SHARE
COPY LINK
SWEDISH-SAUDI ARMS DEAL

MILITARY

‘Sweden has betrayed the Arab struggle for democracy’

Revelations that Sweden has helped the regime in Saudi Arabia enhance its military capabilities amount to a betrayal of the Arab spring and support for a Saudi-backed Arab counter-revolution, argue a group of Arab and Swedish pro-democracy activists.

'Sweden has betrayed the Arab struggle for democracy'

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.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED

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

HANA AL-KHAMRI

Yemen, journalist

ABDULHADI KHALAF

Bahrain, lecturer in sociology, University of Lund

HABIBA MOHSEN

Egypt, political scientist and democracy activist

SAYED MOHAMED ALAWI

Bahrain, human rights activist

JABER ZAIN

Swedish Committee Support the Syrian revolution

PER BJÖRKLUND

Swedish Network Solidarity with Egypt

ANNA EK

President, Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

NATO

Turkey forms ‘permanent committee’ to assess Swedish Nato deal

Turkey on Thursday said a new "permanent committee" would meet Finnish and Swedish officials in August to assess if the two nations are complying with Ankara's conditions to ratify their Nato membership bids.

Turkey forms 'permanent committee' to assess Swedish Nato deal

Finland and Sweden dropped their history of military non-alignment and announced plans to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of
February. All 30 Nato members must ratify the accession.

Nato member Turkey has demanded the extradition of dozens of suspected “terrorists” from both countries under an accession deal the three signed last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to “freeze” the process over Sweden and Finland’s failure to extradite the suspects.

He accuses them of providing a haven for outlawed Kurdish militants. “If these countries are not implementing the points included in the
memorandum that we signed, we will not ratify the accession protocol,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed in a televised interview.

He said the committee would meet in August but provided no details.Turkey’s parliament has broken for its summer recess and will not be able
to hold a ratification vote before October. Some Turkish officials have warned that the process may drag out until next year.

SHOW COMMENTS