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Family, Oil, and God Rule and Dissent in Saudi Arabia.

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Presentation on theme: "Family, Oil, and God Rule and Dissent in Saudi Arabia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Family, Oil, and God Rule and Dissent in Saudi Arabia

2 How did Saudi state-building differ from state- building in Turkey, Iraq, and elsewhere? More indigenous process –No direct colonialism –Tribal/marriage alliances –Wahabbi Islam & the Ikhwan Different symbolic vocabulary –“Ancient” claims –Islam Gradual process of unification and “statification” from the “inside” out –Ibn Saud’s victories –Formal recognition 1932 –Informal state practices Council of Ministers 1950s No real bureaucratization until 1970s

3 King Fahd (II), died 2005 King Abd al-Aziz, King Faisal, Rules King Abdullah, 2005-present All in the family (of Saud)

4 Oil: Discovered 1938 –Aramco/Saudi Aramco – : 330% increase in oil revenues More proven oil reserves than any other country (about 25% of proven world supply) –About 18% US oil from S. Arabia makes up 90-95% of total Saudi export earnings 70%-80% of state revenues 40% of the country's GDP Oil tanks at the Ju'aymah oil refinery in Saudi Arabia – Photo: Aramco Services Co.Aramco Services Co.

5 What money can buy Defense expenditures –About a third of Saudi annual revenue spent on defense International distribution of oil wealth –PLO and elsewhere Domestic distribution of oil wealth –Massive programs of economic and social development Expanded roads, infrastructure, architecture, communications –Expansion in education Universities Education for girls Armed helicopter "Combat Scout" operating from King Khalid Military City. Photo: Cees-Jan van der Ende

6 The role of oil: two perspectives Rentier State model –Rentier State: a state that receives substantial income (“rents”) from foreign sources, and where only a few people are engaged in the generation of this wealth –Work ethic and state-society relations Oil as supporting & extending pre- existing patterns of power (Fandy) Al-Murabba palace, home to Abd Al Aziz and later center of government.

7 Photo: Religion and Politics Ulama: lawyers, consultants, judges Quran as constitution (Literalist) sharia as legal code The Hajj –More than 2. 5 million pilgrims in one week –Hajj service industry Extensive influence over education, legal system, public morality –“Morality Police” Limits on religious freedom Double-edged sword?

8 Three tensions in Saudi politics S. Arabia an “Islamic” state, but Islam subservient to Saudi state –“Quran as constitution” “Basic Law” codifying crimes etc –Power struggles between the royal family, ulema, other Islamic activists Repression, modernity, and Wealth –“Puritanical” (Wahhabi Islam) but modern & wealthy What to buy with oil? –Urbanization, commercialization –Repression Politics as “Tribal” (familial) but globally integrated –Foreign workers

9 Dissent: Origins Contradictions between wealth/Wahabbi Islam –“Corrupt” royalty vs ord. people and Wahabbi purists New education system and expansion of universities Drop in oil revenues –Early 1980s: Oil drops from $32 a barrel to $15; 30% drop in state revenues –Economic crisis Unemployment, drop in income, infrastructural decay Foreign affairs –Iranian Revolution, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan –1991 Gulf War and stationing of US troops in S. Arabia leads to crisis of legitimacy King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, established in The First Gulf War. Photo:

10 Dissent: Who Early secular dissent –1950s-1960s: Baathists, Arab nationalists, leftists Islamic dissent –Criticism of the regime, petitions, call for more popular participation, demonstrations –Late 1970s: Siege on Mecca mosque, Shiite riots stemming from discrimination Radical Islamist dissent –Increasing opposition, 1980s and 1990s Memorandum of Advice Formation of major Islamist opposition groups –Jihadist returnees from Afghanistan –Osama bin Laden: Advice & Reform Committee, al Qaeda “insurgency,” Surveying the scene of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, in which more than 20 people died and more than 300 were wounded.

11 State Responses (accommodation and repression) Official ulama mobilized to support government Institutional reforms –New Basic law, (unelected) Consultative Council, law of provinces –Municipal elections, 2005 –New legal code State crackdown –Hundreds arrested, many executed –Major campaign against Islamist dissent, media campaign on behalf of ‘moderate’ Islam –All accentuated after 2003 suicide bombings in S. Arabia itself A photographer records a public execution in Jeddah from behind the bars of a window - photo from Amnesty International.


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