Has the presence of academics, the rise of intellectuals, the generation of thinkers and scholars, become such a danger that worries a young prince, becoming an obsession that haunts the crown prince who is thirsty for power? What is behind this unjust aggression and iron fist that Mohammed bin Salman is pursuing against a large number of academics, scholars and university professors?
Since Mohammed bin Salman began taking steps towards his father’s throne after removing Bin Nayef out of his way, he has been leading a frenzied campaign of arrests against a large number of society’s elites and intellectuals. What is noteworthy is his targeting of a large number of researchers, academics and university professors.
How the story began
In all countries worldwide, researchers, university professors and intellectuals enjoy prominent positions and are appreciated by the government and society alike. This is in return for how they dedicated their life in seeking knowledge and the services they provide to society from the knowledge they obtained and the research they carried out.
However, the reality in Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia is very different. Since late 2017, he has arrested his critics, as well as everyone who did not support his ostentatious projects. Scholarly elites and academics in universities have had the lion’s share of this oppression, arrest and disappearance.
According to human rights reports, more than 130 academics and university professors are detained in Bin Salman’s prisons, including at least five sub-specialist doctors, two of the most famous engineering scientists in Saudi Arabia, and dozens in the fields of media, journalism and economics, in addition to other jurisprudence and human scientists. What is more dismal and bitter is that some of those incarcerated have died in prison or were forcibly disappeared, with nothing known about them for years. Furthermore, some books and writings of these individuals have been banned; websites that were supervised by others were shut down. Others associated with these individuals were dismissed from their jobs without any legal justification; not to mention the harm and harassment their children and wives are exposed to while they are absent behind bars.
The known secret
What lies behind Bin Salman’s hostility, hatred and prejudice towards these distinguished elite of society may come as a surprise to many. The truth is that it lies in two things:
- Bin Salman acknowledges the extent of their influence on society; the extent of confidence the community has in them; and how they amount to a considerable number that cannot be overcome, with their knowledge, capabilities and the popular base they possess.
- It is unknown but to a few around Bin Salman the weakness, and academic and cultural vulnerability that he senses in front of these people. Accordingly, he exuded hatred and the love of revenge onto all those who are better than him, whether academically, in experience, or even financially. Thus, we see him oppressing people who sometimes did not express any political or societal positions, but have progressed academically or culturally. It is an incurable mental illness and a major personality disorder that the prince is afflicted with. It is the sense of defeat, weakness and illegality that haunts Bin Salman everywhere and will, undoubtedly, ultimately lead to his demise.
Due to his excessive ignorance, Bin Salman and his team did not deal wisely with the elites of society, especially academics. Indeed, it was easy to contain them and engage them in the construction and development plans, and make them beacons in catalysing change, supporting development and contributing to the achievement of goals and correcting any mistakes. But it was the latter in particular that Bin Salman cannot accept; and he knows that it is not easy for such people to follow his aspirations.