It’s been a frustrating day for many and varied reasons but listing all of them sounds like a massive whinge to me so I think I’ll just draw a line under all of that rubbish. Here is the line:


I haven’t been following the story so I’ve had to do a little research but my thoughts keep turning to 74 year old Karl Andree, sentenced to 360 lashes in Saudi Arabia after being stopped in his car transporting his home made wine.

Now, I am pretty vocal in my condemnation of that vile and barbaric country. I detest the fact that its women are not allowed to drive; that there is no freedom of religion or human rights; that crimes such as apostasy are punishable by death and so many other things. I am completely opposed to their barbaric so-called justice system and its harsh punishments. I utterly resent that we are so dependent on their oil and their strategic geographical position that any of their disgusting behaviour is not held up to the same standards as other countries on whom we’re not quite so dependent.

I am a bleeding’ heart liberal (and actually I don’t consider that a dirty word) and complete oppose the death penalty. I don’t want to blame the victim.

And yet

Mr Andree, having lived in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, must have been aware of the Kingdom’s strict anti-alcohol laws. So what was he doing making his own wine and transporting it in public? Did he think the law somehow did not apply to him? Do people who smuggle drugs to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia despite knowing full well that this carries the death penalty in those places, do they also think that they law does not apply to them? Do they think they will will not get caught? Or do they think that somehow HM Government will simply wave a magic wand and get them off scot-free?

I wonder if those people calling for leniency (apart from his family, where it is totally understandable) are quite so sympathetic to British citizens who go to the Middle East to commit acts of terrorism? Are they so sympathetic to people who travel to live in this country and then commit petty crime or benefit fraud or whatever? I think not. Are the papers campaigning for them to be let off? No.

Long-standing expatriates go to places like Saudi Arabia for all sorts of reasons: career progression in a challenging environment; experiencing a different culture; being bored with their career or life here. All of those, yes, fine. But also because they can make and save a fortune in this tax-free environment where they are likely to enjoy a high standard of living with Indonesian and Sri Lankan domestic servants. (I’ve known a few people who enjoyed this lifestyle. Paris was a hardship posting for them because there were no servants to mop their floors or take out the rubbish.)

I’m not going to revile expatiates, I’ve been one myself albeit in a lifestyle far removed from the one I’ve described above. People have their expertise and why shouldn’t they have an expatriate career and save some money if that’s what they want? But there are tradeoffs. Some are as innocuous as not being allowed to dry your washing on your balcony lest it lowers the tone of the neighbourhood or banning chewing gum (I’m all for banning the vile stuff;) some countries don’t allow dogs to be kept as pets or public displays of affection or mixing of the sexes. And Saudi Arabia does not allow alcohol. The UK Foreign Office is very clear in its guidance on that. So, in my book, if you go and live in the country, knowing how strict the penalties are for breaking the well-publicised laws of that country and you still flout them, then you shouldn’t expect too much sympathy.

Of course, I expect that the UK government will intervene in the case of Mr Andree, who suffers from ill health, and there is little chance that he’ll have to go through his flogging, thank goodness. I’m wondering, though, whether people who are so outraged at his story are also up in arms about the other things that make Saudi Arabia undesirable: about the case of Ali Al-Nimr, tortured, made to sign a false confession then condemned to crucifixion at 17 for taking part in a demonstration; about the blogger Raif Badawi, condemned to repeated public flogging for advocating free speech. (If I were in Saudi Arabia, I’d probably be arrested, tortured and condemned to flogging for writing this post)  I wonder whether, like me, they are outraged that the UK has supported Saudi Arabia’s candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Hm. Maybe.