I am glad to be alive to witness the current social and political movements which are occurring in the Middle East. Not since after the end of World War I, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (which controlled most of the Middle Eastern regions for 500 years) have such extraordinary changes occurred. That is when victorious French and English governments basically divided up the Middle East to suit themselves, creating countries without a thought for how the divisions might affect the millions of Arabs and Kurds and others living there. Britian and France and Italy remained in charge of local governments (selecting whomever agreed with them to be the rulers) but slowly those European controlled governments were overthrown. Sadly, most were replaced by military dictators who cared nothing for the people they ruled, and in most cases, making the situation even more dire for the people on the ground.
When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1978, there was anticipation in the air that good changes would occur (especially for the female population) but with the unexpected events shortly to come (the overthrow of the Shah and the violent occupation of the holy mosques in Makkah) the Al Saud government (led by King Khalid) retreated from any plans to slowly bring social change. Their fears made them cling to the old plans of hanging to power by whatever means possible. But with the education of their women, and the succession of King Abdullah to the throne, things are looking brighter for greater freedoms for all, including Saudi women. Certainly, King Abdullah has shown that he is open to change. Now the worry is that he won’t live long enough to make the necessary changes before a successor achieves power and takes the political and social gains back to the old days. Although Princess Sultana is not of King Abdullah’s line (King Abdullah had a different mother (same father) from Sultana’s grandfather), the princess tells me that she supports her king fully and wishes him the longest life possible. She claims that all her female cousins and other females she knows shares her feelings. This is amazing to me for in the past the offspring of various princes only supported their side of the family!
And so I continue to follow the ongoing excitements in the Middle East. True change is in the works. Here’s to the courageous ones leading the way to a better future for millions of people.