Why the National Assembly Party?
God has blessed our country with boundless historical and geopolitical features and resources, but they are like pearls trampled underfoot by beasts without an administration capable of recognizing the country’s true talents and potential. The present administration treats our country in the way that foolish children who inherit great riches might squander them indulging their own whims and fancies, while oppressing the people to whom everything belongs by right. It persecutes, impoverishes, intimidates, imprisons, assassinates and takes hostage individual men and women, even the elderly, simply because their relatives have spoken out about the feckless way in which the country’s human, economic and political potential is being crushed.
Our founding group, therefore, decided to establish NAAS as a practical, political means to save the country from the certain calamity that lies ahead if it continues to be run by the current failed administration.
We call it the National Assembly Party because we want the party to articulate both the duties and the rights of our vast and bountiful country. We use the term “national” in response to anyone who seeks to prevent the population from playing their part in protecting and constructing their own country, or who fails to recognize the abilities of its own sons and daughters, or who gives external considerations priority in determining its policies. And this is exactly what is happening in our country, where the citizens are oppressed, alienated, imprisoned, dispossessed and terrified, while its patrons and enemies alike control its destiny.
It is important here to distinguish clearly between state and government. The state is the people, land, resources, geography and history of the country, whereas the government is the administration of the day, which can change by being appointed or dismissed, or reformed or corrupted. Our country’s government tries to blur this distinction in people’s minds so as to claim infallibility and rights of ownership over the people and their fate. The words for “state” and “government” may be the same in some languages, but that is because their governments are elected by, and of, the people without continuing in perpetuity or having delusions of ownership. Once we have a government of, and chosen by, the people this problem will no longer arise, but for now our country needs to rid itself of this widespread and false notion that confuses “the state” with the whims of one man.
Our founding group have been united from the outset by their common goals and concerns for our country. In their view, no individual is better than any other, nor should any region or family be favoured over another. They are united in a passionate desire to seek the good of the country and its inhabitants, transcending regionalism, sectarianism or provincialism in the interests of building a single country for all, in which all members of the population are equal, bound together in the interests of their country and setting aside anything that pits individuals, groups or categories of people against one another. The idea of an Assembly is that it brings together all the party’s members, supporters and loyal well-wishers; the only role of the founders is to open up the way for honest, competent people to assume their responsibilities toward their country, and for everyone to do what they can to save our country’s future.
The Party, then, is a political grouping of people who believe in the necessity of establishing a democratic state based on full citizenship rights for its inhabitants, and who have a political programme to rescue the country from the current wretched state in which it finds itself as a result of long-term policy failures. Citizenship means people being involved in policy making and shaping their country’s future without racism, class distinctions or special privileges for any individual, family, tribe or region; where everybody does their best for themselves and their country, and all are protected by the power of the law from individual weaknesses, ambitions, shortcomings and personal foibles.
The need for democratic institutions
Our initiative in founding the National Assembly Party (NAAS) is intended as a pre-emptive step to avoid chaos, and a way of delivering our country from the accelerating waves of violence instigated by the government. The establishment of democratically elected institutions will create security, participation, openness and reconciliation in a society deliberately fragmented by the government, where fear of imprisonment, torture and exile makes people afraid to speak freely. Our party exists simply to forge strong social bonds among all sectors of the community, in all areas of the country and representing all shades of opinion, in order to forestall the regime’s attempts to entrench its own power by sowing division and hostility among the population.
Republic or constitutional monarchy – for the people to decide
Since this is a democratic party seeking to represent the whole of the population, it does not presume to choose for them the future system of government in the country: it is for the people to decide in a general referendum what kind of system they would like. The important thing is that there should be an elected government headed by a prime minister or president elected with the consent of a majority of the people; it matters far less whether they choose to retain or do away with the symbolic position of a monarch. Free societies, once liberated from autocratic dictatorship of any kind, tend not to spend much time worrying about such details.
Our position on terrorism
The government does not want to admit that it was the original driver of today’s global terrorism. It was the government’s prisons, and the injustice and torture that took place there, that produced Al Qaeda and formed the basis for the Islamic State ideology. Prisons like Al-Ha’ir, Dhahban, Sha’ar and Al-Tarafiya drove young people towards terrorism and terrorist ideology when they found themselves the victims of state terrorism, brutality and torture and had absolutely no means of protesting. The authorities gave their henchmen free rein to torture the youth and deny them every human right, and anyone who opened their mouth to complain had their prison term increased. The authorities forced them to choose between silence, death or emigration, and even though the West turned a blind eye to this for a while, out of a desire to suck up the country’s wealth, it was only a matter of time before all the wealth would be gone and everyone, the people and authorities alike, would pay the price.
The world cannot remain silent about the government’s terrorist crimes for much longer. Here and there voices are starting to be heard talking about the horrifying situation in our country, and once the full facts are known no amount of wealth will be enough to compensate or buy off states on whose territory our country’s government has kidnapped dissidents and committed savage acts in contravention of all international norms. One of the main causes of terrorism is authorities not being held accountable for their actions and there being no institution or party capable of reining them in. They terrorise their citizens in every way, then spend public assets on private PR firms to help them claim to be combating terrorism. Worse still, they used to release prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes and forcibly recruit them to go abroad to fight in war zones; those who refused were put back in prison and used to stoke the narrative that the authorities were fighting a “war on terror”. Prisons, furthermore, were sources of massive financial corruption, as prison governors and their cronies milked vast amounts of money out of prisoners for basic rations and services needed to stay alive.
An independent judiciary
Our country lacks a judicial system that is independent of the government, let alone respected by the people. The present judiciary is simply a front for injustice and oppression. In dozens of cases against the country’s liberals and reformers verdicts have been handed down before they even came to court, and reformers convicted as criminals remain in prison until they die a slow death from ill-treatment and neglect. For decades people recognised that they could not count on the judiciary to uphold their rights, but now the government has corrupted it still further with bribery and undue influence. Society now views judges as open to corruption, and their corruption has infected the rest of society. While acting in the name of the Sharia they in fact subvert Sharia law and cause miscarriages of justice. If one bucks the trend by issuing a fair verdict once in a while he will be hounded out of office, while those who follow the government’s dictates enjoy the power of its protection.
We in the National Assembly Party seek to construct a fair, impartial judiciary that punishes the corrupt rather than appointing them as senior judges and leaders. We want a judicial system in which parties to litigation can have confidence that the aim is to see justice done, a judiciary over which society has oversight in order to shield justice from political and personal corruption.
The status of women
Women in our society have long been placed in a wretched, miserable position, deprived of their rights both by custom and tradition and by the authorities’ hypocritical appeasement of certain extremists. It is unprecedented in our society, in the Arabian Peninsula, in either pre- or post- Islamic times, for women to be forced by unjust laws and practices into such a position of weakness and oppression, in which they are denied their rights of inheritance, employment and social and political participation. Whereas women used to work freely in agriculture and commerce, the authorities now prevent them even from applying for official documents or dealing with administrative matters on their own. This is sometimes blamed on Islam and at others on the government, but in either case the authorities have had total discretion, when they wanted to curry favour with the West, to abolish many of these gross injustices at the stroke of a pen or with a verbal promise.
Meanwhile, those who have fought for women’s rights are treated by the authorities as criminals and tortured and sexually harassed in prison, just because they called for rights that are recognised and accepted around the world. The authorities do not want it be said that women – or anyone else fighting for any other legitimate right – won their rights by fighting for them, but rather that these rights were graciously bestowed on them as a gift by those in power. They do not acknowledge people’s right to campaign for their demands, but want them to wait quietly for whatever “blessings” the authorities choose to bestow. A consultant to the ruler is said to have recommended that before passing decrees enabling women to take public sector jobs, taxes would have to be imposed reducing household income so that women would be forced to work alongside men. So these laws were not passed for the benefit of families but to impoverish men and women alike. This is why we felt it was imperative to end this absolutism for the sake of the whole of society, both male and female, by setting up the National Assembly Party as a democratic means of solving society’s problems on the basis of public opinion.
Civil society organizations
In all human societies there are diverse opinions on every issue, and vibrant communities are full of ideas held by different groups. This is a healthy thing, and a sign of vitality. It helps to provide enlightenment and aids the search for the best ways to make society happy while respecting the diversity of people and their views. We see diversity of thinking as an intellectual and cultural asset of society, so long as people are free to express their views and expound their positions in ways that serve the common good. There must also be universally respected forums in which the representatives of the people vote to take decisions on the major issues, having first eliminated the racial and sectarian tensions deliberately fostered on the pretext of upholding religious doctrines that in fact merely reflect the views of the authorities.
We therefore think that having moderate parties and groups, subscribing to democracy in theory and in practice, would create natural constituencies of ideas within society, and each should have the right to engage in any intellectual or political activity that does not harm the country’s unity or independence.
The regime’s relentless policy of divide and rule
The authorities in our country have a vicious policy of creating hatred and spreading hostility at home and abroad, setting different Islamic schools of thought against each other and fuelling tensions between tribes and regions.
Our position on different Islamic traditions in our society
In our society there are Sunnis, Shiites, Ismailis, Sufis and Salafists, among others, and for centuries these different traditions have lived alongside each other in harmony and mutual understanding. It is only the government, in its desire for control, that has set society at odds with itself so that it can claim to be keeping minorities safe from the majority, and protecting the majority from its fears of the minority. For centuries the Arabian Peninsula got along without this artificial friction and discord that nowadays plagues our society. We cannot trust authorities that are prepared to demonise any sect, denomination, group or party in order to monopolise decision-making power by sowing fear
in the community. So for us, in the National Assembly Party, our first and last concern is to affirm equal citizenship for all members of society, regardless of their intellectual or denominational beliefs, and to establish laws to protect every category and constituent part of that society.
Ever since our country’s founding, its external relations have been built on one major premise, namely dependency on the outside world and clinging to the throne. During the Cold War, it was used in the service of one camp to work by religious, economic and political means against the unity and independence of the Arab peoples. Since its foundation the kingdom has engaged in unwarranted hostilities and incomprehensible friendships, and framed a foreign policy not only lacking independence but indeed often serving foreign agendas against its own interests, all for the sake of staying on the throne.
What we in the National Assembly Party want is political and human relationships that respect the interests of our people, and that value balanced relationships with the peoples and governments of the world – stable relationships that underpin global security and respect for sovereignty, that show respect for our country and relieve the pressure on our people as well as protecting their rights. We are not an empire, but neither do we want our country to be a mere subordinate with no value or role of its own, or indeed a battleground for the settling of external scores.
We will work to develop our country’s relationships with the various states and institutions of the world; we will give sovereignty to the rule of law, put an end to military adventurism, and put out the fires ignited by previous reckless policies that have set ablaze the region all around us and earned us nothing but the world’s contempt. We will also work to create a climate of friendship and mutual non-aggression. We are not being unrealistic about this: the whole world knows the political calamities and diplomatic failures that have characterised our country, especially in recent decades.
Our stance on individual responsibility
We have no personal motives for this initiative, or any hope for personal gain from setting up the party, or any wish to seek revenge on anyone. On the contrary, it is likely to bring us only hardship and sacrifice. No, we are not looking to take revenge on individuals; our whole approach and platform goes beyond the positions of individuals. We do not wish any harm on anyone in our society, no matter what their situation. It is the urgent need to get out of the current mess that forces us to act, to bring about reform and change things for the better in the interests of all. We believe the authorities’ failures have damaged everyone without exception, and the present situation speaks of total political and economic bankruptcy. Although we do not seek retribution against any individual, we nevertheless insist that no one is above the law, and no one can set themselves up in a position where they need not account for their actions.
Everyone understands that the party’s openly declared founders have been able to take this initiative because they have managed to flee the political hell of the big prison-at-large run by this despotic dynasty for nearly a century.
The party would like you to support those of us who, dedicated to the country’s interests, seek to unite the population of our homeland on the basis that all are equal, and to liberate it from the reign of terror and monopoly of power that makes our future the most hazardous on the Arabian Peninsula.
Mismanagement of the economy
In the past people were less inclined to complain about the plundering of the nation’s wealth because at least the plunderers let a few crumbs trickle down to them, and allowed them a few of their rights – but nowadays they get nothing, and they cannot even complain without ending up in prison. The authorities not only confiscate people’s money but also prevent them speaking out to offer economic solutions to the crises created by a single ignorant politician. Instead of listening to experts who have their country’s economic well-being at heart, they punish them and carry on plundering the country’s wealth and destroying its future. Economic reformers suffer the same fate as any other would-be reformers. The man in charge has promised to diversify the country’s revenue sources and make people happy, but he actually intends to diversify his own sources of income and raise taxes. He has bankrupted the Public Investment Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, and sharply increased taxes in a way that has wiped out investments and ruined businesses both large and small as well as family incomes.
In just two years the authorities have raised taxes to 20% on everything, having previously contented themselves with undeclared general taxes on all services, imported goods, various identity cards and residence permits, utilities and so on. And today this man who is slapping taxes on society and plundering the people’s wealth refuses to let them ask where our tax money is going, or have any oversight over how it is spent, as if we too are now his vassals, and our public assets are there to provide rich pickings for the corrupt.
He has also imposed harsh restrictions and unjust fees on expatriates, making it a nightmare either to leave or to remain in the country, while still expecting to attract foreign investment. Yet no one even wanted to buy a stake in the oil giant Aramco – and who can blame them, given the mismanagement of the country? What entrepreneur would want to risk being sent to prison, or worse, or having their assets confiscated, in the absence of laws to protect them?
We in the National Assembly Party are not promising a paradise on earth, but we do promise to stop this grand corruption. For nearly a century, a river of gold has flowed into the king’s coffers, as our oil and other mineral resources were exported to the world without the public knowing how much money went in and out. It all went straight into the pockets of the ruler and his family, and the foreigners providing their security or being bribed with arms purchases and other contracts. As a member of the Shura Council once boldly put it, “oil and financial revenues flow into the royal court, and the king gives the government its budget as a personal boon” – while the public have no right to any of this wealth. And now the authorities are sucking up what little money people have of their own.
The National Assembly Party will ensure that the people’s money reaches the country’s institutions and inhabitants in accordance with a just law of distribution, not according to the current practice of appropriating everything then scattering the crumbs, supplemented by some tax revenue, to hangers-
on and sycophants, and allocating only small amounts to steadily deteriorating public services.
We cannot trust anything that any of our country’s media publish – they are all cheerleaders for the authorities. They satirise every reformer and silence anyone who speaks the truth. They used to be run by self-serving mercenaries who pursued their own personal or party interests or those of foreign hegemonic powers (an ambassador once told the editor of a Saudi newspaper in London: “You are more American than the Americans!”), but today the situation is even worse. The media have become vocal champions of everything that goes against our country’s interests and those of its people. Others in the Gulf have learned from the example of our government how to purchase Arab journalists to act as mouthpieces for them, and they have done the same by paying millions to buy up media professionals in our country. As a result, our own country’s media now support others against us and our interests, making our country politically and ideologically subservient to others.
There can be no public awareness, transparency, responsibility, participation or development if there is no reliable information; if corruption is covered up, defeats denied and oppression glorified; and if the public is simply made to cheer and applaud all that is said to them and all the lies that they are told. The media should be a means of monitoring the authorities and holding them to account, and if the media are not free they become enemies of society, harming its interests, insulting people’s intelligence and deadening their consciences. Our party’s plan for the media is to liberate them from government restrictions and allow them to play their proper role of providing societal oversight of government and serving the public interest.
Different tribes and regions
The authorities’ decisive failure to create a unified society, in fact their determination to tear society apart, has also resulted in people returning to their tribal and regional affiliations. Our country must be spared the consequences of an official culture that seeks to rip apart the very fabric of society, fuelling fear and rivalry between different regions and tribes, and between Bedouin and urban communities, until confrontation becomes almost inevitable. The authorities’ patronising portrayal of the public as a nation of terrorists and monsters straining at the leash is a big lie, used to justify their own monstrous reign of terror.
They must be made to understand that the public will no longer stand for their grand corruption based on this fraudulent policy of making people frightened of each other. We are one community being torn apart in the interests of the corrupt and powerful, who have made people afraid to come together to demand their basic rights. They clearly believe their only hope is to keep people in a state of fear, through a policy of impoverishment, wars, prisons, taxes and starvation, since they have stashed the country’s wealth abroad in readiness for the day when the public realise that they must stand up for themselves and reclaim their usurped rights and plundered assets.
We need to challenge these things before it is too late
Our party is sounding the alarm in order to avert catastrophe. We need to confront official terrorism, resist the policy of divide and rule, counter the spreading of hatred, end the disastrous war in Yemen, and bring an end to the tyrant’s financial follies. We have a programme for dealing with these issues, though it is not about us as a party or as individuals – these things must be tackled together by us all.
• We need to combat official terrorism
The sole purpose of official terrorism is to rob and humiliate people, and the more the powerful plunder and humiliate society, the more they need to intimidate it in order to grow even richer. They are insatiable, and will not stop so long as they remain in a position where they cannot be criticised or held accountable, for there is a fundamental link between plundering the public purse and keeping society in a state of constant fear. A fearful public will put up with anything that tyrants do to them just to preserve their increasingly hellish lives, and when those in power see this it only feeds their appetite for more, and so the cycle continues until there is nothing left. The fearful, captive society that is being created today emboldens those in power to seek revenge on those of us who are sounding the alarm. We fully expect there to be waves of executions of liberal thinkers, and believe that those in power will not be satisfied until they see blood in the streets, with judges handing down death sentences to order. We are warning of this possibility because the assassination attempts we have already seen are likely to be followed by further assassinations under cover of judicial authority.
Everyone, therefore, has a duty to act to save the country from this escalating reign of terror.
• We need to resist government efforts to tear society apart
We need to stand up against efforts to divide society in the name of regional, sectarian, historical or external loyalties, or in the name of religion or economic liberalisation. They have made us a closed and soulless society in the name of religious piety, when they themselves are more dissolute and depraved than anyone; in the name of the Sharia, when they themselves freely disregard Sharia law; in the name of the religious sheikhs, many of whom are servile retainers in their palaces and administration; and in the name of the West, which they placate with bribes as they slavishly follow its dictates. The only regional and sectarian tensions are those deliberately created by the authorities to spread hostility and constant fear in the community, so that they can claim to be protecting everyone.
• We need to challenge military adventurism and face up to defeat
Who was it who sanctioned the failed war in Yemen, and in Libya, and in Socotra? Who dragged us into supporting client regimes that wanted to be restored to power? The war in Yemen – as well as inflicting so much suffering on our Yemeni sisters and brothers – has been a humiliating disaster and impoverished our own country as well. The authorities conceal the true number of casualties and make no mention of the cities emptied of inhabitants, the airports closed because of constant bombardment, and the wretched conditions for soldiers faced with shortages of food and weapons as a result of poor planning. No one talks about the thievery of senior figures in the government, army and intelligence, the false statistics, the Yemenis bribed to sign false documents, and ultimately plunder and defeat.
This losing war must stop. It has been a defeat; a war without strategy or direction; a long, slow act of suicide. Five years of defeats would be enough for anyone of average intelligence to call a halt. Meanwhile, the so-called allies who claim to be our partners in this war are actually deeply hostile enemies who pretend to be our friends.
• We need to end the manufacturing of hatred
It is none of our business whether other countries are ruled by Islamists or by secularists – that is for the citizens of those countries to choose. What does concern us is to see an end to the current policy of making enemies throughout the surrounding Arab and Islamic neighbourhood. What benefit is there for us if a dictator turns the army on his people, or if a tyrant subjugates his people by appealing to our country’s rulers for outside intervention, or if states destroy each other, or if one side in a civil war defeats another? And what has championing dictators everywhere, and helping ruin countries, done for us, other than to place us in the line of fire with other states? What good does it do our country when North, South, East and West are all incensed against us because of one man’s policy – perhaps prompted, whether consciously or not, by an enemy, or by some idiot with the power to take decisions on his own? The failed authorities have recklessly set the world on fire around us and sowed seeds of hatred and contempt for us, as well as between us and the nations of the region and the world, and indeed within our own society.
We want to live in an environment where we are not the cause of problems and do not create hostility, bloodshed or subjugation. We are advocates for peace and for the preservation and protection of our country and society and its relationships. We will not allow our country to be weak or fearful, but neither will we allow it to be a breeding-ground for evil, hatred and the deaths of others. Nor can we let our country’s despotic regime tempt others to invade in future: it is a familiar theme that autocratic rulers will grind down the populace and crush the people’s will through injustice and corruption, then hand the country on a plate to someone else who has been waiting for the state’s collapse in order to move in.
• We need to combat financial corruption, incompetence and folly
Our country has become a centre of opposition to democracy and freedom. The authorities are giving millions of dollar to fund counter-revolutionary forces, and murdering or jailing advocates of various forms of democracy, while our young people have no money, no jobs and no future. As they watch
the country grow steadily poorer and its reputation slide, they see themselves ending up joining all those other Arabs forced by corrupt rulers to flee abroad.
It is our duty to challenge the government’s financial incompetence and foolish squandering of the country’s wealth on palaces, paintings and vanity projects. These are designed to make propaganda for the authorities and gain favour with the outside world, while demolishing homes that the poor and weak have spent most of a lifetime constructing for themselves. These pointless and fantastical projects bring the country nothing but demolition, fear and forced evictions, all in the deluded belief that any tourist would come and stay on the blood-stained ruins of our people’s homes.
It is vital that we raise the alarm before disaster strikes
If all the party does is draw attention to the dangers into which the authorities are dragging us, and chart a road to salvation and construction of the state of the future, we will have performed a great service to the public. However, we are not here just to sound the alarm but to build an alternative structure, and to rally people to save whatever can be salvaged now that the fire has taken hold in every corner of society. There is no money, no work, no security, no victory in war. Everyone is thinking of having to smuggle their assets abroad or else have them seized by a powerful individual who will also smuggle them out and squander them abroad, leaving us humiliated, impoverished and frightened. He is waging a real war on our wealth, our security and our future, and expects us to put up with it in silence.
Yes, we realise that we are putting our lives and our families at risk by trying to tackle this fire, and by pointing out these manifest dangers. But our countryand our consciences tell us that it would be a crime to remain silent, and a huge betrayal of our country’s future to go along with this corruption. We also realise that although few in number to begin with, we represent the voice of the majority. And although a similar cry might be heard in many other countries, this vision, this cry of warning, will tomorrow be the word on everybody’s lips, the common discourse of our oppressed nation. We in the party are only the vanguard, who have formulated a vision and lit a beacon to warn people and set out the terrifying facts for those who are unaware of them or afraid to know the truth – and we respect the feelings of those who would prefer to remain in the dark. But our country will not start to see its way forward until someone sounds the alarm and shows the way to solve these massive problems, before catastrophes occur and the opportunity for peaceful change is lost.