News Release

Saudi Monarch’s Death: A Chance for Democracy?

Presidents Bush and Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Presidents Bush and Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

ALA’A SHEHABI, alaa at, @alaashehabi
Shehabi is with Bahrain Watch. She said today: “We hope things will change — Saudi Arabia has been an obstacle for Arab democracy in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt and throughout the region.”

ALI AL-AHMED, director at, @AliAlAhmed_en
Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, al-Ahmed tweeted about the death of King Abdullah several hours before it was confirmed by Saudi officials yesterday. Reuters reported late yesterday afternoon (just before 5:00 p.m. ET): “A member of the royal family wrote: ‘I give you good news. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is fine and there is no truth to the rumors going around.'”

Al-Ahmed features regular dissent and criticism of the Saudi regime on his Twitter feed. He was featured on the IPA news release last year: “13 Years After 9/11: Has ISIS Been ‘A Saudi Project’?

JAMAL GHOSN, jamgho at, @jamalghosn
Managing editor of Al-Akhbar, Ghosn said today: “Internally, the reign of Abdullah saw the violent oppression of the already marginalized Shia minority in the oil rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to thousands of political prisoners that are held throughout the Kingdom. Then there’s the ludicrous terrorism charges against women drivers, the fact that up to a quarter of the Saudi population are living under the poverty line, and the underdeveloped infrastructure that has seen people die because of rain in places like Jeddah.

“Regionally, Al-Qaeda in Iraq — and what it has evolved into — has to be Abdullah’s biggest legacy. That and the Saudi money spent on global Wahhabi daawa [proselytizing] have left the world with a mutant religion that will wreak havoc for years to come.

“But what I think is most overlooked so far is that even this relatively minor amount of criticism won’t appear on Arabic language media. Saudi money practically has a monopoly over Arabic language mass media. Even those who disagree with KSA at times — i.e. Qatari and Iranian media — tend to be hesitant in taking on the Saudi royal family. Access to a publication like Al-Akhbar, which has no qualms about publishing criticism of Saudi Arabia and its royal family, is blocked in the Kingdom.”