Last Updated: Sun Sep 23, 2012 09:11 am (KSA) 06:11 am (GMT)

Saudi Arabia cancels National Day celebration in solidarity with Syria

A Saudi girl waves a national flag during celebrations of the 81st Saudi Arabian National Day in the desert kingdoms capital Riyadh on September 23, 2011. (AFP)
A Saudi girl waves a national flag during celebrations of the 81st Saudi Arabian National Day in the desert kingdoms capital Riyadh on September 23, 2011. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has canceled festive opera performances, which were set to take place across the country to mark National Day on Sunday, in solidarity with the Syrian people, the kingdom’s official media reported.

National Day, which commemorates the year King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud founded modern day Saudi Arabia on Sept. 23, 1932, will be celebrated somewhat more sincerely this year as daily death tolls in the crisis-torn Syria continue to mount.

“In solidarity with [the] Syrian people … The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud ordered to cancel the opera singing that would have been held across the regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the framework of its celebrations of the 82nd anniversary of its National Day,” a statement from the Saudi press agency read.

The OPEC kingpin and other energy-rich nations of the Gulf have long demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down while voicing support for the rebels calling for his ouster since March 2011.

The Syrian uprising, which has steadily militarized in the face of government repression, has left more than 27,000 dead since it erupted, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Civilians have borne the vast brunt of the violence.

The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.

The opposition Syrian National Council warned on Friday that the deadly conflict was reaching "a point of extreme gravity" that could trigger higher levels of extremism in neighboring states.

The conflict could lead to "a catastrophic situation, with more extremism and damage also in neighboring countries," SNC head Abdel Basset Sayda told reporters in Rome.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday denied allegations that the kingdom barred Syrian citizens from performing the annual Muslim pilgrimage while local media said it has refused to increase hajj country quotas.

"The kingdom is currently working on finalizing all measures needed in coordination with the concerned authorities to enable Syrian pilgrims to perform" the pilgrimage, hajj ministry undersecretary Hatem Qadi said.

Meanwhile, National Day celebrations on Sunday are expected to be held across the country, particularly for children, underscoring one of the most important societal changes being Saudi nationalism's new found attraction to the country's huge youth population.

“Our country achieved great feats in a very short time,” writes retired Royal Saudi Navy Commodore Abdulateef al-Mulhim.

“King Abdulaziz united a fragile country and build one of the fastest growing economies in the world. When oil was discovered eight years after Saudi Arabia was founded, it became a major player in politics and economics,” Mulhim added.

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