By blaming 1979 for Saudi Arabia’s problems, MBS is peddling revisionist history

Source: Dawn

IN an interview with the news programme 60 Minutes, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said of Saudi Arabia before 1979, “We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries. Women were driving cars, there were movie theatres in Saudi Arabia, women worked everywhere. We were normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.”

I was a teenager in the 1970s and grew up in Medina, Saudi Arabia. My memories of those years before the twin disasters of 1979 — the siege of the Grand Mosque of Makkah and the Iranian Revolution — are quite different from the narrative that the 32-year-old crown prince (known as MBS for short) advances to Western audiences. Women weren’t driving cars. I didn’t see a woman drive until I visited my sister and brother-in-law in Tempe, Arizona, in 1976.

The movie theatres we had were makeshift, like American drive-ins except much more informal. The movie was beamed on a big wall. You would pay five or 10 riyals (then approximately $1.50-$2) to the organiser, who would then give a warning when the religious police approached. To avoid being arrested, a friend of mine broke his leg jumping off a wall. In the 1970s, the only places on the Arabian peninsula where women were working outside the home or school were Kuwait and Bahrain.

The first rule that affected Saudi women’s rights was not the result of a campaign by Wahhabi religious authorities or a fatwa. Many Saudis remember the sad story of a 19-year-old Saudi princess who tried to flee the country with her lover. They were both executed in 1977; the episode was the subject of a 1980 British documentary drama Death of a Princess. The reaction of the government to the princess’ elopement was swift: the segregation of women became more severe, and no woman could travel without the consent of a male relative.


Categories: Asia, Saudi Arabia

3 replies

  1. “I agree with MBS that the nation should return to its pre-1979 climate, when the government restricted hard-line Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment. But replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer”.
    Crux is said in these words. Actions are more strong than words so MBS should pay attention to these.

    • I know, it is in process, he also act becarefully, but at keast he declare to reform— let us see and wait… there is a hope —

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