Saudi king's absurd speech

Saudi newspapers are prominently reporting a speech given by King Salman yesterday, in which he made a series of absurd claims:

  • The Saudi government guarantees freedom of expression.

  • Saudi Arabia respects other religions.

  • The law does not discriminate between Saudi citizens and expatriates.

  • The Saudi judiciary is independent and "plays a leading role in protecting human rights".

The Saudi Gazette and Arab News both have reports of the speech in English.

The king's claims are so patently untrue that I'm at a loss to understand why he made them. Didn't any of his advisers warn him that by saying such things he would be exposing himself to ridicule?

Propaganda that backfires on its perpetrator is one thing, but a more frightening possibility is that the king might actually believe these things – in which case the country is in deep trouble.

Among his other activities yesterday, King Salman met President Omar Bashir of Sudan, the first sitting head of state to be 
indicted by the ICC for war crimes. They discussed cooperation over Yemen, including Sudan's offer to send troops to fight there.

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 21 May 2015