It’s been four decades – as we mark Islamic New Year, 1440 Hijri – since three incidents that were decisive phases and the repercussions of which remain with varying degrees to this day.
There is still one quarter of 2018 before the year ends and it would be four Gregorian decades since these events.
In February 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran was established and the Pahlavi rule was toppled under the command of politicized Shiite cleric Khomeini.
In November 1979, an extremist religious group led by Juhayman stormed the Grand Mosque and seized it for around two weeks before Saudi security forces purged the Grand Mosque from terrorists.
In December 1979, the Soviet Red Army invaded Afghanistan to aid the government it supported and the Afghani jihadist movement was formed.
These historic events, which happened around the same time became reasons for the emergence of groups, figures and ideas and domestic and foreign policies.
Each phase of history requires being looked into and researched to trace its sources and consequences, beginning with that strange year 1979 until today. For instance, it is enough to know that the Russian Communist invasion of Afghanistan was a reason that developed this idea and built the climate of “jihad” to prosper.
The success of Khomeini, the revolutionary and charismatic cleric who had his ideological illusions to control Iran’s throne and “export the revolution” is the event of all eventsMashari Althaydi
Expelled Islamist groups later went to Afghanistan, and especially Peshawar, from Egypt and Libya. Then thousands of Gulf and Arab people traveled to fight alongside the Afghans against the Communist invasion. This was the headline.
Later however part of these people joined Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s camps. Osama himself moved from being a helper of Afghans to a figure with an international “jihadist” project. And the rest as they say is history.
The success of Khomeini, the revolutionary, charismatic and old cleric who had his ideological illusions, along with his disciples and supporters, to control Iran’s throne and “export the revolution” is the event of all events.
Its repercussions are still felt to this day as they continue to add insult to injury and exacerbate Arab wounds. As for the third of evils, the story of Juhayman and his companions, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The mountain of fire is the story of “al-Sahwa”, i.e. political Islamized groups, in Saudi Arabia. Juhayman and his group are only a small “detail” in the details of this ailment of al-Sahwa that made Saudi Arabia ill.
Today, Saudi Arabia has announced via the future’s godfather Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that there is no turning back.
Bye bye to 1979 as the entire journey has come to an end and the country has kicked off its vibrant journey toward the garden of hope – such as NEOM, projects to empower women, diversifying the economy and combating corruption.
1979 was such a year. We better contemplate it and these times over and over again.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi 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. Althaydi 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. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.