The Gulf War:
Overreaction & Excessiveness
By Hassan A El-Najjar
Amazone Press, 2001
The Root of Subsequent US Invasion of the Middle East
America was dragged into conflict
with the Arab and Muslim worlds
SAUDI BIG BROTHER
the 1990/1991 Crisis, Saudi Arabia played the role of a big brother
towards Kuwaitis by providing them with refuge, protection, and
support. The Saudi position was not surprising as both Saudi and
Kuwaiti ruling dynasties have a history of mutual support. This was
facilitated by the fact that both of them have several common
characteristics. First, they descend from the same Nejdi Anaiza tribal
origin. Second, they established their rule, at the beginning of the
20th century, as allies to Britain against the Ottoman government
before and during World War I. Third, they have enjoyed access to huge
amounts of money from oil revenues. Finally, They have faced serious
similar internal and external challenges to their existence because of
their wealth and their rule. These common characteristics and concerns
will be investigated in order to show the background of the
cooperation between the two ruling families.
The chapter starts with a historical
background about the relationship between Al-Sabah and Al-Saud
dynasties, with an emphasis on Wahabism. This fundamentalist movement
played a major role in the establishment and the spread of the first
as well as the modern Saudi states. As a result, it has influenced the
relationship between the two royal families. While the 1927-1930
Ikhwan revolt posed a threat to both families, the 1979 Makkah revolt
represented a revival of fundamentalism, not only in Saudi Arabia but
also in neighboring countries. The chapter also investigates the
demographic challenge as another similarity between the two
governments, particularly how they have addressed the problem of the
increasing foreign workforce. Opposition to absolute monarchy and
attempts to introduce some reforms to the way the Saudi royal family
rules the country are also investigated. Finally, the chapter ends
with an analysis of the Saudi foreign policy during the second half of
the 20th century. The objective is to show how Saudi Arabia
came to take the position it took following the Iraqi invasion of
While Al-Sabah shaikhs were loyal subjects of the Ottoman government in the 18th and the 19th centuries, Al-Saud Amirs were considered rebels by the Ottoman Sultan. This cost Saudis their rule over Nejd, twice: first when their territory was conquered by the Egyptians in 1818, second when the Rashidites became the rulers of Riyadh, in 1891. Thus, while Al-Sabah family was pro-Ottoman, Saudis were not. As a result, Kuwait endured successive attacks from the Nejdi tribes, which were loyal to Al-Saud in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. More important, these attacks were carried out with the religious enthusiasm that the tribal fighters expressed as members of the Wahabi movement.
Wahabism started to spread in Arabia
by mid-18th century as a result of the teachings of an Islamic
scholar, a shaikh,
called Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahab (1703-1792). He was appalled to see
people ignorant of the teachings of their religion. Therefore, his
major effort was to educate them about the essence of Islam as
revealed in the Holy Qur=an,
Koran, and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammed. In particular, he
emphasized going back to the simplicity of the Islamic teachings. This
meant that daily practices should be in harmony with faith. He adopted
Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal's methodology concerning Hadith,
and was most influenced by the 14th century Hanbalite scholar, Ibn
Taymiyah. Thus, he insisted on observing only the Hadith agreed upon
by the Four Imams.
While outsiders called followers of the Shaikh as Wahabis, they
referred to themselves as Muwahidoon, Unitarians.
The movement reached a turning point
when Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahab arrived at Dir'iyeh, in Riyadh today, in
1744. The Saudi Amir, Muhammed Bin Saud (1725-1765), realized that he
would benefit from hosting the Shaikh and his movement. Although Al-Saud
belonged to the Anaiza tribe, it represented a small and less powerful
lineage of that tribe. Therefore, by holding an alliance with the
Shaikh and his followers, the Saudi family would gain the ideological
appeal that it needed to strengthen and extend its rule. For the
Shaikh, the deal was also useful. He needed a protector and a secular
apparatus that may assist in spreading his ideas. Before his death,
Muhammed Bin Saud became an Imam,
combining the two top positions of the religious and secular head of
state, at the same time. The Shaikh became his mentor, religious
advisor, and teacher of the movement.
Wahabi devoted followers known as
Ikhwan (brothers) expanded the movement in membership and territory.
They conquered Al-Hassa by defeating Benu Khaled between 1792 and
1795. They attacked Kuwait in 1794 and 1796 in order to annex it to
the realm of Al-Saud in Nejd and Al-Hassa. As a response to these
attacks, Shaikh Abdullah I, who ruled between 1762 and 1812, built a
wall around Kuwait, for
just like what other towns in Nejd and Al-Hassa did at that time.
Kuwait was rescued from the Ikhwan raids by that wall, a big cannon,
assistance from a small group of Indian soldiers who were guarding the
British trade center, and a British military ship in the Bay of
Wahabi teachings were used to serve
purposes of the Saudi state. People in rival territories were accused
of not observing the essence of Islam. Therefore, they were considered
as kuffar, infidels, whose blood and property were prizes for the true
believers, the Ikhwan. There had to be a physical separation between
the true believers and the infidels. Therefore, the Ikhwan left their
original territories and migrated to new settlements, hijrat, to
prepare themselves to attack the kuffar. This was how the Nejdi
fighters were persuaded to attack even residents of the holy places of
Makkah, Medina, and Karbala, at the beginning of the 19th century.
Moreover, they denied Egyptian and Syrian pilgrims access to the holy
sites, citing purely religious reasons. They contended that the
processions that entered the holy places from these regions were not
These actions were perceived by the
Ottoman Sultan, Mahmood II, as a challenge to his guardianship of the
Islamic holy sites. Therefore, he instructed Muhammed Ali, ruler of
Egypt, to crush the Wahabi movement and its Saudi state. Muhammed Ali
sent the first Egyptian military campaign, headed by his son Tuson, to
Arabia in 1810. Then he went by himself to assess the situation. When
he came back to Egypt, he sent another campaign led by his eldest son,
Ibrahim, who was more successful than his younger brother. By 1818,
the Egyptians occupied and destroyed Al- Dir'iyeh, the Saudi capital,
but the Wahabi-Saudi resistance did not stop. In 1824, Turki Bin
Abdullah restored the Saudi rule over the area. In response, a third
Egyptian military campaign, led again by Ibrahim Pasha, was launched
against the Ikhwan, in 1836. The Egyptian forces entered Riyadh in
1837 and arrested the Imam, Faisal Bin Turki. They sent him to prison
in Egypt and appointed Khaled Bin Saud as an Imam instead of him.
However, Saudis did not accept that Egyptian domination and revolted
again during the rule of Abdullah Bin Thunaiyan (1841-43). To calm
people down, the Egyptian government released Faisal Bin Turki from
his prison in Cairo and allowed him to replace Bin Thunaiyan, as he
became a pro-Egyptian Imam. Saudis regained their independence after
the Egyptians had withdrawn from Arabia, following the 1840 London
However, they lost their control over Al-Hassa region when the
governor of Baghdad, Midhat Pasha, brought it under his direct
control, in 1871. As a
the Saudi Amir, Abdullah Bin Faisal, was appointed as a qaim maqam
(deputy governor for that territory). Thus, Al- Hassa became related
administratively to the governorate of Baghdad, as Kuwait was related
to the governorate of Basra.
The Egyptian and Iraqi military
campaigns against the Ikhwan fighters relieved Kuwait from their
attacks. By the 1860s, Kuwait even served as the main port through
which Nejd exported several products to India, such as horses, sheep,
and wool and imported rice and clothes.
However, a major consequence of these campaigns was weakening Saudi
control over the Arabian Peninsula. This gave Britain the golden
opportunity it was looking for to extend its control over the coasts
of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. In 1819, the British launched a
military campaign against Ras Al-Khaimah. The ruler, Shaikh Hassan Bin
Rahmeh Al-Qasimi, was forced to accept the British occupation, which
they described as "protection," in 1920. By 1841, all other
shaikhs of the Gulf coast had to accept the British protection, too.
Without Saudi support, they found themselves helpless in resisting the
British control of the region.
By the end of the 19th century,
Saudis lost their rule altogether. In 1887, the Rashidites (Al-Rashid
family and its followers) captured Riyadh and took the Saudi Amir,
Abdullah Bin Faisal, as a hostage in their capital, Hayil. When he
died in 1889, his brother Abdul Rahman became the nominal Amir.
However, he was forced out of Riyadh by its Rahsidite governor, Salem
Al-Sabhan, in 1891. Abdul Rahman and his family headed first towards
Bahrain. Then, they left to Kuwait which they reached in 1893. There,
they were well-treated by Shaikh Muhammed Al-Sabah and the Ottoman
government which provided them with a monthly salary of 60 golden
During his stay in Kuwait, the young
Abdul Aziz Bin (son of) Abdul Rahman was an admirer of Mubarak Al-Sabah,
who had become the Shaikh of Kuwait after killing his brothers, in
1896. He attended his daily majlis, audience, and developed a strong
relationship with him. Abdul Aziz used to address Mubarak as
"Father," and Mubarak used to address him as
"son." In 1900, Mubarak had to face the alliance assembled
against him by Yusuf Al-Ibrahim, which also included the traditional
enemy of Saudis, Muhammed Al-Rashid. He decided to strike first by
attacking the Rashidite forces at Sarif. However, he was defeated and
two members of Al-Sabah family, Hamud and his son Sabah, were killed
in that battle. At the same time, Abdul Aziz Al- Saud marched on
Riyadh to restore it from the Rashidites. When he heard of Mubarak's
defeat at Sarif, he ended his siege of Riyadh and returned to Kuwait.
Modern Saudi State
In 1901, Abdul Aziz requested Mubarak's support for his second
but successful campaign to restore Riyadh. Mubarak agreed and gave him
thirty camels, thirty guns with their ammunition, and two hundred
golden riyals. When Abdul Aziz reached the outskirts of Riyadh, he was
accompanied by forty of his loyal followers. He entered the city with
only twenty-three of them while the rest stayed in the palm-tree
gardens outside Riyadh.
Abdul Aziz achieved his goal by killing the Rashidite governor, Ajlan.
The story is so interestingly related that it deserves to be
Ajlan had a wife whose house was
about fifty yards away from the fort, across an open square. He
visited her for half an hour or so after dawn prayers everyday. She
was a relative of Abdul Aziz and was willing to cooperate with him.
Abdul Aziz and his men entered her house by way of the roof. They
reassured inhabitants of the house, the guards and servants, that
nothing would happen to them if they remained silent until the dawn.
Following his custom, Governor Ajlan
emerged from the fort. Abdul Aziz awaited until he was half-way across
the open square, then rushed out with his twenty-three men. Instead of
standing to fight, Ajlan fled back to the fort shouting that the
wicket gate be opened. The small wicket gate, which was only two feet
high and two and a half feet from the ground, was opened. This allowed
both Ajlan and his pursuers to enter. Abdul Aziz=s
cousin, Abdullah Bin Jelawi, caught Ajlan by the leg, brought him down
just inside the gate and killed him. Abdul Aziz, following immediately
behind, struck off Ajlan's head with his sword and threw it down over
the fort wall shouting: "Who is on my side-who? Your own Amir is
back again among you!" With
the gate held, Abdul Aziz called upon the fort garrison to surrender.
They did and were soon followed by the inhabitants of Riyadh.
Abdul Aziz sent the good news to his
father, Abdul Rahman, in Kuwait, who came back to Riyadh and conceded
to his son. Thus, Abdul Aziz became the new Saudi Amir and his rule
was strengthened when his rival, Abdul Aziz Al-Rashid, Amir of Hayil
and Jabal Shammer, was accidentally killed in 1906, and succeeded by
his son Mit'ib.
However, between 1903 and 1906, Abdul Aziz continued his attacks
against his rivals, the Rashidites, and succeeded in weakening their
rule in Nejd.
Mubarak Al-Sabah began to realize
that Abdul Aziz had started to change the balance of power in Arabia.
In order to minimize his potential threat, Mubarak decided to improve
his relations with the other Nejdi tribes. Thus, in 1905, he
reconciled with Abdul Aziz Al-Rashid promising him that Kuwait would
be neutral towards his conflict with Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. Their
relationship became even stronger after the death of Yusuf Al-Ibrahim,
in 1906. This resulted in the development of distrust between rulers
of Kuwait and rulers Nejd. Mubarak became angry when Abdul Aziz
demanded sale taxes on Nejdi business transactions in Kuwait. By turn,
Abdul Aziz became angry when he knew that Mubarak sent letters to
Saudis and Rashidites, at the same time, encouraging them to fight
each other. However, this distrust never led to any Saudi hostilities
towards Kuwait, in Mubarak's lifetime.
Abdul Aziz continued his victories.
In 1913, he attacked the Ottoman garrison in Al-Hufuf, the capital of
Al-Hassa, which surrendered and left to Basrah. Thus, Al-Hassa was
annexed to Nejd, which expanded the Saudi realm to the borders of
Kuwait. The Rashidites tried to restore Riyadh and met with the Saudis
at Jurab, on January 26, 1915. The Saudis were defeated and Captain
William Shakespeare, the British Political Agent in Kuwait, was killed
in the battle while he was trying to help them use a cannon. As a
result of the Jurab defeat, Abdul Aziz felt that he needed more
serious assistance from the British. Therefore, he met with the
British Political Resident in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, Sir Percy
Cox, at Al-Uqair in November 1915 to sign a British-Saudi alliance
agreement on December 26, 1915. According to the agreement, Abdul Aziz
agreed neither to attack Britain's allies nor help its enemies.
He also agreed not to give any concessions in his territory to any
foreign power without approval from the British government. In return,
Britain recognized him as Sultan of Nejd, Al-Hassa, Al-Qatif, Jubail,
and their territories. Britain also agreed to pay him 5,000 pounds of
gold monthly, and to provide him with weapons and ammunition.
In a way, this was similar to the 1899 British Protection Agreement
with Mubarak Al-Sabah. Thus, by becoming an ally of Britain,
officially, Abdul Aziz had to maintain friendly relations with Mubarak,
too. This may explain why relations between them did not deteriorate
to open hostilities even when Mubarak gave asylum to the Ajmans,
enemies of Abdul Aziz.
Following his defeat at Jurab in
1915, Abdul Aziz Al- Saud decided to punish the Ajman tribe, which
caused the defeat by quitting the battle without a fight. He asked for
Mubarak's assistance against them. Mubarak agreed and sent him his two
sons, Jaber and Salem, with a large Kuwaiti force. The Ajmans were
defeated in the battle of Ridha, near Qatif. However, Mubarak gave
them an asylum in Kuwait, in observance of his policy of balancing his
relations with the various Nejdi tribes. This displeased Abdul Aziz
but he did nothing against Mubarak due to his agreement with Britain
not to attack its allies and due to Mubarak's major role in restoring
the rule of Al-Saud in Riyadh. When Mubarak died shortly after that,
in December 1915, his eldest son Jaber succeeded him for less than two
years. Mubarak's younger son, Salem, became the Shaikh of Kuwait after
the death of Jaber, in 1917. Both of them continued the same policies
of their father in maintaining balanced relations with the Saudis and
Salem was different from his father and brother in his support
for the Ottoman government and its Rashidite allies. He helped supply
Ottoman troops in Syria with weapons, during World War I. This angered
Britain, which imposed a sea blockade on Kuwait until the end of the
war. Abdul Aziz did not like Salem because of his support for enemies
of the Saudis: the Ottomans, the Rashidites, and the Ajmans. Salem
sensed the Saudi hostile attitude and feared that Abdul Aziz was
planning to invade Kuwait. Soon, his fears turned to be true. A
dispute over a small border oasis, called Dauhat Al- Bulbul, led to
the start of hostilities between the two parties, in 1920. Faisal Al-Duwaish,
the leader of the Saudi Mutair Ikhwan warriors defeated the Kuwaiti
army, which was led by Shaikh Du'aij Al-Sabah. Soon, Shaikh Salem
ordered building a defensive wall around Kuwait, just like what Shaikh
Abdullah I did in the last decade of the 18th century. The wall was
completed in two months. When Abdul Aziz knew about it, he claimed
that Al-Sabah's jurisdiction was limited to the walls around Kuwait.
Invoking the protection agreement of 1899, Shaikh Salem requested
intervention from the British but these were reluctant to help him
because of his previous pro-Ottoman policies. Instead, they insisted
on that their mediation be accepted in advance by both parties. Abdul
Aziz did not wait for the British mediation to start. His military
commander, Faisal Al-Duwaish, attacked the Kuwaiti village of Al-Jahra
on October 10, 1920. The Ikhwan warriors captured the village but not
the fort where Shaikh Salem was leading his troops by himself. The
Saudi siege of the fort was weakened by an attack from a Kuwaiti
force, which came from Kuwait City. This forced the Ikhwan warriors to
withdraw to Al-Subaiha taking with them the booty they captured from
the village. There, they were attacked by the British planes, which
forced them to withdraw completely from the Kuwaiti territory. The
Saudi forces suffered heavy casualties of about eight hundred during
the battle and about five hundred more after that. While the battle of
Al-Jahra was a victory for Kuwaitis, it led to imposing the Nejdi
embargo against Kuwait, which lasted from 1920 to 1937. Moreover,
border disputes continued until the death of Shaikh Salem on Februry
27, 1921. The new shaikh, Ahmed Al-Jaber, had friendly relations with
Abdul Aziz, which contributed to ending border hostilities through the
British mediation in Al-Uqair Conference, in 1922.
The Uqair Conference represented the
climax of bitterness and hostility between Al-Saud and Al-Sabah ruling
families. The conference aimed at ending border disputes between Nejd,
Kuwait, and Iraq. It started on November 28, 1922 and continued for
five days. The British Political Resident in the Arabian (Persian)
Gulf, Sir Percy Cox, was the chairman and mediator. Nejd was
represented by Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Iraq was represented by the
Minister of Communications and Works, Sabih Beg, and Kuwait was
represented by the British Political Resident in Kuwait, J.C. Moore.
When Nejd and Iraq could not agree on
settling their border disputes, Sir Percy Cox imposed a settlement on
both sides. This resulted in giving Iraq a large Nejdi area. Abdul
Aziz was so upset that the British mediator appeased him by giving
Nejd about two-thirds of the Kuwaiti territory. Basically, the British
wanted to stop Saudi raids against both Kuwait and Iraq, which were
launched by the Ikhwan warriors.
When Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber received
the sad news, he was devastated. He asked Sir Percy Cox about the
reasons of what he did. The British mediator told him that Abdul Aziz
was going to take the territory by the sword if he did not take it by
the pen. The Shaikh felt betrayed by Britain and asked for assurances
that Saudis would not demand more Kuwaiti lands. The Uqair agreement
led to an end of the Ikhwan attacks on Kuwait and no more Kuwaiti
territories were annexed to Nejd.
The Ikhwan attacks were resumed during their rebellion against
Abdul Aziz Al-Saud between 1927 and 1930. Faisal Al- Duwaish, the
leader of the rebels, started attacking Kuwait and pressuring Shaikh
Ahmed Al-Jaber to open his port for the trade of the revolting tribes.
With help from the British air and naval forces, Kuwait resisted the
Ikhwan attacks. In 1929, Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber agreed to allow the
rebels to use the Kuwaiti port, which angered Abdul Aziz. However, he
restored friendly relations with Kuwait and Iraq after defeating the
Ikhwan, in 1930. As a result, Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber visited Riyadh, in
1934, and requested from Abdul Aziz to lift the Saudi trade embargo
that was imposed on Kuwait. Negotiations were resumed and concluded to
the satisfaction of the Kuwaitis when Abdul Aziz visited Kuwait in
1936. The embargo was actually lifted in 1937, which helped the
Kuwaiti economy, particularly after the decline of pearl diving as a
result of the Japanese competition.
The Ikhwan movement, which swept
across Arabia between 1913 and 1930, was a revival of the first Wahabi
movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The new movement
started by Shaikh Abdul Karim Al-Maghrabi, who was an Islamic shcolar
and advisor to Faleh Pasha Al-Sadun, Shaikh of the Muntafic tribal
confedaration in southern Iraq. Shaikh Maghrabi then moved to
Irtawiyeh in Nejd, which was the center of the first Wahabi movement.
Two main religious leaders who contributed to the revival were Shaikh
Abdullah Bin Abdul Latif Bin Abdul Wahab, the grandson of the founder
of Wahabism and the judge of Riyadh, and Shaikh Issa, the judge of Al-Hassa.
The Ikhwan movement took a public shape following the 1913 successful
attack on Al-Hufuf. Abdul Aziz Al-Saud led about 1500 of the Muslim
Brothers (Ikhwan) in his attack on the Ottoman garrison of 1000
troops, there. The Ottoman garrison surrendered and Abdul Aziz brought
Al-Hassa under his rule. This helped the British military effort and
contributed to the Ottoman defeat in Arabia, during World War I.
In 1916, the Ikhwan movement expanded
in a large scale when Abdul Aziz issued an order that required all
tribes to join the movement and pay him the zakat
as their recognized Imam, religious leader. If they failed to obey
they would be attacked. Shaikhs (chiefs) of tribes were kept in Riyadh
to be taught the essence of their religion. At the same time, a group
of the Ikhwan leaders, such as Faisal Al-Duwaish, were sent to these
tribes to teach them the true Islam. In addition to expanding and
strengthening his rule, Abdul Aziz aimed at stopping the tribal Nejdi
attacks against Iraqi and Hijazi territories, which were in alliance
However, the attacks were resumed, in
1917, as a result of a secret mission to Nejd by John Philby, who was
a representative of the British-Indian Political Department. Philby
persuaded Abdul Aziz Al-Saud to resume hostilities against the
Rashidites, the Ottoman allies. Abdul Aziz agreed and marched to Jabal
Shammer, in 1918, but he failed to capture Hayil, the capital. In
1919, as a reward for his support for the allied war efforts, he was
given a British monthly subsidy of 75,000 rupees. Britain also agreed
to leave the door open concerning his claims of some of the Kuwaiti
The most prominent Ikhwan leaders
were Faisal Al-Duwaish, chief of the Mutair tribe; Sultan Bin Bijad,
chief of the Ghat Ghat Utaiba tribe; and Dhidan Bin Hithlin, chief of
the Ajman tribe. The three leaders revolted against Abdul Aziz after a
conference they had held in Irtawiyeh, in 1926, to protest his
policies and practices. During the conference, they criticized him for
his close ties with the British, for becoming a king (which they
described as un-Islamic), and for sending his son Faisal to study in
Britain. They also pointed to his luxurious lifestyle, including
living in palaces, taking concubines and marrying many women in every
region in the country (Appendix 2.A). They criticized him for
collecting more taxes than Al-Rashid of Hail or the Sherif of Hijaz.
Finally, they objected to the embargo that was imposed on Kuwait
because it hurt the trade of their tribes.
In addition to criticizing his
policies and practices, the Ikhwan leaders realized that Abdul Aziz
had used them to establish his rule in Arabia. Once he had achieved
that goal, he had no use for them. In particular, they were bitter
because they were not rewarded for what they had accomplished for to
him. Following their conquest of Hijaz (the western region of Saudi
Arabia today), in 1924 and 1925, the Ikhwan leaders Faisal Al-Duwaish
and Sultan Bin Bijad expected to become the rulers of Makkah and
Medina, respectively. Instead, Abdul Aziz gave the two positions to
members of his family. Further, the Ikhwan leaders disagreed with him
on the way Jeddah was conquered. They wanted to enter the city by
force, not by negotiations as he did, because this would allow them to
loot it. They also wanted him to burn all the tobacco in the city and
to ban its use. However, he listened to the City merchants who
convinced him that he would benefit more by collecting taxes on
tobacco. When he agreed with the merchants, the Ikhwan leaders became
angry. The third Ikhwan leader, Dhidan Bin Hithlin, was even more
bitter because he was prevented from the fighting in Hijaz altogether
which deprived him of looting the region's main cities. For all of
these reasons, the Ikhwan leaders decided that they would no longer
obey Abdul Aziz as their own Imam.
In January 1927, Abdul Aziz responded
by holding his own conference to defend himself. Al-Duwaish and Bin
Hithlin attended but Bin Bijad did not. The Wahabi religious scholars,
ulema, supported Abdul Aziz against his opponents. The conference
failed and the Ikhwan leaders declared their revolt. Their first
attack was in October 1927, on the Saudi post on the border with Iraq.
Other raids and attacks followed on Iraqi, Jordanian, and Kuwaiti
tribes. In response, Abdul Aziz held another conference in which the
religious scholars gave him a permission to crush the revolt. On March
30, 1929, he led 40,000 of his troops against 4,000 of the Ikhwan in
Sabaleh. The battle lasted about 30 minutes ending in a victory for
Abdul Aziz, particularly because of the twelve machine guns he had.
Dhidan Bin Hithlin was killed, Sultan Bin Bijad was captured and died
in prison, and Faisal Al-Duwaish was wounded but managed to escape.
Naif Bin Hithlin led the Ajmans and continued the revolt together with
Al-Duwaish, the Mutair leader. However, Abdul Aziz had the upper hand
as he was supported by the British who supplied him with weapons,
ammunition, and money. Moreover, the British troops on the Iraqi,
Kuwaiti, and Jordanian borders denied the rebels any chance to seek
refuge there and the British planes bombed them. As a result, the
Ikhwan leaders finally surrendered to the British Political Resident
in Kuwait, Dickson, on January 9, 1930. Ten days later, the British
handed them over to Abdul Aziz who put them in prison where they died.
Although border disputes between
Kuwait and Nejd were settled to the satisfaction of the Saudis in the
Uqair Conference, Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber wanted assurances that Abdul
Aziz had no more claims of the Kuwaiti territory. His suspicions
concerning Saudi territorial claims continued until 1947, when Abdul
Aziz agreed to sign a defense agreement with him, which was really
more assurance against further Saudi claims than a treaty against a
third party. However, Saudi Arabia defended Kuwait and contributed to
its protection and independence during the third Iraqi attempt to
restore Kuwait in 1961.
Saudis have known about these Kuwaiti
fears. Therefore, the Saudi commander, Khaled Bin Sultan, was careful
not to arouse any of these fears at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. This
was reflected in the way he arranged the Arab troops that entered
Kuwait. He avoided sending Saudi troops to station in disputed areas
on the borders between the two countries. Thus, Saudi forces did not
enter al-Jahrah, which was the site of a Kuwaiti-Saudi battle, in
1920. Moreover, Saudi naval vessels did not approach some small
islands, the ownership of which was still not agreed upon between
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
However, Bin Sultan was bitter
concerning the hasty decision that Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmed made as soon
as the coalition troops entered Kuwait. He declared a state of
emergency and appointed the Crown Prince, Shaikh Sa=ad
Al-Abdallah, as the military governor of the country. Thus doing, he
superseded and neutralized the coalition command, which allowed an
anarchic situation to exist. Bin Sultan did not explain his bitterness
further, but it was clear that he was referring to the atrocities of
the Kuwaiti militias against Palestinians and other non-Kuwaitis after
the war (Chapter X).
Like Kuwaitis, Saudis have their own demographic problem. They need a continuous supply of foreign workers but they do not want to admit that these are needed permanently. In other words, they do not want to deal with them as immigrants with permanent rights.
In 1963, there were about 5.1 million
people in Saudi Arabia. In 1974, the population increased to about
seven million people. Saudis were about 4.5 million constituting about
65 percent of the population. Non-Saudis were about 2.5 million people
constituting about 35 percent of the population. In 1982, Saudis
increased to about seven millions constituting about 72 percent of the
population. Non-Saudis also increased to reach about 2.7 millions,
constituting about 28 percent of the population. In 1989, the
population was estimated at about 13.5 million inhabitants with an
increase of non-Saudis.
Thus, during the last three decades of the 20th century,
the trend has been a continuous increase of non-Saudis in the
population. This trend has reflected the continuous need for foreign
workers in the country, who reached about half a million, in 1975,
constituting about 28 percent of the total workforce. However, they
more than doubled in five years reaching more than a million and
constituting about 43 percent of the total workforce, in 1980. They
almost stayed on the same level constituting about 41 percent of the
total workforce, in 1985. But they have increased dramatically to
reach about 66 percent, in 1998 (Table 2.1).
Most of these workers were Muslim
Arabs until the 1980s when they began to be replaced by Asians. While
Arab workers, particularly Lebanese and Palestinians, were feared for
their political activities and attitudes, Asian workers posed no
political hazards. Thus, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans,
Koreans, Thias, and Filipinos gradually replaced Arabs.
Thus, foreign skilled workers, Arabs and non-Arabs, run Saudi
hospitals, airports, and universities. Other workers dig ditches, work
in construction, sweep streets, work in farms, drive trucks, clean
houses, and care for children at homes. In brief, they do the
difficult and menial works that Saudis do not do, with the least
possible wages. However, these foreign workers and their children who
are born in Saudi Arabia cannot obtain a permanent-resident status,
apply for citizenship, or even own property. They can be deported by
their sponsors for any reason irrelevant of how many years they have
spent in the country.
The government is actually serious about keeping the distance between
citizens and immigrants (the expatriate workforce). The Interior
Ministry even issued a directive preventing Saudis from marrying
non-Saudis without permission, whether at home or abroad.
Saudi men can marry women from the Gulf states without permission.
Outside the Gulf states, they need a permission. For Saudi women, they
need a permission to marry any non-Saudis at home or abroad.
Saudi Arabia, like other
oil-producing Arab states, considers demographic data of strategic
importance. In some cases like Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab
Emirates, citizens represent a minority in the country. But in all
cases, the governments do not want to deal with the issue of the
relationship between citizens and non-citizens in these countries.
The way Saudis have dealt with their
demographic problem is very similar to that of Kuwaitis. They got rid
of the largest group of non-citizens in the country, the Yemenis,
using the same justification Kuwaitis used to get rid of the
Palestinians. About one million Yemenis were asked to leave Saudi
Arabia because their government did not vote against Iraq in the Arab
League and the United Nations, during the 1990 crisis. These Yemenis
lived in the country for decades and many of them were born there. Had
there been a policy of naturalization, most of them would qualify for
citizenship and their loyalty to the country would not be questioned.
Like Palestinians and the Bedoons of Kuwait, Yeminis of Saudi Arabia
were victims of the Gulf crisis and the Gulf War and their cause has
been ignored so far.
and the Absolute Rule
Saudi Arabia has twenty-five percent of the world's proven oil
reserves. These reserves amount to about 160 billion barrels of oil,
which exceeds the proven reserves of the United States, the states of
the previous Soviet Union, Mexico, and Venezuela combined.
This makes Saudis among the wealthiest nations on earth, now and in
the foreseeable future. However, the oil boom is a very recent
development. It started as a result of the surge in oil prices that
followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973/74. Another increase in oil
prices resulted from the Iran-Iraq war, in the 1980s. A third increase
started to happen in 1999 and continued in 2000 as a result of
oil production quotas, which brought prices to more than $25 per
Oil revenues rose from $56.7 million
in 1950 to $333.7 million in 1960. The daily production was 1.4
million barrels sold for $2 a barrel to the oil companies. In 1970,
oil revenues reached $1.2 billion. On October 16, 1973, King Faisal
led an Arab oil embargo against the countries that supported Israel,
during the War, as he had promised President Sadat.
The embargo continued for about five months and contributed to a sharp
rise in oil prices. By the end of 1974, oil prices reached $11.65 per
barrel, which gave Saudi Arabia about $22.5 billion worth of oil
revenues that year.
During the same year, 1974, Saudi Arabia took over the country=s
main oil-producing company, Aramco, thus increasing its revenues in
the following years.
In 1979, oil revenues reached about
$57.5 billion. In September 1980,
the war broke out between Iran and Iraq. As a result, Saudi Arabia
increased its oil production to 9.6 million barrels a day to cover for
the lost Iranian and Iraqi oil. In October 1981, oil prices reached
$34 per barrel, which gave Saudi Arabia more than $113.2 billion of
revenues that year. However, due to a decrease in the demand for oil
in 1983, Saudi Arabia reduced its oil production to about 4 million
barrels a day. Oil prices also declined to about $29 per barrel. In
1987, Saudi annual oil revenues declined to about $20 billion. In
1990, the year Iraq invaded Kuwait, Saudi oil revenues increased to
about $37 billion. Thus, in less than three decades (1970-1996), Saudi
Arabia received more than $920 billion in oil revenues (Table I.1).
The sudden oil wealth has a
tremendous impact on governments and citizens of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,
and other Arab oil-exporting states. It has made them materially
better off than citizens of other Arab states. As a result, they have
started to perceive themselves as different and begun to emphasize
their own "Gulfer" identity. They have followed a common
strategy of keeping immigrants away from having a direct access to the
oil wealth. They have achieved that by denying immigrants the right
for citizenship or the status of permanent residence even if they were
born in the Gulf states to Arab and Muslim parents. This has created a
material barrier between Gulfers and non-Gulfer residents. The barrier
still grows with the growth of foreign workers in these states.
Although oil wealth has not created the Saudi system of
absolute monarchy, it has strengthened it. In order for the Saudi
ruling family to maintain its unrestricted access to the country’s
oil wealth, it has denied political rights to the population. Saudi
Arabia had no written constitution and the government is not elected
at any level. Thus, the Bush administration could not claim that it
went to war to defend democracy in Arabia. However, after the war,
some reforms were introduced. In March 1992, King Fahd issued a series
of royal decrees that laid the bases for some political participation
in the government. These decrees increased powers of the provincial
governments and provided for a 60-member Consultative Council (CC)
whose members are appointed by the King.
More than a decade earlier, in March 1980, a committee was formed and
headed by Prince Naif to write a constitution, suggest how to
establish a consultative council, and how to reform the system of
local governments. Apparently, the 1992 decrees came in the aftermath
of the Gulf War and in response to the 1980 suggestions, which also
represented earlier demands by Prince Talal and his supporters. The CC
started to hold sessions in 1993, then it was expanded to 90 members,
in 1997. However, the power of the Council is limited to debating
minor issues as directed by the King. It reaches views, not decisions
or laws, which may or may not be used by the Government.
In addition to the Consultative Council, the King consults with four
main groups: the Council of Islamic Scholars (ulema), the Council of
Princes, the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), and the King's inner
circle of the most influential princes. These include Abdullah, the
Crown Prince; Sultan, Minister of Defense and Aviation; Naif, Minister
of Interior, Intelligence, and border guard; Salman, Governor of
Riyadh; Mit'ib; Muhammed, the eldest living son of Abdul Aziz, and
Fahd's other two full-brothers, Abdul Rahman and Ahmed.
In the absence of a constitution,
succession has become a major problem that threatens the stability of
the rule of royal families in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia. Before
his death in 1953, King Abdul Aziz made sure that there would be no
problem for his eldest son, Saud, to become the King. However, the
problem emerged during Saud's rule. His performance did not please the
influential and ambitious members of the royal family. Therefore, they
deposed him and elected his brother, Faisal, as the third King of
Saudi Arabia. When Faisal was assassinated in 1975,
Khaled was elected as the fourth King on basis of seniority. When he
died in 1982, Prince Muhammed decided to reform the succession
procedure. He announced that Fahd and Abdullah would be the King and
the Crown Prince, respectively. As the eldest living son of Abdul Aziz,
Muhammed forfeited his right for succession emphasizing that age and
would no longer be the major criteria for succession. Instead, Princes
with support from the religious scholars will elect the king on basis
of personal merits. The new tradition will be put to test when
Abdallah becomes the sixth king. So far, only sons of Abdul Aziz have
been expected to become kings until the last one of them establishes a
new dynasty among his sons. Thus, King Fahd is expected to be
succeeded by the Crown Prince, Abdullah who will be succeeded by
Prince Sultan then Prince Naif, and so on.
As an absolute monarch, the king is
expected to perform three different roles simultaneously. First, he is
the country's religious leader. Abdul Aziz declared himself an Imam
and Fahd changed his official title to "the custodian of the two
holy sanctuaries" (of Makkah and Medina). Second, the king
performs the role of the traditional tribal chief. He is expected to
take care of the interests of his subjects who expect to have free
access to him in his meeting place, the majlis. He is expected to
listen to their grievances and solve their problems directly without
allowing intermediaries. Finally, the king is the secular head of
state. As a result, he has the responsibility of leading the country
in all aspects of life as a modern society that competes in a global
Here, he is the prime minister (head of the executive branch of the
government). But he rules by decrees (in absence of a parliament), and
he influences the judicial system through his ability to appoint and
dismiss judges. As a result, the three branches of the government are
not clearly separated.
In addition to the king, members of
the royal family function as patrons to Saudi citizens. Most Saudis
are connected to a prince or a princess, directly or indirectly
through tribal, family, or work ties. These ties allow citizens to
enjoy the benefits of being close to the rulers. They can receive a
better treatment from the government bureaucracy, an easier entry to
health and educational facilities, and even receive emergency cash to
pay the heavy costs of wedding parties. Some categories of citizens
have more privileges than the rest. While the military are given high
salaries and many benefits, merchants enjoy profits without paying
high taxes. However, citizens generally receive interest-free loans.
Just like in the case of Kuwait,
these benefits are restricted to Saudi citizens many of whom have
become like an aristocratic minority in comparison with the majority
poor foreign working class. Saudi citizenship is limited to those born
to a Saudi father. Also like in the case of Kuwaiti women, when a
Saudi woman is married to a non-Saudi, her children do not acquire the
Saudi citizenship. The objective is limiting access to the oil wealth
and restricting it to as less people as possible. By 1980, the Saudi
per capita income from employment was $2,500 a month, in addition to
about 29 percent of this income in form of subsidized government
services. Between 1975 and 1983, the government subsidies for citizens
amounted to $3.3 billion worth of food, $1.9 billion of reduced
electricity bills, and $31.6 billion of interest-free loans for
personal or business use. Any Saudi citizen had the right for a
twenty-five-year interest-free and fee-free real estate development
loan. There was a two-year grace period between completion of the
building and the first payment. In addition to that, if the borrower
repays on time, he/she is entitled to a 20 percent rebate. Moreover,
if the loan is repaid a year earlier, a borrower is entitled to
another 10 percent rebate. These subsidies enabled some Saudis who
have access to land to become real estate tycoons by borrowing from
the government, building houses and offices, and renting them or
selling them before any payments are due. The government has no
obligations towards the higher education of non-Saudi legal residents.
But it provides Saudi students with free education, including books
and uniform, and pays them monthly stipends that increase as they
progress in their studies. It also pays all expenses for Saudi
students who study abroad and gives each one of them a salary of about
$12,000 in a school year.
In addition to all these benefits
that Saudi citizens enjoy, the law gives them another benefit that
allows them to exploit foreign workers in the country. Every non-Saudi
living or working in the country should be sponsored by a Saudi kafeel,
an employer or a sponsor, who keeps passports of his workers all the
time in order to control their movement. Visas should be obtained even
to exit the country. Fear of residence visa cancellation by the kafeel
keeps foreign workers under his mercy, which may lead to exploitation.
Many of these workers complain that the contracts they sign upon
arrival to the country specify lower wages and fewer benefits than
what they were promised before. Original contracts are sometimes
increased upon arrival by as much as 3 years. Some employees reaching
the end of their term of service in a contract may be refused
permission to return home by their employer. Moreover, there are
reports of workers who are indentured to Saudi sponsors for a set
amount each month and who must then find their own employment upon
arrival in the country. The discrimination in pay prompted the ILO to
state that the Saudi Government has not formulated legislation
implementing the ILO Convention on Equal Pay. Finally, because of the
Saudi Government’s lack of compliance with internationally
recognized worker rights standards, Saudi Arabia was suspended from
the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation Insurance programs,
Despite the benefits available to Saudi citizens, which have
made them much better off than foreign workers in the country, still
some regional, religious, and educated groups are not content with the
status quo. More recent opposition groups demand democratic reforms
and improvements in human rights.
The regional opposition goes back to
the way the main regions of the country were conquered and annexed to
Nejd, at the beginning of the century. Al-Hassa region including its
capital, Al-Hufuf, was conquered on April 12, 1913. The first Saudi
ruler of Al-Hassa, Abdallah Bin Jelawi, was so tough that about one
million people left the region to southern Iraq. Shammer Arabs and
their capital, Hayil, were conquered on November 2, 1920. Concerning
Al-Hijaz region, Abdallah Bin Al-Hussain was defeated in Turba, in
1919. Makkah and Medina were conquered in 1924 and Jeddah in 1925.
Following all battles in the three regions, there was retribution,
killing, and looting of property. More important was that Abdul Aziz
promised the Hijazis to listen to their demands concerning a
representative government, which did not happen.
The religious opposition goes back to
the crushed Wahabi Ikhwan revolt of 1927-1930. Devoted followers as
well as children and grandchildren of the revolt leaders and warriors
constitute the bulk of the religious opposition. There were several
violent manifestations of the religious opposition during the second
half of the 20th century. In 1965, a group of Muslim
fundamentalists, led by Prince Khaled Bin Musa'id (a grandson of King
Abdul Aziz), clashed with the police during an attack on the
television station. Several members of that group were killed
including the Prince. The fundamentalists continued their activities
during 1966. Several bombs exploded in Riyadh targeting Prince Fahd's
Palace in Al-Nassiriah, Al-Zahra Hotel, and a bridge used by King
Faisal. The campaign also extended to Dammam. In revenge for his
brother's death, Prince Faisal Bin Musa'id assassinated his uncle,
King Faisal, on March 25, 1975.
The most violent and visible
expression of the religious opposition was on November 20, 1979, when
a fundamentalist group occupied the Holy Sanctuary of Makkah. The
leader of the group, Juhaiman Bin Muhammed Al-Utaibi chose the first
day of the Islamic 15th century, the year 1400 of Hijra,
to announce his revolt. He expected people to join his group easily
for two reasons. First, Muslims expect a religious revival at the
beginning of every century. Second, Juhaiman introduced his
brother-in-law, Muhammed Bin Abdallah Al-Qahtani as the promised Mahdi,
the guided one.
However, people did not join his revolt, which was crushed
Members of the group were less than
300 and were influenced by the teachings of Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz,
the senior Islamic scholar in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. However,
Bin Baz did not support them. About 117 of them were killed during the
battle with the government forces and additional 63 of them were
executed in eight cities and towns on January 9, 1980. The way the
uprising was crushed showed that the Saudi royal family could not
tolerate dissent. It also showed that there was some interaction
between Saudi citizens and other non-Saudi Muslim workers in the
country, as many of the executed turned to be non-Saudis. In addition
to that, the uprising was an evidence of the spreading inspiration
that the successful Iranian revolution gave to Muslim fundamentalists
in the Middle East.
Juhaiman denounced Al-Saud's
legitimacy to rule saying that monarchies are alien to Islam.
He was actually repeating the same argument of the Ikhwan in the
1920s. Like them, he rejected modern technology such as television. He
also criticized Saudi relations with the infidel powers and the
presence of non-Muslims in the country. A year earlier, in 1978, he
published the first pamphlet of the group at the Tali’a Press in
Kuwait. In that pamphlet, he attacked the religious scholars,
particularly Bin Baz, describing them as a tool for the government’s
manipulation of the people. When the uprising took place, the
religious scholars responded by giving a fatwa, ruling, that
authorized the government to fight the group members inside the Holly
Shrine of Makkah.
During the 1990s, religious opposition has continued but with more
modern methods, such as focusing on human rights. Many of the leaders
of these groups were educated in the West, which enabled them to get
more attention outside the country.
The third category of opposition
includes both secular and religious groups, which are led by the more
educated Saudis, particularly those who have received their education
or military training abroad. They pose a serious opposition to the
absolute rule of Saudi government. They feel that the country is ripe
for constitutional and democratic reforms. They yearn to the rule of
law and the democratic practices enjoyed by people in the West and
even relatively in some neighboring Arab states.
Many military officers paid the
ultimate price for their attempts to change the system. Before the oil
boom, there were two attempts of military coups. The first was in 1955
against King Saud. Prince Talal was suspected to have links with it.
Therefore, he had to resign as a Minister of Transportation and to
accept a job as an ambassador in Paris and Madrid, away from the
The second attempt was in 1969 against King Faisal. Leaders of the
latter attempt were flown over the Empty Quarter then were pushed out
of the plane. One of them was even a "Sudairi" prince.
They were air-force officers in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dhahran air bases.
Among the civilians involved was Yusuf Al-Tawil of Jeddah.
Civilian attempts to reform the
political system were most associated with Prince Talal, in the 1950s.
He led a group of "Free" or "Constitutional"
Princes that included Badr, Nawaf, Mit'ib, Mish'al, Abdul Muhsin,
Fawaz, Abdul Majid, Muqrin, Abdul Ilah, and Hathelool. These princes
expressed ambitions of the middle class, military officers, and
government technocrats such as Abdallah Al-Tariqi, who was Under
Secretary of Oil and Mining. In March 1958, the "Free
Princes" met with the "Traditional Princes," Muhammed,
Khaled, Abdullah, and Fahd. They agreed to adopt a constitution, have
an effective consultative council, and a provincial administrative
However, none of these reforms materialized and the country continued
to be ruled as an absolute monarchy. This has led to a continuous
struggle for reform from opposition groups, which also triggered
continuous repression from the government.
The labor movement, which started in
the 1950s, ended in 1962 when 12 of its leaders disappeared. One of
them, Nasser Al-Said, managed to escape to Beirut but to be kidnapped
and returned to Saudi Arabia in 1979, the year he published his
critical book about the rule of Al-Saud family. Between 1958 and 1964,
Prince Talal left the country in protest and joined the Nasserite Arab
Nationalist movement. However, he and the other “Free Princes”
were re-integrated to the family later. In 1975, General Muhammed Al-Shmaimri
was arrested and executed for conspiracy. Three years later, in 1979,
the Makkah Uprising was crushed mercilessly. In 1984, the exiled
opposition leader, Shams Eddine Al-Fassi, was the target of an
assassination attempt. His son, Muhammed Al-Fassi was handed over to
the Saudi government by the Jordanian authorities, in 1991.
Throughout the 1990s, people have
been disappearing in the middle of the night. Since the Gulf War,
about 8,000 people were arrested for “political crimes.” Some of
them are still imprisoned for years without trials. The continuous
suppression of political freedoms led to an escalation in the number
of clandestine opposition groups inside and outside the country. Among
these are Young Nejd, the Peninsula Liberation Front, the Free Nejd
Party, the Labor Socialist Party, the Arab Nationalist Party,
Hizbullah, the New Ikhwan, the Islamic Revolutionary Party of Arabia,
the Committee for the Defense of the Legitimate Rights of Muhammed Al-Mas’ari,
and its breakaway faction the Islamic Reform Movement of Sa’ad Al-Faqih.
These groups criticize the Saudi government using computers, facsimile
transmissions, audio cassettes, pamphlets, books, copies of anti-royal
petitions, and articles.
Throughout the 1990s, also, several
prominent individuals made their opposition to the Saudi regime
public. In November 1990, Saudi pilots defected to the Sudan because
they did not want to participate in attacking Iraq. In 1994, Ahmed
Zahrani, who was th deputy Saudi Consul in Houstin, sought political
asylum in Britain. He mentioned the lack of basic rights and freedoms
in his country, like freedom of expression and political association,
as the reason for his opposition to the regime. In July of the same
year, 1994, Muhammed Khilew, who was the first secretary of the Saudi
mission in the U.N. dissented, too, and was granted political asylum
in the U.S. He feared for his life if he returned to Saudi Arabia
because of a letter he had written, in which he criticized the
Government for human rights abuses and corruption. In September 1994,
two Muslim clerics, Salman Al-Awdah and Safar Al-Hawali, were arrested
for publicly criticizing the government. Their detention sparked
protest demonstrations resulting in the arrest of 157 persons. On
October 16, 1994, 130 of them were released. The remaining 27 stayed
in prison for more than two years.
The Committee for the Defense of
Legitimate Rights (CDLR) has been the most active Saudi human rights
group throughout the 1990s. It criticizes the Government’s human
rights record from the perspective of Islamic principles and advocates
stricter adherence to Islamic principles by the royal family and the
Government. The CDLR was formed in May 1993 by Muhammed Bin Abdullah
Al-Mas’ari, Sa’ad Al-Faqih, Suleiman Al-Rushud, and three others.
Because of criticizing the Saudi Government in the international
press, the CDLR founders, 38 of their supporters, and some of their
relatives were arrested just days after founding the group. On May 28,
1993, an American citizen was also arrested for his sympathy with the
group. He was held in isolation for three weeks and was tortured
before he was released and deported. Al-Mas’ari stayed six months in
prison and was released in November 1993. Then, he fled the country to
the U.K., in April 1994. There, he sought political asylum after his
Saudi citizenship was revoked. But the Saudi Ambassador in London
threatened that if the U.K. granted him asylum, Saudi Arabia would
withdraw from large British weapon contracts. As a result, the British
Government gave Al-Mas’ari 4-year temporary residence instead of the
permanent resident asylum status, and the weapon contracts were kept.
Some CDLR supporters were released
from prison after they had signed statements promising not to discuss
the Government’s policies or communicate with anyone outside the
country by telephone or facsimile machines. Among the released were
Dr. Fouad Dehlawi; Mas’ari’s brother, Lu’ay; and Mas’ari’s
brothers-in-law, Rashad and Nabil Al-Mudarris. However, about 15-27
CDLR supporters are still in prison, part of at least about 200
political prisoners in the country. In August 1995, Abdullah Bin Abd
Al-Rahman Al-Hidaif, a supporter of the CDLR, was executed by
beheading for his attempt murder with acid on an Interior Ministry
official. Nine others associated with Al-Hidaif were sentenced to
prison terms. One of them was sentenced to 5 years in prison for
possessing leaflets and posters mentioning the CDLR. Another was
sentenced 3 years in prison for attending meetings in support of the
Human rights abuses have continued. In December 1995, the student
Haytham Al-Bahir died of complications rising from detention and
In April 1999, a 70-year old journalist was beaten during
interrogation after his return to the country from Bahrain.
Despite the rising opposition to the absolute rule, the
Government still insists on denying the people their basic rights and
freedoms. There are no popularly elected officials. Political parties
are not permitted, and there are no publicly organized opposition
groups. Moreover, the Government commits and tolerates serious human
rights abuses. Citizens do not have the right or the means to change
their government. There are no elections at any level of the
government. Security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain persons for
a long time without charges, then abuse and torture them. Freedoms of
speech, assembly, and association are prohibited. Freedoms of the
press and movement are restricted.
The printed media are privately owned but publicly subsidized.
According to a 1965 national security law and a 1982 media policy
statement, the dissemination of criticism of the government is
prohibited. The Ministry of Information appoints, and may remove, the
editors-in-chief. It also provides guidelines that the media should
follow when dealing with controversial issues. The government owned
Saudi Press Agency (SPA) expresses the official views that newspapers
In addition, there is discrimination
on all levels against women and the Shi’a minority but most against
immigrants (expatriate workers). These three groups of the population
are restricted in movement. Women cannot move inside or outside the
country unless they are accompanied by a first-degree male-relative or
a husband. They cannot marry non-Saudis unless they get permissions
from the government and they cannot drive their cars to their work. In
1990, 49 Saudi women entered history as they were arrested for driving
cars to protest the ban on female drivers.
They were released after making their point. They were influenced by
the presence of about 26,000 American women in military uniform in the
country, participating in all military activities, including driving.
The Shi’a complained of
restrictions on their travel abroad, particularly to Iran. Some of
them have been subjected to surveillance since 1979. About forty
Shi’a were held since 1988 without charge in prison. But they were
finally released. With improving relations with Iran, King Fahd
invited the Shi’a dissidents abroad to return and some of them did.
In 1997, when the Consultative Council was expanded to 90 members, it
included two Shi’a members. Starting from 1995, Ashura
commemorations passed without incidents, which reflects more religious
tolerance towards the Shi’a. But they still complain that the
Government needs to invest more in their areas in proportion to their
size in the population. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) human
rights annual reports mentioned that the Shi’a numbered about
500,000 throughout the 1990s, as if they do not increase in number
like the rest of the population. They should be much more than that if
we use their percentage in the population. According to the 1993 DOS
report, the Shi’a were estimated at 15-20 percent of the population.
If we apply this to the 1999 population of 14 million citizens, then
the Shi’a may range between 2.1 million to 2.8 million people. All
in all, it seems that the main problems facing the Shi’a are the
same facing the Sunna, mainly those resulting from the absolute rule.
Immigrants are the most discriminated against in rights, wages,
benefits, and travel. They are typically allowed to reside or work in
the country only under the sponsorship of a Saudi national. Some
sponsors prevent foreign workers from obtaining exit visas in order to
pressure them to sign a new work contract or drop claims against their
employers for unpaid salary. Other sponsors may refuse to provide
foreign workers with a “letter of no objection” that would allow
them to be employed by another sponsor. Moreover, collective
bargaining is forbidden. There is no minimum wage. Wages are set by
employers and vary according to the type of work performed and the
nationality of the worker. In brief, the labor system is conducive to
the exploitation of foreign workers.
That is why it was not a surprise that some foreign workers joined
Saudi opposition groups and uprisings, such as the 1979 Makkah
In addition to this challenge to the status quo, which is posed
by the above-mentioned opposition groups, a different challenge has
emerged in the region, in the 1990s. It is represented by the various
constitutional and democratic reforms that have been introduced in
other Arab monarchies. Jordan and Morocco are in the forefront in
allowing multi-party electoral systems. The Gulf states of Qatar and
Oman have taken steps towards more political participation. Qatar held
municipal elections in which both men and women participated freely.
Oman held municipal and parliamentarian elections in which men and
women voted, ran for office, and were elected. Kuwait has a long
history of democratic participation although it is still
discriminatory against women and immigrants. Similarly, some Arab
republics have achieved considerable changes that allow more political
participation, particularly Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria,
and Sudan. However, only the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih and
the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, ran opposed in the
presidential elections, in the 1990s, and were followed by the
Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, in 2000. Thus, all these local and
regional developments exert more pressures on Saudi Arabia to move
towards constitutional and democratic reforms.
The Saudi-American relations started with concessions for
American oil companies, which led to the creation of the
Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO). In 1945, Aramco agreed to pay
50 percent of its net earnings to Saudi Arabia. In the same year, King
Abdul Aziz agreed to allow the United States to build and use the
Dhahran air base. After his death in 1953, his son and successor, King
Saud, advocated Arab neutrality. He also strengthened his ties with
Egypt after Nasser's pilgrimage to Makkah, in 1954.
Saud visited Egypt in the spring of
1954 to restore the alliances his father started with King Farouk. He
adopted Nasser’s policy of positive neutrality. As a result, he
expelled the U.S. Point Four mission in the same year and substituted
it with Egyptian military and educational missions. In 1955, Saudi
Arabia rejected the pro-Western Baghdad Pact and signed a defense
treaty with Egypt and Syria. Saud also joined Nasser in signing the
non-aligned movement agreement of Bandung, in April 1955. He financed
the Egyptian weapon deal with Czechoslovakia and the Yemeni purchase
of weapons from China and the Soviet Union. The climax of Saud's Arab
nationalist line was his visit to Cairo in the spring of 1956 when he
agreed to the idea of uniting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. Amidst
this atmosphere of Arab nationalism, Nasser visited Riyadh in
September 1956. When he arrived at Dammam, the people gave him an
overwhelming welcome that pleased the King but alarmed his influential
brothers. Finally, when Egypt and the Palestinian territory of Gaza
Strip were attacked by Israel, Britain, and France on October, 31,
1956, Saudi Arabia took a strong position against the aggressors. It
severed diplomatic relations with Britain and France and cut off oil
supplies to their tankers.
However, the Nasser-Saud alliance was
short-lived. The U.S. persuaded Saud that he was in the wrong camp.
Cold War politics played a major role in influencing the
Egyptian-Saudi relations. Egypt started to be classified as unfriendly
to the West when its relations began to improve with the Soviet Union.
The Soviets agreed to supply Egypt with weapons through Czechoslovakia
after Western nations had refused to do that. Moreover, the Soviets
offered to finance and construct the Aswan High Dam after the World
Bank had cancelled its offer to finance the project. The cancellation
was an attempt to stop the Soviet-Egyptian weapons deal. At that
point, Nasser became more defiant and nationalized the Suez Canal in
order to finance the project from its revenues. This triggered the
Suez Campaign, when Britain and France attempted to occupy the Canal
zone and Israel occupied Sinai and Gaza Strip. The Eisenhower
administration escalated its confrontation with Nasser by the adoption
of a policy that aimed at stopping the spread of the Egyptian
influence in the Middle East. That policy, which became known as the
Eisenhower Doctrine, was explained in a letter sent to the Congress on
January 5, 1957. It rested on an American promise to provide military
and financial aid to any country in the Middle East requesting such
aid “against overt aggression from any nation controlled by
Thus, the Eisenhower Doctrine was
tailored for the containment of Nasser. As a follow up, Saud was
invited to visit Washington at the end of January 1957. As an Arab
nationalist, he thanked the U.S. for its stance against the Suez
Campaign, which contributed to the withdrawal of the aggressors.
However, the administration was not looking for his thanks because its
stance was not meant to support Arabs. Rather, it was an attempt to
assert the new American super power status and to teach the two
colonial powers a lesson that they had to follow the leadership of the
new emerging power. Anyway, Saud was offered $800 million in military
and economic aid. In return, he agreed to renew the lease of the
Dhahran airbase for another five-year period. He also accepted to join
Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon in an anti-Nasserite alliance. When he
returned, he demonstrated his complete transformation by paying the
chief of the Syrian military intelligence, Abdul Hamid Al-Sarraj, 1.9
million sterling pounds to assassinate Nasser.
Saud’s influential brothers were
unhappy about his new foreign policy. Faisal disapproved of reneging
on positive neutrality and was angry about the assassination attempt
against Nasser. However, it was Saud’s fiscal mismanagement that
angered his brothers most. As a result, they insisted on limiting his
powers by appointing Faisal as a Prime Minister on March 24, 1958.
Although Saud still retained the right to veto any decision his
brother would make, he became actually powerless.
The first thing Faisal did was
restoring good relations with Nasser. Then, he started to address the
financial problems of the country. Saud did not give up and on
December 21, 1960, he regained control of the government by taking
back the Prime-Ministership from Faisal. He was supported by Prince
Talal and the other "Constitutional" princes because Faisal
did not carry out the reforms he promised. Talal was supported by the
middle-class intelligentsia. In addition, tribal leaders and merchants
were unhappy about Faisal’s austerity program. In return for his
support, Talal and his two brothers, Abdul Muhsen and Badr, were
rewarded by giving them ministerial positions. Soon, the reformists
became disappointed again as Saud did not keep his promises regarding
constitutional reforms. Instead, Saud dismissed Talal and his brothers
from the government.
The Crown Prince, Faisal, waited for
the suitable moment to get rid of King Saud. Several inter-Arab and
international developments showed Saud's inability to rule in a way
that would please his influential brothers. Early in 1961, for
example, he told America that he would not renew the lease for the
Dhahran airbase, which was considered by his brothers as a serious
disruption of the status quo. Another development in July of the same
year set the alarm concerning the Iraqi claims, not only of Kuwait but
also of parts of the Saudi territory in Al-Hassa. Saud also did not
know how to react when a Syrian military coup declared the secession
of Syria from the United Arab Republic, on September 28, 1961. While
Saud did not know how to deal with it, Faisal pushed for recognition
of the new Syrian regime. Although Saud spent about 12 million
sterling pounds to break-up the Egyptian-Syrian union, he hesitated to
recognize the secessionist regime. He did not want to trigger
retaliation from Nasser. Faisal, on the other hand, was not afraid of
the wounded Nasser, anymore. As a result, he appeared to the other
members of the royal family as more decisive than Saud.
The most important event that Faisal
utilized to demonstrate Saud's inability to make right decisions was
the Yemeni military coup, on September 26, 1962. The Imam (Monarch) of
Yemen came to Saudi Arabia asking for Saudi support. While Saud
quickly pledged support, Faisal was cautious. Saud’s policy to
intervene proved to be self-defeating as Saudi pilots started to
defect to Egypt. Moreover, six out of the eight cabinet members
opposed intervention. Feeling the pressure, Saud asked Faisal for help
allowing him to form a new government, on October 17, 1962. Faisal
agreed on the condition that he would be given real power to rule.
When he was given what he wanted, he increased the financial and
military support for the Yemeni royalists. This allowed them to buy
more weapons and mercenary services. Then, on November 6, 1962, he
broke off relations with Egypt. For the following two years, Faisal
was the real ruler of Saudi Arabia. Saud was asked to be absent
outside the country. Finally, on March 29, 1964, a dozen of the ulema
issued a fatwa, religious ruling, that the King was unfit to rule. The
religious scholars were prompted to do so by sixty of the senior
princes who followed up on the fatwa by signing a letter supporting
it. As a result, Faisal became a de facto Viceroy until November 2,
1964 when Saud was forced to abdicate and Faisal became the third king
of Saudi Arabia.
As a result of the increased
financial and military Saudi support, the Yemeni royal forces launched
their counter attack against the republican forces in an attempt to
restore the monarchy. However, the attempt failed due to Nasser's
strong support for the republican forces. He sent Egyptian troops that
stayed in Yemen until the war ended by the 1965 Jeddah agreement.
According to the agreement, Saudi Arabia agreed to stop its support
for the royalists. In return, Egypt agreed to withdraw its forces
within a year.
King Faisal reversed his hostile
position towards Nasser shortly prior and after the 1967 war. He
expressed his full support for Nasser and sent about 20,000 Saudi
troops to Jordan prior to the war. During the war and starting from
June 6, 1967, all Saudi oil exports to Britain and the United States
The consequences of the war convinced him to increase his support for
Nasser. The Arab defeat led to the Israeli military occupation of the
Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip
and the West Bank, and the Syrian (Golan) Heights. King Faisal
realized that Israel was posing a genuine threat to the existence of
the Arab nation.
In 1970, Saudi Arabia recognized the
republican government of Yemen. Nasser died in the same year but
Faisal continued his support for Egypt until the October 1973 war.
During the war, he led the Arab oil embargo against Western nations
that supported Israel. The embargo led to a sharp increase of the oil
prices, which created huge amounts of oil revenues in Saudi Arabia and
other oil-exporting countries, inside and outside OPEC.
Following the 1973 war, King Faisal championed the cause of the
liberation of Jerusalem from the Israeli occupation. Despite his
support for the Palestinian cause, he did not allow any PLO official
presence in the country. Instead, he allowed Fateh to be the only
Palestinian resistance group, which is allowed to operate in the
When King Faisal was assassinated in
1975, he was succeeded by his brother, King Khaled, who did not
support the American-brokered peace treaty of 1979 between Egypt and
Israel. Saudi Arabia, like most other Arab states, believed that the
treaty lacked guarantees for the Palestinian rights and was ambiguous
King Khaled died in 1982 and was followed by his brother, Fahd. King
Fahd was active even when he was a Crown Prince due to the King's
sickness and old age. In 1981, Crown Prince Fahd proposed a Middle
East Peace plan to the Arab Summit Conference in Fez, Morocco. He
proposed that Israel withdraw from the Arab occupied territories and
accept a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. In return,
Arabs recognize Israel and stop the economic boycott. The plan was
adopted by the conference but the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in
1982, destroyed it.
the Iran-Iraq war broke out in 1980, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf
Cooperation Council states (GCC) supported Iraq.
Most of the Arab states also supported Iraq except Libya and Syria,
which supported Iran. In spite of that, Saudi Arabia continued its
financial assistance to Syria, which amounted to about half a billion
dollars a year.
The Saudi support for Kuwait against Iraq, during the 1990
crisis and the 1991 Gulf War, may be explained by the common history
and interests of the two royal families. Al-Saud family owes Al-Sabah
family their support in restoring the Saudi rule in Nejd at the
beginning of the 20th century. Thus, when Saudis gave Al-Sabah
family their support in restoring its rule over Kuwait, they were
paying back a century-old debt. Both ruling families were also
encouraged to do so by their common Western allies, Britain and the
Although the Saudi rule in Arabia was
established on basis of an alliance between the Saudi royal family and
the Wahabi movement, the warriors of the movement posed a serious
threat to the Saudi rule in the 1920s. Various groups of religious
opposition posed a serious challenge to the absolute rule of the
ruling family during the second half of the 20th century.
Kuwait also felt the impact of the Ikhwan, in the 1920s, as well as
the influence of the Islamic groups in the 1990s. These were
encouraged by the government to counterbalance the influence of Arab
nationalists, in the 1980s. After the 1991 Gulf War, Islamists gained
more influence in the Kuwaiti parliament in a way that embarrassed the
government several times. Several Islamic groups, also, have been in
the opposition to the Saudi government, since 1990. Thus, while both
royal families benefited from the influence of Islamic groups, at
certain times, they cannot underestimate the weight of Islamists in
The oil wealth and its impact on both
societies made them face similar problems, which were addressed with a
common vision. In particular, both royal families followed the same
strategy of limiting direct access to the oil wealth to the smallest
number of people possible. To achieve that goal, they denied the vast
majority of immigrants the right to become citizens or even permanent
residents. This policy has led to the discrimination against
immigrants and minorities and enabled the two royal families to gain
more support from citizens who benefit from the status quo. However,
the demographic problem in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will continue as
long as the two countries ignore the rights of immigrants. Whether
foreign workers come from East Asia or from the neighboring Arab
states, they are discriminated against, poor, and segregated from
At the time of the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait, on August 2, 1990, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were absolute
monarchies. As a result, in facing the Iraqi invasion, the two
governments did not depend on popular support from their populations.
Rather, it was the Western support from Britain, France, and the
United States that they counted on. The Western powers could not say
that they went to war to defend democracy in Arabia. Rather, they were
defending their own interests and the discriminatory policies of the
two governments. Thus, it was really a unique kind of friendship
between the Western and Arab ruling elites.
It is a deal through which the ruling elites in the Middle East
provide the West with the cheapest oil possible, in return for
assisting them and maintaining their stability.
Indeed, at the time of the Iraqi
invasion, the Emir of Kuwait was ruling the country by decree, since
he had dissolved the Parliament in 1986. The Saudi King was also
ruling by decree as he still does. Several attempts by the
intellectual and religious opposition groups to introduce some
democratic reforms had failed. Prince Talal and his supporters could
not persuade successive Saudi kings to adopt any constitutional
reforms. Only after the Gulf War, King Fahd agreed to establish an
appointed Consultative Council. However, the increasing number of
active opposition groups proves that people aspire for much more than
that. They look for real democratic participation in the political
process through direct elections.
Wadba Bint (daughter of) Hawazim: Mother of Turki and
Turfa Bint Abdullah Bin Abdul Latif (a grandson of
Shaikh Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahab):
Mother of Faisal.
Jawhara Bint Mus'ad Bin Jelawi: Mother of Muhammed
Jawhara Bint Sa'ad Al-Sudairi: Mother of Sa'ad,
Mus'ad, and Abdul Muhsin.
Haiya Bint Sa'ad Al-Sudairi (After her sister's
death): Mother of Badr, Ubaidullah,
Abdul Majid, and
Hassa Bint Ahmed Al-Sudairi: Mother of Fahd, Sultan,
Naif, Salman, Ahmed,
Abdul Rahman, and Turki.
Fahda Bint Assi Shuraim: Mother of Abdullah.
Bazza: Mother of Nasser, Bander, and Fawaz.
Shahida: Mother of Mansoor, Mish'al, Mit'ib, Munir,
Talal, and Nawaf.
Bushra: Mother of Mishari.
Bint Sha'alan: Mother of Mamdooh, and Mash-hoor.
Seyida: Mother of Hathelool.
Baraka: Mother of Mukrin.
Source: Shamiyeh (1989: 144-145). However, Mackey(1987: 193-94)
mentioned that he had 22 wives and 45 sons.
Saud Bin (son of) Muhammed (1725-1745).
Muhammed Bin Saud (1745-1765).
Abdul Aziz Bin Muhammed (1765-1803): assassinated.
Saud Bin Abdul Aziz (1803-1814)
Abdullah Bin Saud (1814-1818): arrested and killed.
Mishari Bin Saud (1819-1820): assassinated.
Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammed (1824-1834).
Mishari Bin Abdul Rahman (1834).
Faisal Bin Turki (1834-1838): imprisoned in Egypt.
Khaled Bin Saud (1838-1841): appointed by Egyptians.
Abdullah Bin Thunaiyan (1841-1843).
Faisal Bin Turki (1843-1865).
Abdullah Bin Faisal (1865-1871): forced out of power.
Saud Bin Faisal (1871).
Abdullah Bin Faisal (1871-1873).
Saud Bin Faisal (1873-1875).
Abdul Rahman Bin Faisal (1875): conceded to Abdullah.
Abdullah Bin Faisal (1876-1886).
Abdul Rahman Bin Faisal (1889-1891).
Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman (1902-1953).
Saud Bin Abdul Aziz (1953-1964): deposed.
Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz (1964-1975).
Khaled Bin Abdul Aziz (1975-1982).
AND WORKFORCE IN SAUDI ARABIA
AND FOREIGNERS (MILLIONS)
**4.5 (65%) 2.420
7.250 1.253 (72%)
8.960 1.411 (57%)
7.0 (72%) 2.680 9.680
1.557 (59%) 1.069 (41%)
UN Demographic Yearbook, cited in Johany et. al.,
Mackey (1987: 292); Shamiyeh (1989: 292-293).
U.S. Department of State (1998).
. For many Arabs, particularly in pastoralist and agricultural communities, a big brother is expected to perform the major functions of the father as a provider and protector. Therefore, the status of the eldest brother is very important and very respected. It is in this sense the term is used in this chapter. Apparently, it is not the same concept that George Orwell used in his famous work, "1984," in reference to the government as the big, watchful, and heavy-handed brother.
The word "shaikh" in Arabic may mean a tribal chief, a
religious scholar, or an elderly man.
Hadith is the second source of the Islamic teachings, Qur’an
(Koran) is the first. It is defined as the tradition of the Prophet
Muhammed in the form of sayings, actions, or approval.
The Four Imams are Al-Shaf'i, Bin Hanbal, Malek, and Hanafi. They
represent the four major schools of explaining the Sunna, or
Joudah (1964: 19); Aramco (1968: 46); Shamiyeh (1989: 31-32).
Al-Saud ruling family goes back to Saud Bin Muhammed, who ruled
Dir'iyeh, Riyadh, between 1720 and 1725. He is Saud Bin (son of)
Muhammed, Bin Muqrin, Bin Murkhan, Bin Ibrahim, Bin Musa, Bin Rabi'a,
Bin Mani, Al-Muridi (Shamiyeh, 1989: 27-31).
An "imam" may be an Islamic scholar, a leader in prayers,
or an Islamic head of state. Kings of Saudi Arabia are still
referred to as imams when they are mentioned during Friday prayers.
. Shamiyeh (1989: 29-33).
. Joudah (1964: 19-22, 117).
. Shamiyeh (1989); Al-Said (1979).
The 1840 London Agreement was reached between Egypt, on one side,
and the Ottoman, Austrian, British, Prussian, and Russian
governments, on the other. These governments saw the expansion of
the Egyptian Empire as a threat to their interests in the Middle
East. Egypt accepted withdrawal from Arabia and Syria in order to
avoid war with these countries that may threaten the independence of
Egypt itself (Shamiyeh, 1989: 56).
. Dickson (1956: 125); Joudah (1964: 34-39, 117); Shamiyeh (1989: 46, 54-56).
 Joudah (1964: 29-30).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 58-59).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 111).
. Dickson (1956); Jourdah (1964); Al-Said (1979); Shamiyeh (1989: 114-116).
. The first Saudi state was established about 1744 and ended with the completion of the first Egyptian campaign, in 1819. The second Saudi state started in 1820, according to Al-Said (1979), and ended in 1887, according to Shamiyeh (1989), when the Rashidites captured Riyadh. The third, or modern Saudi state, has started when Abdul Aziz restored the rule of Al-Saud over Riyadh, in 1901 (See Appendix 2.B).
. Dickson (1956: 138-39); Joudah (1964: 123-124).
That was Dickson’s story (1956: 138-139). However, Al-Said (1979:
63-66) mentions a different story narrated by John Philby. Abdul
Aziz left Kuwait with 250 followers, in August 13, 1901. They
reached the outskirts of Riyadh on August 19 where they stayed in
Al-Shamsiyah date-palm gardens owned by a member of Al-Shaikh
family. In the following day, 20 of them led by Abdullah Bin Jelawi
left to Riyadh. They stayed in the house of one of Ajlan's wives,
who was a relative of Abdul Aziz. They planned to kill Ajlan when he
would come out of the fort, but he did not come that night. As a
result, they changed the plan and went to the fort pretending as
guests waiting for him to get out. He had the habit of getting out
of the fort everyday to check on his horses. When he came out, they
shot and killed him. The guards closed the door and shot back at the
Saudis. At that moment, the rest of the Saudis, including Abdul Aziz,
arrived and participated in the attack on the fort. The guards
surrendered and Abdul Aziz was declared as the Imam and ruler of
Nejd. In a third story, Shamiyeh (1989: 121-22) mentions that
Mubarak Al-Sabah provided Abdul Aziz with 40 camels, 30 rifles, 200
rials, and food supplies.
. Dickson (1956: 138-139).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 128-131).
. The common enemy for both was the Ottoman government
and its allies, like the Rashidites.
. Al-Said (1979: 160-62); Shamiyeh (1989: 137-140).
. Dickson (1956); Joudah (1964); Al-Said (1979); Shamiyeh (1989: 137- 138).
. Dickson (1956: 250-257); Joudah (1964: 116-139).
. Dickson (1956: 148-155); Joudah (1964: 139-147).
Al-Zakah (Zakat) is the Islamic annual charity. It is an individual
duty that represents 2.5 percent of annual savings. In the absence
of a declared Islamic state, it is spent directly by giving it to
the poor and the needy. However, when an Islamic state is declared,
the head of the state is expected to collect the Zakat and spend it
according to the Islamic Law.
. Dickson (1956: 148-155).
. Dickson (1956: 243-44, 249).
“Sherif” was the title of the Hashemite ruler of Hijaz, Hussain
Bin Ali. It referred to his noble origin as a descendant of the
. Al-Said (1979: 307-308).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 150, 198-204).
. Al-Said (1979: 210, 308-321); Shamiyeh (1989: 195, 201).
. Asiri (1990: 20-26).
. Bin Sultan (1955: 410-11).
Demographic data about Saudi Arabia are hard to get since there was
only one census, conducted in 1976. The government behaves as if the
numbers of Saudis and non-Saudis are state secrets.
 In 1982, there were 70,000 workers from Pakistan, 100,000 from India, 100,000 from Korea, 70,000 from Thailand, and 30,000 from Sri Lanka (Johany et. al., 1986: 94).
. Mackey (1987: 360-67). U.S. Department of State human rights annual reports (1993-1999).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 303). U.S. Department of State (1998).
. U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999).
. Mackey (1987: 338).
 Aburish (1995) mentioned that it was Shaikh Zayyed of the U.A.E. who started the embargo, then other leaders followed.
. Mackey (1987: 6-7).
. Mackey (1987: 32-33, 184).
 Faour (1993: 43-45).
 Aburish (1995: 4); Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999).
. Mackey (1987: 209).
Assassination was not unusual for ending the rule of an Amir, during
the first and second Saudi states (See Appendix II.B).
King Abdul Aziz had 35 sons from his 14 wives (See Appendix
II.A). In competition for influence, princes may form matrilineal
groups. Thus, full-brothers kept closer ties vis-a-vis other groups
of half-brothers. Until now, each King came from a different
matrilineal group and Prince Muhammed and his supporters wanted to
keep this tradition.
. Shamiyeh (1989: 310-311).
. Faour (1993: 43-45); Mackey (1987: 206).
. Mackey (1987: 208).
. U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999); Mackey (1987: 218-221, 282).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993, 1996).
. Al-Said (1989: 97, 144-50, 209-210, 251-256).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 278-283).
The Hijra calendar started during the Caliph Omer's term of office,
commemorating the Prophet's immigration (Hijra) from Makkah to
. Muslims expect that the promised Islamic leader,
Mahdi, be called Muhammed Bin Abdullah as the Prophet was called. Thus, the first requirement of the Mahdi is that his first name is Muhammed and his father’s name is Abdullah. Muslims are expected to support Al-Mahdi, the guided one, whenever he appears. He will be the leader of Muslims when Jesus Christ comes back to Earth. He receives the Messiah in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and leads the believers, including Jesus Christ, in a prayer there. Thus, the concept is of great importance for the faithful who are ready to follow the Mahdi whenever and wherever he appears. In 1881, a self-proclaimed Mahdi led the faithful Sudanese in battling the invading British colonial army, defeated it, and killed its commander, General Gordon. However, he was soon killed and his army was defeated by the British (Buchan, 1986).
Mackey (1987: 229-236); Shamiyeh (1989:
The early Islamic state established by the Prophet Muhammed was a
popular republic. When the Prophet died, Muslims elected his
companions Abu Bakr, Omer, Othman, and Ali, respectively. These
caliphs, successors, were not related to each other and they were
elected to the office on basis of personal characteristics, not
kinship ties. Thus, the first Islamic state, which is considered by
Muslims as the best example to be followed, was not a monarchy.
However, it was soon followed by the Umayyad and Abbasid monarchies,
which continued for centuries. It follows that some Muslim
fundamentalists may oppose monarchies and others may support them,
using these historical precedents. Actually, the Wahabi
fundamentalists were loyal followers to the Saudi royal family until
1929 when they revolted against King Abdul Aziz. After crushing
their rebellion in 1930, they were co-opted again by extending
benefits to them and giving their leaders and relatives positions in
 Buchan (1986: 511-526).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 246).
. Mackey (1987: 297-301).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 280); Holden and Johns (1981: 280-283).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 246-248, 312, 468-471).
 Aburish, (1995: 65, 107-108).
 Aburish, (1995: 5-6, 44, 113-115), Aburish (1997: 44).
Sa’ad Al-Faqih broke away from the CDLR in March 1996 (U.S.
Department of State human rights annual reports, 1996, 1998).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999);
Aburish, (1995: 115).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1994-1998).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1994-1995).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1994-1995).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1995).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1999).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993).
 U.S. Department of State Human Rights Annual Reports (1993-1999).
 Holden and Johns (1981: 184-190).
 Shamiyeh (1989: 269).
 Shamiyeh (1989: 269-275); Holden and Johns (1981:196-197).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 247-250); Holden and Johns (1981: 200-204).
. Holden and Johns (1981: 223-240).
. Shamiyeh (1989: 251-255); Holden and Johns (1981: 223-240).
. On September 10-14, 1960, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela founded the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Then, many other Arab and non-Arab oil-exporting countries joined the organization.
. Mackey (1987: 321-323).
. Mackey (1987: 325).
. Mackey (1987: 330-31).
. The Council was first established in 1976 by Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. But it took a more developed form when Kuwait joined it on May 25, 1981 (KMI, 1986: 15).
. Mackey (1987: 331-32, 337).
 Aburish (1995; 1997) argued that it is a “brutal friendship”.
Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar