German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s trip to the Gulf States last weekend and his handshake with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman finally exposed the German government’s human rights platitudes as pure imperialist propaganda.
Government political leaders and the media routinely call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “murderer” and accuse Russia of “genocide” in Ukraine to justify NATO’s war on Moscow. If these labels currently apply to states and their political leaders, they certainly apply to the Gulf monarchies.
Prince Salman himself was directly implicated in the bestial murder of Saudi journalist and regime opponent Jamal Khashoggi. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents for his upcoming wedding. He never reappeared.
One can only imagine the ordeal that the journalist endured before his death. Days after Khashoggi disappeared, the Turkish government said it had audio and video recordings proving that Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He said audio recordings showed Khashoggi being “interrogated, tortured and then killed”. The journalist had been “dismembered” alive and the body “then dissolved in acid”.
The imperialist powers, whose representatives now make pilgrimages to Riyadh by the dozens after a brief period of keeping their distance, are just as aware of the shocking event as they are of the fact that Khashoggi’s murderers came from the immediate surroundings. of Prince Salman. In February 2021, the US government released a report stating that the Crown Prince had personally “approved” of the murder.
Immediately after the report was published, Omid Nouripour, then foreign policy spokesman and now co-chairman of the Greens, demanded: “Germany must make it clear to the House of Saud that no normal relationship with it is possible as long as a murderer who dismembers his detractors is the crown prince of the country.
Now all that is forgotten. Social Democrat Scholz has made it clear on the ground that relations with Saudi Arabia are not only now “normal” for the ruling class, but absolutely essential. “We have long-standing economic and political relations with Saudi Arabia.” He said it was “so right and important that we continue to talk here and at other stages of my journey about the development of the region, the possibilities for economic relations, but also the political challenges we face”.
By “political challenges”, Scholz means above all the intensification of NATO’s war offensive against Russia. He said he “made it clear that it is important for us to support Ukraine in defending its integrity and sovereignty, that we will continue to do so and that Russia must withdraw its troops”. The NATO powers, led by Washington and Berlin, initially provoked Putin’s reactionary invasion of Ukraine. Now they are escalating the war ever further, with the aim of defeating Russia militarily and exploiting this resource-rich country.
Until that happens, the ruling powers are forced to secure new sources of raw materials due to severed energy ties with Russia. The Gulf States, which have huge oil and gas reserves, play an important role in the calculations. “There are a lot of investments to be made here,” Scholz explained. “These are also German companies playing an important role, for example, in the further development of the local economy, the use of oil and gas resources and developments in terms of hydrogen.”
The human rights crimes of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies will not stand in the way of these plans. When Scholz was asked at a press conference in Jeddah if he had “addressed the crown prince about his responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi”, he replied with his characteristic cynicism: “We discussed all the issues that revolve around civil and human rights issues. rights. It is as it should be. You can assume nothing was left undiscussed that needs to be said.
If Scholz had actually discussed all “civil and human rights issues”, he would certainly not be back in Berlin yet. The human rights crimes committed by the Saudi regime alone are so extensive that it would take several days to list them. Every year, dozens of “Khashoggis” fall victim to the terror of the regime.
On March 12, 2022, 81 prisoners were executed in a single day. Most of them had only taken to the streets against the ultra-reactionary dictatorship. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, 41 of the victims took part in the mass protests against the Saudi monarchy in 2011/12. In addition, the mass execution included seven Yemeni nationals accused of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia is brutally fighting.
If any conflict currently has a genocidal character, it is the actions of the Saudi regime in Yemen. The exact number of people killed by the systematic bombing and starvation of the impoverished country is unknown, but it is in the hundreds of thousands. A report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimated that as of November 2021, the death toll stood at 377,000.
The UNDP estimates that among the victims are more than 260,000 children under the age of five. They died largely of starvation and disease following the Saudi blockade, backed by the United States and the United Arab Emirates, which Scholz also honored with a visit. The report also predicts that the death toll will reach 1.3 million by 2030. Meanwhile, the number of Yemenis living in extreme poverty is expected to reach 22 million by 2030.
The German government has an accurate picture of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. The country is “among the countries that carry out the most death sentences in the world”, according to a November 2020 statement by the Human Rights Committee “on the situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia”, which said the number of people killed has “increased”. significantly” since 2014. And further:
At least 186 people were executed in 2019. Under current and strictly enforced conversion laws, change of religion and so-called apostasy can be punished by death. Children are also covered by this legislation. Despite the announcement of reforms, including the abolition of the death penalty for minors at the time of the crime, executions continue here. Confessions alleged to crimes not committed are still routinely obtained through torture. Conditions in Saudi prisons violate human rights standards.
The report paints a picture of medieval despotism. Human rights and civil liberties activists are “brutally repressed” and the “human right to freedom of religion or belief…is so severely restricted that it is in fact non-existent”. Furthermore, “other minority rights” are “overwhelmingly limited to non-existent rights, including the rights of sexual minorities (LGBTI people)”. In particular, “women’s rights” are also “massively repressed” and women activists are “imprisoned, ill-treated and tortured because of their commitment to women’s rights”.
In Qatar, where Scholz began his journey and where the next World Cup will be held from November to December, the situation is no better. In the 10 years since the emirate was awarded the World Cup, 15,000 construction workers have died there building stadiums and venues, according to Amnesty International. Although the 2 million migrant workers from India, Bangladesh and other Central Asian countries are exploited at poverty wages, Scholz claimed in Doha that the “legal situation for guest workers” had “improved “.
Workers and young people must above all understand Scholz’s journey as a warning. Germany’s ruling class will resort to equally deadly methods to suppress growing opposition to rearmament, social attacks and the politics of allowing the coronavirus to run wild during the pandemic. At the same time, that won’t stop them from uttering false human rights phrases to force the return of German militarism to the world stage after its horrific crimes in the two world wars.