Saudi Arabia, which makes up most of the Arabian
Peninsula, is probably the world's most conservative
country. The judiciary follows strict Islamic law and,
among other things, the discrimination against women is
heavily criticized in the western world. But most
criticism is silent on the country's huge oil deposits,
which make it an indispensable trading partner for
everyone. Saudi citizens enjoy great benefits, while the
millions of guest workers who do all the hard work are
lawless. There is no political freedom in this country,
where parties are banned and all power is based on the
Brief profiles of Saudi Arabia, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Saudi Arabia occupies about four-fifths of
the Arabian peninsula. The terrain, which largely
consists of sand deserts and steppe landscapes, slopes
from mountain ranges along the Red Sea in the west to
the lowlands of the Persian Gulf in the east.
Saudi Arabia is five times larger than Sweden and has
a border with seven countries as well as a connection to
Bahrain via a road bridge. In some cases, the boundaries
are uncertain or contentious; information on the size of
the country varies. Its political center is on the
desert high plateau Najd in the interior of the country,
where the capital Riyadh is located.
In the Hijaz coastal region of the Red Sea are the
pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina, as well as the
important port city of Jeddah. In the mountains to the
southwest lies the fertile province of Asir. The eastern
region of Hasa (al-Ahsa) was once characterized by oases
and fishing harbors, but today the oil industry
About one third of the country consists of desert.
The inaccessible al-Rub al-Khali in the south is one of
the world's largest sand deserts. To the north and
northeast are the deserts of Great and Little Nafud.
Neither lakes nor permanent rivers exist. Underground
sources provide water for oases, but otherwise Saudi
Arabia consists of steppe with lean bush vegetation.
The climate in Qatar is hot and humid in the summer
months of July - September, while the winters are mild.
In summers, the temperature can reach up to 50 degrees
in the shade and in winter it can drop to 10 degrees.
There is very little rain, but when that happens,
short-term watercourses can occur. A name on the map
that begins at Wadi gossips that there is a riverbed
that can someday carry water.
2 240 000 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 2 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab
Emirates, Oman, Yemen
Capital with number of residents
Riyadh 6.2 million (2012)
Other major cities
Jeddah (3.4 million inv), Mecca (1.5 million), Medina
(1.1 million), Dammam (900,000) (2010)
Jabal al-Sawda (3 133 m asl)
US limits arms exports to Saudi Arabia
13th of December
Because of the war in Yemen and the many civilian
deaths there, the US will restrict its sale of precision
weapons, the Defense Department said. The US government
has also previously criticized "shortcomings" in how
Saudi-style air strikes are carried out.
Shia Muslims are sentenced to death
Of a total of 32 who have been charged with treason
in collaboration with the Iranian intelligence service,
15 are sentenced to death, while the majority of the
others receive imprisonment. Except for an Iranian and
an Afghan, all are Saudi Shiites. The ruling risks
further deteriorating relations with Iran.
Deadly attack in Yemen regretted
The Saudi-led alliance admits that an air raid
against a funeral in Sanaa, which claimed more than 140
people's lives, was a mistake made because of "incorrect
information". Those responsible must be held
accountable, it is called. More than 500 people were
injured in the attack, which was carried out on October
8 and which caused strong condemnation in the outside
world. According to Human Rights Watch, the attack was
all about convicting a war crime.
Protests against new teams in the United States
The Foreign Ministry warns of "catastrophic
consequences" after a law was passed in the United
States that gives relatives of victims of the September
11 attacks the right to claim damages from Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh has worked hard to stop the law and US President
Barack Obama vetoed it. But Congress voted in an
unexpected majority with his veto. Saudi Arabia has
denied all involvement in the attacks, claiming that the
new law opens "dangerous" opportunities for private
lawsuit applications around the world (see further
Unusual strike at hospital
Employees at a hospital in the Eastern Province who
have been on strike for a week claim that they have not
been paid in four months. The strike has organized via
social media. Both Saudi and foreign employees
participate, which is very unusual.
Ministerial salaries are lowered
King Salman cuts the salaries of ministers by 20
percent and freezes the salaries of other government
officials, in yet another measure due to falling oil
revenues. Subsidies are also made for subsidies for,
among other things, cars and telephones for public
Call for women's rights
More than 14,000 women have written a call to the
government to abolish the system of men as guardians
(see Social conditions). The call follows a storm on
Twitter in July that received extra attention when in
conjunction with a Human Rights Watch report on the
issue. Only full names have been counted on the call,
which has also been supported by many who want to be
Iran's leaders are raging against Saudi Arabia
Ayatolla Khamenei accuses Saudi authorities of having
"murdered" pilgrims in Mina (see September 2015).
Khamenei claims that people injured in the congestion
were locked in containers and were not given medical
care. He also urges the world's Muslims to reevaluate
the Saudi administration of the holy places and calls
members of the royal house "evil" and "pitiful".
MSF criticism against Saudi Arabia
MSF decides to withdraw its staff from six hospitals
in Yemen and accuses the Saudi-led alliance of bombing
the facilities "indiscriminately". Over the past week,
19 people have died in a plane attack against a hospital
and ten schoolchildren have died in an attack on a
school in Yemen.
Record huge civilian loss in rocket attack from
Seven people are killed in a rocket attack on the
Saudi border city of Najran, the largest single loss of
civilian Saudis since the Yemen operation began. A total
of about 100 Saudis - soldiers and civilians - have been
killed in Saudi territory since the military operation
in Yemen began.
The US approves arms sales
9th of August
The US Department of Defense states that Saudi Arabia
will be able to buy up to 153 tanks and other equipment,
worth $ 1.15 billion. Congress must approve the sale,
which it is expected to do.
Attack on Yemen resumes
9th of August
The Saudi-led alliance launches a new air strike
against Yemen after a three-month break. Fourteen people
die when a factory in Sanaa meets, and the airport in
the capital closes. A few days earlier, UN envoy Ismail
Ould Cheickh Ahmed announced that negotiations on Yemen
have been stranded (see April 2014).
Four people are killed by a suicide bomber at the
Prophet's Mosque in Medina. At the same time, two
suicide bombers strike at a Shiite Muslim mosque in
Qatif, but they themselves become the only victims. A
fourth suicide bomber blasts near the US Consulate in
Jeddah, injuring two police officers. IS suspected to be
behind the death. The attack at the Medina Mosque,
Islam's second most sacred site, raises strong
condemnations even abroad.
Human rights groups demand that Saudi Arabia be shut
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch demand
that the UN suspend Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights
Council (UNHRC), due to civilian deaths in Yemen and
rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The two human rights
groups believe that the situation has worsened in recent
months, not least in Yemen where banned cluster bombs
have been used and ports have been blocked so that
supplies do not reach the civilian population.
Controversy with UN on "black list"
A conflict has arisen since the UN on June 2 brought
Saudi Arabia and its allies into the war in Yemen on a
list of countries whose military kills and mutilates
children, citing the many civilian casualties there.
According to a report, the coalition accounted for 60
percent of war-related deaths and injuries in children
in Yemen in 2015. After just four days, the countries
are removed from the list. Another couple of days later,
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon says that it has happened since the
designated countries threatened to cripple their funding
for a number of humanitarian programs. The
Secretary-General speaks of "unacceptable pressure" and
says it was one of the most painful decisions he had to
make, but that he feared that millions of children would
otherwise suffer. Saudi Arabia, which has rejected the
report's content, also denies having made such threats.
The government approves a diversification plan
The National Transformation Program 2020 is intended
to broaden the economic base so that revenues from other
than oil increase more than threefold. It will generate
450,000 new jobs by 2020, and cut public sector wages as
a proportion of spending from 45 to 40 percent in five
years. The program is part of Vision 2030 (see
Last Acpra founder imprisoned
Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, who is sentenced to eight
years in prison under anti-terrorism legislation, is the
only one of Acpra's founders who has not already been
sentenced to prison (see March 2015).
No Iranians by the shark
The Saudi leadership and the Iranian government are
unable to resolve a dispute over Iranian citizens'
participation in the pilgrimage. Iran has demanded
increased security and respect for the Iranian pilgrims
following the severe congestion accident in September
Economic reforms are presented
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces a
series of measures aimed at reducing the country's oil
dependency. These are under the name Vision 2030.
According to it, 5 percent of the shares in the
state-owned oil company Aramco will be sold and the
money will go to a special welfare fund, Muslims and
Arabs from other countries should be able to obtain a
visa to work in the country for a longer period,
measures will be taken to get more women out of the
labor market, investments will be made in the mining
industry and on increased production in the defense
industry. One of the goals is that by 2020 the country
will be able to show that it can do without the oil.
Obama visits Saudi Arabia
US President for talks with King Salman ahead of a
regional summit in Riyadh.
First foreign loan in 25 years
Saudi Arabia borrows $ 10 billion through a
consortium of global banks. It is the first time in a
quarter of a century that the country borrows money on
the international market. This year's budget deficit is
expected to correspond to almost one fifth of GDP.
Saudi Arabia prevents oil deal
An attempt by other oil-producing countries to reduce
production to drive up oil prices falls when Saudi
Arabia refuses to agree to a deal as long as Iran is not
present. In May, the state oil company Aramco states
that production will increase during the year.
The king on a state visit to Egypt
King Salman ends a five-day visit to Egypt where he
expressed strong support for President Sisi and pledged
investments in the multi-billion class. Salman has also
reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's strong support for the
Egyptian regime's fight against IS on the Sinai
Peninsula. The parties have also agreed that two
uninhabited islands in the Red Sea, Sanafir and Tiran,
will move to Saudi Arabia.
Arms rest begins in Yemen
Saudi Arabia says the alliance respects a ceasefire
reached at the request of Yemen's President Hadi, but
reserves the right to respond if the rebels attack. The
settlement means that supplies and auxiliary personnel
must be released throughout the country. Negotiations
between the warring parties start in Kuwait a little
later this month. UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Raad
al-Hussein has recently stated that the alliance has
killed twice as many civilians in Yemen as everyone else
involved together (see also January 2016).
Over 100 civilian casualties in Yemen
Widespread devastation is reported following an air
raid by the Saudi-led alliance, against a marketplace in
the health-controlled area of Hajjah province. Later,
the UN reports that 120 people have been killed,
including 22 children. A few days later, the Saudi
military command states that the operation in Yemen
should be stepped down.
GCC terrorist stamps Lebanese group, aid strangled
The Arab Peninsula Cooperation Organization decides
that the Shi'ite Lebanese movement is a terrorist
organization. Riyadh has also ordered Saudi tourists to
stay away from Lebanon. In February, the government also
decided to withhold $ 4 billion in aid to military and
security services in Lebanon, because the country has
not condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia's embassy in
Tehran in January. Lebanon has long been a scene for the
power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Large regional military maneuver
Around 20 countries, according to Saudi sources, are
participating in what is described as the "most
important" maneuver in the region to date. Army forces
are included as well as air force and navy in the
exercise. In addition to other GCC countries, according
to sources Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan,
Senegal, Chad and Tunisia participate.
Saudi Arabia promises increased efforts against IS
Saudi Arabia, which has recently resumed air strikes
against IS - after months without participation -
promises to continue and also opens up the opportunity
to send ground troops to Syria. The promise is made at a
meeting in Brussels with around 25 defense ministers
from countries in the US-led alliance fighting IS in
Iraq and Syria.
Death sentence against poet is lifted
A court changes a previous death sentence against
stateless Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to eight years
in prison and 800 whips, which is the sentence he was
first sentenced to but then sharpened. He was arrested
in 2014 and charged with apostasy from Islam. Fayadh,
who is also active in the art world, has, according to
the court, been denounced in poems, on Twitter and in
UN alarm on war crimes against civilians in Yemen
In a leaked UN report, the Saudi-led alliance, which
is fighting the Youtube rulers in Yemen, is accused of
directing air strikes against the civilian population in
a "widespread and systematic" way. Civilians must have
been intentionally starved for the past nine months. UN
experts demand an investigation into human rights
violations. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has also been alerted
to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with evidence
indicating that cluster bombs may have been used in
Yemen's capital Sanaa on January 6. Saudi Arabia rejects
the allegations. But human rights organizations have
already warned that war crimes are being committed in
connection with air strikes. In May 2015, HRW raised an
alarm that cluster bombs were used on at least two
US Secretary of State visiting
John Kerry meets Adel al-Jubeir and other colleagues
from the Persian Gulf countries. The visit is seen as an
attempt to assure the Allied states of the Arabian
Peninsula that the thawing weather in US relations with
Iran poses no threat.
Chinese President visiting
Xi Jinping begins his first visit to the region of
Riyadh. The journey in the troubled Middle East is seen
as a way for China to show greater commitment to
Same Badawi grips
Human rights lawyer Walid al-Khair's wife Samar
Badawi, who is also the sister of Raif Badawi, is
arrested in Jeddah. She is released conditionally the
following day. According to reports, the reason for the
arrest is that she manages a Twitter account where the
view that Khair should be released has been expressed
(see Political system and July 2014).
The arrest triggered criticism in the outside world,
including Amnesty International.
Diplomatic relations with Iran are broken
The Saudi government breaks relations with Iran and
orders the country's ambassador to Riyadh to leave
within two days. All trade and aviation connections are
interrupted and Saudi citizens are prohibited from
traveling to Iran. Several of Saudi Arabia's closest
allies are following and breaking or downgrading their
relations with Tehran. The Arab League also condemns
Iran's "hostile acts and provocations".
Mass executions trigger protests in the outside
47 people are executed in one day, the highest figure
in a single day since 1980. Among them is Nimr al-Nimr,
one of the country's leading Shiite Muslim leaders.
Another three Shi'a Muslims are among those executed,
though not as he had feared al-Nimr's nephew Ali al-Nimr,
who was 17 years old when he was arrested. The others
are Sunni Muslims. Several of them are described as
members of al-Qaedaand are convicted of attacks on state
institutions and Western representations in 2003-2006.
The executions carried out at twelve locations in Saudi
Arabia are met by protests both in the country and in
the region and are feared to exacerbate the already
serious conflict with Iran. As a result of the mass
execution, protesters in Tehran storm the Saudi embassy
and set fire to the building before being driven back by
police. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
warns of "divine revenge" for the execution of Nimr al-Nimr
(see December 2015).
Armistice in Yemen over
Saudi Arabia announces that a ceasefire launched in
conjunction with peace talks in Switzerland on December
15 is formally over and accuses the Huthirbells of
breaking it. The fighting has continued throughout the
more than two weeks the ceasefire has formally