Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on perceived dissent has been on-again, off-again since Prince Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, and over the past week, human rights groups say that it seems to be escalating once again.
A number of journalists, writers, and academics, the usual targets for the kingdom, have been swept up in this latest round of arrests. It’s not clear why many were picked up, as they hadn’t been publicly critical of the government in years.
With other major regional nations like Iraq and Iran seeing major outbursts of unrest and protest against government excess, the Saudis may believe they could face similar protests, and intend to remove a whole class of potential participants before it gets going.
Though that could be happening now because Iraq, in particular, is experiencing such a large, palpable anti-government movement, it might also suggest that the Saudi leadership is planning to do something it expects to be highly unpopular, and wants to preempt people who are likely to object to it.