What we do for Saudi Women

U.S. never helped Saudi women

To test the U.S. government’s “concern” for the women of Afghanistan, it is useful to examine Washington’s record on helping women in other Muslim countries. Take Saudi Arabia, for example.

The Saudi regime is a U.S. client. For more than 60 years, U.S. oil companies have reaped billions of dollars yearly from the extraction of cheap and plentiful Saudi oil. Washington so thoroughly dominates this country of 27 million people that it got the Saudi government to pay $40 billion of the $60 billion the U.S. spent on the first Gulf War in 1991.

Certainly there has been plenty of opportunity for Washington to help Saudi women. But it hasn’t done so. In Saudi Arabia, arranged child marriage is legal. If a woman files for and wins a divorce, she can keep her children only until the boys are 7 years old and the girls 9, and can receive maintenance payments from her husband for only three months. Women are not allowed to drive or travel without written permission from a male guardian. They cannot walk alone even in their own neighborhoods. They are discouraged from becoming lawyers or architects because they might come in contact with men.

The U.S. government has locked Saudi Arabia into a feudal and misogynist social system while finding the most efficient and modern ways to extract its oil. In the words of Egyptian fighter for women’s rights, Nahwal al Sadawi, “In Saudi Arabia — one of the worst countries for women — fanatic fundamentalist Islamic groups are supported by U.S. troops.”

Even though I agree with the article, it is a simplistic notion to assign the entire responsibility to the US. The oil interests of Shell (British and Dutch capitals) and BP combined could certainly represent a level of pressure on the Saudi regime to be able to influence change. However, corporations like to talk about “corporate responsibility” only in so far as that responsibility is a)  visible in so called “First World Nations” and b) only applied and acted upon in those “First World Nations”. Globalization only applies to the free flow of capitals and the extraction and movement of resources but it never applies to the free transit of people or the application of standards that are the norm in the places where these capitals reside.

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