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Seen initially as harbinger of freedom and democracy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on November 22, 2020, shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the G20 summit, held virtually due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the capital Riyadh.

When Mohammad bin Salman came to the fore of the Saudi kingdom as the new crown prince, many considered him to be a rising star that would bring freedom and democracy to his people.

It didn’t take long before Mohammed bin Salman showed his true colours and initiated a ruthless and relentless campaign to eliminate his rivals and critics, inside the royal court, inside the country, in the region or beyond. The Khashoggi case that sparked international outrage was no aberration but only the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past few years, Bin Salman’s men have made attempts to pave his way to the throne by abducting, arresting, detaining and even killing Saudi citizens who think the young prince is not the best choice as the next king.

Bin Salman’s main targets have turned out to be rights activities, political dissidents, prominent businessmen, and influential royals.

Those languishing behind bars are the luckiest ones in comparison to those already dead or still unaccounted for.

The exact number of the victims is not clear due to the secret nature of the elimination campaign, but a review of the known part of the story would illustrate the gravity of the situation.

In the March palace purge, at least 20 princes were rounded up on Bin Salman's orders. The most prominent ones still in detention are Prince Mohammed Bin Saad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a member of the Bayaa, or Allegiance Council, which decides the succession of the Saudi throne; Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the former crown prince and interior minister; and Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the son of Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's founder and first ruler.

Ahmed had returned to the kingdom from London in late 2018 to block Bin Salman’s ascension to the throne but ended up behind bars.

But I think he feels the need to make them afraid of himself because he does feel those closest to him in power because that is who could replace him. So you can see by his behaviour that he is afraid of whether he ought to be or not that's his perception and so he's often pulling stunts, to try and put those under him in line, and it makes sure that they fear him as a means of control.

Ryan Dawson, Author, Human Rights Activist

The largest purge under Bin Salman happened here at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in November 2017 where over 350 royals, officials and businessmen were locked up.

Prominent among them were Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah. He was released later that month after reportedly paying more than $1bn to the crown prince.  And Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men on the planet.  He was released in January 2018 after having reportedly reached a financial settlement with the royal court.

These are very powerful businessmen, these are fellow princes and he essentially had them quarantined in a hotel. Nobody can do that other than a Crown Prince, so he's flexing his power, because he feels like he needs to so that threats in the future will be given credibility. If he's willing to do something that seemingly seems this insane. The next time he makes us read, everyone's going to listen because he had no bounds and he got away with it. After pulling such a stunt nothing happened. There was a little bit of bad PR but what he feels he gained in fear outweighed any of the consequences of which there were very little.

Ryan Dawson, Author, Human Rights Activist

Putting the royals in jail or under house arrest was an unmistakable signal that no one was safe in the kingdom, including an untold number of former officials and business people such as the likes of Khaled al-Tuwaijri, the former chief of the Saudi royal court, Amr al-Dabbagh, the former Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority head; Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, a Saudi-Ethiopian dual citizen and a major investor; and Dr Walid Fitaihi, a popular reformist.

This isn't the rulings of an honest monarch or, or of any Republic or any sort of leadership, this is a totalitarian regime that uses insane punishments, death, assassinations, kidnapping, any means, as if the mafia, or a criminal gang were in charge of the government because he sails in the same way as the lowest dregs of society that would be in jail. Were he not the Crown Prince.

Ryan Dawson, Author, Human Rights Activist

Right now, there are many Saudi citizens, mainly former high-ranking officials, who have gone into exile to escape imprisonment and death..

Saad al-Jabri, a former intelligence official and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef's right-hand man is a case in point.  Jabri fled Saudi Arabia to Canada in 2017 before being caught in the power struggle in the palace. His life has been under constant threat by Bin Salman’s hit men.

Almost one year before the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul,  in September 2017, in a separate purge that threw more than 60 people in jail, religious scholars like Sheikh Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari were arrested. Saudi prosecutors have asked for death sentences for them as the sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Sahwa movement.

The arrest of more than a dozen women's rights activists including Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef is a well-known story. There are worrisome reports that these activists are under harrowing conditions being subject to torture and sexual harassment.

This MB is really dependent on what he feels is his tight supporters, these Takfiri  Salafist Islamic groups, who do not believe women should be driving or doing many other things, but really MBs is not a fan of any kind of civil rights or human rights whatsoever. This is someone that will assassinate on a whim, he'll kidnap people; including a prime minister, and of course the starvation and utter destruction of the people of Yemen. There is not a sympathetic bone in his body, and he feels threatened by civil rights, because as he as more people try, with the entire female population or allow the same access to education and so forth, he feels that that is a threat to his position and it undermines his extremist and fundamentalist religious views.

Ryan Dawson, Author, Human Rights Activist

Besides the high-profile case of Jamal Khashoggi who was killed in October 2018 in Istanbul by the Tiger Squad, a group of intelligence and military operatives established under Mohammed bin Salman, there are at least two other important cases.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of Asir province was allegedly killed by the Tiger Squad in a helicopter crash in November 2017. Sources close to Mansour claim that he was attempting to flee the kingdom when he was killed. The other figure allegedly eliminated by the Tiger Squad is Sheikh Suliman Abdul Rahman al-Thuniyan, Mecca public court's president, who opposed Bin Salman's 2030 economic vision. It is said he was killed in a hospital in Riyadh in October 2018 by an injection.

Well he continues to have victims because, with the exception of Khashoggi there's very little coverage and there aren't any consequences so he continues this maniacal behaviour. He once kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon for days! And this got very little media attention. Can you imagine the global media [backlash], if Iran had pulled such a stunt? Or even if the President of the United States had done such a thing? And yet, somehow, MBS gets a pass.

Ryan Dawson, Author, Human Rights Activist

Almost all the victims reviewed here belong to the political, social or economic elite within the Saudi kingdom.

The fate of dissidents outside this circle is a foregone conclusion. In all these cases, Saudi spin doctors have justified the Crown Prince's iron-fist policy as a crackdown on corruption and as a fight for fundamental reforms.

Is that really so, or is the proverbial road to hell paved with good intentions, at least in the case of the Saudi Crown Prince himself?  

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