Last Friday’s Decrees

Last Friday, the King made a three minute pre-recorded speech thanking Saudis for their loyalty in an obvious reference to no one coming out to demonstrate on the Friday before. After the speech, two tv presenters took turns announcing a number of royal decrees. The night before the king’s speech and announcements were made, all newspaper editors were told not to use the term “royal generosity” or anything similar to refer to financial packages. These little things are evidence that up high they really are listening to what we down here are saying.

Last Friday’s royal decrees were surprising in their traditionalism while we were anticipating the opposite. Retrospectively though, anyone who would have stepped back and looked at the big picture would have been able to foresee these decrees.

Besides the fun and bribe-like two month salary that almost every Saudi employee and university student is getting, the rest of the decrees are pretty much same old same old. A commission to fight corruption being set up, more interior ministry officers and a lot of money promised to infrastructure; where have I heard that before? The commission that was set up a couple years ago to examine the corruption behind the loss of millions assigned to Jeddah’s municipality has yet to name a culprit. We’ve all read about the millions poured into projects that never see the light of day like this outline prepared by fellow blogger Trad Al Asmari in which three different construction companies take turns being paid to build a ministry for education at a  total cost of about 350 million US dollars.
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The rest of the decrees are to benefit the ultra-conservatives of Saudi.  First in a move reminiscent of medieval times, the highest religious council has been royally decreed as untouchable, anyone criticizing the senior clerics will be punished. Then we have the religious establishment’s own personal financial package which includes 53 million dollars for the PVPV, 80 million for Islamic missionary centers, 130 million to fix up mosques and finally 53 million to support Quran memorization and teaching centers. It made me wonder what the PVPV will do with their 2010 600 strong  fleet of patrol jeeps?  Meanwhile anyone who has been in a Saudi police station, visited the prisons or at the very least checked out the orphanage in Makkah can tell you how just how far a fraction of all that money could go. But like I said before this is all explainable and foreseeable. If you were in control of Saudi, who would you care more about appeasing? The Islamists who have since the initiation of the country shown how quickly they can become radicalized and violent, or the moderates and liberal who are just as anxious about the Islamists as the state is?

I’m not worried though. Good things come to those who wait. What with 125,000 Saudi students abroad being exposed to a world beyond a Saudi life deeply entrenched in prideful denial, traditions and the opposite of critical thinking. And then about 40% of the population under 14 being raised in the new media age, change is just a matter of time.

On Twitter, a lot of the Saudi tweeps were critical about the announcements. My favorites include:

Mahmoud Sabbagh tweeted: the senior clerics  bill for the prohibition of demonstrations fatwa has turned out to be really high.

Mohammad Al-Qahtani  tweeted: All oppressive Arab regimes are trying to maintain the “status quo” by intimidation, bribery, employing armies of all kinds of mercenaries!

Abdullah bin Abid tweeted: What’s required is a constitution and a system that protects the rights of citizens and those in positions of responsibility, and assigns duties. We don’t need more security forces; security is in rights and political participation.

Abdulrahmin Allahim tweeted: A cleric is a citizen just as I’m a citizen. Why is he and his colleagues distinguished when it should be that the basic principles of citizenship ensure that he and I are equal  before the law? I have yet to find an answer since the decree was announced.

28 Comments

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28 responses to “Last Friday’s Decrees

  1. Abeer

    The decrees are just a mockery to buy time till the noises by the people go dim. It’s a joke of giving SR 3000 as salary to the Saudi youths in employment. What do you get in SR 3000 to survive for a month with a family? And mind well the money that is being doled out is the money of the people, which the people should get. It’s not charity or a personal gift out of the money of the rulers.

    • ali

      Volume 9, Book 88, Number 175:
      Narrated Abdullah:

      Allah’s Apostle said to us, “You will see after me, selfishness (on the part of other people) and other matters that you will disapprove of.” They asked, “What do you order us to do, O Allah’s Apostle? (under such circumstances)?” He said, “Pay their rights to them (to the rulers) and ask your right from Allah.”

    • Nada I. F.

      There is no doubt we are all against corruption. However, who reads this entry believes we are living in sheer darkness in Saudi and that people are subjugated by the king’s whims and faulty decisions. Where have I heard this before?.. Oh yes, Arabian Nights. If you truly believe King Abdullah’s decisions to be traditionalist, you should examine your stand, because it too can be foreseen. All the attempts to make things better you will mock since you are blinded by your cynicism and westernized mindset. You are soaked up in prejudice against the royal family that nothing they do will ever satisfy you. The “reward” which the king ordered – it is in the amount of two salaries, and not part of the salary- was because the king felt happy with his people and wanted to express his gratitude for their loyalty with what he has and what he thinks will make his people glad: assisting their livelihood. But if it feels like a bribe or hush-money to you, then cash it and give it to charity if you believe in a fraction of what you write here.
      Also, what is it with you guys and the PVPV?.. Unless you behave well, why should you worry or even grudge them?
      Surely, good things come to those who wait. And they will come because of people who work to improve SA.

  2. Rich

    Yes, a complete mockery, but change WILL come eventually ! As we say in the west, religion is the opium of the masses and in Saudi they are well and truly ‘hooked’. What a pity they are not able to think for themselves without being repressed.

  3. meredith

    Excellent post, more analytical than most of what is out there in English. It is an art and a practice to hold faith in what I agree are inevitable longer-term changes, seeing our own lifetimes for what they are–short–while staying painfully connected to the immediacy of losses and delayed hopes for those in painful circumstances in the here and now, whose lifetimes, being short, may not benefit from the gradual nature of most evolution. Thank you.

  4. My husband is happy for those who will benefit from this err hmmm aristocratic monetary kindness even though he didn’t directly benefit from it himself. I am not. I feel that this is an effort to buy out the people, shut them up and give them a gift to thank them for being quiet. Why all of this money now? Why not 10, 20, 30 years ago or when oil was first discovered? This is the land of the Saudi people and it is their birth right! If royals get a monthly stipend then all Saudis should get a monthly stipend. After all isn’t this the home of Islam, the Kingdom of humanity?

  5. I agree-it was only a payment to silence people up, but for how long?
    And what about the private sector and expats they are not getting anything and lots of people of very upset about it. Only their saudi colleagues will get the bribery money.
    So much money all of a sudden will also cause prices to soar and what will happen to the inflation rate?

    After all the money has been spent what is left?
    MORE MUTTAWAS lol

  6. Tara just imagine how much money goes into these monthly stipends to the royals. The low ranking ones get 30,000 a month. And theres thousands of them. The higher your rank the more money of course. Some highest ranking princesses I heard get 2 million a month. Where does all that money come from and go to?

  7. Now how does that compare to what the King just gave out? For the one that gets 30,000 a month, that could provide for at least 5 families if each of them are given 6000!

  8. ali

    A thought: The people that benefit from this were not the people complaining to begin with. This was not about money. So, the tea boils a bit more…

  9. Eman – another great , spot-on post. What worked in the past – handing more control of society over to the religious conservatives – doesn’t work anymore, and leaders who listen to the people would understand that. Clearly that’s not the case here in Kingdom.

    I wonder if the government knows how profoundly these decrees show the disconnect between them and the people? Or how obvious their agenda has become?

  10. Najlaa Falemban

    Funny what you all say
    Just send me your 2 months salary of you are against BRIBES…if you don’t have them then that answers me why you all so angry …
    It is funny how you guys perceive all what our royal family does as funny or stupid.Guess what …Like American people and Canadians are full of a lot of talk when it comes to laying your head down and playing busy with economic crisis while your PRESIDENT (DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT) BANKRUPTS YOU.Let your fathers and mothers lose work and houses while playing hero in Iraq .AND WHAT YOU DO ? …FREE SPEECH
    AND What it GETS you NOTHING….

    At least we are pampered by our king.OUR TRADITIONS AND HIJAB is OUR pride it is not forced upon us…We want them ,we teach them to our kids .Sooon enough we will hold the world again BELIEVE ME.BUT with our Islam TRUE ISLAM not sticking up to America and other traditions.

    ONE THING ,WE LOVE OUR KING …We need no Bribe for that ..he only gave us that after 11 March When they expected a stupid rebel …And what for we will never rebel against our care giver and Beloved Royalty.
    So stop pretending you are sympathetic as if you are seeing an animal in a cage and look at the mirror .Funny Politics and media play you day and night.

    It is sooooo hard for you to believe how Saudis are so in harmony with the government and Islam …Let that be a lesson to all of us ..While the Arab world rebels in anger ..we are SATISFIED ..Those of you who have anger should not scream behind PC screens..go out and show us your angry faces what is keeping you anyway????FEAR ?ANGER? ….what?

    • Proud to be a Saudi Muslimah

      Thank you Najla for saying what I would like some people to understand! People like the ones who have posted this nonsense are just envious and are very narrow-minded . We Muslims know that all these regulations and rules are for our benefit! We are proud not just because because we are Saudi Women, but most proud of being Proud Muslimat!!! Who does not thank People has not thanked Allah! Let the King give out some money for a reward. That is the least he can do for fighting for his country and its safety. He did not leave out anybody this time. Why not look at the other side of the picture where people fought to keep their country as peaceful as it is and will always be InshaAllah! Hasn’t anybody seen the page in facebook “against the “hanin” revolution”? What does that explain??Well maybe because people LIKE their King despite some people who just want to mimic and copy-cat others who don’t even want anything but chaios! Those demonstrations were done because of wanting a new regime or revolution. They’re intentions were obvious to the whole world! Why the commotion and the disruption when WE are all content and happy?! What you are doing is called Envy! We will praise Allah for giving us a kind-hearted humble King! As long as we live, we are PROUD to be Muslims that are proud to have a loving King!

  11. I believe that the best comment upon the rights or injustice of the Royal proposals is contained within the decision of the Saudi Government to join in, and comment upon, the U.N. Human Rights Council review on Libyan Human rights.

    And they say that the world of satire is dead!

  12. Not everyone benefited from the decrees. For example, they didn’t extend to the people in private sectors unless the private companies decided to give bonuses to their employees. Saudia, Zain and STC are some of the companies that have decided to do this. As I said, my husband didn’t benefit from this as an employee of a private company yet he was still happy for the ones that did. I am by no means exhorting the Saudi people to be ungrateful towards the King’s gesture but I was disappointed because I feel that the Saudis deserve better. I feel that 1) not all the Saudis think the solution is money and would like to see change as in reform and 2) I think the King could have done better as far as monetary gifting in light of the fact that royals are given monthly stipends ranging from unspeakable amounts to the lowest ranking royal who gets at least the equivalent of 800usd. Why don’t all Saudis benefit from this? Now I’m not here to fight the Saudis’ battles, I think they can do that themselves. I try to speak up when I think there is injustice being done because, Sahih Muslim narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that: “Whoever from amongst you sees an evil should change it by his hand, if he is unable to do so then he should change it by his tongue (by speaking against it), and if he is unable to do so then he should reject it in his heart – and this is the weakest of iman.” To me, giving money monthly to one class of Saudis instead of all Saudis screams injustice as well as inequality. It creates resentment and yes, envy.

    By the way, since Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country, is the jizya being applied to non-Muslims and where is the money going? Just sayin’. For the record, I am not perfect but I rarely envy the living.

    I’m American and I love the good things about my country but I don’t love it blindly and apologize for it when it’s wrong. When its wrong, its wrong! We have a financial situation similar to Saudi Arabia where all the wealth is concentrated with the rich and there is a wide gap between the rich and poor…the middle class is fading out in some areas and almost non-existent in other areas. Why is this? Because 1% of the population is rich and given tax breaks of only 35% instead of the 91% of the 1940-1950s era (we have the late American president, Ronald Reagan to thank for that). The rich have so much money that they can’t spend it all so what do they do, they save it and just get richer. If the rich were taxed as they are supposed to, the money can be used to bolster the American economy by creating more jobs, improve lives, education and fix the aging infrastructure of the country. Look at the success of the Canadian economy and how well their citizens fare because…they distribute the wealth fairly through tax cuts! And they have universal healthcare and education. America is such a rich country and can’t afford to give their citizens the same benefits? That is pure selfishness on the part of the rich, a huge oversight on the part of the US government and a great injustice overall.

  13. Unnamed!

    I thought SaudiWoman had a blog about the popularity of King Abdullah, something to the effect of how much the Saudi’s love their king a little while ago? Why the change in tune?

  14. I don’t think there’s ever really been a question about whether or not the Saudi people like King Abdullah – sure they do – or at least most of them.

    The issues of late have arisen because the government here in KSA does not authentically listen to the people, and because of that, many, many people feel that there is nothing for them here – no opportunity, no quality education or health care, no freedom of choice, no meaningful work, and no real financial incentive under the current kleptocratic stranglehold. In a nutshell, there is no future.

    At the same time, more and more people are chaffing against the social constraints inherent in a system which allows one group of people to arbitrarily judge the morals of another, while oftentimes failing miserably when it comes to their own morals. Strengthening that system even more only increases and accelerates the discontent currently being felt in the Kingdom.

    I’ve often said Saudis no more want a president than Americans want a king -what both groups want is a leader they can trust to have their best interests at heart – not his own agenda or his Swiss bank account or even his tribal affiliation- and who is willing to make the hard choices to make their lives better, even if that means going against powerful internal forces. In Saudi, most people would like to see King Abdullah become that courageous leader.

    But, in the meantime, Saudi is becoming more and more schizophrenic, divided and disenfranchised. Many, including young, educated men and women like Eman and others who represent the Kingdom’s very real promise and potential, are asking why things aren’t getting better. They’re seeking honest answers and honest solutions.

    Distracting them with money and decrees and half-baked promises never meant to be kept might work for awhile, but in the end, they will come up with both the answers and the solutions they’re looking for. And they will demand that their voices be heard.

    No amount of bribery or bullying will work against that kind of passion.

  15. Najwa Flimban

    عزيزتي إيمان

    أحييكِ على شجاعتك في طرح آرائك وإن كانت من وراء حجاب، فأنا لم أرَ صورة واحدة لكِ وكنت أتمنى أن أرى كيف يبدون النساء التميميات. لقد فضلتُ أن أكتب مداخلتي بالعربية، لأنني أعتقد بأن اللغة أحد أهم العناصر المعبرة عن الثقافة، على الرغم من أنني لستُ عربية العرق ولكني سعودية الأصل والمنشأ فبعض أجدادي كانوا على هذه الأرض من قبل أن تصبح السعودية سعودية! لقد أعجبني كيف تحدثتِ في تعريفكِ عن نفسك عن مدى أهمية الأصل، بالفعل فأنا وكل أهلي أظننا وطنيون ونفخر بوطنيتنا، تماماً كما نفخر بعرقيتنا. كنتُ أفضل أن أرى هذه المدونة باللغة العربية، لأنني كما أرى فربما تصنفين نفسكِ من ضمن التيار الإصلاحي، فإن كنتِ كذلك فليست هكذا تؤكل الكتف، كيف يمكنكِ الإصلاح وأنتِ تخاطبين البلد بغير لغتها؟ ثم إن كتابتها باللغة الإنجليزية تجعل المثل القائل “اللي ما يشتهي يتفرج” ينطبق على الوضع. لطالما سمعت الناس يقولون أن البيوت أسرار، وكذلك البلدان، إن سعوديتنا يترقب لها العالم أدنى زلة ليهجموا عليها، فلماذا تعطيهم هذه الفرصة؟ قد رأيتُ مقالتك هذه في صحيفة أجنبية إلكترونية، لقد وافقكِ بعض بني خواجة، ثم ماذا بعد؟ مالذي أصلح -بضم الألف-؟ ومالذي جنيته؟ مالذي بنيته؟ هل تحقق أي هدف إصلاحي في سعوديتنا؟

    ربما كونكِ تميمية يجعلني أفترض أنكِ قد نشأتِ في إحدى أكثر البيئات تشدداً، بينما يمكنني أن أؤكد لكِ بأنني نشأتُ في واحدة من البيئات، لن أقول متحررة، إنما مرتاحة، ونحن في نفس البلد ونحمل نفس الجنسية، هل يمكنكِ لوم العائلة الحاكمة على ذلك؟ لا أظن، على العكس إنما هي حسنة تحسب لهم، لأننا وبشكل عام لم يُفرض علينا أسلوب حياةٍ بعينه عدا ما يقتضيه الحفاظ على الإطار الثقافي العام. ثم إنكِ بلومكِ القاسي، تذكرينني بابن أختي ابن الستة أعوام عندما جاء إلى المنزل وهو يقول أنا أحب الملك عبد الله، فعندما سألته أمهُ لماذا؟ قال لأنه هو الذي خلقنا! لقد تداولنا القصة ونحن نضحك وندعوا له بالهداية على فهمه الخاطيء، الشاهد بأنني أعترف للملك عبد الله بأنه رجلٌ يريد الإصلاح ما استطاع، وإن كان هنالك أخطاء وثغرات تحصل في طول البلاد وعرضها كشكواكِ من أمور لا يمكن للملك كبشر أن يحيط بها، فأنتِ نوعاً ما تتعاملين معه من مبدأ ابن أختي الصغير، إما أن تكون محيطاً بكل شيء وتتحكم بكل شيء من ضمنها قلوب الناسِ وهواهم وأن تتمتع بقدرة لا تملكها إلا ذاتاً إلاهية، أو أنت لا تصلح ملكاً!

    برجاء، لا تظني أنني أقول بأننا نعيش في وطنٍ بلا أخطاء، ولكن خمني ماذا، لقد واجهتُ بضعة مواقف في حياتي جعلتني أشعر بالظلم وأن شيئاً لابد أن يتغير، حزمتُ رحالي وحضرتُ درجة الماجستير في القانون في بريطانيا والآن أنا أجهز للدكتوراة في نفس المجال والبلد، ولكني أفخر برغم ما واجهته بأنني لم أتطاول يوماً على بلدي، لأنني أعلم أن الحياة معقدة ولا يمكن رد أي مشكلة لجهة واحدة أو مسئولٌ واحد، إن الأمور أعقد من هذا، وبرغم هذا فللحب الذي أحمله في قلبي لبلدي بدأتُ رحلتي لتغيير نفسي لأني أؤمن بمقولة كن التغيير الذي تريد أن تراه في العالم وأنا أنتظر اللحظة التي أشارك فيها بيدي في التغيير. ثم إن رحلتي تلك جعلتني أحمد الله كثيراً على سعوديتنا، مثل اضطراري أن أدفع ما يقارب الألف ريال سنوياً في بريطانيا كضريبة لامتلاكي تلفزيوناً ملوناً! هل لاحظتِ كلمة ملون؟

    استشف حماستكِ في الكتابة وإصراركِ على موقفكِ، لاحظي أنني استخدمت كلمة موقفكِ وليس قضيتكِ، لأن الرغبة الإصلاحية ليست واضحة تماماً ومازلت أتساءل هل تكتبين ما تكتبين رغبةً في الإصلاح أم لمجرد تفريغ العواطف أم للانتشار في الدول الأجنبية. دعيني فقط أشير لكلمة الرشوة التي استخدمتها في مقالتكِ هذه، فاستخدامك لها لا يصح إلا على مستوىً واحد وهي الحماسة الأدبية، ويمكنني افتراض ذلك بحكم دراستكِ للغة الإنجليزية، أما استخدام الكلمة قانونياً، شرعياً ووضعياً، ومنطقياً فإنها لا تنطبق. فكوني حريصة في اختيار الكلمات، لأن بعض بنو الخواجة ممن يقتبسون كلامكِ يعاملونه كالكلام المنزل.

    أشكركِ على تذكيري لحبي للكتابة والثرثرة، وأتمنى من أن ثرثرتي هذه قد تجعلكِ تعيدين تقييم أهدافكِ من الكتابة، وأن تتأملي في معانٍ مطلقة أخرى جميلة، عند تبنيها يصبح الإنسان أكثر تسامحاً مع نفسه ومع الآخرين وربما أكثر إنتاجية وخدمةً لأرضه، مثل معنى الوطنية التي تقود كثيراً من المصلحين مثل الدكتور محسن العواجي. أو السيدة التي أجلها سعاد الشمري، نعم إنهم ينتقدون، ولكن رغبتهم الإصلاحية واضحة، وقاموا بأنفسهم من أجل إحداث التغيير، هنا على أرضنا، كلامهم هنا بين أهلهم، وليس التجريح والتشهير ببلدنا وجعلها محط سخرية بنو خواجة!

    بهذه المناسبة، أهديكِ ما كتبه الدكتور محسن العواجي في موقعه تحت عنوان السعودية والأحداث الراهنة-للعقلاء فقط.

    إن قرأتِ ما كتبت، فأنا أشكركِ وأتمنى أن تأخذيه بإحساسٍ طيب..

    نجوى فلمبان

  16. QM

    Hi Eman,

    I think what you said about change being a matter of time is very pertinent. I do hope that our generation will wake up to the state of the world and see that we have a lot of things to do differently if we are to make the world a better place.

    I believe the same is true of all countries; if the youth go out and see the world, they can appreciate what is good about their nations but also what is wrong and needs changing.

    Call me naive, but there is hope in our generation and the one that we will give birth to. It’s nice to see that even though we come from very different places, we believe in the same thing, and that says it all.

  17. I’m happy everyone got a little piece of the royal pie, but I totally get that the citizens of your country want more than, as you said, a bribe. I hope everything works out peacefully for all those who just want to be heard. Best of luck.

  18. Pingback: Going back in time | Saudiwoman's Weblog

  19. Mona

    I know my comment does not have anything to do with the post but I will still write. I live in madinah and I want to sell by bugaboo cameleon pushchair. Belive american or european will probably recognize this brand. A perfect pushchair. For more info visit http://www.bugaboo.com So if you guyz know anyone intrested let me know. I’ll check this post again. Take care everytone

  20. Pingback: Les Saoudiennes tenues hors de l’isoloir - #Printemps arabe - Blog LeMonde.fr

  21. I`m sshure The King means well. As All Kings do at some point.
    But The Reality Is, The Modern Arab state would be so much better served under the Leadership of a more Utilitarian Motivated Government. The Monarchy Is Romantic; But then so Is Latifa. Should She be Able to Minister The Fate and Future of The True Progressive Arab … Perhaps. And What of The Fundamentalists, should Arabia be held Hostage to the Cultural Tyranny of The West simply because She Is Too Spiritually Weak to confront Them ( The Fundamentalists that Is ) ?

  22. Pingback: Donne, blog e rivoluzioni (1) | Yalla Italia

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