Last modified on October 24, 2023, at 11:19

Saudi Arabia

المملكة العربية السعودية
al-Mamlaka al-‘Arabiyya as-Su’ūdiyya
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Flag of Saudi Arabia.png
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Flag Coat of Arms
Capital ar-Riyād
Government Absolute Monarchy
Language Arabic (official)
Monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Area 829,996 sq mi
Population 35,000,000 (2020)
GDP $800,000,000,000 (2020)
GDP per capita $22,857 (2020)
Currency Riyal

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (al-Mamlaka al-ʻArabiyya as-Suʻūdiyya, المملكة العربية السعودية, also Saudi Arabia or KSA) is a large country on the Arabian Peninsula. Ruled by The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the country is one of the few absolute monarchies left in the world. Shari'a (Islamic jurisprudence) is the official law of the Kingdom. The Kingdom was first declared on 8 January 1926 by Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, and was brought together on 22 September 1932.

Barack Obama pandered to this tyrannical regime while he was president, even deeply bowing to its dictator in a subservient gesture that offended many Americans.

Despite homosexuality being illegal in Saudi Arabia, there is a large amount of men who are secretly gay.[1]


Young Saudi Arabian woman.jpg

Saudi Arabia's 2007 population was estimated to be about 27.6 million, including about 5.6 million resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, most of the population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled. Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600 per sq. mi). Saudi Arabia has undergone a population boom of sorts in the last few decades.

Saudi Arabia is known as the birthplace of Islam, which in the century following Muhammad's death in 632 A.D. spread west to Spain and east to India. Islam obliges all Muslims to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once during their lifetime if they are able to do so. The cultural environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative; the country adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic religious law (Shari'a). Cultural presentations must conform to narrowly defined standards of ethics. Men and women are not permitted to attend public events together and are segregated in the work place.

Most Saudis are ethnically Arab. Some are of mixed ethnic origin and are descended from Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, Africans, and others, most of whom immigrated as pilgrims and reside in the Hijaz region along the Red Sea coast. Many Arabs from nearby countries are employed in the kingdom. There also are significant numbers of Asian expatriates mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There are less than 100,000 Westerners in Saudi Arabia.


The central institution of Saudi Arabian Government is the monarchy. The Basic Law adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of King Abd Al Aziz Al Saud, and that the Holy Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of Islamic law (Shari'a). There are no political parties or national elections; however, the country held its first municipal elections in 2005. The king's powers are limited because he must observe the Shari'a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the numerous Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud.

Saudi kings gradually have developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by and responsible to the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first and second deputy prime ministers, 20 ministers (of whom the minister of defense also is the second deputy prime minister), two ministers of state, and a small number of advisers and heads of major autonomous organizations.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers and the Shura Council, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari'a. Justice is administered according to the Shari'a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of 12 senior jurists. The independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis, or public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

The kingdom is divided into 13 provinces governed by princes or close relatives of the royal family. All governors are appointed by the King.

In March 1992, King Fahd issued several decrees outlining the basic statutes of government and codifying for the first time procedures concerning the royal succession. The King's political reform program also provided for the establishment of a national Consultative Council, with appointed members having advisory powers to review and give advice on issues of public interest. It also outlined a framework for councils at the provincial or emirate level.

In September 1993, King Fahd issued additional reform decrees, appointing the members of the national Consultative Council and spelling out procedures for the new council's operations. He announced reforms regarding the Council of Ministers, including term limitations of 4 years and regulations to prohibit conflict of interest for ministers and other high-level officials. The members of 13 provincial councils and the councils' operating regulations also were announced in September 1993. In February, March, and April 2005, Saudis voted in the country's first municipal elections in more than 50 years. Women, and male members of the military, were not permitted to vote.

In July 1997, the membership of the Consultative Council was expanded from 60 to 90 members, and again in May 2001 from 90 to 120 members. In 2005, membership was expanded to 150 members. Membership has changed significantly during expansions of the council as many members have not been reappointed. The role of the council is gradually expanding as it gains experience.

In November 2006, King Abdallah announced the formation of an Allegiance Committee which, in the future, will select the Crown Prince.

Principal Government Officials

  • King, Prime Minister, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques—King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs—Prince Saud Al Faysal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Foreign Relations

Deceased King Abdullah with Dick Cheney, George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell, 2005.

Saudi foreign policy objectives are to maintain its security and its paramount position on the Arabian Peninsula, defend general Arab and Islamic interests, promote solidarity among Islamic governments, and maintain cooperative relations with other oil-producing and major oil-consuming countries.

Saudi Arabia signed the UN Charter in 1945. The country plays a prominent and constructive role in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and Arab and Islamic financial and development assistance institutions. One of the largest aid donors in the world, it still gives some aid to a number of Arab, African, and Asian countries. Jeddah is the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and its subsidiary organization, the Islamic Development Bank, founded in 1969.

Membership in the 11-member OPEC and in the technically and economically oriented Arab producer group—the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries—facilitates coordination of Saudi oil policies with other oil-exporting governments. As the world's leading exporter of petroleum, Saudi Arabia has a special interest in preserving a stable and long-term market for its vast oil resources by allying itself with healthy Western economies which can protect the value of Saudi financial assets. It generally has acted to stabilize the world oil market and tried to moderate sharp price movements.

The Saudi Government frequently helps mediate regional crises and support the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. A charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia supports the position that Israel must withdraw from the territories which it occupied in June 1967, as according to United Nations Resolution 242. Saudi Arabia supports a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict but rejected the Camp David accords, claiming that they would be unable to achieve a comprehensive political solution that would ensure Palestinian rights and adequately address the status of Jerusalem. Although Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with and suspended aid to Egypt in the wake of Camp David, the two countries renewed formal ties in 1987. In March 2002, Crown Prince Abdallah offered a Middle East peace plan, now known as the Arab Peace Initiative, at the annual summit of the Arab League in which Arab governments would offer "normal relations and the security of Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab lands, recognition of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees." In March 2007 the Arab League reiterated its support for the Arab Peace Initiative by endorsing it as the foundation for a broad Arab-Israeli peace.

In 1990-91, Saudi Arabia played an important role in the Gulf War, developing new allies and improving existing relationships between Saudi Arabia and some other countries. Saudi Arabia provided water, food, shelter, and fuel for coalition forces in the region. Saudi Arabia's combined costs in payments, foregone revenues, and donated supplies were $55 billion. More than $15 billion went toward reimbursing the United States alone. However, there also were diplomatic and financial costs. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya deteriorated. Each country had remained silent following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait but called for an end to violence once the deployment of coalition troops began. Relations between these countries and Saudi Arabia have returned to their pre-war status. Saudi Arabia's relations with those countries which expressed support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait—Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan—were severely strained during and immediately after the war. For example, several hundred thousand Yemenis were expelled from Saudi Arabia after the Government of Yemen announced its position, thus exacerbating an existing border dispute. Saudi-Yemeni relations, especially in the wake of the 1994 Yemen civil war, remained fragile and of significant concern to the Saudi Government. Relations have slowly warmed over time and the Yemeni-Saudi border was finally demarcated in 2000. The Palestine Liberation Organization's support for Iraq cost it financial aid as well as good relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Recently, though, Saudi Arabia's relations with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have improved, with the Saudi Government providing assistance for the Palestinian Authority.

As it had during the 1990-91 Gulf War, Saudi Arabia provided important support to Coalition efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2006, Saudi Arabia hosted a conference to promote sectarian reconciliation within Iraq, and has pledged substantial debt relief to aid the elected government. Saudi Arabia is an important player in promoting stability and security in the Gulf region, and provided critical reconstruction support to Lebanon following the 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. Saudi Arabia has also taken a more prominent leadership role within the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In addition to promoting its Arab Peace initiative in 2007, in February it brokered an agreement between Palestinian factions known as the "Mecca Agreement," and in May 2007 King Abdullah brokered a reconciliation agreement between Chad and Sudan.

Relations with the United States

Saudi Arabia's unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States. Diplomatic relations were established in 1933; the U.S. embassy opened in Jeddah in 1944 and moved to Riyadh in 1984. The Jeddah embassy became a U.S. consulate. Meanwhile, a U.S. consulate opened in Dhahran in 1944.

The United States and Saudi Arabia share a common concern about regional security, oil exports and imports, and sustainable development. Close consultations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have developed on international, economic, and development issues such as the Middle East peace process and shared interests in the Gulf. The continued availability of reliable sources of oil, particularly from Saudi Arabia, remains important to the prosperity of the United States as well as to Europe and Japan. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading sources of imported oil for the United States, providing more than one million barrels/day of oil to the U.S. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S. export market in the Middle East.

Geore W. Bush - King Abdullah-hlrg.

In addition to economic ties, a longstanding security relationship continues to be important in U.S.-Saudi relations. A U.S. military training mission established at Dhahran in 1953 provides training and support in the use of weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. The United States has sold Saudi Arabia military aircraft (F-15s, AWACS, and UH-60 Blackhawks), air defense weaponry (Patriot and Hawk missiles), armored vehicles (M1A2 Abrams tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles), and other equipment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had a long-term role in military and civilian construction activities in the Kingdom.

The Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of cultural accommodation, as well as in military operations. For example, the U.S. military issued general orders prohibiting the consumption of alcohol and setting guidelines for off-duty behavior and attire. Saudi Arabia accommodated U.S. culture and its military procedures by allowing U.S. servicewomen to serve in their varied roles throughout the kingdom—a major step for a highly patriarchal society. In August 2003, following the U.S.-led war in Iraq in March and April 2003, the United States withdrew its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's relations with the United States were strained after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which 15 of the hijackers were Saudi citizens. On May 12, 2003 suicide bombers killed 35 people, including nine Americans, in attacks at three housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh. On November 8, 2003 terrorists attacked another compound housing foreign workers from mainly Arab countries. At least 18 people, including 5 children died in this attack, and more than 100 were injured. When NATO forces raided the offices of the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina; police found before-and-after images of the twin towers, US Embassy in Tanzania, US Embassy in Kenya, the USS Cole; detailed blueprints of buildings in DC, Anti-American propaganda, Anti-Semetic propaganda, and equipment for creating fake US government identifications badges.[2]

President Obama bowing to King Abdullah; King Abdullah is personally responsible for numerous human rights violations in the Kingdom.[3]

On May 1, 2004 terrorists killed two Americans in the Yanbu oil facility in the western part of the country. On May 29, 2004 terrorists killed one American and wounded several others in attacks on an official building and housing compound in al-Khobar in the Eastern Province. On June 6, terrorists shot and killed a BBC journalist. On June 9 and June 12, 2004 terrorists killed Americans Robert Jacobs and Kenneth Scroggs. On June 18, 2004 terrorists kidnapped and beheaded American Paul Johnson. On December 6, 2004 terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, killing five consulate employees. Terrorists also targeted and killed other foreign nationalities during this time. In February 2007, four French nationals were killed in western Saudi Arabia in a suspected terrorist attack.

Currently, Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the campaign against terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial arenas. Counterterrorism cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States increased significantly after the May 12, 2003 bombings in Riyadh and continues today. In February 2005, the Saudi government sponsored the first ever Counter-Terrorism International Conference in Riyadh.

Human Rights issues

Despite close cooperation on security issues, the United States remains concerned about human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia. Principal human rights problems include abuse of prisoners and incommunicado detention; prohibitions or severe restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, peaceful assembly and association, and religion; denial of the right of citizens to change their government; systematic discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities; and suppression of workers' rights.

They have strict laws that are punishable by beheading, such as sodomy convictions. If the criminal was convicted of lewd offenses, occasionally the Saudis will crucify the victim in addition to head separation, in public. In 2008, 102 people were beheaded.[4]


As an Islamic country under strict Shari'a law (Islamic law), Saudi Arabia has little of the religious freedom common in the West. Bringing a Bible or religious symbols such as a cross or a Star of David into the country, even for personal use only, will risk confiscation. Although Christianity is permitted, preaching to Muslims or attempting to convert them in public or private is a criminal offense, as is the production or distribution of Bibles.[5]

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the site of Muhammad's tomb.

Apes and Pigs dehumanuzation - in education

As of 2006, Christians still 'swine' and Jews 'apes' in Saudi schools. Despite its claims of these texts being taken out.[6]

And on Oct 9, 2021, Saudi children's cartoon depicted Quranic "story" in which Allah "transforms..." [7]


Saudi Arabia has had strict gender segregation laws prohibiting women from holding jobs, meeting men other than their relatives, or living independently of a family of husband. These laws were enforced by an Islamic department of the police force, justified as measures to protect Islamic culture and morality. The strict segregation of women in Saudi Arabia, although a consequence of tradition and Wahhabi conservatism, continued to be implemented even as urbanization has progressed and the authority of the state has grown.

A female sphere of activities has developed, encouraged by the state, but Saudi women have appopriated this segregated organization and developed it on their own terms, such that their activities and discourses are by and for women. However, autonomy for these organizations is limited, as they are subject to decisions from above, from all-men's institutions, and from state rules and laws that demand adherence.[8]

In the second decade of the 21st Century, some of the restrictions were relaxed - in part due to a reform-minded crown prince.

  • In 2017, the New York Times reported, "Increasing numbers of women are working in a growing number of professions, and in 2015, women were allowed to vote and to run for seats on the kingdom’s local councils."[9]

It was announced in September 2017 that the ban of women driving would end in June 2018.[9]


Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia by U.S. geologists in the 1930s, although large scale production did not begin until after World War II. Oil wealth has made possible rapid economic development, which began in earnest in the 1960s and accelerated spectacularly in the 1970s, transforming the kingdom.

It is impossible to say exactly when the search for oil in Arabia began. But if one date had to be chosen, it might well be January 15, 1902, the day that 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman Al Sa'ud recaptured Riyadh and began the march to Arabian statehood.[10]

Saudi oil reserves are the largest in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the world's leading oil producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country's exports and nearly 75% of government revenues. Proven reserves are estimated to be 263 billion barrels, about one-quarter of world oil reserves.

More than 95% of all Saudi oil is produced on behalf of the Saudi Government by the parastatal giant Saudi ARAMCO. In June 1993, Saudi ARAMCO absorbed the state marketing and refining company (SAMAREC), becoming the world's largest fully integrated oil company. Most Saudi oil exports move by tanker from Gulf terminals at Ras Tanura and Ju'aymah. The remaining oil exports are transported via the east-west pipeline across the kingdom to the Red Sea port of Yanbu.

Due to a sharp rise in petroleum revenues in 1974 following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It enjoyed a substantial surplus in its overall trade with other countries; imports increased rapidly; and ample government revenues were available for development, defense, and aid to other Arab and Islamic countries.

Saudi Aramco.jpg

But higher oil prices led to both reduced consumption and development of more oil fields around the world. The result, beginning in the mid-1980s, was a worldwide oil glut, which introduced an element of planning uncertainty for the first time in a decade. Saudi oil production, which had increased to almost 10 million barrels per day (b/d) during 1980-81, dropped to about 2 million b/d in 1985. Budgetary deficits developed, and the government drew down its foreign assets. Responding to financial pressures, Saudi Arabia gave up its role as the "swing producer" within OPEC in the summer of 1985 and accepted a production quota. Since then, Saudi oil policy has been guided by a desire to maintain market and quota shares and to support stability in the international oil market. The stability has been further threatened by technology, such as hydraulic fracturing (or "fracing" as it is commonly known) which has allowed reduction in the cost to produce oil as well as redevelopment of older oil fields (such as the Permian Basin in west Texas).

Saudi Arabia was a key player in coordinating the successful 1999 campaign of OPEC and other oil-producing countries to raise the price of oil to its highest level since the Gulf War by managing production and supply of petroleum. That same year, Saudi Arabia established the Supreme Economic Council to formulate and better coordinate economic development policies in order to accelerate institutional and industrial reform.

In response to increasing international demand for oil, Saudi ARAMCO is engaged in an expansion of its oil production capacity, and plans to raise its capacity from the current 9.5-10 million barrels/day (mb/d) to 12 mb/d within the next several years. Saudi ARAMCO is also increasing production of associated and non-associated natural gas to feed the expanding petrochemical sector. Notably, Saudi Arabia has awarded contracts to foreign companies to conduct gas exploration in selected regions of the country—the first such foreign participation in the petroleum sector upstream since the nationalization of ARAMCO in the 1970s.

Saudi Arabia continues to pursue rapid industrial expansion, led by the petrochemical sector. The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), a parastatal petrochemical company, is now one of the world's leading petrochemical producers, and the government promotes private sector involvement in petrochemicals. The government also plans new investments in the mining sector and in refining,

After Saudi Arabia announced its intention to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), negotiations focused on increasing market access to foreign goods and services and the timeframe for becoming fully compliant with WTO obligations. In April 2000, the government established the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage foreign direct investment in the country. Saudi Arabia signed a Trade Investment Framework Agreement with the U.S. in July 2003, and joined the WTO in December 2005.

Through 5-year development plans, the government has sought to allocate its petroleum income to transform its relatively undeveloped, oil-based economy into that of a modern industrial state while maintaining the kingdom's traditional Islamic values and customs. Although economic planners have not achieved all their goals, the economy has progressed rapidly. Oil wealth has increased the standard of living of most Saudis. However, significant population growth has strained the government's ability to finance further improvements in the country's standard of living. Heavy dependence on petroleum revenue continues, but industry and agriculture now account for a larger share of economic activity. The mismatch between the job skills of Saudi graduates and the needs of the private job market at all levels remains the principal obstacle to economic diversification and development; about 4.6 million non-Saudis are employed in the economy.

Saudi Aramco Exhibit.

Saudi Arabia's first two development plans, covering the 1970s, emphasized infrastructure. The results were impressive—the total length of paved highways tripled, power generation increased by a multiple of 28, and the capacity of the seaports grew tenfold. For the third plan (1980–85), the emphasis changed. Spending on infrastructure declined, but it rose markedly on education, health, and social services. The share for diversifying and expanding productive sectors of the economy (primarily industry) did not rise as planned, but the two industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu—built around the use of the country's oil and gas to produce steel, petrochemicals, fertilizer, and refined oil products—were largely completed.

In the fourth plan (1985–90), the country's basic infrastructure was viewed as largely complete, but education and training remained areas of concern. Private enterprise was encouraged, and foreign investment in the form of joint ventures with Saudi public and private companies was welcomed. The private sector became more important, rising to 70% of non-oil GDP by 1987. While still concentrated in trade and commerce, private investment increased in industry, agriculture, banking, and construction companies. These private investments were supported by generous government financing and incentive programs. The objective was for the private sector to have 70% to 80% ownership in most joint venture enterprises.

The fifth plan (1990–95) emphasized consolidation of the country's defenses; improved and more efficient government social services; regional development; and, most importantly, creating greater private-sector employment opportunities for Saudis by reducing the number of foreign workers.

The sixth plan (1996-2000) focused on lowering the cost of government services without cutting them and sought to expand educational training programs. The plan called for reducing the kingdom's dependence on the petroleum sector by diversifying economic activity, particularly in the private sector, with special emphasis on industry and agriculture. It also continued the effort to "Saudiize" the labor force.

The seventh plan (2000-2004) focused more on economic diversification and a greater role of the private sector in the Saudi economy. For the period 2000-2004, the Saudi Government aimed at an average GDP growth rate of 3.16% each year, with projected growths of 5.04% for the private sector and 4.01% for the non-oil sector. The government also set a target of creating 817,300 new jobs for Saudi nationals.

The eighth plan (2005-2010) again focuses on economic diversification in addition to education and inclusion of women in society. The plan calls for establishing new universities and new colleges with technical specializations. Privatization as well as emphases on a knowledge-based economy and tourism will help promote the goal of economic diversification.

  • GDP: $800 billion (2020)
  • GDP per capita: $22,857 (2020)


Masjid Nabawi, Medina, Saudi Arabia

Except for a few major cities and oases, the harsh climate historically prevented much settlement of the Arabian Peninsula. People of various cultures have lived in the peninsula over a span of more than 5,000 years. The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was contemporaneous with the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the ancient world traded with the states of the peninsula.


The Saudi state began in central Arabia in about 1750. A local ruler, Muhammad bin Saud, joined forces with an Islamic reformer, Muhammad Abd Al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula.


Wahhabi fundamentalism originated with Syrian jurist Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–92), but was hounded by the more moderate leaders of the Ottoman Empire. In the early 19th century, alarmed by the increasing influence of Wahhabism in Saudi-controlled Arabia, the Ottoman Empire urged its Egyptian vassal Muhammad Ali Pasha (1769-1849) to mount an armed attack on the movement, which was considered anti-Turkish. Muhammad Ali began operations in 1811, and bitter fighting ensued on and off, with several cease-fires and impermanent peace agreements being tried until Egypt finally seemed to have succeeded (with the help of some Bedouin tribes that also objected to the stern religious views of Wahhabism) in subduing Arabia by 1818. However, Egypt had to concentrate on insurrections at home, and the Saudi Wahhabists eventually recovered their strength in the 1830s. The were confined to Arabia but Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (1876-1953), the founder of modern Saudi Arabia in 1924, was faithful to the Wahhabi sect, as are his hundreds of sons and grandsons who still rule the country. Once they gained oil money they used it to spread the sect. Wahhabism's explosive growth outside Arabia began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Pakistan to California.

Modern state

The modern Saudi state was founded by the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (known internationally as Ibn Saud). In 1902, Abdul Aziz recaptured Riyadh, the Al Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, the rest of Nejd, and the Hijaz between 1913 and 1926. In 1932, these regions were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

King Abdullah Sport City Stadium.

Boundaries with Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait were established by a series of treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two "neutral zones"—one with Iraq and the other with Kuwait—created. The Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone was administratively partitioned in 1971, with each state continuing to share the petroleum resources of the former zone equally. Tentative agreement on the partition of the Saudi-Iraqi neutral zone was reached in 1981, and partition was finalized by 1983. The country's southern boundary with Yemen was partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Taif, which ended a brief border war between the two states. A June 2000 treaty further delineated portions of the boundary with Yemen. The location and status of Saudi Arabia's boundary with the United Arab Emirates is not final; a de facto boundary reflects a 1974 agreement. The border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar was resolved in March 2001. The border with Oman also is not demarcated.

King Abdul Aziz died in 1953 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Saud, who reigned for 11 years. In 1964, Saud abdicated in favor of his half-brother, Faisal, who had served as Foreign Minister. Because of fiscal difficulties, King Saud had been persuaded in 1958 to delegate direct conduct of Saudi Government affairs to Faisal as Prime Minister; Saud briefly regained control of the government in 1960-62. In October 1962, Faisal outlined a broad reform program, stressing economic development. Proclaimed King in 1964 by senior royal family members and religious leaders, Faisal also continued to serve as Prime Minister. This practice has been followed by subsequent kings.

The mid-1960s saw external pressures generated by Saudi-Egyptian differences over Yemen. When civil war broke out in 1962 between Yemeni royalists and republicans, Egyptian forces entered Yemen to support the new republican government, while Saudi Arabia backed the royalists. Tensions subsided only after 1967, when Egypt withdrew its troops from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia road map.

Saudi forces did not participate in the Six-Day (Arab-Israeli) War of June 1967, but the government later provided annual subsidies to Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to support their economies. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia participated in the post war Arab oil boycott of the United States and Netherlands. A member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Arabia had joined other member countries in moderate oil price increases beginning in 1971. After the 1973 war, the price of oil rose substantially, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia's wealth and political

In 1975, King Faisal was assassinated by a nephew, who was executed after an extensive investigation concluded that he acted alone. Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother Khalid as King and Prime Minister; their half-brother Prince Fahd was named Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. King Khalid empowered Crown Prince Fahd to oversee many aspects of the government's international and domestic affairs. Economic development continued rapidly under King Khalid, and the kingdom assumed a more influential role in regional politics and international economic and financial matters.

In June 1982, King Khalid died, and Fahd became King and Prime Minister in a smooth transition. Another half-brother, Prince Abdullah, Commander of the Saudi National Guard, was named Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. King Fahd's brother, Prince Sultan, the Minister of Defense and Aviation, became Second Deputy Prime Minister. Under King Fahd, the Saudi economy adjusted to sharply lower oil revenues resulting from declining global oil prices. Saudi Arabia supported neutral shipping in the Gulf during periods of the Iran-Iraq war and aided Iraq's war-strained economy. King Fahd played a major part in bringing about the August 1988 cease-fire between Iraq and Iran and in organizing and strengthening the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of six Arabian Gulf states dedicated to fostering regional economic cooperation and peaceful development.

In 1990-91, King Fahd played a key role before and during the Gulf war. King Fahd's action also consolidated the coalition of forces against Iraq and helped define the tone of the operation as a multilateral effort to reestablish the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait. Acting as a rallying point and personal spokesman for the coalition, King Fahd helped bring together his nation's GCC allies, Western allies, and Arab allies, as well as nonaligned nations from Africa and the emerging democracies of eastern Europe. He used his influence as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to persuade other Arab and Islamic nations to join the coalition.

King Fahd suffered a stroke in November 1995. From 1997, Crown Prince Abdullah took on much of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the government. Upon King Fahd's death on August 1, 2005, Abdullah assumed the throne as King. Prince Sultan, Minister of Defense and Aviation, became Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister.

In January 2015 King Abdullah died at the age of 90. His half-brother Prince Salman was appointed as successor.[11]

Attack on the Grand Mosque, 1979

The Grand Mosque in Mecca (home of the Kaaba) was briefly taken over for a period of weeks by an obscure group led by a poorly educated Bedouin named Juhayman[12] whose theology was an early manifestation of modern violent Salafism. These believers did not embrace many aspects of modern society. They opposed identity cards and passports because these denote loyalty to an entity other than Allah. They were against images of living beings, not only on television and in photography but also on coins. The only previous violent encounter was when a group of young activists were caught smashing shop display windows showing female mannequins in the center of Medina in 1965. And they had peculiar views on ritual practices setting them apart from other religious communities and the religious establishment.

The incident revealed the Saudi state was thoroughly unprepared to deal with a challenge to its legitimacy from conservative religious believers.[13] After three days of fruitless negotiations, the Saudi's turned to external, non-Islamic "crusader" forces to dislodge the jihadis. Non-Muslims are not allowed within the city of Mecca, and bloodshed on the grounds of the temple is considered virtually an unpardonable sin; yet the Saudi state and its reigning religious establishment deputized, through a fatwa, the French Special Operations Forces to retake the mosque.[14][15]

Official reports say that 255 fanatics, troops and pilgrims were killed, while 560 were injured. The rebels who survived were imprisoned or beheaded, with reports claiming 63 beheadings.

The respected imam Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, who abhorred violence, condemned Juhayman's attack; however one of his students, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, fell under the influence of Juhayman's thought. In coming years Maqdisi further developed the idea that the ruling Saudi clan were apostate Muslim infidels along with a rejection of the very idea of a nation state.[16]

The year 1979 is also cited as the point in time when a member of the wealthy bin Laden clan (who made their fortune building stuff) began to develop his political ideology and one central piece of said ideology is the "humiliation" of French forces having to bail out the "Muslim" Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden later went to Afghanistan to throw out another bunch of "infidels" from "Muslim land" and the Taliban regime his ilk helped establish gave him shelter and a safe haven, even though he was a wanted terrorist.

1987 Mecca massacre

In 1987 more than four hundred persons, mostly Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims and about 85 Saudis and security personal, were killed during a demonstration against the "Enemies of Islam" (basically, the United States and Israel) in front of the Grand Mosque.[17] Iranian hajj pilgrims traditionally make up the largest single contingent from any single country.[18] Details about the incident and causes remain murky, with the official Saudi version contradicted by Iran's own investigation. [19][20]

Shock over violence just outside the Grand Mosque again sparked a debate across the Muslim world about the Saudis dual role as American ally and Custodian of the Two Holy Custodian of the Islamic Holy Places.[21] Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the "vile and ungodly Wahhabis" as "lackeys of the United States” and called for the overthrow of the House of Saud.[22] The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) formed a group known as Hezbollah al-Hejaz, more commonly known as Saudi Hezbollah, for this purpose.[23]

It was in this atmosphere of anti-Saudi and anti-U.S. sentiment throughout the Muslim world that Saddam Hussein made his calculated gamble to challenge Saudi Arabia and the United States over Kuwait in 1990.[24]

Notable Saudi Arabians

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Commins, David. The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia (2006) 276p.
  • Niblock, Tim. Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy, and Survival(2006)
  • Cordesman, Anthony, and Nawaf Obaid. National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges (2005).


  2. Ehrenfeld, Rachel (2005-01-01). Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed-- and how to Stop it (in en). Bonus Books, Inc.. ISBN 9781566252317. 
  3. Moumi, Habib. "Mystery about controversial Saudi columnist's location deepens", Gulf News, 2017-02-09. Retrieved on 2017-05-07. Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. 
  4. Saudis Behead, Crucify Convicted Child Molester, Murderer AP, May 30, 2009
  5. Christian Examiner, Sept. 2007, Vol 25, No 9, Pg. 20
  6. Harry de Quetteville, "Christians still 'swine' and Jews 'apes' in Saudi schools" Daily Telegraph, June 25, 2006 .

    Saudi Arabia has been accused of continuing to foster religious hatred in its schools, despite its repeated assurances since the September 11 attacks that it would rewrite textbooks that refer to Jews as "apes" and Christians as "swine".

    The charges come after Freedom House, a non-partisan American research group which monitors civil rights worldwide, examined textbooks that it smuggled out of Saudi Arabia. The group found that despite promises of change from leading Saudi officials, including Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, and Turki al-Faisal, the ambassador to America, schoolbooks in the kingdom still promote hatred of those who do not practise its strict form of Wahhabi Islam.

    The report also alleged that some of the textbooks are used in official Saudi schools around the world. Senior staff at the King Fahd Academy in Acton, west London, which has 750 pupils, said that it was not for the school to comment.

    "Even if only a small percentage of the people who are exposed to this take it to heart and act on it, that's still a lot of people," said Nina Shea, Freedom House's director, after the release of the 39-page report, Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance.

    The report cites extracts from textbooks used in religious education classes for children aged between five and 16. It quotes the following exercise for the youngest children: "Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ------- is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters -------."

    It claims that older students are taught: "It is part of God's wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour (of judgment)."

    The report is an embarrassment for the Saudi government, which has made great efforts to restore its image since being painted as a bastion of extremism after September 11. When it emerged that 15 of the 19 hijackers that day were Saudi, many blamed the kingdom's education system for breeding hatred...

    When asked about offensive language in textbooks, he said: "This is taken out." But, according to Miss Shea, this is not true. "Teaching methods that ask kindergarten children to give examples of 'false religions', like Judaism and Christianity, add up to an ideology that runs throughout," she said. "It is not hate speech here and there. It adds up to an argument, an ideology of us versus them."

    In the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the accusations are being investigated. "We do think some things need to be changed," Abdullah al-Obeid, the Saudi education minister, admitted. "There is some misunderstanding of some of the texts."

    But according to Tanya Hsu, a political analyst in Riyadh with close ties to the education ministry, there is anger behind the scenes at an alleged propaganda campaign designed to make the government look bad.

    "The charges are absolutely not true," she said. "We're really just looking at a few sentences and a few words. I don't know of any country in the world that doesn't have a few mischosen words in textbooks."

    The report comes as the Saudi royal family walks a fine line between external pressure to reform and internal conservative pockets that could shake its grip on power.

    But Turki al-Faisal insists that change is happening. "We admit we have people in our midst who are bigots, who are intolerant and who see the world through a prism of 'us and them'," he wrote in a recent newspaper article.

    "Are we working hard to change mindsets that encourage prejudice and intolerance? Yes, absolutely."
  7. Saudi Children's Cartoon Depicts Quranic Story In Which Allah Transforms Jews Into Apes, Memri, October 14, 2021
    On October 9, 2021, an animated video for children depicting a Quranic story about Jews being transformed into apes was uploaded to the Ibtikar Media channel on YouTube.
  8. Amélie Lerenard, “'Only for Women': Women, the State, and Reform in Saudi Arabia,” ‘’Middle East Journal’‘ 2008 62(4): 610-629
  9. 9.0 9.1 Saudi Arabia Agrees to Let Women Drive - Ben Hubbard - Sept. 26, 2017
  10. Prelude to Discovery
  12. Review of The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of al Qaeda, Yaroslav Trofimov, Doubleday, 2007.
  13. Thomas Hegghammer and Stephane Lacroix. Rejectionist Islamism in Saudi Arabia: The Story of Juhayman al-Utaybi Revisited. International Journal of Middle East Studies, February 2007, pp 103-122, Cambridge University Press.
  14. Many details of the Mosque takeover remain officially classified Saudi state secrets. The Makkan Siege: In Defense of Juhayman, a collection of internet reports on the siege and excerpts of Juhayman's letters. Juhayman is considered to have provided more inspiration to the the modern jihadist movement than Osama bin Laden who left virtually no religious writings behind.
  15. Peterson, J.E. “Saudi Arabia: Internal Security Incidents Since 1979.” Arabian Peninsula Background Note, No. APBN-003. Published on, January 2004; updated 31 December 2007.
  16. Maqdisi's Community of Abraham is a further expansion of Juhayman's Clarification Concerning the Community of the One God Designated as Guide of the People; Awakening Islam, Stephane Lacroix & George Holoch, Harvard University Press, Aug 15, 2011, Page 101.
  18. US Saudi Arabia Diplomatic and Political Cooperation Handbook, USA International Business Publications, 2007, p. 178.
  19. The Muslim World League convened a conference in Mecca in October 1987 condemning Iran for the violence: Iran’s government--a government “accustomed to terrorism and a thirst for Muslim blood”--“solely bears the responsibility for the outrage in God’s holy mosque.” The conference endorsed the measures taken by the Saudi authorities “to quell the sedition and to contain the fires of wickedness.” Kramer, Khomeini’s Messengers.
  22. "Iran convened an “International Congress on Safeguarding the Sanctity and Security of the Great Mosque,” under the auspices of the ministry of Islamic guidance and the foreign ministry. Rafsanjani, in addressing the three hundred participants from 36 countries, called for the “liberation” of Mecca and the establishment of an “Islamic International” which would govern Mecca as a free city." Kramer, Khomeini’s Messengers.
  24. Political Islam, Edited by Fredric Volpi, Routledge, p. 5-6 pdf, et seqq.
  26. Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 2015 (2 February 2015).
  27. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi awarded Sakharov human rights prize (29 October 2015).
  28. "Sacrilegious Saudi writer arrested in Malaysia", Emirates 24/7, 2012-02-09. Retrieved on 2017-05-07. Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. 

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