Blog 6- Saudi Arabia: Male Guardianship and Economic Future of the Nation

Saudi Arabia basks in its surging influence, strengthened relationship with the US, and economic initiatives to diversify its economy so as to reduce oil revenue reliance. In this process, we can list its support for terrorism, Yemen’s starving population, and suppression of speech, but rather we will look at their silent population; women. Much wealth allows Saudi Arabia to fund benevolent educational programs for their population to study abroad, learn from fine institutions and take what was learned for use in their homeland with the pursuit to better the state. Men and women alike are eligible for these programs. However, despite having an educated society and striving for an equitable place with western states (and influence), Saudi Arabia is listed on Human Rights Watch as supporting abuses through their legal system and culture, particularly against women. So what are these restrictions on women that translate to human rights violations?

Male Guardianship System:

  • adult women must obtain permission to travel, marry, or exit prison
  • required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare
  • cannot rent an apartment or file legal claims
  • all women remain banned from driving cars
  • disparate opportunities for women in sports and physical education
    • though as recent as Rio Olympics did have 4 women participate

With increased pressure from the global community and its own efforts to be seen on somewhat equal stature as great powers, Saudi Arabia has announced possible changes to directly benefit women.  King Salman ordered a review of the laws, which may yield a pivot regarding guardianship. This review will likely not sit well with hard line conservatives who have had large influence on the politics of Saudi Arabia. However, as part of its economic diversification program for 2030, change is necessary. Loosening the restrictions on women may not directly result in economic gains, but it certainly has the opportunity to do so is the assumption. To note, the Shura Council has been less strict with applying guardianship laws for job applicants. If assumptions come to fruition, women may be driving in the next few years as the King sees that this is a basic human right in the search for economic stability. Looking at the unemployment for men and women alone (2000 – 2016), it is visible that diverting to a new way ahead is absolutely critical to for women, and Saudi Arabia as a whole (World Bank).

It is hard for me to believe this pivot comes from a warm place in anyone’s heart. Capitalism and realism play a huge role in Saudi Arabia’s shift. They know for a fact they need to diversify and they must do so by utilizing their female population. This is especially true if they hope to continue flourishing with Western nations who have a higher standard for women socially and economically. While Saudi Arabia is no beacon of fairness or human rights by any means, some progression is better than none. Women have been subjugated long enough in Saudi Arabia, so while for western women small changes are laughable when compared to the liberties we enjoy, they are massive to a society that is embedded in archaic religious doctrine that leave little to no room for change.


Blog 2 – “Home” – The Kurdish Longing

What’s in a name, place, or feeling of “home?” Some would say it is the shared familiarity, culture, language . . . a common threading of identity in a place or location where one could trace roots to and have a right to exist. Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East, one would think numbers alone warrant a place for them; outlined, definitive, and sovereign. As seen in the map below, “The Kurdish Presence,” the hiking icons show the millions of Kurds inhabiting these nations:

  • 2 million in Syria
  • 5 million in Iraq
  • 8 million in Iran
  • 18 million in Turkey

These indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian Plains have the largest presence in Turkey (15-20%), and as a result have been largely marginalized and met resistance from the Turkish government. This is where we will focus today’s question of human rights as it relates to statehood.

It is a war zone; snipers included. The Turkish government has levied what some in the international community would consider harsh and inhumane conditions on this portion of their population. According to the Amnesty International, Kurds have been subject to 24 hour curfews, denial of burial rights according to custom, “severe electricity, water and food shortages in curfew areas, . . . unable to safely leave their neighborhoods to access healthcare, and ambulances have been denied entry by security forces.” The infighting in South East Turkey has seen about 400,000 Kurds displaced. Additionally, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have been outlawed, making Kurdish concerns in a way nationally and legally banned. The US and the European partners have been seen by the Kurdish people as oblivious, willfully, toward the plight of these stateless people. But why don’t they have a home when in the 1900s Kurds initiated the consideration of a homeland, referred to as “Kurdistan?” It seemed likely when after WWI, upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Western allies allocated a provision for a Kurdish state within 1920 Treaty of Sevres. Yet today, they are still stateless even though Kurds have been successful aiding the war against ISIS/ISIL (PKK, YPG, and PYD). Their efforts have not been rewarded despite their willingness to defend their presence, which has been helping the US-led coalition. Turkey is a globally recognized sovereign state who has shown interest in joining the EU for many years, but the human rights violations prominently continuing against the Kurds is at conflict with EU principles. This places the Kurds in a dire position of perpetual limbo; their plight is known, the sentiment is there, but they are still waiting for action that can result in a realistic location in the Middle East for them. They have had a continued historical and regional presence; the longer this statelessness continues, the higher the probability of conflict that leads to unnecessary deaths on both sides (though mostly Kurdish). With this many people displaced trying to survive in other nations, it seems like it is the right time to persuade Turkey, Iran and Iraq to cede a portion of their border-crossing for the creation of a Kurdish state (they have the largest distributions after all). Iran not being an ally will bring peculiar engagement, but if creating Jews a home was of major importance to the global community after WWII, so should be the effort for a sovereign Kurdistan. These predominantly muslim nations will have more to gain than to lose, if the West and Arab allies work together toward an incentive plan. Until then, the statelessness continues.


This gentleman is in a place, willing to fight for it, but when will this Kurd have a place to call home?


Blog 1 – Over the Border Line: the Israeli-Palestinian Statehood Conundrum

US-Israeli relationship dates back to its creation in 1948. It has been strengthened through foreign aid assistance, shared democratic principles, and mutual concerns and goals in the region. This alliance has developed into joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and military aid to Israel. This alliance has drawn concern from Israel’s neighbors and tested the resiliency of Arab allied nations in the region. Palestine is not totally left behind though, having received $357 million in foreign aid from the U.S. in 2016. Additionally, the U.S. contributed $355 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency which aided Palestine Refugees (UNWRA); $95 million was specifically dedicated to the West Bank and Gaza. Naturally, aiding to entities at conflict renders the question, can a two state solution ever come to pass? Both claim “right” to inhabit, as seen by the map featuring the Western Wall (Biblical “proof” of Jewish territorial existence), and Al-Aqsa Mosque (continued active center of worship/existence).

The U.S. has long been a proponent of human rights and the spread of democracy; it is here where this week’s blog meets the question of statehood for Palestine and Israel. How do we allow one at the expense of the other? Does this continued U.S. support of two warring nations compromise the American ideological anthem of democracy and basic human rights for all? A single-state solution is not viable for two reasons: each group wants sovereignty resulting from their respective “right” to exist, and a single-state would nullify the Jewish majority in order to justify a “Jewish” state. In the many years of both sides “trying” (used loosely here) to come to an agreement, many lives have been lost and abuses have been dealt from both as well (1987-2014 data). This statehood question for Palestinians becomes murkier with alarming actions by Ramadan Abdullah Shalah. As recent as Feb 2017, he called for joint action between Palestine and Hezbollah against Israel; Hezbollah who is deemed a terrorist organization. In doing so, this call can be seen as rational from the Palestinian perspective; they feel isolated and forgotten in what they deem an Israeli occupation of their lands. Israel, on the other hand cannot afford to allow a single state solution; doing so would end the status of a “Jewish” state, and possible actions Israeli leaders may take to suppress Muslims/Palestinians in order to maintain a political advantage erodes their claim to democracy and human rights. A two state solution is then, the only solution. President Trump most recently shifted from letting Palestine and Israel figure it out, to stating that he would “do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement — to mediate, to arbitrate, anything …” after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This pivot made reaching a solution not just a nicety of the Trump Administration, rather a crucial goal as part of his legacy. Achieving a palatable agreement is easier said than done, but the following is a short list of what my research has shown is needed for peace:

  • statehood for both
  • mutual recognition
  • return of some settlement areas
  • re-drawn borders of Jerusalem
  • Palestinian rejection of terrorism
  • external monitoring (Arab & Western coalition)
  • economic infrastructure & social investment in Palestine
  • Palestinian creation of approved, small army (Germany/Japan-like)

Only time and actions will tell if a solution (a two-state at that) will occur. It goes without saying, Israel is not leaving the region, and the Palestinians have been in the region since under the Ottoman Empire. Both sides deserve peace, safety, and basic human rights that come along with statehood. What are your thoughts?