Nayef bin Abd-al-Aziz
63 years old, Minister of the Interior.
Since taking over the Ministry of Interior in 1975, Prince Nayef has been subjected to national and international attention owing to occurrences of repression and scandals. More recently he has been in the limelight for his heavy-handed clampdown against the alleged authors of the two anti-American bombings which took place in November 1995 in Riyadh and June 1996 in al-Khubar.
Unfortunately, his harsh repressive stance has been closely linked to corruption and murky dealings, like most of the members of the House of Saud. Yet, initially the man was not, to use an understatement, as irresponsible as he is today. Who is Nayef bin Abd-al-Aziz?
Born in 1933, Nayef is the third son of Hussa bint Ahmad al-Sudeiri, one of the seven Sudeiri brothers.
He obtained his first degree in the Kingdom, but is not particularly bright intellectually, nor is he considered to be well educated.
However, an honorary doctorate was conferred upon him by South Korea in 1979.
Good man turned evil:
Nayef is one of those strange human beings that mankind has known throughout the centuries. He was a calm man, who always avoided making hasty decisions in matters which committed the reputation of his ministry and himself. He used to comport himself with good manners and deference, earning himself respect and consideration amongst important personalities in society, amongst politicians and even diplomats. He maintained particularly good relations with the ulama and the religious institutions. But one day, in 1991, there was a certain Gulf War and the man turned evil almost overnight. He is known to have spoken in a way which does not befit an ordinary man, let alone his office as Minister of the Interior.
The appointment and promotion:
In 1951 he was given his first ever appointment as Deputy Governor of Riyadh from which he became Governor in 1953 only to cede it to Prince Fawaz a year later. From then on he did not assume any responsibility in public service until 1971 when his elder brother (Interior Minister Fahd) appointed him as his Deputy.
Four years later, after the assassination of King Faisal in 1975, he eventually became Interior Minister himself. Twenty one years later, he is still head of this ministry and his record is indeed impressive.
Sudeiris tighten grip on power:
The Sudeiris reached the highest positions of the State when Faisal took over as King in 1962. Fahd was given the Interior, Sultan the Defence and Salman the Governorate of Riyadh.
The appointment of Nayef as Deputy Interior Minister in 1971 was seen as a move which reinforced the grip of the Sudeiris on the State machinery. When he took full charge of the Ministry in 1975, Nayef, in turn, appointed his younger brother Ahmad as his deputy with whom he has since planned and executed the ministry's policies.
Importance of the Interior Ministry:
As Interior Minister, Nayef was granted important prerogatives following the demise of King Faisal. These were to gradually increase year by year, thereby emphasising the importance of the Interior Ministry in the strategy of the House of Saud of holding onto power.
The Interior Ministry has usually been seen as the bridge to the supreme office, as the cases of King Faisal and King Fahd demonstrate. Since its inception, the post has respectively been held by Prince Faisal before he became King, Musa id bin Abd-al-Rahman Al-Saud, Abd-al-Muhsin bin Abd-al-Aziz, Faisal bin Turki bin Abd-al-Aziz, Fahd and finally Nayef. Moreover, a great many lesser princes have been employed by the ministry throughout the Arabian provinces and emirates, which indicate yet again the extent of the House of Saud's grip on the country. The Interior Ministry's importance comes from the fact that it controls the policing of the population through the security services; the borders and coasts through the Borders and Coast Guards and the tribes through the so-called Mujahidin Forces. Under Nayef, and among its prominent services are the Special Police Forces, who have became notorious of late and the Anti-terrorist Squad.
One of the features of Nayef's authority, is that all civilian services within the country's provinces report directly to his ministry even if they are attached to other ministries. This is another strategic method by which the House of Saud foils possible unrest and uncovers any activity deemed suspicious. This prerogative has enabled Nayef to infringe upon the authority of the Minister of Justice as Nayef is able to control the proceedings of scores of courts, especially those dealing with political activity.
Another aspect of Nayef s prerogatives is his overall control of the media. The Supreme Information Council, set up in 1977, paradoxically comes under his authority instead of that of the Ministry of Information, which once more underlines the repressive character of the regime. Even the Foreign Ministry's Information Department was integrated into this council which has become the initiator of both internal and external information policy. In the wake of the 1979 revolt inside the Sacred Mosque in Makka, Prince Nayef was given unlimited power over the audio-visual and written press. Under the notorious March 1980 Decree no. 78, Nayef appointed a representative of his Ministry to monitor the activities of newsmen whom he forced to practice self-censorship.
In the field of human rights Nayef has always ignored the requests of human rights organizations regarding the rights of political prisoners for fair trials, and has even undertaken media campaigns against them in an attempt to belittle their importance. In the recent trials of defendants charged in connection with the Riyadh and al-Khobar anti-American bombings, Nayef himself oversaw the proceedings and is reported to have personally interrogated the accused, while circulating rumours that they were ShiĠa dissidents rather than an armed opposition to the Saud oligarchy.
As a prince belonging to the family of King Abd-al-Aziz, Nayef is annually entitled to a remuneration of $100 million.
He also has a quota of oil which accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars, in addition to a quota of royal lands which he resells. He is also known to have confiscated land for his own benefit claiming that it was for security reasons. Meanwhile he is rumoured to be involved in the sale of drugs and alcohol for which he receives a commission.
In the meantime, one of his wives, Maha Sudeiri, is known to dominate him and actually makes decisions in his place at the Interior Ministry, which has led to persistent abuses of power. The victims are the ordinary people. Also, her misbehaviour abroad was such that an American television stations in Florida broadcast a film about her. Her attitude caused great embarrassment to the House of Saud who kept urging Nayef to divorce her, but in vain.
As the fourth key personality of the regime (after the King, the Heir Apparent and the Defence Minister), Nayef has an eye on the highest office, but so has his elder brother, Sultan and younger brother, Salman. This situation has created a rift between the Sudeiris, although this has so far been kept under control. But for how long? And would this diminish Crown Prince Abdallah's chances of succeeding the ailing King Fahd?
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