May 27, 2019
Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally since the U.S., Britain and France helped create the country at the end of World War I. And ever since that time, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most reactionary countries on the planet, ruled by a brutal monarchy that maintains its power with ruthless repression and killings.
Inside this fundamentalist country ruled by Sharia law, adult women must get permission from a “male guardian” to travel abroad, get a passport, marry, or even work or go to the doctor. In June of 2018, the Saudi regime finally allowed women to get drivers’ licenses, but it arrested thirteen of the women’s rights advocates who had pushed for this right, holding them without charging them with a crime. The country even pushed for the death penalty for one woman activist, Israa al-Ghomgham, charging her with the “crimes” of “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” and “providing moral support to rioters.” And the country might follow through on this threat: it executed 37 people on April 23, publicly pinning one of the bodies to a pole as warning.
The Saudi economy relies on a system that blurs the line between wage labor and slavery. More than 12 million migrant workers fill more than 80 percent of the private sector jobs. These workers’ residency permits are controlled by “sponsoring” bosses, many of whom confiscate their workers’ passports. Migrant workers report all kinds of abuses, including forced labor and stolen wages. Migrant workers who leave their bosses without consent can even face imprisonment and deportation.
But as long as U.S. imperialism can use Saudi Arabia to enforce its domination over this vital region, it couldn’t care less what happens to the people who actually live there.