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'Sweden has betrayed the Arab struggle for democracy'

'Sweden has betrayed the Arab struggle for democracy'

Published: 11 Apr 2012 17:09 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 Apr 2012 17:09 GMT+02:00

Since the fall of Ben Ali’s dictatorship in Tunisia in Januari 2011, Western governments have been talking about their support for democracy in the Arab world.

The Swedish government is no exception. It has emphasized the role of democracy aid and Swedish communications technology, and invited young activists to conferences and seminars discussing the role of social media in the Arab spring.

However, actions are more important than words, and for many of those hoping for democratic change in the Arab world the real actions of the Swedish government amounts to a betrayal.

We were sad to learn that Sweden’s arms export has more than quadrupled in recent years, with a growing share of it going to authoritarian regimes.

We were even more disappointed when the Swedish arms exports to Arab dictatorships continued to increase in 2011, a year when ordinary citizens from Morocco to Syria and Bahrain raised their voices and risked their lives to call for democracy and justice.

But we were truly appalled by the news that Sweden is not only arming dictatorships, but actively helping the regime in Saudi Arabia to enhance its military capabilities by assisting in the construction of an advanced arms factory.

For many of us Saudi Arabia represents the symbolic heart of the Arab counter-revolution. One year ago troops from Saudi Arabia where even sent to Bahrain to help crush the popular uprising there.

As an absolute kingdom, where women are suppressed and basic human rights denied the citizens, it has no interest to allow any democratic change domestically or in the region.

It is naive to think that this kind of cooperation will not benefit and strengthen the regime in its struggle to contain the Arab spring and silence any opposition to its rule.

The same applies to military cooperation with other authoritarian states; when people have taken to the streets, calling for democracy, in countries like Egypt, Yemen and Syria, in the end they have always been confronted by the armed wing of their regimes, as the final line of the defense for the ruling elites.

We are confident that this policy does not reflect the real wishes of the Swedish people. We sincerely believe that they would not allow their country to arm and support authoritarian regimes if they had been fully informed about the actions of its government.

Reversing this policy would not only be an important act of solidarity with democratic forces in the Arab world, but also a small but symbolic step towards another world order, where democracy, solidarity and human dignity and means more than economic and geopolitical interests.


Saudi Arabia, professor of anthropology, King's College, London


Yemen, journalist


Bahrain, lecturer in sociology, University of Lund


Egypt, political scientist and democracy activist


Bahrain, human rights activist


Swedish Committee Support the Syrian revolution


Swedish Network Solidarity with Egypt


President, Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society

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Your comments about this article

20:49 April 11, 2012 by prince T
China would have sold it to them if sweden refuses. Sweden should even be happy after our good fighter jet rejected on many occassions. SA looks moderateto me compared to other Arab world.
00:28 April 12, 2012 by TheWatchman
There will not be a democracy in the Arab Middle East because they overthrow one dictator, replace him with another.
11:18 April 12, 2012 by OUIJA
Is this the first time Sweden has betrayed someone?

Sweden betrays its own citizens, so, why should we wonder

about this news?
15:21 April 12, 2012 by Pakistani_Student
well all i know is saudi people live a much better standard of life than an average swede, and most people are very happy with the government whether its democracy or not. So sweden should think about the freedom of its own people than other countries.
16:01 April 12, 2012 by Uncle
These "professors" and "journalists"are clearly muslim. Deceiving is not an embarassment for them. In Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt and Yemen the rebels were openly supported by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. SA even sent fighter jets to assist the europeans in Lybia. So stories about "dictatorship support" by Saudi Arabia are completely false.

On the other hand the ones who they support (freedom loving people) are salafist islamists who are quite worse than the secular regimes they overthrown.

In regards to Bahrain - the rebellion there was supported by "freedom light" Iran in order to be able to CLAIM Bahrain as it's autonomy after the revolutionary guard would put its own people in the leadership. Saudi Arabia actually prevented annexation of Bahrain, so these "professors" are welcome to STFU.

Islamists in Sweden would whine if Sweden would sell weapons to SA or to Qatar. To Bahrain government or to Iran. To Tunisian rebels or to Tunisian dictator. They would whine if Sweden would boycotte these dictatorships (contribution to the suffering of the people and direct attack on muslims) or if Sweden would trade with them (assistance to oppressive regimes). They whine when Sweden joins NATO to hold an Afghani region in peace (assistance to aggressor) and they whine when Sweden withdraws (leaving the locals in Afghanistan to be oppressed by Taliban).

They whine as a CULTURAL thing and therefore I would not pay attention to what they whine about this time.
20:21 April 12, 2012 by Carbarrister
Sweden should not change its foreign policy because a few academics and self proclaimed journalists complain. I hope Swedish industry made a healthy profit on sales to Saudi Arabia. Compared to support from the USA is isn't even a rounding error.
21:41 April 12, 2012 by rise
They'll buy weapons regardless, whether it says "Made in Sweden" on them or not. Better if Swedish industries are getting the orders instead of Chinese, Russian or whichever dito.

Peace on earth? Will not happen - ever. Humans are not peacefully. Peace is not compatible with the human nature neither in small things nor big.
00:48 April 13, 2012 by Uncle
@ Pakistani_Student

"well all i know is saudi people live a much better standard of life than an average swede"

Yep. AMAZING standard of living. Well except women. And gays. And perhaps shia. And maybe christians. And a little bit of dissidents. And slightly pakistanis and thai workers. And some criminals who get stoned and beheaded.

But otherwise the standard of living is WAY better than Sweden!
02:03 April 13, 2012 by phil23456
The only problem with overthrowing dictatorships is what replaces them, look at Egypt tanks are now running over Christians & Churches are burning. Plus does anyone actually believe that you can have a democratic free Islamic state? Isn't that a huge contradiction in itself?
12:11 April 13, 2012 by Sven the banana

"well all i know is saudi people live a much better standard of life than an average swede"

That statement is WRONG. Sweden has almost double the gdp per capita compared to Saudi Arabia (PPP adjusted) and almost triple the gdp per capita when using nominal statistics. If you use use other measures of standard of life and development such as prosperity index, economic competitiveness, human development index sweden is WAY AHEAD of Saudi arabia.
15:04 April 13, 2012 by Kublai
I don't think the islamists need to worry. The swedish government fully supports Muslim Brotherhoods revolution and power grab in the Middle East and North Africa. The weapon factories swedish companies are building in SA and Pakistan will be used to arm MB's dark forces. After all, Saudi Arabia financed Fredrik Reinfeldts last election campaign.

The question is: when will the arab spring begin in Europe?
15:15 April 13, 2012 by PerKurowski
Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship because its huge oil revenues are all received by its government, and not because of its weapons. That is why, for an oil-cursed citizen like me, all the uproar around the possibility that Sweden has helped Saudi Arabia to build a weapon factory sounds somewhat like a storm in a teacup.

You might as well call for a stop on selling cars or ice cream to Saudi Arabia, on the ground that it uses that to bribe its citizens into submission.
16:43 April 13, 2012 by tadchem
One cannot force democracy on people.

The best and most moral path is to ensure people have a choice. That means giving them access to information that includes many options.

The true enemy of democracy is ignorance.

Cave ab homine unius libri.
18:46 April 13, 2012 by thomasson44
Sweden had not betrayed anyone. There is no Arabic Spring. There is only a sneaky way of the Muslim Brotherhood to turn all Arab and Muslim states into Sharia state, model Iran. The day Bashar el Assad regime will collapse, a big massacre will take place. His volk the Allewiets will be slaughtered together with Assad and his family. This is the way Arab countries are conducting business. They are not nation states but a tribal society.
20:16 April 13, 2012 by Jeff10
@ Watchman, post #2:

You're exactly right. What's now happening in the ME is that one set of thugs is trying to use democracy to install themselves as the new set of thugs with Sharia law and all of the other backwardness that follows islame.

What the West should do is sell to all sides in the ME small arms and let them have at each other. This is a win-win scenario, plus, the West will make a boatload of money while it watches the wackos off each other.
21:33 April 13, 2012 by Uncle

You are SPOT ON, may I say. There is NO arab spring. Muslim Brothers in Egypt have already started to propose "funny laws" in regards to democratic freedoms limitation like freedom of speech, religion and assembly.

Qaddafi was "ordered" by the Prince of Qatar, to whom Qaddafi said once that "princes butt was too big for the chair" (prince was 160 kg by that time). Qatar was sponsoring the French operation in Lybia, as well as the entire rebellion in Lybia. It is also in charge of moving armaments from Lybia and Tunisia to the islamists fighting against last secular regimes of arab world.

Actually Assad (allawi) is fighting against islamists side by side with christians who clearly will be hanging on the trees after "freedom lovers" will throw off Assad. Pity that this info is not communicated to the west.

Even Hezbollah is a bit confused now. The only thing that keeps them not join their salafist brothers is that they are shia and therefore cannot join extremists from the "wrong religion" out of xenophobic principle. Of course the salafists are getting a fat cheque from both Saudis and Qataris.
23:00 April 13, 2012 by Max Reaver
I dont wanna say dealing in itself is wrong. the problem itself is the hypocrisy of sweden. on one side you proclaim to be the supporter of true democracy, condemning the fake democracy in states while doing exactly the same thing you say are wrong. the swedish politicians need to say "yes we are sluts who sell ourselves and our country for cash. all we said about us being the best, nicest and most political correct system, are phony rubbish. we do not deserve to claim higher moral ground, for the same reason a whore does not deserve to auction her virginity. one can not get one's hand dirty, and still try to prove they are pure." remember this, and remember that one day, the blood of the innocent will stain the hands of the swedes.
00:48 April 14, 2012 by Uncle
Max Reaver

What is it that you are banging on about, may I ask? Your post reminds me of North Korean news agency that proclaims the capitalist world as aggressor and despot, while 10% of its own population is occupying concentration camps.

If we already ARE into business of selling weapons, to WHOM should we sell it? The rebels in Syria, who will wash the streets with blood? To "freedom fighters" from Al Shabbab in Somalia and Al Qaida in Yemen? To whom shall we sell weapons? Perhaps Switzerland, Fiji and Monaco, because there is little chance they will fight someone? See, the market is a bit low.

Allow me to tell you a secret. But shhh. Don't tell anyone. Weapons are bought by people who usually would like to kill other people. Amazed? Are you struck by this entirely fresh information?

Hey, I have got an idea. Let's sell rainbows and unicorns to the happy people of the world, who sit around fires and sing "Kumbaya". But, wait... These people do not pay so much due to simultaneous lack of belief in globalization and capitalism.

So it means reduction in federal budget.... So whom shall we take the money from? Pensioners? Children? Health? Perhaps IMMIGRATION support? Maybe increase taxes to 60%? Maybe stop fixing roads? How about parental leave?

Hell, we will lose 2 billion yearly DOLLARS on exports. We need to take them from somewhere...

Let's start cutting on budgets because SOME like to whine about morality, but do not propose a realistic way of conduct.
12:17 April 14, 2012 by Max Reaver

No my friend, you haven't read my post thoroughly. I'm not against the arm deal itself, but double-standard and hypocrisy in the politics. In fact, you expressed strong emotion towards the North Korean statements but remain oblivious to the hypocrisy of Swedish politicians, that, my friend, is also a manifestation of double-standard.

Sell weapons to whoever you want, but remember there will be consequences. Mid-east is a war zone and their refugees pour into the Swedish border in masses. Putting more weapons in that region doesn't really help. Especially if you give guns to a government that very well might use them on her own people, you may create more asylum seekers in the future. Which in turn, makes your reduction in federal budget from "IMMIGRATION support" even more difficult. Let me tell you a secret. Everything in this world in interconnected somehow. The impact of the government's action will definitely hit you back one way or another. Now that is a reality check! You seem to oppose immigrants in Sweden as well as Syrian rebels, neither of these viewpoints are openly shared by the Swedish government. If you actually do live in Sweden (which i sort of doubt you do) then you might consider appeal your pov to the government, tell them to side with China and Russia, crush the Syrian rebels instead of letting them wash the streets with blood. Now that's a more realistic way of conduct than complaining about budget cut in a forum.
15:09 April 14, 2012 by Polite Guest
It can be clearly argued that what is so called the Arab Spring is become an effective tool in hands of (the west) For the dissemination of creative chaos aiming to re-map of the middle east.

We have already good lectures of Democracy in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.

Who will be the next after the US presidential election ?!! Iran maybe !!!!

And outcomes will be more refugees , more debts , more terrorists, more deaths and more hates .... But still we are living in the same planet
21:13 April 14, 2012 by thisworldsisajungle

you shouldnt underestimate capitalist world's role.i.e. Iranian 1979 revol.

lets take a look :

Scene #1: from 1979 - 1991

Far-right Political Islam is an excellent tool to fight Communism( USSR ) .So Let Mullahs appear in Iran and Al-Qaeda gain power in Afghanistan.

Scene #2: 1991 -2003

USSR is now a story in Historical Book.and no need to Islamists anymore.

Al-qaeda must jouin Histroy( and joined ).Saddam also must go (and went)

Source - > neoconism

Scene #3 : 2011 -

Ghazzafi ,Assad ,Mullah must go but the Sheikhs of the Gulf no.they are needed.

Ghazzafi went.Assad is being prepared to go.and Mullahs will go soon.

so now in all parts of middle east there are dogs.let us enjoy ,dick(chenny) and john(Bolton).Viva West. We genocide them and Jesus will be so happy.Jesus

will come soon and we'll have a great dinner.HURRAY!!!!HURRAY!!!!

Scene #4 : ? ? ?? ? ? ? ?
23:56 April 14, 2012 by Uncle
Max Reaver

"In fact, you expressed strong emotion towards the North Korean statements but remain oblivious to the hypocrisy of Swedish politicians, that, my friend, is also a manifestation of double-standards"

No, my friend Max. It is the reality check. People who murder and enslave millions of people contrast just a bit the swedish politicians. Clearly you do not understand that the difference between NK and Sweden is like between Sudanese slave owner and a good swedish employer who pays you extra if you take a parental leave and provides you with massages for them tensed shoulders.

"Especially if you give guns to a government that very well might use them on her own people, you may create more asylum seekers in the future."

I am sorry, but based on what are you honouring us with this statement? Is there an uprising in Saudi Arabia that I never heard of? Is Happiness Index of SA showing low levels or at least below Sweden? My friend. This is aan oil filled SHARIA state with free education and apartment benefits to all families (who are not a minority or are members of other religion). Emirates, Kuwait, SA and Qatar have statistically way lower chance to use the weapons against their own population than, say, Russia, China or Vietnam.. You know why? Because they already killed off whoever disagrees. Dubai gets investments that consist of LIFE savings of europeans and nobody even blinks. How many Saudi/Qatari/Emiratee refugees did you meet in your life? Me - none.

You know what is funny, buddy? Your arguments were not even used by the so called professors above. They say that military help to SA will indirectly assist regimes that suppress rebellions, which is a total bull, since SA is the proud sponsor of the arab spring!

"Now that's a more realistic way of conduct than complaining about budget cut in a forum."

I am sorry, but I believe that I am not the one complaining here. I am for selling weapons to whoever (except enemies), since selling weapons to people who do not plan to kill people is a logical paradox, due to impossibility of such deed.

Finally, NOT selling weapons will cause a direct detriment to the budget and as you clearly stated that you are NOT against weapon selling as a principle, I invite you to provide feasible financial compensation for the deal with SA, since the latest deals with India, Korea and Brazil were proven as commercial failure of Gripen. When you find this alternative, it is YOU who shall turn to authorities with the brilliant idea and not me, as Sweden already doing whatever I propose...
23:59 April 14, 2012 by Mar38
I just have 1question for you:

If somebody want to suicide, will you prepare the rope?
15:41 April 15, 2012 by hisham
Sweden has betrayed the Islamist and slaughters who struggle for Sharia low .. Frankly speaking. Be aware of those whom misuse the word of Democracy !!!
15:58 April 15, 2012 by Uncle
I would like to make something clear. The only weapons I would like to sell to muslim world, are the ones that spontaneously combust upon use. However, when muslims start condemning the west for SOMETHING, I start checking the facts behind.

I personally believe that the mentioned above specialists are in fact shia muslims, or shia infuenced sunnis, who see Iran as "good" and Saudi Arabia as "bad". Any strengthening of SA strikes directly on power of Iran. That is the SOLE reason Ahmeds and Jabers above condemn weapon deal with SA. If Sweden would sell weapons to Iran, THESE specific people would praise the deal.

Iran suppresses demonstrations with Iron hand, while SA does not have demonstrations. Iran ejects thousands of refugees, whereas SA accepts refugees. Iran openly develops nuclear capability, whereas SA does not (yet). Whereas Iran builds missiles and nuclear centrifuges, SA builds skyscrapers and buys football teams. Also, heavy weaponry that is ANYWAYS sold to SA never finds it's way to sunni terrorists and SA has Abrams tanks, patriot missiles and F-16s. Whenever some advanced missiles are sold to Syria or Iran, it takes couple of weeks for them to arrive to terrorists.

SA is far from perfection. It is a violent and oppressive regime. So is China. So is Venezuela. So is Cuba and Fiji. Weapons are not the ones that are a problem here. If Sweden would like to stop oppressive regimes - stop trading with China. Stop visiting Thailand. Stop flying to Mauritania. If it is too much, there is no reason for whining about some weapons to SA.
22:08 April 15, 2012 by Max Reaver
Oh Mr Nobody's uncle, I really caught your attention, have I not?

To my two small posts, you wrote two articles as reply. Tell me, how many times did you have to reduce your texts to fit into TheLocal's 3000 word limit? That and all the other posts you had on this website are indicators of someone who has too much time and too little life. Anyway, I dont think you are from Sweden or live here. I called you on that earlier and you didn't respond to that challenge, very untypical of your character. Perhaps your roots are more Republican than Moderaterna?

Anyway, I'm on a vacation and cant be bothered to reply atm. but I'll see you around eventually.
00:06 April 16, 2012 by Uncle
Do not flutter yourself Maxie. I come here to develop an idea. I express an opinion formed over years of reading and thinking. I use little (usually slightly moronic) posts as a jump-start for conveying my beliefs and not as an answer to the person, but as material for people who are actually interested in the topic.

That is why your "challenge" is ignored. I do not give a jack whether or not you think that I live in Jamaica or the palace in Stockholm. I do not care what YOU personally think about MY persona.

You, Max, are a simple stage, although it looks like I am talking to you. Enjoy your vacation. (hey, you noticed? I ignored the powerful challenge about lack of life and too much time...Probably my feelings were too hurt to respond to that. Possibly I am devastated and burned to ashes. That is the only logical explanation).
05:37 April 16, 2012 by jomamas
Where do the communists come up wit this tripe?

The 'Arab revolution' will not be allowed to happen in Western-friendly regimes like Saudi or Kuwait.

Besides, the best path for them is reform, not revolution.

The House of Saud has indicated on numerous occasion that they are willing to enable reforms, it is the Wahbi Clerics that are the problem.
10:18 April 16, 2012 by rise
I often find it interesting to read what people are talking about and it is particularly amusing when people do quarrel over something. :) In my point of view when anybody starts attacking the other's person he/she has lost the debate. In this particularly thread one could see Max Reaver as the looser whilst Uncle is the winner. ;)

@ Max Reaver

"...and remember that one day, the blood of the innocent will stain the hands of the swedes."

Sweden already has much blood on its hands. One could say the country has been at war for 800 of its approximately 1000 years of existence. From the fairly newer history Sweden has blood on its hands not from participating in WWII but from selling ore to Nazi-Germany at the same time as weapons to the allies. But do I care about that (native Swede as I am)? Not in the slightest (however much people now and again are trying to give Swedes shame and remorse over it). Because all of that is history - not even my father was born until many a year after WWII had ended.

The fine thing of being neutral is Sweden can pick and choose to whom we are to "sell ourselves and our country for cash" (as you put it). Today and counting ten years back Sweden has chosen to participate in the fight against the talibans in Afghanistan - look for film clips at youtube - so of course Sweden has blood on its hands. However the "blood of the innocent" entirely depends on who you're asking! But regarding to whom we've sold ourselves to this time I'd say no one, if the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) doesn't count.

P.S. The "Arab spring" is nothing but a make-believe.
23:24 April 16, 2012 by blue2012
The "Arab Spring" only exists in the imagination of Westerners.

The Islamic Brotherhood and the Salafists want to impose Sharia law in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and when the dust settles in Syria.
20:07 April 18, 2012 by sgt_doom
No wonder Wikileaks' Julian Assange is so wary of the senseless action by the schizoid Swedish government in their attempt to extradite him; especially given the abysmal record of Sweden's past guilt with aiding in American extreme rendition.

Swedish courts have found in favor of several Arab-Swedes who were erroneously extreme renditioned - or kidnapped -- for torture.

The Justice Minister at that time, Thomas Bodström, recently went on a tour in America, and lied his butt off, falsely claiming that Assange "fled Sweden" to avoid a trial, when clearly the facts prove otherwise!

Assange stayed in Sweden for questioning, after the case against him was dropped for lack of evidence, then restarted due to political pressure brought to bear on the Swedish Prosecution Authority.

Assange's attorney asked for permission for Assange to leave Sweden, since they refused to question him during the month he remained available for questioning!

Yet Thomas Bodström lies and lies about this, just as he colluded with America in their illegal kidnapping when he was justice minister.
20:37 April 18, 2012 by rise
sgt_doom, just so you'll know Bodström isn't very much liked in Sweden either. In fact I think he's someone very easily despised. Not that that is a very strange thing considering he's a politician... :P
22:27 April 19, 2012 by strixy
thomasson44, 14

Well said.
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