The US embassy in Saudi Arabia has deleted a video posted on its Twitter account promoting peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations against oppressive regimes.
Footage, which had been produced by the US State Department, was shared on Twitter by the American mission in Riyadh earlier this week.
Featuring archival photos of famous protest movements with Arabic subtitles, the video promoted peaceful demonstrations for “positive social and political changes,” and nonviolent civil disobedience as a means “to guarantee a truly civil society.”
“Even in oppressive, authoritarian conditions, protesters can tailor their campaigns to succeed,” said a voiceover on the video.
“When large, nonviolent groups of people organize concentrated methods like protests, along with dispersed methods like boycotts or strikes, even the most brutal regimes have trouble stifling the movements indefinitely.”
On Friday, the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal asked Washington whether the embassy in Riyadh was encouraging the Saudis to hold anti-regime protests.
However, the post was deleted, with a State Department official saying that the video portrayed historical events as part of the “ShareAmerica” series.
“The post was not an incitement or call to protest,” the official added.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North African division, said that the tweet had apparently “slipped through the Saudi account.”
“Protest rights for Saudis, Egyptians, Palestinians, and Bahrainis? Not so much. This deleted tweet debacle is a perfect illustration of America’s absurd hypocrisy. It just doesn’t work to selectively promote human rights,” she said.
Bruce Riedel, an ex-CIA officer and scholar at the Brookings Institution, told MEE, “It’s very odd. The kingdom is more repressive under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman than ever before: no dissent or protest is tolerated. It’s baffling what the State Department was thinking.”
Saudi journalist Hani al-Abndi described the deleted tweet as a “political joke that the US embassy have said,” noting, “They encourage Saudi citizens to protest peacefully. But Saudi citizens are scared to protest because they fear of being arrested and killed.”
#Saudi activist #LoujainAlHathloul has been detained for 100+ days alongside 9 activists. Concerns for the detainees' safety are rising as the Kingdom sought death sentence for #IsraaAlGhomgham for incitement to protest & providing moral support to rioters https://t.co/VCNuirdeCK
— OpenLetr (@OPENLETRdaily) December 22, 2018
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, has been involved in an aggressive push to purge royals and businessmen critical of his policies under the banner of an “anti-corruption campaign.”
Bin Salman’s crackdown on critics came to light following the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate.
A CIA assessment concluded that it was probably bin Salman who had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. Additionally, the US Senate unanimously adopted a resolution that assigned responsibility to the heir to the Saudi throne for the killing.
US President Donald Trump, however, avoided rebuking Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder and vowed to stand with its ally, citing lucrative arms deals among the reasons for his support.
Back in August, the Canadian embassy in Riyadh expressed grave concerns over a spike in the arrests of human rights campaigners in Saudi Arabia and called for their immediate freedom.
The criticism infuriated Saudi authorities and led to the expulsion of Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak.
Commenting on the recent tweet by the US mission, Horak told MEE that he was surprised by the video promoting protests in Saudi Arabia.
“You had the Senate resolution last week, holding MbS accountable for the murder, and then the Saudis reacted quite negatively to that, but said that they value the relationship,” he said on Friday. “It’s a complete contrast to the massive overreaction they had with us this summer, but they are the United States and we’re not.”