Breaking the Power Monopoly in Saudi Arabia
By Dr. Ali Alyami
A Courageous and Pro-Democracy Prince
In an interview with the Associated Press on 9/4/07, Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz who does not hold an official position but is known to be a confidant of King Abdullah, declared that he will form a political party inside Saudi Arabia and ask imprisoned Saudi reformers whom he described as prisoners of conscience to join the party. This is probably the best way to introduce quantifiable and power sharing reforms in Saudi Arabia. As one of the senior princes who is known for his political activism including calling for constitutional monarchy on different occasions and interviews and as a confidant of King, Talal could make a difference.
In our view, Prince Talal is what his ruling family needs to lead them out of their power entrenched occupation with money garbing, in fights and inability to understand that if they don’t change, they might get changed violently. In an interview with the Washington Post on May 14, 2007, Talal lashed out at his autocratic family because of their total control and unwillingness to share power with their disenfranchised people. “Here, the family is the master and the ruler,” he said of his brothers and cousins, as he sat at Fakhariya Palace. He went on to argue, “This style can’t continue the same way. There has to be change in the nature of authority, if things are going to change in the kingdom itself.” In addition Talal, for the first time any family member has ever done, accused some family members of manipulating the national powers. It is assumed he was referring to the staunch opponents of reform- Defense Minister Prince Sultan, Interior Minister Prince Naif and governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman, none of whom has ever supported any political reform in Saudi Arabia.
The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, located in Washington, calls on the US government to issue a statement to support Prince Talal’s call for establishing a political party to give the Saudi people a say in the decision making processes and control over their destiny. The US and the international community have a stake in democratizing Saudi Arabia and this could be the first and best step to move in that direction. At this point, the Saudi royal family controls all the powers, therefore a peaceful reform can happen and succeed if the Saudi ruling dynasty is willing to share power with its voiceless and oppressed people. This is an opportunity the Bush Administration and members of Congress should encourage publicly and immediately.
Dr. Ali Alyami is Director of The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia