CODE PINK co-founder Medea Benjamin talks to a group at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick about the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

CODE PINK co-founder Medea Benjamin talks to a group at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick about the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.


Internationally recognized peace and human rights activist Medea Benjamin addressed a group at Curtis Memorial Library on Wednesday afternoon regarding the evolution of relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Benjamin, who is based in Washington, D.C. and co-founder of Code Pink and the human rights group Global Exchange, has worked in the field of social justice for 40 years, earning her numerous accolades and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

In her book, “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.- Saudi Connection,” Benjamin has taken aim at the unlikely partnership between the U.S. and what she calls “one of the worst regimes on the planet.”

Benjamin noted Saudi Arabia is the only country that does not allow women to drive — at one point with a cleric issuing a fatwa saying driving could potentially harm a woman’s ovaries.

Benjamin said she had people within Saudi Arabia confirm certain practices in researching her book, like employers taking the passports of immigrant workers and forcing them into slave-like conditions.

One woman, Benjamin said, had her hand chopped off for trying to escape her employer.

“There was one case of a worker who was in the hospital because her employer had driven nails into her forehead,” Benjamin said, highlighting the devaluation of non-Saudis in the country.

Benjamin said there are about 10 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, about 2 million of whom are Christians, not allowed to openly practice their faith or even atheism under harsh penalties, including death.

Benjamin noted that in 1998, the U.S. government passed the International Freedom of Religion Act that imposed sanctions on the worst offenders to be determined each year.

“Guess what country comes in at the bottom year after year — Saudi Arabia, along with North Korea, along with Myanmar,” Benjamin said.

The other countries that come in at the bottom of the list for religious freedom are in fact, sanctioned by the U.S. government, except Saudi Arabia who has been granted an indefinite waiver, according to Benjamin.

From early bonds between the two countries based on oil to a new age of military marketplaces, Benjamin said the strange relationship continues now as weapons-for-export production is being portrayed as a jobs program by Washington, D.C.

“It is extraordinary, the amount of weapons they purchase,” Benjamin said.

According to Benjamin, under the Obama administration alone, the Saudis have purchased more than $110 billion worth of weapons.

Benjamin said it’s not just weapons Saudi Arabia buys, noting large investments in the Clinton Foundation, and their relationship with the Podesta Group.

John and Tony Podesta began the group as lobbyists with John Podesta moving on to run Hillary Clinton’s campaign while his brother, Tony, became a registered foreign agent of the Saudi government.

Tony Podesta since became a major fundraiser for the Clinton campaign, utilizing funding that comes from the Saudi account Tony Podesta manages.

It’s one of the many investments, Benjamin said, that are designed to keep Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights out of mainstream America, buys silence and complicity.

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: