Don’t Be Fooled by Saudi’s Reshuffle

By Adam Coogle | (Human Rights Watch) | –

King Salman’s promotion of his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef to the position of crown prince and heir apparent marks a change of direction for Saudi Arabia, raising the possibility that power in the kingdom may be put directly into the hands of the House of Saud’s younger generation for the first time in history. But don’t be fooled into thinking it will bring about a new approach to human rights. 

The reshuffle itself is less surprising than its timing, a mere three months since Salman came to the throne. By elevating Mohammed bin Nayef, the king has indicated he is disinclined to undertake badly needed human rights reforms.

Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, has served as Saudi Arabia’s interior minister since 2012. Before that he was the kingdom’s counterterrorism chief. His father, Nayef bin Abdulaziz, was interior minister for more than 36 years, and was feared by many Saudis for his zero tolerance of dissent.

Some Saudi activists hoped that once Mohammed became interior minister, he would end some of his father’s abusive practices. But instead he has entrenched and institutionalized them. Since 2012, the Ministry of Interior under his leadership has carried out a sweeping crackdown on peaceful dissent, using its powers to intimidate, detain, and imprison anyone who dares to criticize the government or call for serious reforms.

Under his watch, authorities have rooted out nearly all informal Saudi human rights organizations and punished their activists – including Waleed Abu al-Khair, currently serving a 15-year sentence for peacefully criticizing human rights abuses in the media, and Fadhil al-Manasif, serving 14 years for helping publicize the Eastern Province protests in 2011.

New counterterrorism regulations introduced by Mohammed bin Nayef’s ministry last year allow authorities to criminalize free expression and association as “terrorism,” and give the authorities – and in particular, Mohammed bin Nayef himself – excessive police powers that are not subject to judicial oversight.

Whatever is behind this shake up within the royal family, it is unlikely to bring about the reforms that Saudi Arabia so desperately needs to improve its terrible human rights record.

Adam Coogle’s Twitter handle is @cooglea

Via Human Rights Watch


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV News: ” Saudi King Salman shakes up line of succession”

4 Responses

  1. While the press is claiming this is about strengthening national security policy and independence of action from the US, it has nothing to do with any of that, the new Crown Prince haveing been praised for his close US ties when he was first named Deputy Crown Prince, and the now deposed Muqrin having strong national security credentials. Rather, this is all about putting descendants of the Sudeiri Seven, the sons of the kingdom’s founder’s favorite wife, fully in succession rather than any other line. In particular, Muqrin, whose mother was low class, had been selected by the former king, Abdullah, and was viewed as close to some of his sons. So, this was all about cutting out Abdullah’s descendants from the becoming kings. The rest is all just cover, but no changes in policy at all should be expected from this on any front.

  2. the US-trained and US-equipped White Army, the Saudi Arabian National Guard, exists primarily to protect the royal family from the rest of the country.
    This palace guard was deployed to Yemen in March.

    The royal family is sensing a threat to their continued reign.

  3. Don’t think anyone is really being fooled, even the allies, who’ll cover it up with praise.

  4. SANG is commanded by one of the sons of the late King Abdullah, separate from the regular military, which is under the Defense Minister, now Mohammed bin Salman, who just got appointed Deputy Crown Prince. The HQ of SANG has long been on the private palace grounds of the late King Abdullah, who was its commander for decades befoire turning it over to a son, incluidng in 1979 when it finally removed the Ikhwan rebels who had seized control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca after the regular military under Sudeiri Prince Sultan had failed to do so. The Saudi Arabian National Guard has long been bedouin tribally based, unlike the DOD regular military.

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