Bin Salman is a danger to the Saudi society and to the region
"As long as he is there, he is definitely a destabilizing factor," said Abdullah al-Audah.24 Januari 2021 23:50
Dr. Abdullah al-Audah, a prominent Saudi opposition activist who has been living in the US since 2009. (Abdullah al-Audah for Albalad.co)
Last year, there are two important developments for the Saudi opposition movement. In the US, Saudi opposition activists launched DAWN think thank organization and their colleagues in the UK formed a political party names The National Assembly Party.
According to Dr. Abdullah al-Audah, the the Research Director for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at DAWN, the Saudi opposition activists are willing to change Saudi Arabia into a system that allows everybody to practice basic liberties and freedoms.
"I think the main goal is to have a democratic system reflecting the Saudi public, their values, basic liberty and freedom like any democratic system on earth," said Abdullah al-Audah in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via WhatsApp today. "I think it should be the part of history that absolute monarchy rule in Saudi Arabia."
Like other Saudi activists, Abdullah also recognizes how dangerous the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Muhammad bin Salman. He is also became a victim from the oppressions and prosecutions system ruled by Bin Salman. Since leaving Saudi Arabia to continue his study for Master and PhD programs in 2009, he can not go back to his homeland.
His father, a well known muslim scholar Sheikh Salman al-Audah, has been detained since September 2017 because of his tweet calling for reconciliation between Saudi and Qatar.
What is the main goal of Saudi opposition activists? In the US established DAWN and in the UK formed a political party.
I think the main goal is to have a democratic system reflecting the Saudi public, their values, basic liberty and freedom like any democratic system on earth. Saudi Arabia should not be an exception to the world.
We as Saudis have aspirations for freedom, liberties, and we want to practice that. We want to have freedom of assembly, we want to have the liberty to form parties, to peacefully protest, to be part of the government, to compete (in election), to have a system that allows everybody to practice basic liberties and freedoms.
We want to have election for council and parliament where the budget and money does not go to one one person but rather to the public, to the people, and to serve our own interests as public, as Saudi people instead one people on top.
I think it should be the part of history that absolute monarchy rule in Saudi Arabia. We should have some sorts of democratic system as symbol like this. That's why our political party is not a party of ideology, it is not a party of one people, segmented society, or one sect.
It is a party of the nation. That's why we call it the National Assembly Party to represent people instead representing one person on top.
Is there any plan to remove Saudi regime and change Saudi into republic or constitutional monarchy?
The plan is to pressure, the plan is to rely on the people Saudi Arabia, the plan is to open our arms to various segments of the Saudi society. Our plan is to be open and to have a mindset of being open to any channels with whoever within the Saudi society is willing and able be part of this peacefull change towards a democratic system.
It is very simple and that of course include royal family itself who became also a victim of its own absolute monarchy and of its own Crown Prince (Muhammad bin Salman) who is now not just disrupting the Saudi public, their properties and freedoms, but also disrupting his own family, and dispersing businesses, dispersing prices, dispersing sects and freedom of religion, and also prominent muslim scholars, and all Saudi society.
Do you think the factor of Bin Salman will catalyze the revolution in Saudi?
I think the existing of Muhammad bin Salman is a danger to the Saudi society, a danger to the region. As long as he is there, he is definitely a destabilizing factor. We have seen that the pressure on the Saudi public is unprecedented in every level where never happened and never reached that level.
One of prosecution by killing tribesmen like Abdurrahman al-Huwaiti in order to in order to a room for Neom, killing a jorunalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Consulate of Saudi in istanbul, and trying to execute prominent muslim scholars like my father Sheikh Salman al-Audah and others in prison just because they tweeted calling for reconciliation between muslim countries, it's ridiculous, it's unbearable. That's on one hand.
On the other, with all that in mind is also introducing taxes, lifting the subsidies that used to help the Saudi public, and also with the prices of oil, with the pandemic, with the unprecedented level of unemployment in Saudi Arabia, they are all factors into angering the Saudi public. This level of anger, frustation within the youths specifically, we need to warn against any type of violences, any type of illegal activities.
Therefore, the only alternative is to have a peaceful transition into a democratic system that can stabilize the Saudi institutions and make the institutions to serve the public instead of serving one person.
Is there any inner circle in Al-Saud family will support the revolution?
I don't want to talk about revolution at least yet. This is going to hardly and solely depend on the public what they choose. Yes of course, there are what you can call dissident royals, I mean princes within the royal family who are really really angry. Many of them are powerful or at least used to be powerful who control very sensitive instituions for very long time. You can consider them in one way or another as a potential ally.
How bad the violations of human rights since Bin Salman became a de facto leader?
There are bad violations to an unprecedented level. We haven't seen such a pattern of oppressions and prosecutions to the degree that reached outside. Bin Salman abducted one guy from Kuwait, abducted another guy from Amman (Jordan), abducted the feminist Lujain Hazlul from Abu Dhabi, he abducted another guy in Europe, he killed Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, he tried to kill a former minister Saad al-Jabri in Canada. It's all crazy and it's going insane.
This level is not just rushed inside but destabilizing the world, the region. It's not helping anybody.
Why did he also target muslim scholars, include your father?
I think he targeted muslim scholars because people like my father have two main characteristics that Muhammad bin Salman lacks which are one is the legitimacy in the eyes of the public, having such a great experiences and a great relationship, being followed by millions of people literally, like my father has been followed by more than 13 million followers in Twitter, double that the King (King Salman bin Abdul Aziz) has. That's on one hand.
On the other hand, because people like my father are moderate, they have democratic demands in the agenda, and the Kingdom fears these discourses. Because it strips them from their own exploitations of the Saudi public. It puts them in a tight pressure from the world when the world sees that there is a pressure from inside and demands for a democratic system and accountability.
Do you think Bin Salman will be the next king?
Whether that will happen, it's going to depend on mostly two factors, internal and external. The internal is whether the dynamics of royal family is strong enough to step up and interfere. And whether the external powers are willing to impress.
So far, I think the external powers are willing to impress. The internal dynamic within the royal family, many people in Saudi intitutions or outside the institutions would love to have a change. But whether they have capabilities and the timing have to be seen in the next few months. We will see, insha Allah.
Is there any attempt from some senior royals to fail Bin Salman ambition?
I think there is a paranoia from Bin Salman part and always fear about coup attempts. But it's going to be seen whether such a real attempt can occur.
Can you tell me about the current condition of your father?
I think from the conditions that we know are deteriorating health, he lost half of his vision and half of his hearing in prison because of medical neglegiences. He is still in an isolated confinement, now he completed three and half years in an isolated confinement.
They are still seeking the death penalty against him in court which is ridiculous because of tweets, peaceful activities, books, and something like that. Because these things, we think that they are slowly killing him in jail.
How succession will happen in Saudi Arabia?
There is something that called the Allegiance Council in Saudi Arabia. But this has never been a really effective since MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman) came to power. He actually shuttred all norms, rules, and traditions of the Saudi monarchy. He made it more absolute and more autocratic, and made it into one man rule instead of one family rule.
So he made it even worse. So, there is no more are any norm other than Bin Salman's instincts and ambitions.
How many Saudi royals are being detained by Bin Salman?
There are so many of them right now. On the top of mind there are for example Prince Turki bin Abdullah who is in Al-Hayir (prison), Salman bin Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad and his father Abdul Aziz. There are also Muhammad bin Nayif, Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz and his son. There are so many from other branches of the Al-Saud family but I dnon;s ha a specific number.
Do you think the new administration in the US will endanger the position of Bin Salman?
I have two impressions that they will accept any alternative on the ground if anything happens. I am just an analyst here, I don't know. But also on the other hand, they would not initiate any attempt to change the succession. But they will impress whever in power and this is a general rule from the American politics.
Or Biden will help Bin Salman to become a king by making normalization with Israel?
I don't think Biden will help Bin Salman become a king. I don;t think normalization with Israel will help Bin Salman and Biden administration. At least the official position of Biden administration is two state solution and normalization in the current context will never help because it does not help in the road twoards two state solution.
Also read: We will remove Al Saud regime