January 22, 2015
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz has died at 90. Announcement of his death hit the airwaves, after earlier report by the state-run press that the head of Saudi Monarchy was suffering from Pneumonia.
State television showed Saudis gathered in Mecca to pay their respect and stand in unity as they mourn the King who many considered a reformer and proponent of Women’s rights despite Cleric opposition.
With his passing, the next in line to ascend the throne is the King’s half brother, Prince Salma Bin Abdulaziz, a more conservative member of the monarchy, who many believe could derail part of King Abdullah’s reforms especially, his efforts to give more rights to women, which led to the election of some women to Parliament for the first time.
King Abdullah became king in 2005 but he had run the country since 1996, after his half-brother King Fahd suffered a stroke. On coming to power, he invested the nation’s revenue from oil on education and development projects that later established Saudi Arabia as a leader in the region.
The King was instrumental in the planning and founded the prestigious King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which officially opened its doors to students on September 23, 2009 in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. He ushered his country into the World Trade Organization, reformed the religious police, cracked down on extremism and offered a plan for Arab-Israeli peace.
After 9/11, Saudi leadership faced harsh criticism from the United States, when intelligence revealed that fifteen of the hijackers were Saudi citizens. However, on ascension to the Saudi throne in 2005, King Abdullah became a strong ally of the U.S. and contributed his nation’s resources and intelligence towards capturing and killing Al Qaeda leaders in the Kingdom, while at the same time forcing some of the hardline jihadists to go underground.
The Saudi leadership under King Abdullah pledged its support to the West and the U.S. in their efforts to end ISIS threat globally and last year, Saudi Arabia joined other Arab nations to support the U.S. led campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
With the death of King Abdullah, it remains unclear if his successor would carry on with some of his reforms. Though, there are still unanswered questions about human rights abuse and suppression of free speech in Saudi Arabia, many agree the nation became more receptive to public discussion of its problems, while King Abdullah was in control.
Categories: Current Affair