Saudi Arabia – what you need to know about the changes this week
The situation in Saudi Arabia looks set to change in the wake of the death of King Abdullah this week.
The situation so far: oil prices have risen for the first time in months as the stock market braces for possible changes in oil production policies and his successor, Salman, is reported to have dementia. Saudi Arabia remained staunch throughout the Arab Spring, yet we are yet to see what impact the rise of IS in Syria and Iraq may have on the Kingdom, that and the recent collapse of government in neighbouring Yemen.
The King’s death may also have repercussions in relation to women’s rights. Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where it is illegal for a woman of any nationality to drive. The king had announced however that this ban would be lifted in 2015, a plan which was heavily blocked by traditionalists. This yeat will also be the first year that women are allowed to vote in elections in the country. King Salman has promised that the country will continue along the same path which Abdullah was gearing toward, and hopes are that this statement will be upheld.
Expats with a residence visa (iqama) in Saudi Arabia should also take note that this week saw the deadline for registering their biometrics with the passport office. As of January 21st it became mandatory for anyone wishing to renew or obtain an iqama to first register their fingerprints with the passport office,. This applies to both males and females over the age of fifteen. For more information on this, visit our health blog.
Saudi Arabia may be taking heed of its slightly tarnished image in the west in relation to blogger Raif Badawi. Imprisoned for 10 years due to his blog which was created in order to form debate on religious and political matters in the country. He had also been sentenced to 50 public lashes (flogging) per week for a period of 20 weeks. Following his first punishment on January 9th which caused outrage around the world, the flogging has since been postponed due to reported medical grounds. This may be seen as an awareness of the conservative, oil rich nation’s reputation on the world stage.
Leaders and dignitaries from around the Muslim world are currently congregating in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, for the king’s funeral. While the rest of the world watches and waits to see what is in store for the Kingdom at this most unstable and turbulent of times in the Middle East and within the country itself.