The Arabian peninsula has been inhabited for
thousands of years by nomadic tribes. At the beginning
of the 600s, Islam was born in the city of Mecca and
soon spread outside the region. From the 16th century
until the First World War, Arabia formally obeyed the
Turks in the Ottoman Empire, although local empires were
quite self-governing. In the 18th century, a religious
revival movement arose, which the clan Al Saud joined
while at the same time subjugating large areas. They
were lost in rounds during the 19th century, but Al Saud
returned at the beginning of the 20th century and laid
the foundation for modern Saudi Arabia.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Saudi Arabia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Archaeological finds indicate that the Arabian
Peninsula may have been inhabited as early as 100,000
years ago. The area was probably much more fertile than
it is today, but climate change has wiped the surface
water and caused the deserts to spread. The millennia
closest to the birth of Christ were loosely connected to
the peninsula with high culture and well-developed
commerce on the peninsula. By the mid-500s, in the West,
Hijaz had created hubs for trade routes. Most important
were Medina and Mecca. In Mecca, the founder of Islam,
the Prophet Muhammad, was born around the year 570.
By the time Muhammad died in 632 in Medina, Islam had
already reached beyond the borders of the country. A
hundred years later, Islam had spread from Spanish
Seville in the west to Samarkand in the east, and its
center had been moved, first to Damascus and then to
Baghdad. Arabia, which was for a time united under the
influence of Islam, was divided and rejoined the
periphery. However, Mecca and Medina remained the most
sacred places and destinations of pilgrimage for the
In the 16th century, the Arabian Peninsula came under
Turkish rule in the Ottoman Empire. Local tribal leaders
nevertheless retained control over their various areas.
At the same time, European traders - Portuguese,
British, Dutch and French - began to arrive.
In the 18th century, a religious revival arose,
striving for a return to original Islam. It was led by
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), and his purely
interpretive interpretation of Islam in the West has
been called Wahhabism. His teachings were supported by
the clan Saud, the lineage that reigns in modern Saudi
Arabia. Saudi politics is still based on this old
alliance (see Political system).
Wahhabism spread rapidly across the Arabian
Peninsula, but the kingdom of Saud collapsed towards the
end of the 19th century under pressure from, among
others, Turks and British. The family sought asylum in
the area that is today Kuwait. From there, the young Abd
al-Aziz, known in the west as Ibn Saud ("Saud's son"),
in 1901, went out with a small group of followers and
had a year later recaptured the family's old hometown of
Riyadh. He proclaimed ruler over Najd and established
what has come to be called the third Saudi kingdom.
In retrospect, Ibn Saud also regained control over
the provinces of Hasa, Asir and Hijaz. Ibn Saud was a
devout Muslim and rooted for Wahhabism but also strived
for increased power. He married daughters of various
tribal chiefs to make sure of their loyalty.
In 1932, Ibn Saud merged the Kingdom of Hijaz with
the Sultanate of Najd and proclaimed the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia. In 1933 the search for oil began and five
years later the first discovery was made. By then,
American companies had already obtained production
rights. The old British influence on the Arabian
Peninsula waned and the United States became the future
guarantor of the royal house of Saud.
Protestant long prison sentence
A Shiite Muslim is sentenced to 30 years in prison
for throwing gas bombs at police during a demonstration
in 2011. Protesters turned against Saudi Arabia sending
troops to Bahrain to help the government there to quell
a Shiite uprising.
Police action against illegal migrant workers
The police start looking for illegal guest workers
(compare April 2013). At least
five people are killed in clashes between police and
guest workers. Since April, when immigrants were given a
number of months to adapt to new rules, about a million
guest workers have left the country.
Criticism of increased abuse
The UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International
claim that the number of human rights violations has
increased in the country in recent years as many
democracy activists have been arrested and tortured.
Particular criticism is directed at the prison sentences
against two activists in March.
Protests against ban on female drivers
Women who campaign on social media for women's right
to drive are urging their fellow sisters to demonstrate
against the ban by going out and running last weekend in
October. Authorities threaten to punish those who try
but a handful of women post videos on Youtube showing
them in full action behind the wheel. According to
organizers, some 60 women join in a demonstration. A
handful of them are arrested by police and forced to pay
Saudi Arabia forfeits chance to seat in Security
Saudi Arabia is nominated for one of the
non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council but
declines no, citing the UN's commitment to double
standards and the failure of the World Organization to
create peace in Syria and other conflict hearings. This
is the first time in UN history that a country has
declined a seat on the Security Council. The decision
stirs up great resentment and is interpreted as a sign
of a new more US-critical foreign policy on the part of
Saudi Arabia (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Blogger Raif Badawi is sentenced to prison
Raif Badawi is sentenced to seven years in prison and
600 whips. He has been accused of apostasy and of
insulting Islam. According to the court, he has started
an internet forum that "contradicts Islamic values and
propagates for liberal thought". Badawi has been
detained since June 2012.
Rebellion for female car drivers
A network uprising starts for women's right to drive
a car. 16,000 people sign the call before it is blocked
by the authorities.
Islamists are sentenced to prison
A special court sentenced eleven people, including an
unspecified number of foreign nationals, to prison for
up to 15 years for activities related to al-Qaeda. In
another case, two Shiite men are sentenced to eight and
nine years in prison respectively for participating in
regime-critical protests in the Eastern Province.
Further sentenced to prison
Seven activists are sentenced to prison for between
five and ten years for calling on Facebook for protests
against the regime.
New Acpra leader sentenced to prison
The new leader of the human rights organization Acpra
(see March 2013), Abdulkarim
al-Khader, is sentenced to eight years in prison for
incitement for propagating a constitutional monarchy and
Suspected Iranian spies arrested
Ten people have been arrested and accused of spying
on Iran. In March, 18 people were arrested for the same,
including 16 Shi'ite Saudi, one Iranian and one
Lebanese. The arrests are condemned by a number of the
country's Shiite leaders. The government in Iran denies
that the country is spying on Saudi Arabia.
Tighter rules for migrant workers
The authorities announce that, according to new
rules, all foreign workers must have an employer
responsible for them. In the past, some have worked
without contracts. Those who do not meet the
requirements are given a number of months to arrange the
matter, then threaten expulsion.
Fences are being built against Yemen
It is known that Saudi Arabia has begun to build a
fence along the country's border with Yemen in the
south. The purpose is to try to stop the trafficking of
smugglers and illegal immigrants as a result of the
deteriorating security situation in Yemen. The fence
building is preceded by five Saudi soldiers losing their
lives in clashes with armed smugglers.
Long sentences for human rights activists in Acpra
Mohammed al-Qahtani is sentenced to ten years and
Abdullah al-Hamid receives six years' imprisonment for a
previous sentence of five years in prison. In addition,
their organization dissolves the Saudi Civil and
Political Rights Association (Acpra). The organization
has worked for increased democracy in Saudi Arabia and
documented human rights abuses. For the sake of
unusualness, the trial is conducted completely openly.
Death sentences are executed after review
Following appeals from human rights organizations,
the executions are postponed by seven Saudi men, some of
whom must have been minors when arrested for armed
robbery. The men say they were tortured until they
recognized and that they did not have access to a
lawyer. However, after the judgments have been reviewed,
executions are carried out a week later.
US revelation about secret aviation base
US media reveal that two years ago the United States
had a secret air base in Saudi Arabia from which
driverless aircraft, so-called drones, have been able to
attack targets in neighboring countries.
Women get a place in the advisory ward
King Abdullah issues a decree giving women a fifth of
the 150 seats in the Majlis al-Shura Advisory Assembly.
In order for the female members not to interfere with
their male colleagues, the room where the shura holds
meetings should be provided with a special entrance for
women. They should also sit in a secluded place in the