I just had an interesting interaction with two Italian bloggers who live in the Gulf (one of them in Saudi Arabia). They mostly write about their families, the international schools their children go to, the play dates, the quiz nights, all the usual things expats use to fill their days (I do it too, so no judgement).
But since I spend my life working in countries that for many are holiday places (Ethiopia, India, Vietnam, etc…) and see the underbelly of what tourists see as a beautiful dreamland, I feel it’s part of my job, and most definitely my choice, to expose what doesn’t work. Although I don’t judge those who decide to turn their head the other way, and to some extent I understand them, I honestly struggle to believe that when you live in a country where a nineteen year old boy will be beheaded and then crucified you manage to keep your cool and give out lunch box recipes.
Their explanation is: we are not competent and we want to keep our families safe. Which is a totally respectable justification. The “I’m a guest here, who am I to judge” theory would work, in the end very few people are heroes, I am not either, but it startles me each and every single time how some people manage to shut reality out of their door, especially in countries where you reality is an Ali Al Nimr being beheaded for taking part in a demonstration when he was 17.
I have never been to Saudi Arabia and I don’t know it well enough to judge it’s political system, although I find it pretty revolting. What I do know though, is that Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran are the only countries that still execute people for crimes committed while they were teenagers. What I know that there are international conventions that Saudi Arabia has ratified, that prohibit the sentencing to death of children. But the obstacle is overcome by proving the alleged “child” shows signs of puberty.
This whole nightmare is happening as Saudi Arabia is offering -and obtaining- to lead the United Nations Human Rights panel. While the world writes, petitions, screams, marches, protests, the ever so mild United States respond like this.
So yeah, I wish the lovely Italian mothers that their beautiful children grow up to be peaceful kids who never feel the urge to scream out their discontent in one of the countries where “they are guests and can’t have an opinion on their politics”. But I also know that if their lovely children do decide to go crazy one day and scream out their discontent, there are gonna be people whose business is not to petition to save someone’s life who will do it anyway.
Because yes, I’m not a mother and can’t understand what fear they may feel for their children, but I am a human being, I could be this guys sister, I have been marching and protesting and no one ever sentenced me to beheading and crucifixion, so yeah… I don’t know all the laws of Saudi Arabia but I do feel entitled to advocate for this kid.