Saudi Arabia has 35.7 million people. It is the fifth largest country in Asia covering 2,150,000 square kilometres. It has the largest economy in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by King Abdulaziz (known as Ibn Saud). He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family. In 1976, Saudi Arabia became the largest oil producer in the world. Saudi Arabia has been an absolute monarchy, where the king, the princes of the large Al Saud royal family and the country’s traditional elites have overseen a highly authoritarian regime. The population are mostly Sunni Muslims – Shia Muslims are the minority.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Landscape at night – Riyadh Tower Kingdom Center – Kingdom Tower – Riyadh skyline – Riyadh at night
  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Saudi Arabia from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1902 – Wahhabi leader Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud and a small group of relatives and servants (a select body of only 15 warriors) take control of Riyadh (Saudi Arabia’s capital and major city). They scaled the walls of Riyadh, surprised and defeated the Rashidi governor, and Ibn Saud is hailed by the populace as their ruler.
  3. 1904 – Ibn Saud defeated a combined Rashidi and Ottoman force but afterward allowed the Ottomans to place garrisons in central Arabia for one year. Ibn Rashidi continued the struggle, but he was killed in battle in 1906, and thenceforth Ibn Saud, who secured the withdrawal of Ottoman troops from Al-Qaṣīm in 1906, became the undisputed master of central Arabia. Ibn Saud cultivated contacts with Britain, and balanced British power against the Ottomans.
  4. 1912 – The Ikhwan (Brotherhood) is founded based on strict Wahhabi Sunni Islam, and provides key support for Ibn Saud.
  5. 1914 (to 1918) – World War One. During the war, Ibn Saud was aided by the British, and managed to control central Arabia though surrounded by enemies.
  6. 1921 (to 1925) – After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Ibn Saud takes over Najd and Hijaz, the home to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
  7. 1927 – The Treaty of Jeddah, negotiated between Ibn Saud and a British special envoy Sir Gilbert Clayton, placed Saudi relations with Great Britain on a permanent footing as the British fully acknowledged Saudi independence. A series of Muslim conferences sponsored by the Saudis in the Hejaz legitimised their presence as rulers,
  8. 1928 (to 1930) – Ibn Saud defeats an Ikhwan (Brotherhood) uprising against his efforts to modernising the region.
  9. 1932 – Ibn Saud unites his lands as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and takes the name King Abdulaziz.
  10. 1938 – Oil is discovered and production begins under the US-controlled Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company).
  11. 1939 (to 1945) – World War Two. After Saudi Arabia declared its neutrality during the war, Britain and USA subsidized Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia later in 1945 declared war on Germany, and this enabled the kingdom later to enter the United Nations as a founding member.
  12. 1953 – King Abdulaziz dies and is succeeded by Crown Prince Saud, whose reign is marked by rivalry with Arab nationalist Egypt in the region and a power struggle with his brother Faisal at home.
  13. 1960 – Saudi Arabia is a founding member of OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries). Its objective is to coordinate oil policies and to secure fair prices for its member countries and dependable supply to its customer nations.
  14. 1964 – King Saud is deposed by his brother Faisal (different mother). Faisal was more competent and had more support. Faisal developed government ministries and established an efficient bureaucracy.
  15. 1972 – Saudi Arabia gains control of 25% of Aramco, lessening USA control over Saudi oil.
  16. 1973 – A supporter of ‘Egypt, Jordan and Syria’ in the ‘1967 Six-Day War against Israel’, Saudi Arabia harbours resentment when the Yom Kippur War (October War) (Arab-Israel war) erupts. In retaliation for USA support of Israel, Saudi Arabia participates in a 1973 Arab oil boycott of USA and other Western nations. The price of oil quadruples, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia’s wealth and political influence.
  17. 1975 – Although they have been allowed to attend classes at Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University since 1961, women are not admitted as full-time students eligible to pursue a degree until 1975. The next year, the Centre for Women’s University Studies is founded to oversee all aspects of women’s education. Today, women are free to pursue higher degrees in a wide range of areas. Founded in 1957 as Riyadh University, King Saud University is one of the oldest universities in Saudi Arabia.
  18. 1975 – King Faisal is assassinated by his nephew and succeeded by his half-brother Khalid. Economic and social development continued.
  19. 1979 – Extremists seize the Grand Mosque of Mecca; the government regains control after 10 days and those captured are executed.
  20. 1980s (mid) – Oil reserves are discovered in the Empty Quarter, a vast desert that extends over much of Northern Yemen and south-eastern Saudi Arabia. Conflicting claims to the potentially valuable land cause conflict, largely because there is no defined boundary between the two countries.
  21. 1980 – Saudi Arabia takes full control of Aramco from the US.
  22. 1982 – King Khalid dies of a heart attack and is succeeded by his brother, Crown Prince Fahd. Fahd maintained Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy of close cooperation with USA and increased purchases of sophisticated military equipment from USA and Britain.
  23. 1987 – Saudi Arabia resumes diplomatic relations with Egypt, severed since 1979.
  24. 1989 – Osama bin Laden forms al-Qaeda. Meaning “the base,” al-Qaeda grows out of the network of Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets under the banner of Islam. Its creation coincides with the Soviets’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. The charismatic bin Laden uses the contacts he had made there to organise this international group of motivated Islamic radicals. From 1996, al-Qaeda has been headquartered in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was able to forge a close relationship with the ruling Taliban. While bin Laden is the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri is regarded as the mastermind of many of its most infamous operations, including the attacks on two USA embassies in Africa in 1998 and the ’11 September 2011 attacks’ against New York and Washington.
  25. 1990 – Saudi Arabia condemns Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and asks USA to intervene. King Fahd invites USA-led troops to use Saudi Arabia as a base of operations against Iraq. King Fahd fears his kingdom will be Iraq’s Saddam Hussein’s next target and does not hesitate to host USA troops on Saudi soil.
  26. 1990 – Saudi Arabia sends 600,000 Yemeni workers home over Persian Gulf sentiments. Many Yemenis had long sought work in Saudi Arabia, as Yemen produces few goods for export and depends on jobs outside the country for good wages. When the Yemeni government calls for an “Arab solution” to the conflict in the Gulf and insists on Western troop withdrawal from the region, Saudi Arabia orders Yemeni workers home. The Yemeni workforce and the country’s economy suffer greatly as a result.
  27. 1991 – Saudi Arabia is involved in both air attacks on Iraq and the land force that went on to liberate Kuwait. Kuwait is liberated from Iraq by coalition forces led by USA. Coalition ground operations begin and last only three days before occupying Iraqi troops are expelled from Kuwait.
  28. 1994 – Osama bin Laden is of Saudi Arabian origin, but his citizenship is revoked in reaction to his attempts to overthrow the regime of Saudi Arabia. Being in contact with bin Laden after 1994 is considered by the Saudi government a hostile gesture, even an act of treason.
  29. 1994 – Saudi production of desalinated water reaches cities in the centre of the kingdom. Due to its lack of fresh water resources, Saudi Arabia develops a process to remove salt from sea water (desalination) to serve the water needs of its people. Saudi Arabia currently produces more desalinated water than any other country in the world. This water is used both for drinking water and agricultural irrigation. In 1994, the production capacity for desalinated water had reached 714,218,000 gallons per day — enough water to cover the needs of the cities on the eastern and western coasts as well as some cities inland. By 2000, the capital city of Riyadh receives desalinated water from the Gulf, 500 kilometres away.
  30. 2001 – 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the ’11 September 2011 attacks’ on New York and Washington are Saudi nationals.
  31. 2002 – Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate stands at between 15 and 20 percent. Foreign migrants continue to account for some 65 percent of the Saudi work force, raising fears that unemployed youth could be increasingly drawn to radical Islamist groups.
  32. 2002 – Revised criminal code includes ban on torture and right of suspects to legal representation, but violations continue.
  33. 2003 – Police break up unprecedented rally in centre of Riyadh calling for political reform, a month after more than 300 Saudi intellectuals, women as well as men, sign a petition calling for change.
  34. 2004 – Stampede at Hajj pilgrimage leaves 251 dead.
  35. 2004 – Sporadic attacks by the al-Qaeda jihadist group over the previous two years acquire a systematic nature, including deadly assaults on the Yanbu petrochemical plant and the Khobar oil company, and the USA consulate in Jeddah.
  36. 2005 – First-ever nationwide municipal elections. Women do not take part in the poll.
  37. 2005 – King Fahd dies and is succeeded by Crown Prince Abdullah.
  38. 2005 – World Trade Organization gives the green light to Saudi Arabia’s membership following 12 years of talks.
  39. 2006 – 363 Hajj pilgrims are killed in a crush during a stone-throwing ritual in Mecca. In a separate incident, more than 70 pilgrims are killed when a hostel in the city collapses.
  40. 2007 – Religious police are banned from detaining suspects. The force has come under increasing criticism for overzealous behaviour after recent deaths in custody.
  41. 2008 – Saudi Arabia and Qatar agree on final delineation of border.
  42. 2009 – A court issues verdicts in the first explicit terrorism trial for al-Qaeda militants in the country. Officials say 330 suspects were tried, but do not specify how many were found guilty. One is sentenced to death.
  43. 2010 – USA officials confirm plan to sell $60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia – the most lucrative single arms deal in USA history.
  44. 2011 – King Abdullah announces increased welfare spending, as ‘Arab Spring’ unrest continues in the region.
  45. 2011 – Saudi troops participate in crackdown on unrest in Bahrain.
  46. 2011 – King Abdullah announces more rights for women, including the right to vote and run in municipal elections. A woman is sentenced to 10 lashes after being found guilty of driving, in the first legal punishment for violating the ban on women drivers. King Abdullah overturns the sentence.
  47. 2015 – King Salman ascends throne after King Abdullah dies.
  48. 2015 – Saudi Arabia launches campaign of air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
  49. 2015 – Two suicide bomb attacks on Shia mosques in Eastern Province kill at least 25 people, claimed by the Saudi branch of Islamic Group Sunni extremist group.
  50. 2015 – Hundreds die in stampede near Mecca during annual Hajj pilgrimage, days after 109 people perished when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, raising further concerns about safety standards during these mass events.
  51. 2016 – Crowds in Tehran set Saudi embassy (in Iran) alight in protest at execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, which also prompted Shia demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia breaks off diplomatic relations with Iran.
  52. 2016 – Government approves a plan for far-reaching reforms to diversify the economy away from oil.
  53. 2016 – A United Nations report accuses the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen of killing and injuring hundreds of children.
  54. 2017 – Saudi Arabia sparks a diplomatic crisis by leading an air, land and sea blockade by Arab countries, in an attempt to get Qatar to cut its alleged connections with terrorism and distance itself from Iran.
  55. 2017 – King Salman names his son Mohammed bin Salman first in line to the throne.
  56. 2017 – Ban on women driving formally lifted.
  57. 2017 – Purge of the kingdom’s political and business leadership occur in a move by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his power.
  58. 2018 – Public cinema returns, almost 40 years after it was banned as un-Islamic.
  59. 2019 – Two major oil refineries damaged in air attacks, claimed by the Yemeni Houthi movement. Saudi Arabia, USA, Britain, France and Germany accuse Iran of responsibility.
  60. 2019 – Five people are sentenced to death and three others jailed over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident), in a trial condemned by the UN special rapporteur as a cover-up.
  61. 2020 (to 2022) – COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 9,000 deaths in Saudi Arabia.
  62. 2022 – Saudi Arabia has 35.7 million people.

© Comasters April 2022.

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