Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudis have spent billions of dollars for the kingdom’s so-called reforms, but “this country does not know what human rights means,” says one of the EU Parliament members.
A new EU Parliament resolution casts Riyadh in a bad light, revealing how false the Saudi government's image building exercise - which has cost the kingdom billions of dollars - has been.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has invested a lot of his time and efforts in convincing the global community, especially western powers, that the kingdom was opening up to democratic ideas, such as granting some degree of freedoms to women and shunning their rigid approach toward the music and entertainment industry.
With EU condemnation of the Saudi treatment of Ethiopian migrants in the kingdom's detention centres, MBS's frenetic pursuit of public relations has once again taken a battering. The inhumane treatment of Ethiopian detainees shows that nothing really has changed inside the oil-rich kingdom.
“[The EU Parliament] strongly condemns the ill-treatment of Ethiopian migrants and the violations of their human rights, notably in the detention centres in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to immediately release all detainees, prioritising those in the most vulnerable situations, including women and children,” said the EU resolution passed on Thursday.
But even in the face of this condemnation, Riyadh has still pursued old Byzantium intrigues to prevent its realisation, forcing Brussels to keep the vote secret until the last minute, according to the Telegraph, a British newspaper.
EU leaders were afraid of the fact that they might be targeted by hackers funded by the Saudis. A top European official also indicated that the leaders knew that “just 24 hours was enough time for powerful Saudi lobbyists to coerce some MEPs into stopping the condemnation in its tracks,” the newspaper reported.
In the end, Riyadh could not escape from European condemnation over its treatment of Ethiopian migrants, living “hellish” conditions in the kingdom.
What happened to Ethiopian migrants
In the face of deteriorating economic conditions on the African continent, many Ethiopian migrants have moved to Saudi Arabia and some have also ended up in northern Yemen, seeking job opportunities.
But the Yemen civil war, which has become worse following the Saud-led Gulf coalition’s intervention into the country, brought about the worst imaginable atrocities. It created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and darkened both Yemeni and migrant hopes for a decent life.
In the wake of a deadly universal pandemic, things have deteriorated for Ethiopian migrants as they have been increasingly targeted by Iran-backed Houthis, the main political enemy of the Saudis in Yemen, being forced to flee the war-torn country for the kingdom.
But Saudis would not welcome them at all while the migrants have been forced out by the Houthis.
Instead, since April, they have been arrested and have faced cruel treatment in various detention centres across the country at the hands of royal authorities, according to human rights organisations.
“(A)ccording to Human Rights Watch reports, around 30 000 Ethiopian migrants, including pregnant women and children, are being arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia under horrific conditions after having been forcibly expelled from northern Yemen by Houthi authorities,” said the statement.
“(W)hereas many of these migrants reportedly crossed the border under crossfire from Saudi and Houthi forces; whereas a reported 2 000 migrants who remain stranded on the Yemeni side of the border under dire conditions exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19 are fully deprived of access to basic needs,” the statement read.
Out of unbearable desperation, some Ethiopians have committed suicide as others have continued to die from dehydration and disease in packed detention centres.
“Imagine the cruelty of being put in detention camps with thousands and thousands, chained... and using cell floors as your bed. For migrant workers from Ethiopia in search for a better future, this is the day to day reality,” said Samira Rafaela, a Dutch member of the EU Parliament, during a speech before the vote in Brussels.
While the detained Ethiopians have apparently violated nothing except the fact they were expelled by the Houthis to the kingdom, which was not their choice, the kingdom’s security forces and prison authorities have reportedly tortured them.
“Saudi Arabia has spent billions on PR to try and convince the world it respects human rights,” said Marie Arena, another member of the EU parliament from Belgium.
“We will not be fooled… this country does not know what human rights means,” she thundered.
The international community recognises torturing, beatings and other mistreatment of people as crimes against humanity.
Saudi Arabia claims to adhere to Islamic law in their country - a tradition that harks back to the 7th century - but that same law condemns inhumane treatments, particularly torturing.
“Do not torment the people, for those who torment people in this life will be tormented by God on the day of judgment," said Prophet Mohammed in one of his famous sayings nearly 1,400 years ago.
But the custodians of Islam’s Two Holy Mosques have appeared to know nothing about it.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have repeatedly shown that they know no break on violating human rights across their territories - be they migrants, opposition figures like Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi or ordinary citizens, who just want to practice some basic freedoms and rights.
Beyond torture, the kingdom and its Gulf allies have constantly conducted ceaseless airstrikes against civilians in Yemen, killing thousands of them.