Posts Tagged ‘Youth’

Two Sides of a Sword

16/05/2012

 

Saudi Arabia is known as the country with the highest oil reserves and as the largest oil producer. The country started exporting oil since 1939 which means it is been more than 72 years since then. The infrastructure of the country was significantly developed and the face of changed as a result of the income of exporting oil for all of these years. However, corruption was there along the way resulting in a lot of waste and improper management of the huge available income.

 

More people are aware today of the fact that more than 30% of the Saudis are less than 15 years old. In the other hand, King Abdullah is about 90 years old and none of the ministers is less than 50 years old with one single exception. In many countries people talk about Generation Y and how much different they are compared to Generation X and older generations. Saudi Arabia is not an exception here. Younger people in Saudi Arabia have their own needs and expectations. Without meeting those needs and expectations, things in the future might get more difficult in different aspects.

 

As unemployment is on the rise and more youngsters are graduating from universities not only local ones but also prestigious schools from around the world, the pressures are getting more tense on the government. The fresh graduates who choose to come back home were exposed during their years abroad to new cultures and political systems that are faraway from what they’ll find home. Surely not each one of them will have the guts, time or interest to demand implementing similar changes in their country. However, some might find it the most important thing they could give back to their country and to their future kids. Many of these students are actually females. Given the current situation of females in Saudi Arabia, I don’t expect many of those female graduates to accept the statuesque. Not only the government will struggle with that, but also the more conservative groups of the society as well.

 

Social Media brought to Saudi Arabia a vibe of change like nothing else in the past ten years. Many people experienced the freedom of saying what they really feel without a lot of concern. Many realized that the country is not what they personally believe in and that others might not share with them the same views. With the impact of the Arab Spring, individuals in Saudi Arabia know that they are part of the equation and ignoring them is not really an option. It is true that Riyadh streets did not experience any protests, but many use Social Media as Saudi Arabia’s Tahrir Square. Almost nothing could stop that. The question is how far and for how long such protests will remain a cyber-phenomenon.

From another angel, such challenges to the future of Saudi Arabia can be considered as strengths and catalysts for change and better future for the country. The financial wealth available is great, however the real assets of any nation is its own people. The country has no choice but to bring more inclusion of its citizens in running things. The Royals cannot run everything and might not have the right people in the near future who have the wisdom to keep things together. Going into the future without a vision will make the country very vulnerable to any internal or external risks. The stability Saudi Arabia experienced for many years might be at risk very soon.

 

Oil and money can be here today but they are not assured for the future. Educated and dedicated citizens will not ensure the sustainability of any country. Saudi Arabia today is facing the two sides of a sword. Either it will bring prospers future or it might mean the end of any hope in the future.

 

 

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In the Middle of the Noise

23/02/2011

The Arab World is going through a very historic time. The head of states in Tunisia and Egypt have had changed after 23 and 30 years in power, respectively. Libyans are strongly pushing for changing their current regime which is lead by Mumar Al-Ghadafi for more than 40 years. The regimes in Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and Morocco are also faced by different levels of popular uprising.

 

Many of the people in the other Arab countries are following what is happening in these countries with mix feelings of fear, hope, excitement and unbelief. People are so fearful of how things might end up and of the number of victims that might be caused by these uprising. Yet they are so hopeful and excited about tomorrow and how it’ll be shaped once the normal people have finally a say over how their countries shall be run and developed. Till this moment I, sometimes, feel that what had happened in a month is just a dream because it was so hard to even think of before.

 

What about Saudi Arabia? Would the world see similar uprising in the land of oil? What do you think about as a Saudi of what is going on?. These are for sure questions in the minds of many people around the world, especially diplomats and journalists. I personally think that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt was not something that can be predicted to happen, then I think that the predictable is not really the norm these days in the Arab World. The predictable in Saudi Arabia is that nothing will happen. Things, regardless of how much I can complain, are very different compared to many other places in the world. However, I believe that there are at least four groups of Saudis when it comes to how a Saudi might interact with what is going on in the Arab World. The first group consists of those who don’t care much because they live isolated from what is going on, either because they are rich and live the elite life or poor enough to have most of their focus on what is in their food table every day. There is no way to really quantify this group in numbers. Yet, as more of this group becomes engaged in what is going on and feel that they must have a say over what is going on, the shift in power then might spark the unpredictable.

 

The second group includes Al-Qaeda supports and alike those who believe in overthrowing the government using violence. I heard many analysts claim that Al-Qaeda is losing ground in the Arab World these days because people can see an alternative to the violence Al-Qaeda adopted in its effort for change. On the short term, I agree. However, on the long term, time only can tell. If things improve in Tunisia and Egypt and the rest of the Arab World, the legitimacy of Al-Qaeda tactics will diminish. Yet, if things don’t improve or the new governments in the new Arab World adopt constitutions that are rejected by Al-Qaeda, more supports might be then following the route of Al-Qaeda seeking change in their countries.

 

The third group consists of those who are hopeful of change that lead to democracy, human rights and the state of institutions. This group in Saudi Arabia includes Islamic reformists, liberals (or so called), many females, educated younger generations and others. The latest calls for change in Saudi Arabia coincided with the return of King Abdullah after a long medical treatment trip. So far, I am aware of three letters that were signed by more than three thousands Saudis asking for reforms. These letters represents the voice of this group and the three letters had many basic common demands including an agreed upon constitution, elections for Shura Council, the release of many long term prisons who are in jail without trial, and Separation of the executive, legislative and judicial the powers. My friend and fellow Saudi blogger Ahmed Al-Omran translated the last of the three letters in the link here (Declaration of a National Reform). This group has been active in the cyberspace for the past few years. The current changes in Tunisia and Egypt inspired this stream and created more followers to its desires.

 

The Saudis who are not comfortable with change and think that things are not that bad represent the fourth group. This group includes various group of citizens who believe in the system and cannot see themselves crabapple or responsible of change. They feel that the government is the sole responsible about what to do to them and for the future of the country. I personally believe that this group is one of the larger groups, however cannot make much of difference since they are passive and expect things to happen to them by the government.

 

The last group consists of those who usually adopt the government and religious clerks. Some friends think that this set of people is getting smaller as people are exposed to more sources of information and discussions. I don’t completely agree since I believe that many Saudis trust the government decisions and look for the opinion of the pro-government religious institution in almost every problem.  

 

The interaction between these five groups and the government will be very crucial in determining the future of Saudi Arabia. It is extremely difficult to predict what exactly might happen, but it is evident that more Saudis demand more changes and freedoms inside their country. So far the government did not show much of understanding of what type of earthquake is hitting the Arab World. A very generous financial support package was announced through Royal Decrees but some Saudis felt that the government is not listening to their hopes. I personally felt very disappointed. In the era of new Arab revolutions, a financial package felt like a bribe that does not address the real constant issues in the country. The package will benefit some Saudis greatly, yet the prominent issue in the past was not the lack of the financial resources but the extremely weak monitoring of how these resources are spent and misuse of these resources.  I am dreaming of a constitution, elections and freedom of speech. If not enough Saudis show their readiness to be in charge of their future and take some risk and pressure the government to adopt change, things will be difficult to move ahead and completely dependent on the government’s choices only.