ARABIA IN THE MEDIA
The main item of news during the first ten days of May, was
undoubtedly the saga of Hani Al-Sayegh, the Saudi who sought
refuge in Canada but whom the Federal Court ruled should be
deported. There was also a very fine article penned by Charles
Hanley about the baby boom in the House of Al-Saud.
The piece of news that caught my eye, however, as being the most
redundant of the century was, "Saudi Leader Rules Out
Euthanasia"(Washington Post from Al-Riyadh Daily 9/5/97). An
eminent Saudi Arabian theologian ruled that it was not permitted,
by Islamic law, "to take the life of a person before death
takes its natural course". (Considering the trouble in the
royal House of Al-Saud it would be impertinent to ask who
questioned the theologian but I hope it wasnt any of the
pretenders to the Saudi throne. Watch your back Fahad!)
The following are summaries of articles and reports from the
major news wires and papers. The bracketed comments are my own,
On May the first (New York Times, Foreign Affairs), there was a
very suspect article written by a journalist who is very
obviously Islamophobic and very possibly anti-Semetic in the
wider sense of the word. It trys to be funny but just falls flat
on its face. Mr. Friedman, the journalist calls this
work, "A Saudi-Iranian Schmooze" and is about the
meeting of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Abdullah Al-Saud in Islamabad.
The schm talks volumes about the authors background
and political hue. It is a conversation which is
presented as two monologues, as Mr. Friedman imagines it sounded.
As the whole piece is from Mr. Friedmans imagination there
is very little newsworthiness in it at all, except to a clinical
psychologist who would have a field day with it. I must say,
without being racist, that this mans brain is like his
The Hani Al-Sayegh affair made front page in most of the northern
American broadsheets in the first week of May (Reuters et al
1.4.& 5/5/97). It was interesting to see what they made of
the ruling by Federal Court Judge, Donna McGillis.
Before the ruling, which was passed down on the fifth of May, the
FBI were reported as being close to success in their
investigation of the Al-Khobar bombing. It was reported by the
Associated Press that investigators believed Al-Sayegh drove the
car that signalled the go-ahead to the driver of a fuel truck
packed with explosives in the Dhahran bombing. The House Speaker,
Newt Gingrich said that if the FBI found that Iran was
responsible then the United States should act decisively.
Canadian authorities had maintained that Al-Sayegh served as a
lookout for the suicide truck bomber and he went to the Federal
Court to fight his deportation. Al-Sayeghs lawyer, Doug
Baum waived his clients opportunity to defend himself
publicly in court but didnt say why. He did, however, deny
that his client had been advised by the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Baum added that the issue at the court hearing,
"was not Al-Sayeghs chance to defend himself on his
guilt or innocence. It wasnt a criminal trial, it was
admissibility to Canada that was in question".
At the end of the hearing, Judge McGinnis ruled that a Canadian
government certificate declaring the Saudi dissident a terrorist,
was reasonable. With Al-Sayegh now certified as a threat to
Canadian security, the case was out of the security
The next step will be his attendance at a hearing of
Canadas Immigration Review Board when the Immigration
Minister, Lucienne Robillard will decide where to deport him. The
Minister has the power to deport Al-Sayegh to the country where
he was born, currently holds citizenship or last resided, or to
the country from which he went to Canada.
(How did the security services of Canada come to their decision
that Al-Sayegh was a terrorist?) The Canadian Intelligence
released a report to the press in which they said the Saudi
authorities has informed them that Al-Sayegh had made phone calls
to his wife in Saudi Arabia. During the course of several call,
which had been intercepted by the Saudi government, Al-Sayegh had
told his wife what amounted to a complete description of how the
bombing had been organised and carried out. He was also reported
to have referred to Irans role in the whole affair.
The Americans, however, are not quite so gullible in affairs of
this kind, as was reported by the Washington Post. The headlines
were, "Bomb suspect is dilemma for the U.S.".
Apparently the U.S. authorities are divided over whether they
have enough evidence to seek custody of Al-Sayegh. An important
consideration for them is their seeking custody would leave the
United States in direct competition with the Saudi authorities.
It must be remembered that the FBI has been forced to rely on
Saudi co-operation in the inquiry and, as yet, have not been
allowed access to interview other suspects in Saudi custody.
A senior law enforcement officer said that they were in a
delicate situation and that the stakes were potentially very
high. The Washington Post said that the U.S. dilemma was rooted
in the fact that evidence against Al-Sayegh was provided by the
Canadian and Saudi Arabian governments and not by the FBI. Saudi
officials have received confessions from a number of suspects,
but U.S. authorities are worried that some of the statements
might have been coerced through torture and, therefore, would be
inadmissible in U.S. courts. The paper reported that sources said
the Saudi standard for a criminal investigation and those of the
United States are starkly different. A Saudi criminal case rests
almost solely on the results of interrogation while U.S.
prosecutions are typically built in forensic findings, eyewitness
accounts and other evidence. The Post reported that several FBI
agents, given their limited options, may have to gamble that
Al-Sayeghs fear of torture and a chopping block in Saudi
Arabia might lead him to co-operate with the U.S. and not fight
an extradition request.
(The stark reality of all this is that Al-Sayegh has been branded
a terrorist and a threat to the Canadian government without any
hearing or chance to defend himself. This doesnt seem to be
in keeping with the countrys proud record of judicial
progression. It is to be hoped most earnestly that Canada
isnt making the mistake that the worlds media made
while reporting the Oklahoma bombing or the recently crashed
In a scathing article about Al-Saud, Mr Hanley of the Associated
Press wrote on the third of May, "Scarcely a day dawns in
this desert kingdom that doesnt deliver pilgrims to Mecca,
oil to the world and yet another baby boy to the royal House of
Saud. Another prince among thousands, heir to a six figure
allowance, free phone calls, free kilowatts, free first-class
seats worldwide. Another claimant to a penthouse office in
government, to rich commissions on contracts, to lucrative
business partnerships. Another reason, in short, why Saudi
Arabias proliferating princelings may soon become Saudi
Arabias king-sized problem." It seems that Mr Hanley
really knows Al-Sauds methods and way of government.
"Inside this realm of the sun, sand and secret police,"
he says, "contrary words are rarely spoken aloud. But
sometimes theyre smuggled out, like the notes for
Princess, the memoirs of a Saudi royal."
In the Capital, Al-Riyadh, he says, "...princes hold
strategic Cabinet posts - Defense, Interior, Intelligence - and
others sit as junior ministers. Every provincial governor is a
prince or in-law, and the family members control key military
staffs. Stalin had his commissars, The House of Saud has its
princes." An American human rights group, Freedom
House says that the Saudi royal family virtually runs the
country as a private fiefdom. "Runs it so tightly,"
says Mr. Hanley, "that even basic information about the
Sauds themselves can be hard to come by. No Debretts
Peerage lays out pedigrees for an inquisitive public, as in
Britain. No society pages celebrate rich-and-famous lifestyles.
... But enough is known to sketch in some details about the
planets biggest, richest royal family - although just how
big is not necessarily one of those details. A government source
told a reporter there are 2,700 princes and princesses. Other
estimates are higher. A U.S. government publication speaks of
more than 4,000 princes alone in the early 1990s."
Mr Hanley speaks of many benefits granted to a royal child. He
will receive from his first day, as a minimum stipend, about
$10,000 a month and later on in the royals life, a huge
government salary on top of that. This is apart from the
gratuities mentioned above. "A former U.S. diplomat here
explained; A British Tornado jet fighter is 25 million
dollars on the open market. We estimated the Saudis are paying 65
to 75 million dollars. There are ways that extra money gets
distributed throughout the family."
He also quotes a young woman who socialises with princesses as
saying, "They watch movies, go to the country house, go to
Europe to shop. Behind palace walls, some idle twenty-somethings
also indulge in less healthy pursuits, heavy drinking and drug
use, vices that can cost commoners long jail terms, if not their
Mr. Hanley reports a U.S. official as saying that the old compact
was starting to break down with the growing number of princes and
that it was causing friction. He also said that some old
associates saw time running out for the princes. He writes that
an experienced diplomat said that the House of Saud was a
high-maintenance family and that it was showing less cohesion, at
a critical time. "But some say family infighting", Mr.
Manley says, "may endanger the ever-expanding House of Saud
even more than popular dissent."
At the end of the article he quotes a Saudi princess as saying,
"Surely the weakness of our monarchy in Saudi Arabia is
bound up in our addiction to extravagance. I fear it will be our
On the 6th of May the Saudi Press Agency reported that the
Interior Minister, Prince Naif said that an investigating
commission had concluded that the Hajj fire which killed so many
pilgrims was not deliberate. On the same day Al-Riyadh
Daily said that Saudi Arabia was free from organised crime.
(I imagine that the report discounts the daily fraudulent
behaviour of the royal family. Commissions and skimming off money
from contracts by the Al-Sauds is obviously, in their eyes,
either not criminal or is not organised. I would plug for the
latter for their moral sense is weak but their organisational
powers are weaker)
The final article that caught my eye was a piece about two
children that have been taken to Saudi Arabia by their father
(UPI NewsFeature 10/5/97). His estranged wife says they have been
kidnapped and is demanding that the U.S. government intervenes in
what they see as a highly charged diplomatic affair. The U.S.
State Department is trying to handle the case in a private,
diplomatic manner that will not upset the "media-shy royal
family". On one occasion a couple of weeks ago it was
reported by the media, that Mrs. Roush was on a hunger strike to
draw attention to her plight. The whole affair,
however, had been absent from the press because of the State
Departments decision not to upset the royals, that it
cannot take sides and must protect the business interests of the
United States. A State Department spokesman said, "The U.S.
government cannot force the Saudi government or the father to see
things our way".
Saudhouse is best viewed using Microsoft IE explorer
- Inhuman Rights
- Saudi Embassy
- Sports in Arabia
- Arab Net
- Arabia Online
- Arabic Newspapers