UKC

New Leo Houlding film - Brit Rock tour

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 fuzzysheep01 22 Nov 2021

Wondering what others' opinions are on the new Brit Rock films. We thought the film of Neil Gresham on Lexicon was superb, and as a Yorkshire based climber I really enjoyed the film about Franco and his eccentricities.

We were all very disappointed with the Leo Houlding one in Saudi Arabia though - The Great Sheikhs. It was almost embarrassing watching it with it's lack of self awareness and weird orientalist vibes. At one point they were wearing mock-up headdresses and Ray Bans and decided it'd be a laugh to have a ride on a local's camel, all with a bit of a lads-on-tour banter. A bit like an episode of Top Gear from 2005 with the stereotyping and colonial mentality, but with an obnoxious Clarkson to make you almost love to hate it.

I've enjoyed some of Leo/Alastair's films previously, but can't help feeling that this was just completely lacking self awareness.  

I wondered what others thought of the film and the others in the tour.

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Couldn't have put it better myself lad. The self-proclaimed 'dirtbag' fireside scene was a perfect example of the self-awareness shortfall, too. Complete with the unenviable decision of 'noodles or pasta' while 'roughing it' next to their fully ladened 4x4... 

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Completely agree and also tone deaf regarding climate change. Glad I’m not the only one that thought that. 

 Andy Moles 22 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Your view was more or less mirrored by everyone I spoke to about it after a screening in North Wales as well.

Top Gear is a very good reference point, even makes me wonder if it was actually a deliberate homage!

Post edited at 17:37
 jezb1 22 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

I agree, didn’t like it at all for similar reasons.

I thought Lexicon and the Franco film were top drawer.

 Señor Últi 22 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Agree with all the above. Franco's film was brilliantly madcap. Didn't like Great Sheiks at all. 

Post edited at 19:20
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

I'm surprised that Leo Holding has such little awareness of the situation in Saudi Arabia (amputation and beheadings, links to terrorism, murder and dismemberment of journalists, imprisoning women for demanding equal rights...etc etc)...by making a film there he could be seen as tacitly supporting the Saudi regime...and then there is the whole colonial bit... 

 Michael Gordon 22 Nov 2021
In reply to evhall:

I find that curious. In what way does visiting a country for a holiday and making a film about it mean you support the authorities there?

 Si Witcher 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Promoting tourism in Saudi benefits the Saudi regime. Some call it 'sport washing' the reputation of the regime. It's not clear whether the Great Sheikhs trip received any financial support from the regime, but MBS is certainly keen to expand tourism and raise the profile of Saudi as a holiday destination.

 ianstevens 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Señor Últi:

> Agree with all the above. Franco's film was brilliantly madcap. Didn't like Great Sheiks at all. 

Agreed. Franco’s film was primarily great because of France et al., whereas Leo Houlding films have got a bit dull compared to his stuff from yesteryear (ak 2010). Also very painful how they constantly needed to point out what an great adventure they were on. In contrast Franco’s love of the moors shone through without any such fluff. 

 Michael Gordon 22 Nov 2021
In reply to Si Witcher:

Oh OK. I'm sure I've read articles on here about various destinations, Iran etc, which seemed to avoid that particular criticism. Does it not benefit the locals at all?

In reply to Michael Gordon:

Depends what you mean by benefit. Short term, yes, as they'll get a bit of tourist revenue. Long term, no, as it shows the Saudi regime they can do whatever they want and people will still visit as a tourist destination.

This ultimately leaves the locals stuck in a brutal regime that has no consequences applied to it. Sanctions are all well and good but they don't specifically target the perpetrators of the countless human rights abuses.

 steve taylor 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Boris's Johnson:

I'm not sure it's all about revenue - more likely positive PR. Saudi have invested massively in tourism attractions (and continue to do so with the Red Sea Project, Oxagon and Neom/The Line), but it will take decades to recoup that. They will need to demonstrate some real reform to start getting the required visitor numbers they need, and allow visitors to drink alcohol legally.

What about the other countries with human rights issues - China, UAE, Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia etc. - I guess we should stop climbing there too.

 Wire Shark 23 Nov 2021
In reply to steve taylor:

> What about the other countries with human rights issues - China, UAE, Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia etc. - I guess we should stop climbing there too.

Are you saying we should support the Saudi economy (it's hard to tell if you're indulging in a spot of whataboutery or not)?  Just because similar bad things happen in X and Y doesn't mean we should ignore what happens in Z.

 Michael Gordon 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Wire Shark:

> Are you saying we should support the Saudi economy (it's hard to tell if you're indulging in a spot of whataboutery or not)?  Just because similar bad things happen in X and Y doesn't mean we should ignore what happens in Z.

Perhaps not but I was curious as to where/why people are drawing the line. If a destination article for Saudi would be frowned upon, would you make the same argument for areas of China? As I say, it's not an argument which has cropped up AFAIK with regards to other destinations.

 PaulJepson 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Michael Gordon:

We don't have an uncomfortably close political/economical relationship with China. We'd probably like one though.

In reply to Michael Gordon:

> ?As I say, it's not an argument which has cropped up AFAIK with regards to other destinations.

I don't know about climbing specifically, but not visiting certain countries has a pretty long history. Burma for example, for a long time the opposition asked tourists not to go.

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

I agree - I thought it was pretty poor in many ways. The nonsense about how they were dirtbagging next to their high end 4x4, with hefty amounts of dollar in their pockets from their sponsors was laughable, especially when compared to genuine adventurers and dirtbaggers like Marc-André Leclerc who puts Houlding to shame. I think they described the pinnacle they eventually climbed as being "in the middle of nowehere", completely missing the irony of the obvious, well established settlement in the background.

If they want genuine adventure, I've got an unfinished route in the Taka Mountains of Sudan that I can point them at. They just need to be good at monster offwidths and dodging enthusiastic vultures.

Lexicon was very good, and Fall Theory was the best of the lot. He's a genuine visionary and enthusiast for the weird and wonderful and long may he continue with his madcap ways. He's what I would call the antidote to all those carefully managed and well presented sponsored climbers.

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

The Great Sheikhs film seemed like a rather desperate attempt by Leo to stay relevant and visible by having a film in the tour. Unfortunately for him I’d say it’s had the reverse effect, coming across as out of touch on so many levels. All the gags and hyperbole might be entertaining to a non-climbing (top gear) audience but it made me cringe. 

Fall theory was great and the kind of irreverent characters and close knit local scene that make UK trad so special. Funny how the worm turns and Franco is the one who comes across as being the genuine, relatable and intrinsically motivated character. I’m sure that used to be Leo. 

Lexicon was alright but I thought it suffered as a film from not really having much of a narrative beyond; pro climber finds hard new route, tries it for a while, succeeds. It’d be a bit dull without Ste Macs monster whipper (did anyone pause it and measure how far it actually was?!) 

 seankenny 23 Nov 2021
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> If they want genuine adventure, I've got an unfinished route in the Taka Mountains of Sudan that I can point them at. They just need to be good at monster offwidths and dodging enthusiastic vultures.

I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to hear more about this! 

 Offwidth 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Frank the Husky:

l've only seen extended clips so far but Fall Theory looks just superb, with a genuine local enthusiasm that pours through the screen: madcap attitude, new really hard climbing, an apparent absence of sponsor influence, and more climate friendly, is where I'd like to see things move. Shaking Franco's hand at last, for all he has done for a direction in UK climbing I care about, was important to me.

The best of what I saw at Kendal had a lot of refreshing and enthusiastic UK localism: including for hard ascents: Caff, Emma, Hazel, Tom and Steve (plus plenty I'm yet to see... like Craig and Neil).

I won't watch Leo's film... anything that looks like 'sports-washing' for the Saudis isn't remotely OK in my opinion.

 northern yob 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Ha ha are you for real or trolling?Sudan’s not exactly a great place for women’s liberation, lgbtq+ rights, civil rights or children’s rights for that matter. China, Pakistan to name a couple of others, should the bmc not be sending climbers to compete in Chinese world cups? 
people in glass houses….

In reply to northern yob:

> Ha ha are you for real or trolling?Sudan’s not exactly a great place for women’s liberation, lgbtq+ rights, civil rights or children’s rights for that matter. China, Pakistan to name a couple of others, should the bmc not be sending climbers to compete in Chinese world cups? 

> people in glass houses….

I've not travelled to England* since Easter 2017 because it would implicitly be supporting a corrupt tory government. Aren't I virtuous? Just thought I would signal the fact.

Actually, I have made a couple of day trips to Northumberland (but that doesn't count because it is an honorary part of Scotland) and I'm also not counting passing through Heathrow en route to Trump's US and various Arab countries with dubious human rights records.

 Offwidth 24 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

Rather depends on the trip aims surely? I know plenty of people (including Frank) who have quietly done a lot for local communities and charities in Arab or other muslim countries, including actions that improve the lives of women.

The question about China is a valid one that even some competitors will ask and certainly a small proportion of  BMC members are totally against. The Saudi funding for local wars (especially in the human catastrophe in Yemen), and Saudi citizen funding for terrorism and the appalling influence of Saudi funded extreme wahhabism across the islamic world means their negative impact is up with the worst regimes in the world.

Its easy to fix... anyone involved in the film can just call out the Saudis for all the seriously bad shit they do.

Post edited at 13:27
 northern yob 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

Exactly! I’m just playing devils advocate to be fair, if people think the film is shit then fair enough! Criticising the film from a political point of view is in my opinion dodgy ground for the majority of people (Robert Duran is obviously whiter than white!! Most people aren’t) there’s a fairly strong counter argument that supporting tourism might help speed up the process of the people gaining some civil rights, it certainly helps the local community who have very little say over their government’s policies. Unfortunately there are some amazing climbing areas and opportunities in some very shit countries the world over, should they all be boycotted until they are “like us” at what point is it acceptable to climb somewhere on the moral scale?? It’s a large can of worms but I find the virtue signalling boring and hypocritical coming from most people…

 The Grist 24 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

The Leo Houlding film did have a distinct Top Gear feel to it and the points you make are all valid. It was clearly being filmed by drone and a film crew above the climbers  and it all felt very staged. 
 

The short Pete Whittaker film was also rubbish. Probably for the opposite reasons. He did a long, dirty, damp and loose climb which was relatively easy for him as a solo. I imagine he had done the route before so he knew where to go and had worked out chances of death were small. It was poorly filmed by himself (as it obviously would be given the circumstances). If they gave me a camera and told me to solo a big hard severe in Wales I would have probably produced a similar crap film. 

The Lexicon film and the Franco Cookson film were great. 
 

In reply to northern yob:

> Robert Durran is obviously whiter than white!! Most people aren’t.

Far from it and I wasn't claiming so! 

 northern yob 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

Don’t worry I’m aware of irony! I wasn’t implying you were, in fact quite the opposite. Your post is a perfect example of how most people aren’t.

 Offwidth 24 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

Some countries are a good deal shitter than other shit countries. The tourism argument never worked in my opinion... just look at apartheid South Africa. It took local activism and unified world action based on public outcry to pressure change there.

I'm not saying don't go there, I'm saying don't sell it as a tourist destination and don't forget to have some focus on the horrible context in any films made.

I look forward to those involved in the filming now calling out the Saudi regime, the highly funded and disgusting international influence of wahhabism and those rich Saudi citizens who seemingly fund international terrorism with impunity.

Sadly our government enables their crimes with things like arms sales and police and military training; rather than working hard to end the crimes. The Saudi involvement in Yemen is part of one of the greatest preventable human catastrophes in decades.

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/yemen-crisis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemeni_Crisis_(2011-present)

Post edited at 14:46
In reply to Offwidth:

> I'm not saying don't go there, I'm saying don't sell it as a tourist destination and don't forget to have some focus on the horrible context in any films made.

We need some sort of human rights off setting system like we have the carbon offsetting for plane travel. Instead of planting a tree you need to make one or more Insta posts decrying the destination govt. the number of posts is determined by the number of followers you have and where the country is on the Amnesty International index. 

Post edited at 15:15
 wbo2 24 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01: Honestly I sat through it thinking much the same as the OP, and found it pretty cringeworthy.  Adventure climbing, and amazing the locals!!  I also got the impression that was the majority view of the audience

 Offwidth 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Tyler:

Being more serious, I think one of the best ways to 'carbon offset' is to support and fund organisations that act on, or campaign on, climate change. You could say something similar for visits to countries with nasty regimes......donations to Amnesty and refugee support agencies etc would be greatfully received. I think world travel can be important experience providing it involves interaction with local people and recognition of their real problems... the opposite of the tour-bus mentality trip with Instagram photo opportunities.

 northern yob 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

> I look forward to those involved in the filming now calling out the Saudi regime, the highly funded and disgusting international influence of wahhabism and those rich Saudi citizens who seemingly fund international terrorism with impunity.

Maybe they are waiting for our sports governing body to take the lead and issue a statement condemning the various states it has sent athletes to and funded expeditions to…… God forbid we might be sanctioning “sports washing”

I won’t be holding my breath! Terrible film maybe! My point is we should hold off on the virtue signalling until we have dealt with our own house and are in a position to do it without sounding too hypocritical.

In reply to northern yob:

> Maybe they are waiting for our sports governing body to take the lead and issue a statement condemning the various states it has sent athletes to and funded expeditions to

Totally support this. Would sit well with the diversity and inclusivity agenda. 

 Ger_the_gog 24 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Apologies if this is a stupid question but can these film be viewed online? 

In reply to Ger_the_gog:

Certainly not yet, most of them eventually filter down but then it's easy to miss them.

 Ger_the_gog 24 Nov 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

Cheers Michael, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

 leland stamper 24 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

Are you a big mate of Leo's by any chance? You seem to be a bit desperate in your defence of the indefensible.

 northern yob 24 Nov 2021
In reply to leland stamper:

Ha ha how very insightful, I’m a very good mate of his yes! That doesn’t have a lot to do with my point though. You might think it’s indefensible I happen to disagree, the fact it relates to Leo has nothing to do with it. Is everyone also bitching about climbing trips to Pakistan or China or any other of the numerous terrible countries throughout the world? I don’t really see a lot of that. Whilst I can see the points people are making I think it’s often better to engage with them. The more exposure normal people have in those countries to normal people from our country the better in my view. They went on a climbing trip and made a film. It’s not a party political broadcast for the regime and it wasn’t funded by the regime. They climbed some rocks. If it really means that much to people they should start with the bmc who as I highlighted have legitimised plenty of expeditions to terrible countries( for the record I don’t think anyone should do that, I was just pointing out the hypocrisy). As I said above where is the line?? Lots of countries stone homosexuals, are police states,treat people of colour or a different religion as second class citizens, is China ok? Is America ok? Is Hungary ok? I understand people all have different views all of which are legitimate I just think it’s not a simple as just piling on them because they went to a country with a terrible regime. Obviously lots of people will disagree with my view, does that mean I shouldn’t hold it or express it? It feels like everyone can’t wait to be holier than thou these days. If you wanna boycott somewhere feel free to just don’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

I Hope that kinda explains where I’m coming from?

 Offwidth 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

Maybe you are not looking very hard if you don''t see much pushback against human rights abuses from athletes and other stakeholders, it's everywhere these days:

https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/athletes-have-real-concerns-about-beijing-2022-says-human-rights-group-head-2021-04-15/

https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/conor-coady-england-squad-use-platform-human-rights-issues-qatar-world-cup-1300387

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/15312-human-rights-concerns-overshadow-the-saudi-newcastle-takeover

With your BMC points you seem to have the situation backwards... it's not an organisation that legitimises or tells climbers what to do: it's a democratic body that forms policy based on membership views. Plenty of its current output specifically highlights political issues like climate change and human rights, and even when it doesn't, that context is always important. In contrast the IOC and FIFA have awful governance behaviour, they actively bury such politics.... if they were less corrupt the worst of these major sport venue choices would never have been possible. The IFSC is tiny in comparison but has made climbing competition venue choices that should have faced much tougher scrutiny, in my opinion.

Back to filmed trips, the issue here really isn't about climbers going to Saudi or other places with bad governments, it's the importance of some context in outputs (films, articles etc) and specifically in the case of Saudi, staying a good distance from an absolutely clear state intention to sports wash:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/02/saudi-arabia-image-laundering-conceals-abuses

For too long the gulf states have escaped proper scrutiny of their awful human rights records while liberal democratic nations still make lots of money from our business with them, often selling them the tools and expertise that is specifically used to abuse. The hypocrisy is very much there, but not in those calling out those abuses or seeking change. The discriminatory aspects of Saudi policy isn't as obvious as say Apartheid was in South Africa but there is real discrimination based on race, religion and gender and worse still the massive funded export of a medieval form of Islam across the world that leads to murderous extremism; and rich individuals funding terrorism with impunity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_propagation_of_Salafism_and_Wahhabism

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-qa-is-saudi-arabia-funding-isis

 Iamgregp 25 Nov 2021
In reply to the thread:

On the one hand a climber and his buddies make a film about climbing is KSA, and we get up in arms about legitimising a country with a terrible human right records, and then at the same time we as a country export of a billion pounds worth of arms per year to said kingdom.

Comparisons are being drawn to Apartheid era South Africa. during which there was a worldwide boycott of South Africa.  As for KSA and the UK today?  There's no Boycott, in fact MBS was given a full state visit just recently https://www.ft.com/content/4a43e2a6-22cd-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11 

I think Leo making a lads on tour style film about climbing there should be the least of our concerns.

I do wonder why we are all so focussed on KSA.  We all know about the issues LGBTQ people face in Russia, the middle east etc, and there have rightly been calls for action on this...  Protests are held on the street when they visit.

And then when a Jamaican dignitary visits?

Has anyone called for a ban on supporting the tourist industries of certain islands in the Caribbean due to their stance on LGBTQ+ issues?  I'm sure people have, but it seems to be less of an issue for us compared to other countries where we have a more complex trading and political relationship.  Funny that. 

I'm not saying people aren't right to raise these concerns, I concede this may be whataboutery, but I am confused as to why our values are imposed so inconsistently.  

If I'm totally honest I think there is a degree of subconscious Islamophobia and I do wonder if this affects our keenness to call out such abuses in the middle east, yet turn a blind eye to those same abuses happening in other nations?

Post edited at 11:54
In reply to Offwidth:

> With your BMC points you seem to have the situation backwards... it's not an organisation that legitimises or tells climbers what to do

You are correct that the membership ought to do more to drive this but at the same time I only recall one referendum on a specific BMC policy in the last 15 years. The board or whoever sets policy and then it’s tacitly accepted by the membership when they vote for the officers, agree the accounts etc. So there is probably ‘blame’ on both sides.  

 Offwidth 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Tyler:

No organisation is exemplary but in the continuum of international ethical imperfection the BMC does at least seem to democraticly act and care. It's not OK to make false equivalence because all are imperfect.

On the subject of equivalence, being one of those being called out on a Saudis vs South Africa comparison, for all the horrors of the latter I think the former is worse and it's still happening right now. Part of the reason most people don't campaign is ignorance of the problem let alone its massive scale.  The bane of oil funded  wahhabism will cause mayhem across the world  for decades to come. Saudi citizens are funding mass murder through terrorism with few consequences. The Saudi government is directly involved in a horror story of a war with catastrophic mass human  consequences in the Yemen. It's a major world scale problem, unlike the situation in Apartheid South Africa, as undeniably bad as that was.

As someone who defends islam from the islamophobic and has good connections to islamic countries and their people, it seems to me ignoring the crimes of these governments encourages the mistreatment of their good citizens and good muslims worldwide. Saudi Arabia has more influence on preventing improvements to the rights of women, LGBQ+ individuals, and some specific minorities (due to religious difference) than any other nation in the world. That's what mass oil funding worldwide of medieval religious attitudes (and citizen funding of terrorism based on those ideals) does.

Post edited at 12:49
In reply to northern yob:

> Ha ha how very insightful, I’m a very good mate of his yes!

Do you have any insight as to why they ended up climbing in Saudi Arabia? I remember maybe an odd article or two in magazines maybe over 20 years ago about expats working in KSA doing some climbing there, but it seems overshadowed by the amazing looking climbing in Oman, and the good looking plus well developed in UAE. 

Haven't seen the film so have no opinion on it, just interested in how these sort of films come about.

 Wire Shark 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Iamgregp:> And then when a Jamaican dignitary visits?

> Has anyone called for a ban on supporting the tourist industries of certain islands in the Caribbean due to their stance on LGBTQ+ issues?  I'm sure people have, but it seems to be less of an issue for us compared to other countries where we have a more complex trading and political relationship.  Funny that. 

> I'm not saying people aren't right to raise these concerns, I concede this may be whataboutery, but I am confused as to why our values are imposed so inconsistently.  

> If I'm totally honest I think there is a degree of subconscious Islamophobia and I do wonder if this affects our keenness to call out such abuses in the middle east, yet turn a blind eye to those same abuses happening in other nations?

My own views are that, given the difficulty in addressing these issues, that we can't solve them all at once - so why not target the rich as f*ck countries first.

 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

Pretty much my only point is the inconsistency with which people are criticising. I’ve asked you at least twice where the line is? I’ll try again is China ok? I’ll not bother linking some articles, your obviously all over it so you must be fully aware of the ethnic cleansing and concentration camps etc etc. Your sat there raving about Saudi, and I know how bad it is, but I don’t hear you asking Mick Fowler to condemn the government in China. I didn’t hear anyone criticising Hazel and Honnold when they were in Oman. All I’ve tried to do is point out how inconsistent that is, and maybe people should think twice before passing judgment. I happen to think that the best way to bring about reform in countries like Saudi is to engage with them, not isolate and berate. I also believe that sport and adventure can be used in a positive way to help bring about change. I’m certainly not in favour of what’s happening in Yemen like I aren’t in favour of what’s happening to the Uighur’s. I just think your being highly selective and inconsistent with whom and what you are criticising.

 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

> Is everyone also bitching about climbing trips to Pakistan or China or any other of the numerous terrible countries throughout the world? I don’t really see a lot of that. Whilst I can see the points people are making I think it’s often better to engage with them. The more exposure normal people have in those countries to normal people from our country the better in my view. They went on a climbing trip and made a film. It’s not a party political broadcast for the regime and it wasn’t funded by the regime. They climbed some rocks. If it really means that much to people they should start with the bmc who as I highlighted have legitimised plenty of expeditions to terrible countries( for the record I don’t think anyone should do that, I was just pointing out the hypocrisy). As I said above where is the line?? Lots of countries stone homosexuals, are police states,treat people of colour or a different religion as second class citizens, is China ok? Is America ok? Is Hungary ok? I understand people all have different views all of which are legitimate I just think it’s not a simple as just piling on them because they went to a country with a terrible regime. Obviously lots of people will disagree with my view, does that mean I shouldn’t hold it or express it? It feels like everyone can’t wait to be holier than thou these days. If you wanna boycott somewhere feel free to just don’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

I have visited a lot of really dodgy countries, for both work and pleasure: Pakistan, Afghanistan (under the Taliban), Russia, Syria (back when it was just a bog standard police state not a post-apocalyptic wasteland), Iran, South Sudan, etc, and I've thought about this issue quite a bit.

For a start, I hate that people call it "virtue signalling". It's cheap and lazy; whether to travel to somewhere nasty and how to talk about it afterwards deserves serious consideration. "Nasty" is really a continuum. Surprised that Pakistan gets a mention, yes lots of bad stuff goes on there but the state is quite useless and there are places a whole lot worse. And a lot of the bad stuff is done by Pakistani citizens themselves - the very people who we should be "engaging with" on our trips. Good luck with that! But states like Iran, China and Saudi really are bad and quite effective too, which is a whole other order of unpleasantness.

The next factor is what you're actually doing there and how much interaction you're having with the state and/or other bad actors. Is your climbing trip/expedition a quiet, no-frills affair that involves nothing more than paying some dubious tourist tax? Probably fine. Or are you engaging in a serious way with the government and helping them present themselves - either domestically or internationally - in a good light? Considerably more dubious, though it depends: I have sat through a few meetings with South Sudanese politicians, who at the time were engaged in a civil war which invovled half-starving their own citizens, but since my employer was involved in actually feeding those very people, probably okay. However the proper role of humanitarian organisations in conflicts is certainly debatable.

I don't really buy the "normal people meeting normal people" argument. Nowadays you could easily contact people from a lot of states online, given that the people you might be chatting too will probably be English speakers anyhow. This line might hold true if you were spending a bunch of time hanging out in big cities and meeting university students, but it's kind of hard to have long chats with Himalayan subsistence farmers, what are you going to talk about, the intricacies of growing wheat in Baltistan? Almost inevitably the friends you might make on trips are going to be educated, middle or upper class people, usually urban dwellers, unless you speak cracking Urdu/Swahili/Arabic etc.

So... in my view, although countries like Jordan or Iran are pretty terrible in terms of human rights abuses, I can imagine doing a trip there that has minimal interaction with the state and some positive interaction with locals (definitely my experience with Iran), and the government are not encouraging tourism to burnish their image abroad. Acceptable, but maybe bung the campaign to free Nazanin a tenner whilst you're at it. But if you were to argue the other way I wouldn't find that remarkable.

Saudi I reckon is a different case - it's definitely trying to use tourism to clean its image and it really is a nasty and effective state and a country with a strong streak of racism (talk to South Asian Muslims who've spent any time there). I've asked Alastair Lee on Facebook if there was any government involvement in the trip and he said there wasn't, but still, making a film about how great Saudi Arabia is right now strikes me as naive at best. That's a pass from me.

As for China, yes, I think there's a solid argument for not going there right now either. Strong state involvement in many areas of life, and it's a state that's carrying out a genocide against a religious minority. Perhaps it's time to have that discussion when we read about climbing expeditions to China?

Post edited at 16:43
 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to TobyA:

> Do you have any insight as to why they ended up climbing in Saudi Arabia? I remember maybe an odd article or two in magazines maybe over 20 years ago about expats working in KSA doing some climbing there, but it seems overshadowed by the amazing looking climbing in Oman, and the good looking plus well developed in UAE. 

Yes I have some insight, I went on the initial trip. Leo came across a photograph of a large sandstone tower( he spends an extraordinary amount of time trawling the internet for places to go). He shared this with a few of us, it also happened to coincide with a change in visa’s allowing people to travel freely as tourists. It seemed like a fun and dare I say it adventurous thing to go and check out. Whilst not measuring up on the frank the husky barometer of adventure we decided to take a chance and go and look. Just some friends with no agenda, other than to go climbing and have some fun. We received no financial support from anyone and knew nothing about the rock quality or what we might find. You can read all about that trip in an issue of summit magazine (the BMC mag)I believe. To keep it short we found a pretty special place, the rock is bad, making the climbing very adventurous, we had fun. The locals were cool, we climbed some stuff. Leo went back to film some stuff with Al as that’s how they make a living. I had a great time and will probably go back, the potential of the climbing there is vast, we saw two areas but know of at least another 3 with huge potential.

 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to seankenny:

> As for China, yes, I think there's a solid argument for not going there right now either. Strong state involvement in many areas of life, and it's a state that's carrying out a genocide against a religious minority. Perhaps it's time to have that discussion when we read about climbing expeditions to China?

So on my only point you agree criticism has been inconsistent. With regards to the best way to interact with said states we disagree a little. I understand where you are coming from, but I’ll probably continue to go to some of these places. As it seems so will you.

 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

> So on my only point you agree criticism has been inconsistent. With regards to the best way to interact with said states we disagree a little. I understand where you are coming from, but I’ll probably continue to go to some of these places. As it seems so will you.

Things aren't static. The discussions we have, whether in the climbing community or the country as a whole, evolve as events occur and as we change our views and ideas. Things that were acceptable at one point become unacceptable, and vice versa. Sometimes we start with one example of a bad thing we don't like, and end up with more. You could call that inconsistency but perhaps it's better to see it as an evolution!

I will almost undoubtedly continue to go to some of these places, at least in part because I have some relatives in a country of middling dodginess, so I kind of have to.

Interesting thought experiment: if the US transitioned from a proper democracy into a kind of "managed democracy" or a much more authoritaran state - I don't think this sort of scenario is totally unlikely - would it still be okay to visit?

In reply to TobyA:

> Do you have any insight as to why they ended up climbing in Saudi Arabia? I remember maybe an odd article or two in magazines maybe over 20 years ago about expats working in KSA doing some climbing there, but it seems overshadowed by the amazing looking climbing in Oman, and the good looking plus well developed in UAE. 

Having been to Oman a couple of times (yes, it is incredible, though not for the feint hearted unless you are very unadventurous!) and Jordan (Wadi Rum) many times, I have wondered about the potential of Saudi Arabia with its vast area and mountain ranges and rumours of whole new Wadi Rums. Having spent some time on Google Earth and follow up googles, I am now regularly bombarded with official tourism stuff about the place - and yes, it does look fabulous! I wouldn't be surprised if it had multiple times the climbing potential of Jordan and Oman together.

I would absolutely love to go to Saudi Arabia and I am sure that at a local level it would be as friendly, welcoming and as hospitable as any other other Arab country. I would have no problem going If it were possible as an independent traveller like I would any other country, but I certainly wouldn't want to go through any state-organised tourism organisation. The same would go for any other country with a dodgy government (I'd love to go to Iran too!). 

I suppose everyone has to make up their own mind about these things, but I don't see simply visiting a country as supportive of the regime there. On the other hand a friend said he would not go to Oman simply because of its laws on homosexuality (though it is fact a liberal regime by the standards of the region).

 Offwidth 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

I think you are either exaggerating that inconsistency or are unaware of the widespread criticism of every country that has major human rights abuses.

Sean has more eloquently expressed what I was trying to get over. Like him I've worked in several countries guilty of human rights abuses; with obvious risk attached but trying to do good despite the state. I see the Saudi state as probably worse than China in its current overall effect on world-wide human rights  (which is probably worse than Russia) but we cant tell for sure as so much damage is done in secret. I would personally be speaking against holding events in any such country that sports washes. 

I genuinely think there is a massive gap in public understanding in the west in just how bad the Saudi state is and the damage they do internationally and that gap is much more the case than for public awareness of human rights abuses in China or Russia. This is partly because of the hypocrisy of our western governments, as Saudi is an ally and massive business partner. 

I'll say again, I'm not against visits, it's the context that can become problematic. Why do you think the Saudis have opened tourist visas.... do you think it is to inject liberalism? If someone made a similar film in ethnic cleansed Uighur territory I'd be saying the same thing.

Did you read up on the politics of the country before you visited? Were you aware of just how much Saudi money is being used to spread medieval religious poison across the world and too often plain murder?

Post edited at 17:48
 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I don't see simply visiting a country as supportive of the regime there.

I think this misses the point. Visiting a country certainly does not imply supporting the regime, and in fact it could imply completely the opposite, consider all those Islamists visiting western countries for nefarious purposes. Rather I think we should consider the context, purpose and effect of the trip.

Other people face harder decisions in this respect than we do. An acquaintance of mine, a pious Pakistani lady, once visited Saudi as her brother was working there as a doctor. For the duration of the trip she was on the receiving end of really nasty racism, including being turned around at a police checkpoint when trying to leave the city a day out, for no other reason than they were Asian. She vowed she would never visit Saudi again - not even for Hajj.

 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

I pretty much agree with everything you say, I don’t think I’m exaggerating the inconsistency though. I’ve not seen anyone on here criticising a Chinese trip…. Your happy to ask anyone involved in the film to call out the Saudi government, but your not or have not done that for any other climbing trip, that is very inconsistent, maybe the worm has turned and you will now call out every trip to a dodgy regime, and if so good for you, that will be consistent. You still haven’t said where the line is for you, is it just Saudi or is there anywhere else? If it’s just Saudi then again I find that inconsistent. As sean touched on America is bordering on being pretty bad ,where’s the line??

I didn’t need to read up on the politics before I went as I don’t live in a cave, I’m very aware of what’s going on in the world.

Of course I know why they introduced tourist visas and yes it’s not to introduce liberalism, I think that will come as a side effect of it, and I don’t believe they are so naive as to not realise that themselves. 
 

Let’s agree to disagree.

 r0b 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

A China trip when? It's a few years since Fowler and Ramsden (for example) climbed in China (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong). What might have been ok then probably isn't now since the plight of the Uighers has only come to light fairly recently. Just as not many people had problems with the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but do about the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics

 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to r0b:

Fair point it’s been a while, bad example on my part, either way if offwidth was consistent he as a very active bmc member and volunteer should be calling out the bmc participating in Chinese world cups it’s about as clear a case of sports washing as there is. I’ll stand corrected and eat humble pie if he has, but as far as I’m aware he hasn’t, if he’s happy to call out Leo and Al on a public forum he should be doing the same for the bmc unless China is ok, in which case he’s still being inconsistent.

 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

It's quite clear that such a hardline insistence on being consistent makes it difficult for people to change their minds. I'm not sure that's sensible. Also re "if not Saudi why not China?" - I agree with this but in Offwidth's view KSA is worse, and he's given his reasons. I think that's fine, this is a personal decision.

And as I said above, in my view it's not just about a trip to a place with a dodgy regime, but the nature of that trip. I'm fine with visiting Iran for tourism but I'm not fine with visiting Iran to work for Iranian state television, a nasty outfit who have employed a certain high profile Labour MP in the past...

In reply to seankenny:

> I think this misses the point. Visiting a country certainly does not imply supporting the regime, and in fact it could imply completely the opposite, consider all those Islamists visiting western countries for nefarious purposes. Rather I think we should consider the context, purpose and effect of the trip.

Which was pretty much my point!

 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

Ahhh okay, sorry!

 northern yob 25 Nov 2021
In reply to seankenny:

> And as I said above, in my view it's not just about a trip to a place with a dodgy regime, but the nature of that trip. I'm fine with visiting Iran for tourism but I'm not fine with visiting Iran to work for Iranian state television, a nasty outfit who have employed a certain high profile Labour MP in the past...

exactly they made a film about climbing some rocks, they were there independently they weren’t working for the government, Leo might have said it’s a cool place to visit…. He’s right it is! Offwidth is welcome to his view I just find it a little inconsistent. 
 

A state sponsored advert for tourism would be very different I agree, but that’s not what the film is, it’s some people climbing some rocks.

 wbo2 25 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01: well that's a lot of words, but ultimately it's a film that belongs to yesteryear

 seankenny 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

> exactly they made a film about climbing some rocks, they were there independently they weren’t working for the government, Leo might have said it’s a cool place to visit…. He’s right it is! Offwidth is welcome to his view I just find it a little inconsistent. 

>  

> A state sponsored advert for tourism would be very different I agree, but that’s not what the film is, it’s some people climbing some rocks.

I think it's a pretence that making a film about a place with really, really bad politics is unpolitical just because the film "is only about x/y/z". If it's just a film about people climbing, without being state sponsored or having any visible obvious imput from the government, then all the better for the rulers of KSA! Especially since the area looks pretty cool (I'm not going to disagree on that, it looks great).

Films don't have to be overtly political to take a stance (even if it's just by default), and I think this is particularly the case here given that there have been so few films or documentaries from inside Saudia Arabia, which has been a really closed and restrictive society for decades.

 wbo2 25 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01: it's not simply the fact it's from Saudi Arabia - it's the whole vibe of the thing.   

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Ignoring the film entirely, because I haven't seen it, and jumping straight into the deep end with the arguments for and against visiting Saudi. I'm finding the discussion quite interesting because I just returned from Saudi last week, having been involved in an event related to a big new project there.

It's tricky, isn't it? I think history has shown time and time again that alienation, rather than encouragement, tends to do the exact opposite to what one hopes to achieve. Regardless of the current situation in Saudi Arabia regarding personal freedoms and human rights abuses, it is incredibly patronising and hypocritical to lecture when we, not even fifty years ago, were persecuting gays and condemning people to death ourselves. We are not that far removed in time from being flagrant abusers of basic human rights ourselves, and I think it's important to appreciate that 'we' are at the forefront of change. Other societies need support and encouragement to catch up, not sanctioning. Much positive change is already occurring in Saudi, as anyone would no doubt appreciate if they contrasted with their own eyes how things are now versus even five years ago. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is it a start? For sure.

I can't comment on Saudi citizen-funded terrorism as it's well outwith my knowledge, but it doesn't appear to be a different problem at heart than American citizens funding the IRA. And we still go there.

If we are to decide on our travels based on global harm, I'd sooner go to Saudi Arabia than America.

 Offwidth 25 Nov 2021
In reply to northern yob:

I'm just one person in the BMC. I talk about this and similar subjects here to try and make people more aware. If you already know of the horrors resulting from mass exportation of wahhabism etc good for you; most climbers do not. When we talk about the problems in Pakistan ask yourself who part funded those extreme religious schools. Hell! We even have nominally Buddhist states involved in genocide these days.

On themarks points I'm aware of the changes in the kingdom but most seem superficial and some dishonest to me. We have been working with them softly for decades and yet the Yemen escalation is more recent, and the assassination of a journalist, and the other bigger problems never stopped, so maybe a little 'alienation' would help. 'Alienation' worked in South Africa when a softer line failed.

Post edited at 21:17
In reply to Offwidth:

And it has failed in Iran, and failed in Syria, and failed in North Korea — and in all of those places in which it has failed, it has additionally caused massive harm to the actual people who live there, whose lives we purport to want to improve.

I struggle not to be cynical these days; we seem to uphold our western ideals as the model solution for the world, but it really isn't. Different places have developed differently due to their own unique historical and cultural factors, and capitalist democracy is not the solution to every country's political or economic problems. We've tried to export this a number of times now, and I struggle to think of a single success of trying to do so. You can't force change by force or by judgement, and history generally supports this view. And that is also ignoring the huge hand we've historically had in 'cking up the Middle East and creating the volatile situation that exists today.

If you rewind twenty years, I'm reliably informed that there were religious police on 'every street corner' of Riyadh. In 2021, women can drive and attend events, and women are also walking through Riyadh airport fully made-up, sans any covering. Saudi citizens, no less. Having visited in 2019, and this year, and having spent a lot of time in the UAE prior to that, I don't think that the change is superficial and dishonest. I think it's the natural result of the unique political situation in Saudi Arabia, where the old and traditional hard-line clerics hold a huge amount of political influence. No, as I said it's not absolutely great, of course it isn't, but the relative improvement is actually really warming to see. I can only be optimistic, and hope to not be shown to be naive with hindsight.I  agree with northern_yob; by courting tourism the Saudis are opening themselves to liberalisation, and I don't doubt that they are fully aware of that and of the future implications for the kingdom.

Yesterday, twenty seven migrants drowned in the Channel, undoubtedly as a direct result of our government's immigration policy, and many probably ultimately from displacement due to wars that we've had a principal part in instigating. It's not just the Saudis that trade in funding and fighting wars far away from home — sadly, to the detriment of the whole world.

 Offwidth 25 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

How about the whole of Eastern Europe? How about most of the ex communist countries in SE Asia? You are cherry picking where and when pressure did and didn't work.

I hate much of what the UK and the US have done through various political dishonesties in recent decades (let alone worse before that) but for all those crimes we as citizens are a good deal better off than living in China or Russia right now. 

Women able to drive and attend events isn't such a big thing compared to the massive funding of terrorism and the international blight of wahhabism. It just means some rich Saudi women can play at home (they always got to play away, as I saw in Sharm), while many more poorer women suffer elsewhere in country or many millions elsewhere due to oil funded medieval religious poison. Until those cruel clerics have gone there is no big optimism.

The tragic channel deaths are a result of a scummy UK refugee policy. In comparison the UN said over 200,000 died in Yemen with children 25% of civilian deaths.

Post edited at 23:33
 Michael Gordon 26 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

> Regardless of the current situation in Saudi Arabia regarding personal freedoms and human rights abuses, it is incredibly patronising and hypocritical to lecture when we, not even fifty years ago, were persecuting gays and condemning people to death ourselves. >

But are we doing so now? If you're going to take a stance based on what every country has done in the past then you're not going to be left with many countries! 'But just consider what they were doing in the middle ages...'

I think some others on this thread were quite reasonably asking where those critical of Leo etc were drawing the line, but yours seems to imply there's no line at all, everyone is guilty so might as well not take any stance on human rights issues.

In reply to Michael Gordon:

You've somewhat missed my point: well within the last century we forced one of our leading scientists to suicide through our medieval views on homosexuality. In the grand scheme of human civilisation, that is a very short period of time; it's even shorter a period of time since the government admitted their wrongs and pardoned the man. And even shorter a period of time since we, for example, made rape universally illegal.

I think it's right to criticise the trend rather than the absolute situation. You simply can't realistically expect every country in the world to immediately parody the same level of human freedoms that we have enjoyed from only recently. Massive societal change (and it is societal, it is not simply a case of authoritarian government decreeing against the common will of the people) does not happen instantly, and it should be recognised when countries are heading in the right direction. Equally, those who are regressing should rightly be criticised.

Change is happening in Saudi Arabia, and I really respect that. Expecting it to happen more quickly or to think that it will happen more quickly if the international community shuns the country is simply unrealistic.

In reply to Offwidth:

> The tragic channel deaths are a result of a scummy UK refugee policy. In comparison the UN said over 200,000 died in Yemen with children 25% of civilian deaths.

The invasion of Iraq was partially a result of scummy UK foreign policy; estimates of civilian deaths range from ~185000 (IBC project) to 1200000 (OBR survey).

 Offwidth 26 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

Yep. Really scummy policy based on complete lies mainly due to the americans (Blair was really just a loyal puppy).... that I've posted on many times here. I most recently posted on  a very good black comedy film on the subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vice_(2018_film)

So lets talk also about the Saudi money in ISIS and the Taliban and various other murderous medieval extremist groups.....or better still where dirty money and evil propaganda dressed up as religious support causes the most mayhem suffering and death worldwide right now.

 Iamgregp 26 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

> Change is happening in Saudi Arabia, and I really respect that. Expecting it to happen more quickly or to think that it will happen more quickly if the international community shuns the country is simply unrealistic.

100% the govt and Royal Family want to return KSA to pre 1979 Grand Mosque seizure state.  The current draconian application of Shariah and isolationist policies were never their choice.

Post edited at 14:00
 65 26 Nov 2021
In reply to fuzzysheep01:

What a great thread. Citizens of Boris's Brexshit Britain passing judgement on the rest of the world.

 Rob Parsons 26 Nov 2021
In reply to 65:

> What a great thread. Citizens of Boris's Brexshit Britain passing judgement on the rest of the world.

Weird comment. What are your opinions on the Khashoggi case?

 Offwidth 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Iamgregp:

I'm 100% certain that is bs. I'm sure some in the royal family and government support varying degrees of genuine liberalisation but if they go public on that then someone else from those groups will use it as an excuse to move up the power ladder at their expense. By all accounts the current crown prince who controls the country, MBS, is the most dominant leader yet.

I'll be delighted if I'm wrong but there is no sign of international funded bile and murder (by far the biggest malign problems of the state) slowing as yet.

 65 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Rob Parsons:

I have very severe views on pretty much every aspect of the Saudi state. I'm not too impressed that the Khashoggi case has been effectively whitewashed, to put it mildly. I suppose I'm a hypocrite, I'd go to Iran in a moment if they'd let me in. I'd visit Turkey and any of the 'stans too, though I don't think any of them are as comparably bad or sinister as KSA.

My post was partly tongue in cheek, but not entirely, as we are turning into a country where many Europeans at least might have moral objections in visiting, and I've avoided going south of the border ever since Johnson became PM. A key difference with the UK and so many middle eastern countries, as well as China and Russia, is that we chose the path we are on, their populace have had little choice.

Post edited at 16:03
 seankenny 26 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

> It's tricky, isn't it? I think history has shown time and time again that alienation, rather than encouragement, tends to do the exact opposite to what one hopes to achieve. Regardless of the current situation in Saudi Arabia regarding personal freedoms and human rights abuses, it is incredibly patronising and hypocritical to lecture when we, not even fifty years ago, were persecuting gays and condemning people to death ourselves. We are not that far removed in time from being flagrant abusers of basic human rights ourselves, and I think it's important to appreciate that 'we' are at the forefront of change. Other societies need support and encouragement to catch up, not sanctioning.

I think bringing homosexuality into the argument is unneccesary (no one said KSA is a problem because they kills or flog gays, even though this is clearly hideouis). However, do we really need to discuss how the UK in the 1950s and 60s was a democracy with a thriving civil society, in which a the government set up a study (the Wolfenden report) which turned out to be critical of the government's own policy, and how this was all done in public and with a great deal of debate, whereas KSA is not really like this at all? I think the false equivalence is quite clear.

> Much positive change is already occurring in Saudi, as anyone would no doubt appreciate if they contrasted with their own eyes how things are now versus even five years ago. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is it a start? For sure.

A testable proposition. I picked, completely at random, the Freedom House's Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties from 2005. It said:

"The Saudi government maintained strict limits on citizens' political rights and civil liberties in 2004, despite taking some steps forward in a slow and quiet process of political reform carefully managed from above by the royal family. The monarchy continued a series of national dialogues on reform and finalized plans for a series of limited municipal elections in certain parts of the country in early 2005, but it implemented few tangible changes directly affecting Saudi citizens' rights."

Fast-forward to the same organisation's report from 2021. As it did last year, Saudi gets an overall score of 7, one of the very lowest. Hamas-run Gaza gets 11 and Hamas are a terrorist organisation! The Freedom House report says:

"Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on pervasive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism and ethnicity, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice. Working conditions for the large expatriate labor force are often exploitative....

"In December, a terrorism court handed women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Maya’a al-Zahrani, who were arrested in 2018, prison sentences of nearly six years. The sentence of al-Hathloul, who was tortured while in detention, was modified to include time served."

I had to check what Loujain al-Hathloul had done to deserve being tortured: it was driving a car and opposing the male guardianship system.

> the relative improvement is actually really warming to see

Post edited at 16:10
 seankenny 26 Nov 2021
In reply to tehmarks:

> And it has failed in Iran, and failed in Syria, and failed in North Korea — and in all of those places in which it has failed, it has additionally caused massive harm to the actual people who live there, whose lives we purport to want to improve.

The argument that it is western failures that have led to the nightmare that is North Korea really is silly. NK is an inward-looking state almost totally reliant on China but otherwise cut off from the outside world. I think the situation there is almost entirely the responsibility of the North Korean elites and the Chinese governments which have indulged them, and I find this removal of agency from non-western people to be deeply infantalising. Ditto Syria: if I was to suggest who'd been causing massive harm there, I might look at the Asad government, ISIS and the Islamist crazies, the Turks and the Russians.

> I struggle not to be cynical these days; we seem to uphold our western ideals as the model solution for the world, but it really isn't. Different places have developed differently due to their own unique historical and cultural factors, and capitalist democracy is not the solution to every country's political or economic problems.

This is basically an argument for the Chinese take-over of Taiwan, isn't it?

> I  agree with northern_yob; by courting tourism the Saudis are opening themselves to liberalisation

Again, I just don't buy this argument. Places like Thailand or the UAE are tourist-friendly but repressive, so the Saudis definitely have a model to follow should they want to get the tourist dollar and launder their reputation without loosening up too much.

 r0b 26 Nov 2021
In reply to 65:

A minority of people in the UK have chosen the path we are on, such are the joys of our FPTP electoral system.

 65 26 Nov 2021
In reply to r0b:

> A minority of people in the UK have chosen the path we are on, such are the joys of our FPTP electoral system.

Aye, I know <very deep sigh of despair>

 Iamgregp 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

Not sure how you can be 100% certain about something you are demonstrably wrong about?

If you'd actually bothered to do any research at all on the matter you'd see that far from people in the govt or royal family "being afraid to go public" MBS himself, at the very head, has gone public on this repeatedly. 

For example:

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/24/middleeast/saudi-arabia-prince-more-moderate-islam/index.html

I'll grant you MBS is a dominant leader but that's exactly what is required to modernise and overcome the religious clerics who have been so dominant since '79.  Being a dominant leader and the will to modernise are not mutually exclusive.  

I'm sorry to speak so directly, but if you're going to accuse me of speaking "bs" a cursory google  of the matter first would at least be polite, and credit me with having some iota of an idea of what I'm talking about?

 65 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Iamgregp:

May I politely suggest that a cursory google of the matter is possibly even worse that starting from a position of zero knowledge.

 Iamgregp 26 Nov 2021
In reply to 65:

You may be right, to be fair!

 Offwidth 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Iamgregp:

We will see. He is definitely the latest in a line of leaders to promise the west reform. Yet there is no real sign yet where it matters most.  You are just parroting what he says to the west, with no reference to external assessment of real action, such as Sean linked in that 2021 Freedom House report above. All we have so far is some real but small improvement for rich Saudi women, some rhetoric spin and some window-dressing (that just happens to make the west a lot of money) including the likes of sports washing.

 Iamgregp 26 Nov 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

Hang on, just earlier today you were saying "I'm sure some in the royal family and government support varying degrees of genuine liberalisation but if they go public on that then someone else from those groups will use it as an excuse to move up the power ladder at their expense."

And now your line is "He is definitely the latest in a line of leaders to promise the west reform"

Bit of a change innit?  I'm having trouble keeping up with what your latest thinking is...

I really am not interested in having a debate whether you believe him or not, time will be the only way to prove that or not so I think it's a pointless debate. 

All I took issue with is that I made a very simple statement which you rudely called "100% bs" then went on to make a demonstrably untrue claim about govt and royal family not going public on the matter which, frankly, would seem to suggest that you haven't a clue what you're talking about.

Post edited at 17:45
In reply to Iamgregp:

That link is from 2017, so IIRC before the coup against the sections of the family MBS doesn't like (remember - they were all invited to a Hilton or similar and then basically detained there?) and before Kashoggi was butchered.

It's some time since I read deeply into the history of Saudi Arabia and on the history of the agreement between the Wahhabi ulema and the House of Saud. If you haven't you should read Yaroslav Trofimov's "the Siege of Mecca", it's excellent. But I don't think your explanation of the Royal family being subservient to, or at the mercy of the clerics is necessarily that accurate. From when I looked into it I remember it seeming far more that it was a mutually successful alignment and agreement. Also its over 40 years since the Siege, so there are presumably lots of Saudi royals who have only ever known KSA as an ultra conservative state and for whom that is their way of seeing the world.

 Iamgregp 26 Nov 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Yes, you're correct on all of this.  Although you may be right that it was more of a mutually successful alignment, it was an alignment born of the events of 1979 rather than something which was a sought out by the royal family.

What is certainly true is that there is a genuine need for diversification of the economy of KSA.  Oil receipts and reserves are dwindling fast, and given that 70% of the country is employed directly or indirectly by the oil industry this is obviously not sustainable, particularly as they pay no income tax and receive free healthcare, education, water & sanitation etc...

That's a challenge that none of MBS predecessors have faced, so it does rather frame things differently for the kingdom as the status quo cannot be maintained, so some kind of change is necessary.

Post edited at 18:08
 Offwidth 20:43 Fri
In reply to Iamgregp:

It's really not so hard to understand. I simply don't believe MBS is serious about major religious reform. I'd be delighted if I am proven wrong. Others in government or the royal family with less power might want more change than he does (a lot of them were educated in the west) but almost certainly can't act on that without major risk. I've known a lot of rich Saudis at University and some muslims I know very well who had close Saudi friends (my PhD students): personal views on strict islamic practice vary significantly and some were honest about it in private but no one was stupid enough to speak out publicly against their govenment (critics had a habit of disappearing).

So my claim is based on decades of multiple external assessments of human rights abuses of the country, the history of the war in Yemen, the terrible consequences of the oil funded export of wahhabism across the islamic world, plus all the evidenced support of terrorism.  You in contrast take MBS's word (someone who has known to have lied to western press on multiple occasions, especially around political assassinations) linked to a US news article that itself points out his claims might not have much substance. Plus some well known window dressing change, we both know has happened, giving improvements for rich women in country (like being able to drive).

I do think MBS is serious about furthering economic reform (it started well before he took over) but the world shows that can still happen in highly oppressive regimes.

As you say we will see.

Post edited at 20:48
 Iamgregp 20:59 Fri
In reply to Offwidth:

Did you miss the part where I said didn’t want to debate the validity of MBS claims with you?

My issue was with your tone, and incorrect statement, which you’ve not even bothered to acknowledge you were wrong about despite my posting a link.

Now you’ve moved the goalposts again claiming that in actual fact you were talking about other people in govt who wanted to go further than what MBS outlined. Despite the fact I never said that, and my claim merely suggested that they wanted to return to pre 1979.

I wish you and your little straw man you’ve built there a pleasant evening.  Maybe he’ll help you move the goalposts back to football pitch.

In reply to fuzzysheep01:

Well I've just watched the Brit Rock trailer and it does look like a whole new Wadi Rum! Can't wait to see the film now. Thanks for the heads up

 Offwidth 00:04 Sat
In reply to Iamgregp:

There is simply no hard evidence yet of anything like a move back to pre-79.

I have no idea how you think international assessments are a strawman (as opposed to believing the statement of a proven liar). I think your position needs massively more luck than mine, so for now we need to agree to disagree, even though I still hope you are right for the sake of the millions who will suffer if this carries on.

 Iamgregp 15:33 Sat
In reply to Offwidth:

> There is simply no hard evidence yet of anything like a move back to pre-79.

Sorry, but could you quote the part where I said there was?

No, you can’t. Because I didn’t.  I’d never claim that because you’re correct on this!

I’m somewhat frustrated by how you operate in these debates. You get proven wrong on one point so argue something completely different ad nuaseam.

You're a grown man, and an intelligent one at that, but it’s difficult to try and debate anything with you as you simply don’t respond to the points being made. 

Like you say, we’ll have to agree to disagree but you’ve brought in so many arguments I never even made, I think we’re probably disagreeing on less points than it may seem!

 Offwidth 18:54 Sat
In reply to Iamgregp:

Lets look at your inputs to this thread (and if I've been proven wrong).

At 11.54 on Thursday you dishonestly imply those of us who care about change are blind to our UK government's disgusting culpability. You talk about LGBTQ human rights when wahhabism is almost certainly the biggest worldwide reason behind the very worst abuses. Then you finish by speculating the concerns expressed might be due to subconscious islamophobia.

At 13.54 on Friday you make this ludicrous claim "100% the govt and Royal Family want to return KSA to pre 1979 Grand Mosque seizure state. ". Where I've never seen any analysis approaching that, even at the most optimistic end. As Sean and others point out the royal family and the religious leaders have always had symbiotic benefits, the royal family are not political prisoners to the theocrats.

At 16.50 you fail to understand why I'm  right that your quote is 100% bs , even if MBS does want what you claim, as there are absolutely certainly other members in the royal family and government who don't want that, from various intelligence reports that get hinted at by close observers of the state. You  then link quotes of the dictatorial MBS as if he should be taken at his word; when he has lied and lied again since he gained power.

At 17.42 you doubled down on this misunderstanding.

At 18.06 in reply to Toby you flip and acknowledge it's been a mutually successful alignment but then falsely imply MBS is the first to act on the need for economic diversification . I was seeing students working on research theses on this a decade before he took over. We peaked at nearly 100 Saudi IT, Computing and Engineering Management students (nearly all MSc), most of whom were looking at projects not involving oil, just in our single University department, a few years before MBS gained power.

At 20.59 you misrepresent what I said about some royal family and govenment officials wanting to go "further" than what MBS claimed. I certainly knew some students who wanted this but never claimed it for those in power.  However it is obvious from state observers that some do want some degree of improvement.

Now you are ignoring your own quote (above) and claim I've implied you said things other than that and go on a classic ad hominem rant.

Hardly the stuff of honest debate. I want to see change in those big three human rights abuses (the appalling situation in Yemen, oil funded wahhabist export and citizen funding of terrorism). You seem to be acting as yet another apopolgist for what I regard as possibly the most dangerous regime in the world.

 Iamgregp 10:33 Mon
In reply to Offwidth:

Ok I wasn't going to reply as I didn't get a chance over the weekend and don't want to reopen old wounds however I having read your post again I just wanted to clarify a couple of points.

I think you may have misunderstood when I said (to someone else, incidentally) 100% the govt and Royal Family want to return KSA to pre 1979 Grand Mosque seizure state. 

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think you have read this as me saying "100% of the government want to return"?  That's not what I meant, the 100% was just to show I was in agreement with tehmark's post.  the following two sentences were independent of the 100%.  If that's the case then I think we may have been speaking at cross purposes for our first couple of posts to each other with both of us reaffirming our position on completely separate points?!

This may go part way to explain our rising frustration with one another.  I was genuine when said we disagree on less points than we think.  I'd certainly not class myself as an apologist for the KSA's regime.  

I do believe that there is a genuine need for change in the country, and an appetite to make that change happen at senior levels of Government, change that both you and I would like to see. However I've made no comment or analysis of the speed, depth, method or how fundamental this change will be, and of course it will take time and there will be many challenges  before is completed.

You're a bit more sceptical about this, and don't believe a word of MBS claims, and that's fine... It's just a different outlook on the same issue.  We're both on the same side here, we both want to see change so we'll both have to just wait and see what happens...

I don't think that makes me an apologist for the regime.  I've made no excuses for human rights abuses, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi or any other current ongoing issue in the KSA.

Post edited at 10:43
 Offwidth 10:51 Mon
In reply to Iamgregp:

I'm really surprised with you in this thread.

You are not normally so antagonistic (certainly less so than I, where I'm passionate about something I regard as being really serious). I understood exactly what you meant by 100% ...being the level you are sure that major change is what the royal family and government want... this would be huge if true and would need some serious independent analysis to confirm. We already have independent analysis that plenty in government and the royal family don't want that and might well use it to usurp MBS if he is serious about what he says.

All dictators lie about change and when under pressure disguise major problems with glittery window dressing. It seems to me a duty of the west to force major change and call out rich women being able to drive for what it is ...a glittery inch forward where we need a large concrete stride. The west remains completely culpable in their lack of serious challenge (I had hopes for Biden but he seems to be backing off) and goes along with the glitter while millions will continue to suffer worldwide.

As someone who clearly visits I've never seen anything from you on the international blight of wahhabism and the appalling consequences for religious violence, democracy, women, LGBTQ+, nor on Yemen, nor the funding of terrorism. If you care, why not post?

If I were you I'd apologise about the islamophobia implication. Calling out incredibly serious and highly funded extremism isn't islamophobia.

Post edited at 11:05
 Iamgregp 11:14 Mon
In reply to Offwidth:

> I'm really surprised with you in this thread.

>  I understood exactly what you meant by 100% ...being the level you are sure that major change is what the royal family and government want... this would be huge if true and would need some serious independent analysis to confirm. We already have independent analysis that plenty in government and the royal family don't want that and might well use it to usurp MBS if he is serious about what he says.

No, you're still misunderstanding it.  the 100% refers to to the level which I agree with the following statement from tehmarks:

Change is happening in Saudi Arabia, and I really respect that. Expecting it to happen more quickly or to think that it will happen more quickly if the international community shuns the country is simply unrealistic.

The 100% has nothing to do with the level I am sure that major change is what the royal family and government want.  

You're still arguing against points I haven't made

> As someone who clearly visits I've never seen anything from you on the international blight of wahhabism and the appalling consequences, for religious violence, democracy, women, LGBTQ+

Clearly visits where?  Saudi Arabia?  Nope never been.  Wouldn't want to go either.

I frequently and loudly champion the right of women, LGBTQ+, religious freedom, democracy and mutual understanding.  Is that not good enough for you?

> If I were you I'd apologise about the islamophobia implication.

I don't believe I've called anyone on this thread Islamophobic.  Merely, that I believe a degree of it exists in our society.  Given the past comments of our dear Prime Minister, foe example, I'm going to stand by that.

Who specifically would you like me to apologise to?  Society?  Islamophobes?  

EDIT:  You added this after I posted the above: 

Calling out incredibly serious and highly funded extremism isn't islamophobia..

Didn't say it was. 

Post edited at 11:18
 Offwidth 11:16 Mon
In reply to northern yob:

More reasons to think twice about China (frankly the real problems are a lot bigger and relate to huge external economic influence, propping up N Korea with its nuclear capacity,  risk of war over Taiwan and massive internal human rights abuses)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000z2yt

 Offwidth 11:55 Mon
In reply to Iamgregp:

Fair enough about visits. I'd like to go there (but won't stop calling out for change).

I'm arguing with what you have said.

>"100% the govt and Royal Family want to return KSA to pre 1979 Grand Mosque seizure state.  The current draconian application of Shariah and isolationist policies were never their choice." 

I still think all the evidence is that is 100% bs, in terms of wanting to return and that draconian religion was forced on them (it was a mutually beneficial arrangement that you subsequently conceded). Tehmarks never said anything like that... he was arguing degrees and I think unfairly overstating current change and comparing current major international crimes there with past equivalents of the west.

Your position was also that MBS was looking for major change, taking him at his word (that tehmarks also didn't say... he was just glad with positive change and thought isolation would hinder further change). 

You raised the inconsistency about other countries (which, when things are serious, UKC posters have called out) and seem to be sidetracking the scale and impact of massive funding of poisonous wahhabism, and terrorism worldwide that dwarfs the combined impact of those small repressive states (including Jamaica). As per the Wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_propagation_of_Salafism_and_Wahhabism

>"One estimate is that during the reign of King Fahd (1982 to 2005), over $75 billion was spent in efforts to spread Wahhabi Islam. The money was used to establish 200 Islamic colleges, 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, and 2,000 schools for Muslim children in Muslim and Non-Muslim majority countries."

To be perfectly clear on the islamophobia point ...this is what you said and how you speculated it might be linked to some subconscious islamophobia:

>"And then when a Jamaican dignitary visits?

>Has anyone called for a ban on supporting the tourist industries of certain islands in the Caribbean due to their stance on LGBTQ+ issues?  I'm sure people have, but it seems to be less of an issue for us compared to other countries where we have a more complex trading and political relationship.  Funny that. 

>I'm not saying people aren't right to raise these concerns, I concede this may be whataboutery, but I am confused as to why our values are imposed so inconsistently.  

>If I'm totally honest I think there is a degree of subconscious Islamophobia and I do wonder if this affects our keenness to call out such abuses in the middle east, yet turn a blind eye to those same abuses happening in other nations?"

The inconsistency is a strawman of your making. The most serious inconsistency is the west, when claiming the moral high-ground, like all in international politics, calls out enemies more than allies.

Most critics have no problem with islam they just want muslims to live in peace and not have to deal with wahhabist extremism.

Post edited at 12:04
 Iamgregp 13:06 Mon
In reply to Offwidth:

> Fair enough about visits. I'd like to go there (but won't stop calling out for change).

Not for me.  Too hot, no beer, too many rules!

> I'm arguing with what you have said.

> >"100% the govt and Royal Family want to return KSA to pre 1979 Grand Mosque seizure state.  The current draconian application of Shariah and isolationist policies were never their choice." 

> I still think all the evidence is that is 100% bs, in terms of wanting to return and that draconian religion was forced on them (it was a mutually beneficial arrangement that you subsequently conceded). Tehmarks never said anything like that... he was arguing degrees and I think unfairly overstating current change and comparing current major international crimes there with past equivalents of the west.

I didn't say forced (once again, arguing against points I never made), said it wasn't something that was their choice. (it's literally written right there).  My belief is it was something they decided to do after the events of '79 as they felt it had the best chance of keeping them in power.  Yes it became a mutually beneficial relationship, but in my eyes it's not a relationship they would have pursued were it not for the events of '79.   Your view may differ, no problem with that.

Also, I didn't say tehmarks said that.  

> Your position was also that MBS was looking for major change, taking him at his word (that tehmarks also didn't say... he was just glad with positive change and thought isolation would hinder further change). 

My belief that change is coming is based on more than his word.  The economic situation makes some kind of change a necessity.  The status quo simply cannot be maintained. 

Again, I didn't say tehmarks did say that.  Yet another argument against a point I never made.  This is exhausting!

I just deleted my replies to the rest of your post.  I just don't have the time or energy to engage any more 

I'm checking out of this conversation now.  You continually argue against points I haven't made and despite my attempts at a conciliatory tone  (it's fine to be more sceptical, we're both on the same side here etc) especially today, you've still come out punching. 

This morning I honestly thought that our quarrel genuinely stemmed from a misunderstanding of each other and speaking at cross purposes, and was trying to make amends as I've never really had a particular issue with you before.  I really don't understand where this is all coming from.

I don't understand whether I've offended you in some way, or are just looking for a fight and decided I must be some kind of KSA apologist so am a viable target?

I'm not, and I'm not interested in being painted as one any more. 

Post edited at 13:22
 Offwidth 13:39 Mon
In reply to Iamgregp:

"I didn't say forced (once again, arguing against points I never made), said it wasn't something that was their choice. (it's literally written right there)."

More ridiculous semantics. If it wasn't their political choice how did it happen? The only logical explanation is you think they were forced into it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Mosque_seizure

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Siege_of_Mecca

You have never explicitly agreed with the position I've made on my three main concerns, all of which are clearly evidenced major international disasters. I have completely agreed some small change has occurred, which looks to me like distractive window-dressing common with dictatorial regimes.

You made ridiculous claims about the government's and royal family's desire for change, raised whataboutery about inconsistent scale of criticism (where the opposite is the case: they get off light), and implied negative motives for those calling out these abuses. Maybe it's best for everyone you leave the thread.

It's all a plus for me as its a chance to detail these key worldwide threats, and the history behind them that is too little known. My passion is partly due to my ethical beliefs in the face of such disasters and because some muslims close to me have lost loved ones, livelihoods and some (as refugees) would argue their country, for now, due to direct causal links to those threats.

Post edited at 13:49
In reply to Offwidth:

> More reasons to think twice about China (frankly the real problems are a lot bigger and relate to huge external economic influence, propping up N Korea with its nuclear capacity,  risk of war over Taiwan and massive internal human rights abuses)

Oh ffs don’t drag me back in…. I look forward to you berating anyone who goes to China to make a film about climbing rocks.

America's probably up to as much covert no good as China…… just saying! I definitely don’t want any kind of debate about it.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t see that boycotting these places (in climbing terms) achieves anything. 

 
 

 seankenny 23:01 Mon
In reply to northern yob:

> America's probably up to as much covert no good as China…… just saying! I definitely don’t want any kind of debate about it.

America has lots of friends and allies, including its two neighbours. China is allied with Russia, N Korea, Pakistan and Cambodia. Most big important countries in Asia dislike China, including Japan and India. The Europeans and Americans deeply distrust China. That is one messed up foreign policy. 
 

Knee jerk anti-Americanism rots critical thinking skills as much as knee jerk anything. 
 

> It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t see that boycotting these places (in climbing terms) achieves anything. 

 

I think for a lot of people the notion of boycotting things doesn’t make much sense. And on an individual level it might not (though making a film is a different matter). But the effects of lots of individual choices add up.

The other point of course is how bad does a country have to be before you do boycott it?  Not because it does good, but because you just really don’t want to go there. A worthwhile thought experiment if nothing else.

Post edited at 23:08
 Offwidth 00:03 Tue
In reply to northern yob:F

You chose what you post, there is no drag.  This isn't just about a state getting up to no good it's also the international intent and consequence of that no good and what its like to live in that state.

For the nth time I have nothing against visits but if producing a film there, there are real issues of context in such a horrible regime actively trying to spots wash.

Your posts are reassuring but maybe I just wish for more.

In reply to Offwidth: seankenny

Yikes you two are keen! Sadly I’m not. That post was 98% tongue in cheek. 
 


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