Saudi Arabia and the UAE are silencing dissent

The Gulf states are helping authoritarians throughout the region to condemn activism.

The self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizia that took place in December 2010 broke a barrier of silence for many Arab civilians, who have for long been intimidated by authoritarian autocrats across the region.

Bouazizia’s act set in motion a wave of protest, disobedience and eventually revolutions; some of which succeeded in overthrowing some of the region’s most resilient authoritarians, however, brought similarly dictatorial rulers.

While activists in Syria, Libya and Yemen have been mostly silenced by the horrors of civil war, and Egyptian as well as Bahraini rebels suppressed by reactionary forces, only Tunisia seems to have survived as a moderate success.

Yet there is more threatening the region’s dissents than the newly replaced regimes in the states of the so called “Arab Spring”.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, run by two ambitious crown princes, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), paranoid by the civil activism that spread across the region, try to condemn any attempt of similar civil rebellion in their own countries, and in the region as a whole.

Detaining opinion leaders and activists who could potentially use their impact to mobilise against the regime, as well as jailing preachers and religious scholars who had merely expressed their opinions without supporting or condemning any specific actions or regime.

Through such moves, the princes of the two Gulf states were able to assert the monopoly of the state over the public opinion, however, their actions brought about large international criticism.

The khashoggi case for instance is said to potentially change the position of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, as various companies withdraw their businesses and abstain from participating in many conferences held in this part of the region.

Conditioning Arab civil society to embrace the counter-revolutionary narrative of authoritarian stability is difficult to achieve, as activists continue to face oppression, advocates for change increase.

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