will take the whole country acknowledging the need to stop making situations where they are dependent on Saudi Arabian money so that they do not create more instances of letting Saudi Arabia have its way with its own citizens and outsiders who do not fall in line with their oppressive regime.
Luckily, there are some countries taking a stand against Saudi Arabia in response to the murder of Khashoggi. Canada, months before Khashoggi's death, had condemned Saudi Arabia for its trampling on women’s rights. They called for the release of civil and women’s rights activists to which Saudi Arabia responded explosively – cutting diplomatic ties by releasing the Canadian ambassador, stopping airlines from going to Toronto, and cancelling all scholarships of Saudi students who were in Canada at the time.
You would expect such an overreaction to the mere notion of releasing wrongfully arrested activists would garner some attention, but the silence from other countries at the time was very telling. Nobody wanted to anger Saudi Arabia because of their importance to the economy, and ultimately, money was given priority over the people being crushed beneath the heel of the oppressive Saudi government.
This spat with Canada ultimately proved as a warning to countries who dared to criticize Saudi Arabia, and after the murder of Khashoggi, it seems that many countries have taken heed of that warning. But there are indeed some countries standing up to the abuses, such as Germany, who stopped all arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to Khashoggi’s death.
Hopefully, more countries follow suit and let Saudi Arabia know that their disregard for human rights will not be tolerated by the international community. However, only time will tell if the nations of the world, especially the United States, will do anything that goes against their own economic interests in order to protect the lives of innocent people. Either way, it’s time for everyone who is able to take a stand against Saudi Arabia to do so now.