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Revolution in Saudi Arabia?: Repression by Monarchy Is Helping To Lay the Groundwork

Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz: "King" of Saudi Arabia.  (Illustration by DonkeyHotey)
Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz: "King" of Saudi Arabia.
(Illustration by DonkeyHotey)
By Catherine Shakdam
An absolute theocracy, Saudi Arabia has lived since its inception in September 1932 under the thumb of two very powerful forces: the House of Saud and the Wahhabi religious paradigm. Hejaz, which stretches along the western part of the Saudi kingdom, was fused with two formerly independent tribal-led sultanates — Nejd in the west and Asir in the south — to become a Wahhabi kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is really the manifestation of the alliance of Mohammed Abdul-Wahhab, a late 18th century controversial religious figure, and Mohammed bin Saud, the forefather of Al Saud,” Mohsen Kia, an Iranian political analyst with a Ph.D. in Islamic History, told MintPress News.

“Saudi Arabia was very much engineered to subdue the Arabian Peninsula under the weight of both religious dogma and political despotism,” he said, noting: “Its structure sits on quicksand as related to the state’s ability to maintain its people into servitude.”

A relatively young monarchy, at least from an historical standpoint, Saudi Arabia is essentially a tribal patchwork united by one powerful tribe — Al Saud — under foreign patronage to act as a buffer against the Ottomans and the Persians. The rise of Al Saud of Nejd began in the 19th century, when a deal was struck with imperial Britain to create a counter-power to the expansionist and ambitious Ottoman and Persian empires in the Arabian Peninsula, a region that Britain has always understood to be too geostrategically important to let go of or lose sight over.

As tribes became bound, territories were fused and tribal borders disappeared, the world came to understand Saudi Arabia as a single functional entity, one united nation under the banner of Al Saud.

Yet that unity stands today as little more than a facade.

“The kingdom is not as stable as Western powers would like to think,” Kia said. “This projected stability is but a manifestation of Al Saud’s systematic repressive methods, it is artificial.”

[...]

Many experts have theorized that Saudi Arabia’s wealth is what has shielded its regime from falling victim to the Arab Spring. Lorraine Swartz, an independent researcher and political analyst based in London, is one of these experts.

“While Saudi Arabia is as repressive – if not more – than its former counterparts in the region,” Swartz said, naming Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, “it has enjoyed greater economic stability. The economic factor is what has prevented people this far from rebelling against the regime.”

“They have not yet been pushed beyond the tolerable.”

She continued, explaining: “There is a key psychological and social factor to any revolution. Once people have nothing left to lose rebellion comes easy. But the Saudi regime is fast approaching this invisible barrier of ‘tolerance.’ Aggravated repression has exacerbated popular hatred toward the regime, poverty and unemployment are on the rise, and a state-run sectarian campaign against the minority Shia community in Qatif has led to the fragmentation of the kingdom alongside religious lines.”

She noted that in terms of stability, “It’s not looking good.”

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