British Parliament Reviews Relationship with Saudi Arabia
The British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee opened a review of the U.K.’s relationships with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, following its report on the Arab Spring’s democracy movement. The inquiry explores how the U.K. balances various interests in defense, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia said it is “insulted” by the review and is now “re-evaluating” its own trade and diplomatic ties with the U.K. The U.K. Foreign Office responded quickly, saying Saudi Arabia remains “a key strategic partner in the region and one of the closest friends and allies.”
In an interview with Rahim Kanani, Saudi Princess Ameerah al-Taweel emphasized the role of women in the Arab Spring. “We (women) have been quiet for a long time and nothing has been happening,” al-Taweel said. “Now it’s our time to change things.” Al-Taweel also stressed the importance of free speech and urged governments to allow more political participation. When asked what she envisions for Saudi Arabia in the coming decade, al-Taweel expressed the desire “to see people talking openly from all sides about what they want for our country.”
Meanwhile, in an article originally published in As-Safir and translated by Al-Monitor, Ahmad Dahman asked if Saudi Arabia is ready to cast off the mutaween, or virtue police. There is increasing defiance of the mutaween in Saudi society and youth protests against the religious police have been met with violence recently. Amid accusations that the mutaween are overstepping boundaries in the role they have created as advisers and managers, some of their power has been curbed in recent weeks.