Observations on Saudi Arabia

A Journal of People report

James Zogby, author of Arab Voices and contributor president of Arab American Institute made a number of observations on Saudi Arabia in an article (“Saudi Arabia Is Changing”) in Huffington Post (February 25, 2017). James Zogby has visited the country over four dozen times in the past four decades and has been able to conduct polling across the Kingdom for the past decade and a half. The observations include:
# “Something is happening in Saudi Arabia. The country is undergoing real change.”
# “In the early 1950’s … the population of Riyadh, the capitol, was in the tens of thousands. By 1980 … it had grown to one million. Today Greater Riyadh is approaching seven million souls.”

# “As rural people flooded into newly expanded urban areas, many experienced culture shock feeling a need to cling to the purity of the ‘old ways’…”
# “With each passing year subtle but real changes have occurred. Some were the result of the tens of thousands of Saudis who studied abroad; others flowed from the transformations in daily life and social and economic relations …”
# “There is today a conscious and deliberate effort by Saudi leadership to speed up this process of transforming their society and to challenge some elements of the traditional culture that stand in the way of moving the country forward. Some of the impetus behind this effort is … due to the need to move beyond dependence on oil revenues and government subsidized employment. Another important factor is the coming of age of a new generation of leaders who want to modernize their country …”
# “A significant segment of the population remains conservative and the young leadership is not inclined to totally upend the social order creating disruptive instability.”
# Today’s Saudi Arabia is … with many Saudis living lives and connecting to the outside world in ways unimaginable to their grandparents.”
# “The number of Saudis studying abroad has increased to over two hundred thousand youngsters from all segments of Saudi society and all parts of the country.”
# “There are currently more women than men in college and women graduates are entering the workplace in ever increasing numbers.”
# “There has been a determined effort, working with international specialists, to modernize the education curriculum with changes on every level.”
# “Reforms in early childhood and elementary education; the new emphasis being given to math and science; the training programs that have been developed for teachers and aides preparing them to mainstream children with disabilities; and efforts to provide online and interactive educational opportunities for Saudis of all ages. These changes combined will no doubt produce even greater transformations in the years to come.”
# “There are dissidents … both those who say change is not coming fast enough and those disgruntled souls who are repulsed by modernity and who condemn any threats to the old order.”
# “As ambitious and promising as the national transformation program is, it is also a risky undertaking. On the one hand, there are the expectations that promised change has created. This must be weighed against the backlash of Saudi conservatives who are already expressing concern with this orchestrated movement toward modernizing their society.”
# “There is the impact of the disastrous and costly war in Yemen.”
# “Saudi Arabia is deeply troubled by Iran’s aggressive ambitions and concerned with the destabilization of their southern neighbor.”
# “There’s the cost [of war in Yemen] — especially given declining oil revenues and the price tag associated with the national transformation effort.”
The facts that have been mentioned in the above observations have far-reaching impact in the country and in distant places, in psychology at mass level and in practices.

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