By Mohammad Mazhari

West turns blind eye on human rights violation when it contradicts Saudi interest: activist 

January 2, 2021 - 18:3

TEHRAN – The executive director at Shia Rights Watch says that Western countries neglect violation of human rights in West Asia when it is against their allies such as Saudi Arabia.

“Western countries turn a blind eye to situations in the Middle East (West Asia) if it contradicts Saudi interest,” Mustafa Akhwand tells the Tehran Times. 

Given Saudi’s honeymoon with the U.S administration under Trump's presidency, Riyadh has largely escaped U.S. censure thanks to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s close ties with Donald Trump.

“Mostly because of the West’s relation to Saudi Arabia and the amount of money that Saudi Arabia spends on lobbying, the West makes limited opposition to Saudi actions,” the human rights activist argues.

The following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you see the treatment of governments in West Asia, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, toward their Shia minorities?

 A:  Even though the minority Shia Muslims are discriminated against in these three countries, each one of those countries has its own form of discrimination and violence against Shia Muslims. For example, in Saudi Arabia and Emirates, the violators are the Saudi government.  But in Pakistan, the terrorist groups such as Sipah-E-Sahaba and Lashkar Jhangvi have systematically killed highly educated Shia Muslims who have the ability to benefit society.

West Asian governments carrying the name of Islam but treating their people in the most un-Islamic way. Despite the effort of Shia Muslims to have positive contributions to their societies, their governments often treated them as second-class citizens.

We have documented a variety of discriminatory actions such as imprisoning and killing Shia scholars and activists in our reports. Some examples are the execution of Sheikh al Nimer or the abducting and imprisoning of Sayed Hashim Al Shakhs and Sheikh Hossein Al Nimer.

Q: Regarding Bahrain, how do you see the conditions of the Shias there?

 A: Bahrain is sadly unique when it comes to violating the rights of Shia Muslims. Firstly, it is the only, if not the first, country to revoke the citizenship of its citizens. Bahrain’s authorities also have revoked the citizenship of many activists, doctors, and lawyers who were and are part of the growth of the Bahrain society, only for demanding more civic participation in the country.

 Bahrain authorities also reduced the Shia population by giving citizenship to many non-Bahrainis and hiring them to run the prison and police forces.

Secondly, only in Bahrain Shia children and women are targeted as a means to pressure Shia activists. Something that not everyone knows about Bahrain is that Bahrain has the largest prison for minors (under 18 years old) in the world.

The future generation of Bahrain is spending their lives behind bars without education and away from their families.

 Many women were also abused and sexually assaulted in Bahrain’s prisons and many have lost their livelihood due to mistreatment in the prison Shia Muslims’ only crime is demanding their rights in the country.

This is in addition to the violation of their right to higher education, equal employment, and freedom of religion despite the fact that Bahrain is a Shia majority country.
Q: How do you evaluate the results of the war waged by the Arab coalition on Yemen? Why have Western countries preferred to remain silent?

A: War against Yemen is very hard to explain. To me, the Yemen war can be divided into two categories. The first one could be the demolition of hundreds of years of heritage and history in the Middle East (West Asia), leaving the Middle East without any sign of any heritage. And second and more importantly the humanitarian disaster that is going on in Yemen. Many human rights organizations have tried to assist the people in Yemen but unfortunate with constant attacks in the cities they were not able to function

Western countries turn a blind eye to situations in the Middle East (West Asia) if it contradicts Saudi interest.

Because of the West’s relation to Saudi Arabia and the amount of money that Saudi Arabia spends on lobbying, the West limits the opposition to Saudi actions.

In action, Western nations prioritize the interests of their allies, even if that includes violation of lives.
Q: Why do America, Canada, and some European countries continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite the massacres taking place in Yemen?

A:  The United States and other countries such as Canada are based on capitalism. The country (the U.S.) is running on arms sales. Even though they claim to be the pioneer in human rights, it does not stop them from selling arms to anyone, as long as they play the game of national security.

Unfortunately, national security and defending the country from terrorism has become the trend of many illegal activities in a different part of the world.

Q: What is your comment on the performance of international human rights institutions when it comes to Muslims?

A:  These past couple of years I have learned that human rights are good as long as it does not contradict with interests of the West. We can pick and choose who should have human rights and who should not.

Many human rights institutions have a good intention to defend humanity and create change, but unfortunately due to political pressure and lack of power they don’t produce results. In Bahrain for example many humanitarian organizations tried to help and assist people, but they all were banned from entering the country.

Shia Rights Watch, among few humanitarian organizations that work independently without affiliation to any group or countries, have worked their best to defend people’s rights but face many difficulties to operate; we still do our best to change people’s lives.

In Saudi Arabia, human rights organizations are allowed to visit but their activities are very limited and governed by the government.

In Yemen, no matter how much human rights organizations are active, it’s not enough. The disaster needs many years of provision and medical help to bring back humanity to the functional level.

Q: Sometimes we see countries such as Saudi Arabia win the presidency in such organizations. Isn’t it shocking?  

A: We live in a time of capitalism and financial resources. We can’t argue that countries such as Saudi Arabia influence many countries and organizations with their financial support. When it comes to oil and money, no one even cares about what is going on in the world. The money is spent to buy politicians, human rights workers, and decision-making authorities.

An example of that is the United Nations. The United Nations was created to be a gateway to solving problems in the world and preventing atrocities. But unfortunately, in recent years it’s become the battlefield of showing power and putting lipstick on the pig.

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