Solidarism and its Enemies in Saudi Arabia

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The year 2010 is unforgettable year in the history of the MENA region. The end of 2010 was the starting point of massive social movements that took places in almost the whole MENA countries (the Arab Spring). Millions of people took the streets and started protesting against their governments. However, the size and age of these social movements were different from country to another. Some governments could successfully control the social order of their countries, while some others could not. Needless to say, the amount of wealth these countries have played a significant role in determining the size and age of the revolutions. The oil rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia, could maintain the social stability by providing a massive amount of social and economic benefits to their citizens [1].

Saudi government has used the wealth of oil to ensure peace and stability in the country by providing a huge amount of social and economic benefits to its citizens. In 2011 and as a result of the impact of Arab Spring, a small scale of social unrest started appearing in some parts of the state. The Saudi government responded to the social movements by providing a massive amount of social and economic benefits, which cost the country almost $130 billion [1]. As a result, the streets turned from anti-government revolution to pro-government movements.

The Role of Religious identities on the Social Solidarity:

Religious identity is one of the most important facts that can directly affect the social solidarity. The division between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia has been the main factor that may affect the social stability of the country. In 1979 and as a result of the influence of the Iranian Islamic revolution, thousands of Shiites in Saudi Arabia took the street and started protesting against the government. The Shiites showed respect and loyalty to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. At that time a large scale violent clash between the Saudi security forces and the Shiite protesters [2].

As a result of the fear of Iranian influence in the country, the Saudi government started treating the Shiites differently from the other Saudi citizens. Saudi Shiites receive the same social and economic benefits as the other Sunnis. However, the difference starts when it comes to the security sectors of the country. The Shiites are not able to hold important positions in some government sectors, such as military, intelligence, and so on. As a result, a big gap between Sunnis and Shiites started to appear in this country.

Map of Oil and Gas Fields in Saudi Arabia
Cited from

Since then, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia witness many small scale social movements. The movements never extended to a dangerous level that can really affect the stability of the country [2]. That is as a result of the heavy security forces that existed in the region that mainly dominated by Shiites. The importance of the region of Saudi Shiites put them under the eye of government. In fact, the majority of Saudi oilfields are concentrated in the areas that are mainly populated by Shiite. For instance, the largest oil field not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the whole world (Ghawar field) is located in an a city called Al-Ahsa that is mainly populated Shiites. This field alone represents 60% to 65% of the Saudi total oil production [3].

Women Movements in Saudi Arabia: 

Women’s right to drive has been one of the main issues that may affect the social solidarity of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive. In the last few years, many Saudi women activists started to mobilize women for the purpose of lifting the ban on female driving. The women activities started in 2003 by a Saudi writer woman called Wajeha al-Huwaider. At that time, she started using the media to persuade more Saudi women to join her movement against women driving ban in the country. Today, there are thousands of women who were affected by the voice of Ms. al-Huwaider. As a result, some women public protests started taking place in the country [4].


Saudi Arabia is one of the most stable countries in the MENA region. The social and economic benefits that are given to the Saudi citizens by the government really support the social stability in the country. However, the country has some political and social issues that should deal with in order to maintain this level of social stability. The religious division and women right to drive are the two main issues that may lead to social unrests in the country.


[1] Cammett, Melani; Diwan, Ishac; Richards, Alan; Waterbury, John (2015-02-24). A Political Economy of the Middle East (Kindle Location 7970). Westview Press. Kindle Edition.







2 thoughts on “Solidarism and its Enemies in Saudi Arabia

  1. Saudi Arabia is a very interesting country. Although a relatively stable country in the region it still ha issues which shows us that throwing money at a problem will make the problem disappear. If Saudi is going to continue discriminating against Shiites, then the government is going to have to deal with the consequences. Also, because of social media women are increasingly realizing their right as women and are acting upon it. Both Saudi Arabia and Palestine face different problems than many other countries in the region.


  2. This was a great blog. I agree with everything the first comment had to say. especially with trying to fix the problems by just putting in money. the money can help situation a little but not when the problem I discrimination.


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