Lost as it is in the middle of nowhere, the town is ideal ground for unseemly sights. You don't often hear of people dying from the cold in Saudi Arabia, but earlier this year the London-based al-Hayat newspaper revealed that 4,000 families live in shipping container-like structures in Arar, to the indifference of the obscenely rich Saudi regime. During a recent cold snap, a 15-year-old girl died from exposure. The story prompted Abeer Mishkhas, a writer at the Saudi Arab News, to ask, "How is it that we have known nothing of this bleak situation and those who have to endure it?" The writer Mishkhas on:
In a country that is considered rich by any standard, there is absolutely no excuse for such situations. In a society that congratulates itself on its piety, it is incredible to hear of people dying of cold or hunger.As border towns go, Arar would be fertile ground for a Saudi version of Cormac McCarthy, the great American writer who's spent a lifetime chronicling the violent history and psychology of the Texan-American border, and whose No Country for Old Men was this year's big Oscar winner.
Arar's kicker is its cruel swords. Saudi Arabia beheaded 137 people last year and has beheaded 28 already this year, many of them in Arar. (Unlike other conveyor-belt slayer states like, say, Florida and Texas, where executions are the province of a single prison, Saudi Arabia's lone federalized system is its beheadings: the kingdom sprinkles them around. They are, after all, the only form of theater allowed in the land of Wahhabis.) Among them last November, in Arar: Mustapha Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist accused of "sorcery." He'd apparently counseled a married couple to separate.
Lined up for the sword next: the neck of Fawza Falih who, as About's Linda Lowen points out, is the illiterate woman framed by the religious police on cooked-up charges of witchcraft, possibly brutalized while in custody, and allegedly guilty of causing a man's impotence--an odd charge, considering that Saudi Arabia's television ads for Viagra are a fantastic success. Then again, judging from its judicial barbarism, the dysfunctions of Saudi Arabia are well beyond the merely erectile.
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