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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Hollande et le mirage des pétrodollars saoudiens

by Rosa Moussaoui

Hollande And the Mirage Of Saudi Arabia’s Petrodollars

Translated Wednesday 1 January 2014, by Isabelle Métral

The French president started on an official visit to Saudi Arabia last Sunday. The host of the Élysée Palace claims that “in strengthening France’s links with this hereditary petro-monarchy, the champion of religious fundamentalism, and that he is actively contributing to the Middle-East’s peace, security and stability.”

Before the start of the New Year, François Hollande is treating himself to a journey through time, back to the Middle Ages. Last Sunday the French president started on an official visit to Saudi Arabia, a hereditary petro-monarchy and champion of religious fundamentalism. The official reason for this visit is to talk business with “France’s first client in the Middle East”, but he is taking along a group of about thirty big company bosses. The president also claims to be working towards the peace and stability of the Middle East.”

Ironically enough, since the Wahhabi monarchy is deliberately stirring instability in the area…

In Syria, for instance, Saudis – together with other Gulf petro-monarchies - are directly financing jihadists groups and supporting them operationally and politically. And when it comes to solving crises, Riyadh excels at using rather expeditious methods, as was notably the case in 2011 when Saudi Arabian tanks crushed the popular uprising in neighboring Bahrain.

Chasing migrants out

Talks that bear on the conflicts that tear the region apart, as well as trade negotiations, will no doubt leave no space for the mention of the daily human rights breaches under this theocratic regime: “The only country named for a ruling family, the kingdom remains an absolute monarchy, founded on the allegiance between the king, as head of the executive, and his subjects; political parties and trade unions are banned,” as Acat, an NGO against torture, points out in its 2013 report. “Torture in the Wahhabi kingdom is endemic during arrests and imprisonment, whether for Saudi subjects or for foreigners, especially non-European foreigners that reside in the country,” the document further specifies. “It is also practiced in daily life or in penal sentences, corporal punishments, notably flagellation, for all breaches of the social or moral Islamic ethics” in the most rigorous version imposed in the kingdom. Torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading chastisements, are common practice. Saudi Arabia is also one of the five countries (with the US, China, Iran, and Pakistan) with record numbers of executions for capital sentences.

Arbitrary legislation based on a sectarian interpretation of Islamic law is heaviest on the most vulnerable: women, of course, but also on the Shiite minority and migrant workers from South Asia or Africa who have, this year, fallen victim to an unprecedented wave of repression. More than one million migrants were expelled in November. Unable to cope with the demand for welfare that results from the unequal redistribution of the oil revenue, the Saudi authorities selected these over-exploited and underpaid workers as the perfect scapegoats.

Such are the outstanding features of the “reference partner” with whom François Hollande has ambitions to build up narrower links than those Nicolas Sarkozy had chosen to weave. Such is the power of the mirage of Saudi petro-dollars that it can dispel substantial suspicions of offences against human rights, liberty, and democracy.

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