All posts by lizie

Saudi Arabia: A Gang?

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 when King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman united the unruly Bedouin tribes that filled the dry Arabian Peninsula under his rule. Since then, the Al Saud Dynasty has ruled over Saudi Arabia. Early on, the royal family adopted the strict interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism, and the rest of the country quickly followed. The extremist teachings of Wahhabism and global terrorism are closely connected. Although the United States and Saudi Arabia have very different policies on human rights and religious tolerance, the countries were brought together over their shared interest in Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. A significant break in this friendship came in 1973, with the Yom-Kippur War. In a political stand, the Saudis cut the western world off from their oil resources; because of this action, the United States faced an energy crisis. After the event, Saudi Arabia realized the large demand for their oil and dramatically increased the price. They soon began to reap the benefits of their natural resources. Since then, the US has worked hard to remain close allies with Saudi Arabia because of its great oil reserves and wealth, and not because of any similarities in ideology.

In many regards, the royal family of Saudi Arabia functions like a large institutionalized gang, with a shared identity, a strong level of permanence and organization, and an involvement in illegal activities. The Saudi royal family has amassed 1.4 trillion-dollar fortune, one of the biggest family fortunes in recent history. Released documents from WikiLeaks have made clear the misuse of wealth by the royal family. A Forbes article citing a Reuters report states that “revenues from as much as 1 million barrels per day of Saudi oil production were skimmed off by just a handful of princes.”  The royal family numbers in the thousands and the profit cuts of a few princes can only be a small part of the greater problem. The irony of Saudi Arabia is too much; in a country where twenty percent of the population is living in severe poverty, the great-great-grand-children of the late king receive an $8,000 a month stipend just for being royal. Like the wealth of most gangs, the prosperity of Saudi Arabia has not been evenly distributed, and has aggravated an already large income inequality problem. The absence of trustworthy numerical data about the economic state of the country sends up red flags. If nothing is wrong, why hide it? On the World Bank website, the poverty statistics graph is blank as “No data is available for the specified location.” Why is there no data for this particular graph? While the official results state that the unemployment rate is a rather low 11.7% of men, experts suspect it to be much closer to 29%. This stark discrepancy shows the Saudi government covering up their clear failing on behalf of their people. There is no reason that a country with a GDP in the top 20 worldwide cannot provide for 20% of its population.

The royal family is enormous. With the popular practice of polygamy and easy divorce for males, the first king of Saudi Arabia had over a hundred children, and these children had children. The thousands of Saudi princesses and princes make up a very wealthy upper-class, not because of what they have done, but because of the family into which they were born. The family even has a website! Although Saudi Arabia masquerades as a wealthy, powerful, and oil rich country, they are unwilling to provide basic necessities to millions of their citizens. The incredible fortune of the Saudi royal family and the drastic income inequality of their country illustrates the family’s gang-like nature.