While U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice engages in a hackneyed pious outcry over Syrian atrocities that the world has become accustomed to hear from the United States whenever an enemy state violates human rights or U.N. resolutions, America’s complicity in oppression is being ignored. America’s protégés in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are murdering, torturing, imprisoning and demolishing houses of worship in the dark with American military and political support.
According to Amnesty International, since the outbreak of the Bahraini uprising against the U.S.-backed Sunni dictatorship in Bahrain in February last year, the Bahraini regime has murdered at least 47 people, imprisoned more than 2,500 people, tortured five people to death and sacked at least 4,000 people from their jobs for participating in protests. Physicians for Human Rights documented systematic and targeted attacks and torture against Bahraini medical personnel who attended wounded and dying protesters during the uprising. The Saudi regime continues to amputate hands and legs, behead women for allegedly practicing witchcraft and demolish historical sites in the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina.
The puritan Saudi regime has demolished 95 percent of Islam’s millennium-old historical sites in the past two decades alone. Since the early years of Saudi control over Mecca and Medina in the early 20th century, the regime has demolished mausoleums that housed Islam’s great figures of the seventh and eighth centuries. Recently, the house of Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah in Mecca has been turned into a toilet block. Seventeenth-century Ottoman-carved columns in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the sixth-century house in which the Prophet Muhammad was born, and the 15th-century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet are under threat of destruction by the Saudi regime.
This Saudi cultural vandalism should not be of concern to Muslims alone. Islam’s heritage is now part of the human heritage; it belongs as much to the West as it does to the East. You just need to look at the verses of the Koran inscribed above Sterling Memorial Library’s main entrance to appreciate the role Islam — alongside our world’s other great religions and civilizations — has played in humanity’s collective advancement. The whole world should abhor the savagery the Saudi regime is perpetrating against Islam’s earliest historical sites and great figures.
Both the Saudi and Bahraini regimes maintain apartheid in state institutions. The Shiite majority in Bahrain is excluded from the security forces, and security posts are largely staffed by Sunnis. Sunni mercenaries recruited from Jordan, Syria and Pakistan comprise a large chunk of the Bahraini regime’s front-line forces that deal with Shiite protesters. In Saudi Arabia, Shiites face persecution that curtails religious freedoms. Public schools tell them they are unbelievers. Shiites cannot serve as judges in ordinary courts and are barred from senior government and military posts.
Yalies should know that the pro-American dictatorial regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been sustained by American military and political support. In the last two years alone, in what is thought to be the single largest arms deal in U.S. history, the United States and Saudi Arabia forged a deal worth $60 billion of advanced aircraft and sophisticated weaponry. Every year, the United States sells $200 million of weapons to Bahrain. But the U.S. government seems indifferent to the Bahraini regime’s deployment of toxic terror against protesters; a Pennsylvania-based company has supplied the Bahraini regime with tear gas that has killed five civilians, including women, children and the disabled.
It is easy to overlook U.S. support for these regimes and explain the lack of democracy in the Middle East with jejune protestations about the incompatibility of Islam with democracy. The Bahraini and Saudi regimes have crushed their people’s quest for dignity in the dark with U.S.-made weapons, and we hear nothing more from the regimes’ American and European patrons than repeated empty expressions of deep concern.
Faisal Husain is a first-year graduate student studying history.