Saudi Arabia. According to COUNTRYAAH, Saudi Arabia has a population of 33.7 million (2018). The royal house’s fight against jihadist groups continued. In March, 113 people were arrested on suspicion of planning attacks against various authorities. Most of them were Saudis and Yemenites and were arrested in the province of Jizan at the border with Yemen. Twelve of them reportedly had direct contact with the militant Islamist network al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia cooperated more and more with Western authorities in the fight against jihadists. When, in connection with the questioning of a jihadist who surrendered to the police in October, they received information that two explosive charges were on their way from Yemen to the United States, both US and British intelligence services were notified, which could disarm the explosive charges.
A border dispute between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opened up in March. A Saudi warship and a United Arab Emirates Coast Guard fired each other on the Khor al-Udaid fairway. Two Saudi flotists were arrested for later release. Saudi Arabia, with reference to a 1974 agreement, considered itself entitled to the fairway and the surrounding area, including the Shaybah oil field. The United Arab Emirates questioned the agreement.
Several of the members of the royal house were ill during the year. King Abdullah, 86, was operated in November and December for herniated disc in New York and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, also over 80, was then allowed to return from Morocco where he was on convalescence, reportedly due to cancer. In order to prevent unrest in the oil market, the king set up a new body, the Council of Faith, in which a group of princes would in future appoint the successor to the throne. So far, the king had simply appointed his successor. The new system would come into force after King Abdullah’s death, when the current Crown Prince succeeded him.
In the spring, the authorities began demanding that prospective married couples fill out a marriage contract where the bride’s age appeared. The purpose was to prevent child marriage, a practice which, however, was not prohibited by law.
Saudi Arabia – Riyadh
Riyadh, ar-Riyāḍ, capital of Saudi Arabia; 4. 9 million residents (2010). Riyadh, located in Najd, is the country’s leading commercial and educational city and its administrative center. The city has two universities as well as industries and an international airport.
Riyadh, a traditional pilgrimage center, became the capital of the Saudi dynasty in 1824. It came under the rule of the rival house of Rashid in 1891, but was reinstated by Ibn Saud in 1902 and succeeded Jeddah in 1932 as the official capital of the monarchy. Since the mid-1900s, Riyadh has expanded and modernized greatly.
Anti-Jewish formulations are deleted from textbooks
Saudi textbooks are being reviewed after previously containing derogatory descriptions of Jews. It is interpreted as a normalization of tolerance and coexistence with Jews in the light of a political rapprochement between Israel and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, which houses the holiest sites of Islam, is still adhering to the principle of not establishing full relations with Israel until the Palestinian question is resolved and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land has ceased. But according to analysts, the government is working to curb anti-Jewish and anti-Christian rhetoric that previously also characterized the mass media and sermons in mosques at the lunch prayer on Fridays (see January 26, 2020).
Saudis in exile form party
An opposition party is formed by Saudis living in exile. The party, named Hizb al-Tajammu` al-Watani, is formed on National Day on September 23. In the home country, political parties are banned. The founders include London-based human rights activist Yahya Assiri and social anthropologist Madawi al-Rashid (she will be the spokesperson). Assiri, who also has a background as an air force officer, has previously formed the organization ALQST, which documents political persecution, including arrests. (al-Qist is one of the Arabic words denoting aspects of justice.)
Convicted of the Khashoggi murder may live
Five people sentenced to death for the murder of regime critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 will have their death sentences commuted to imprisonment. With the support of forgiveness from Khashoggi’s children (see 22 May 2020), they will instead receive 20 years in prison. In what are described as final sentences, three defendants receive simultaneously long prison sentences. No names of the convicts are published. Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his remains have never been found (see mainly October 2, 2018 and November 15, 2018). Turkey has released intelligence indicating that Khashoggi was also dismembered by a murder command sent from Saudi Arabia. From many quarters, including a special UN rapporteur, demands have been made that it be investigated whether the Saudi Crown Prince gave orders for the murder.
Death penalty for murder of Shiites
Seven defendants were sentenced to death and three others to 25 years in prison for an attack carried out in November 2014 in the eastern city of al-Dalwa. In connection with the Shia Muslim mourning festival ashura that year, seven people were shot dead. There were also children among the victims. According to Saudi authorities, it was the Sunni extremist organization Islamic State (IS) that was behind the terrorist attack; IS regards Shia Muslims as wicked. The incident was followed six months later by an attack on a Shiite mosque that claimed 21 lives.
Military executives fired
Six executives, including two members of the royal family, are fired by royal decree. One of these is Prince Fahd bin Turki, who commanded the Saudi-led military alliance fighting in Yemen, against the Shia Muslim Huthi rebels. According to the decree, all six people are suspected of financial irregularities at the Ministry of Defense. As always, when there are sudden changes among the Saudis in a high position, there is speculation that there is a power struggle in the background.