American Elephants


King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia Has Died at Age 90 by The Elephant's Child

saudiking

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90, according to a statement from the Royal Court.

Abdullah’s half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, who is 79 years old, was declared king and Prince Mugrin, 69, became crown prince. He became  governor of Riyadh Province in 1962 and ruled the province until 2011 when he became defense minister. He has played an increasingly prominent role in Saudi politics. He is known to favor close political and economic ties with the West.

Most of us know little about the very conservative desert kingdom. The modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded only in 1932. Abdullah had to steer the alliance with America through the 9/11 terror attacks. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers and many pointed out that the ideology of al-Qaeda stemmed from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

When al-Qaeda militants began a wave of violence in the kingdom in 2003 aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. Security forces battled militants for 3 years, finally forcing them to retreat to Yemen. Abdullah had worked steadily to slowly modernize the kingdom. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships for students of both sexes.

He also moved to open greater opportunities for women to participate. He gave women seats on the Shura Council, an  unelected body that advises the king and government. Small steps, but big within the kingdom, where the Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and give the Saud family’s rule religious legitimacy. State-run TV has begun playing music, forbidden for decades. Small careful steps.

Abdullah had 30 children from around 12 wives.


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