Saudi Reforms, Five Years After

Over at Crossroads Arabia, I’ve posted a lengthy and detailed entry about the reforms that have happened in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. Some of the post concerns things that happened while I was assigned there as Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Riyadh. The rest is culled my my blog on US-Saudi relations, starting in the summer of 2004.

Some of the reforms look paltry from a Western perspective. But many of them are very, very big from a Saudi perspective. Considering the starting point, I think there’s real progress in reforming both Saudi civil society and government in favorable directions. New or enlarged freedoms range from the opening of new job categories to women; empowering them to get their own ID cards without male permission/supervision; a more free press; the opening of human rights bodies; the first nation-wide elections of any kind; more attention being paid to child and spousal abuse, as well as abuse of third world workers; moves toward greater transparency in government and the judicial system; reforming textbooks and school curricula; public condemnation of extremism and religious intolerance; and its own war against Islamic terrorism.
There is still a lot to be done. The progress made isn’t guaranteed to stick. But I think it important to realize that change toward moderation is, in fact, happening, and to acknowledge it. We want to see evidence that reform is possible. Here’s some.

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John Burgess
About John Burgess
John Burgess retired after 25 years as a US Foreign Service Officer, serving predominantly in the Middle East. He contributed 35 pieces to OTB between February 2006 and April 2014. He was the proprietor of the influential Crossroads Arabia until his death in February 2016.