• Reading Level 5
Science | Geography | Citizenship | PSHE

Four faces that ask us what we stand for

Is the West complicit in the barbarism of Middle Eastern leaders? As details emerge about the fate of the region’s rebels, some say democracies should drop links with their autocratic allies. A teenage girl is strolling through the streets of Cambridge on a summer’s day in the year 2000, dreaming about what the future holds. Seconds later, four men bundle her into a car. The next day, she is in Dubai. She is never seen in public again. A man walks into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect the papers he needs to marry the love of his life. Within minutes, he is dead; his body tortured, beheaded, then finally dismembered. He is never found. A woman is sailing to freedom in the Indian Ocean, desperate to escape the man who has made her life a form of living hell. Then the soldiers arrive. She lashes out, screaming and biting, so they tranquilise her. When she wakes up, she is in Dubai. A villa – the windows barred shut – becomes her prison. Several hundred metres away, Love Island stars are relaxing on the beach, drinks in hand. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, the Queen is tending to her favourite racehorses. They are a gift from an old friend, keen horse rider and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Today, this friendship is hugely controversial. Sheikh Mohammed is the father of two princesses, Shamsa and Latifa, who share a remarkable story. Two decades apart, both women decided to break free from their father’s control. Both attempts ended in dismal failure. Both princesses were recaptured on the orders of the Sheikh. Now Latifa, still imprisoned in Dubai, has shed light on her sister’s suffering. In a letter released yesterday, Latifa begs the UK police to reinvestigate the kidnapping of her older sister from a quiet English city 21 years ago. “I tried my best to save her but I couldn’t,” she writes. “I was only 14.” But Shamsa and Latifa are not the only victims in the Middle East, and Sheikh Mohammed is not the only oppressive leader. As a candidate for US President, Joe Biden declared he would make another Gulf state, Saudi Arabia, the “pariah that they are”, following the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yesterday, he began to do just that, releasing a confidential report on the death. Its contents were no surprise: CIA officers concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder at the consulate in Turkey. For human rights activists, the publication is a step in the right direction. But the report has come too late to save Khashoggi. Nor will it save the thousands of others who have fallen victim to brutal regimes in the Middle East. Still imprisoned in Saudi Arabia is Samar Badawi. Her alleged crime? She campaigned to reform the country’s male guardianship system. One victim who survived to tell the tale is Matthew Hedges, a British PhD student who was detained for months in Dubai on suspicion of being a spy. “These kinds of actions do not happen in a vacuum,” he said after his release in 2018. “Western governments’ complicity, primarily by way of silence, gives authoritarian rulers confidence in their actions.” Is the West complicit in the barbarism of Middle Eastern leaders? Turning a blind eye Definitely, say some. It is outrageous that the UK continues to ally itself with, and even sell weapons to, Saudia Arabia, a country that is well known for human rights abuses. By continuing to put its economic interests ahead of its moral responsibilities, the West is putting a price on human lives. And the influencers who continue to party in Dubai? They need to find a new holiday destination. The truth is more complex, say others. The Middle East is an unstable region. It is vital for the West to have allies in the Gulf if it is to see off threats from ISIS or Iran. UK officials say it is possible to trade with nations and still condemn the actions of their governments. Meanwhile, in the US, Joe Biden may ensure America’s autocratic allies no longer receive such a warm welcome. KeywordsJamal Khashoggi - Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018. It is widely agreed that he was assassinated by Saudi agents because of his opposition to the country's regime.

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