On September 23, 1932, the third Saudi state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was established.
This was about two years after the most important battle which founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, fought against the most dangerous domestic rebel movement led by some extremists belonging to Brotherhood. King Abdulaziz had strengthened the state’s legitimacy at the famous Riyadh conference in which he invited dignitaries from all over the country. All segments of the society witnessed the Brotherhood’s wrongdoings and thus deemed it legitimate to fight against them.
This was March 30, 1929. It was then that Saudi Arabia was born all over again. On March 4, 1938, black gold, i.e. oil, was discovered at Dammam oil well No. 7, thus paving the way for a long oil era, which lasted for decades.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed several transformations since then. For example, there was King Saud’s great decision to open schools for girls in cities across the country in 1959. This decision was satisfactory to a majority of the people and upset few. As expected, it was the vocal category of people who objected to that decision.
However, thanks to the state’s decisiveness, the decision was made and implemented as Saudi researcher Abdullah al-Washmi thoroughly explains in one of his books.
Transformations continued in Saudi Arabia. Among these was the opening of the Saudi television station in Riyadh in 1965, following a decision by King Faisal. Despite criticism, the state was determined to implement this decision, which was deemed vital for the state and society.
Land of transformations
Transformations have taken place in Saudi Arabia despite difficulties, challenges and doubts in administrative and political fields, and more importantly, on the social front. During later eras, kings Khalid, Fahd and Abdullah worked and built in the same manner as their predecessors and they all contributed to social, economic and administrative reforms.
One of the significant achievements of King Fahd was the founding of SABIC, the petrochemical giant. Among King Abdullah’s achievements was making Saudi women part of the Shura Council, in the Allegiance Council and the scholarship program.
Transformations have always taken place in Saudi Arabia; we have witnessed them before the discovery of oil, and during the oil era. We’re now talking about the post-oil era and discussing how to build the Saudi economy on the basis of strategic investments where the Saudi investment fund becomes a non-depleting “natural resource.”
This huge transformation, which falls under the umbrella of a vision for Saudi Arabia, is a significant phase in the country’s history - a phase, which like the ones of the kingdom’s founder and his successors, will also have its own challenges to overcome.
Politics is politics, and it’s only the image of the challenge which differs. We are now before the biggest Saudi challenge.
This article was first published by Asharq al-Awsat on April 25, 2016.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.