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Actual changes in Saudi society? 16, February 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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I have written previously about the vacillating nature of reform in Saudi Arabia. Forward one day, back the next. However, it appears as if King Abdullah has taken something of a decisive step forwards. The New York Times reports the firing of the chief of Saudi’s notorious religious police as well as the conservative cleric who deemed it acceptable to kill owners of TV stations that broadcast ‘immoral’ content. Furthermore, as if to add insult to the conservative’s injury, he appointed a woman as a deputy cabinet minister overseeing girl’s education. Need it be said, this is first appointment of this type in Saudi history.

These signs are particularly encouraging as the King appears to be instigating practical reforms in key areas of society: the police, education, and the media. This will please those craving reform. However, they must realise – as indeed many of them do – that reforms can not come too quickly, for Saudi society is both fragile and conservative. Nevertheless, this is clearly at least one step forward and…