Saudi Arabia. The low oil price continued to pose
problems for the country's economy. Saudi Arabia and a
number of other oil-producing countries, both within and
outside the oil-producing countries' organization OPEC,
tried during the year to limit oil production in order to
drive up prices. However, no radical price increases were
Countryaah, the economic problems, which created unemployment, were
the main reason why Saudi Arabia continued to expel foreign
workers during the year. During the summer, 106,000
immigrants were forced to leave the country without a
residence permit, which was criticized by the human rights
organization Human Rights Watch for violating the human
rights of foreign workers.
The rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which
has been going on for years, was manifested in February when
Iran's former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani visited the
country and met King Fahd.
Two British nurses who were sentenced to long prison
terms in 1997 for murdering an Australian colleague in 1996
were released in May after the murdered brother had agreed
to pardon them in exchange for financial compensation.
The conflict surrounding the investigation of the bomb
attack against a US military base in al-Khubar in 1996
became increasingly apparent. US investigators suspected
that Iran was involved in the attack, while Saudi Arabia
ruled that the culprits were Saudis who acted without
outside support. The Americans then downplayed their role in
At least 118 Muslim pilgrims were killed when panic
erupted in a crowd near the holy city of Mecca during the
pilgrimage period in April.
The country's industrial centers were primarily located
in two new cities: Jubail on the Gulf Coast and Yanbu on the
Red Sea, with connections, via oil and natural gas
pipelines, to the oil fields in the east.
The five-year plan 1985-90 promised "a more equitable
distribution of revenue," but it happened at the same time
as the first signs of financial problems began to emerge.
For the first time in 1994 a government budget deficit was
noted. The reason was the falling oil prices. Industry
Minister Ghazi Al Gosaibi was forced to resign in a poem
referring to the corruption in the country, which was taken
as evidence that there were calls for perhaps serious
disagreements between the royal house and Saudi citizenship.
Despite this, millions of predominantly North American
weapons continued to be procured - partly to secure the Gulf
Coast against any Iranian attacks, and partly to satisfy an
increasingly powerful and influential army ambitions.
During the war in the 1980s between Iran and Iraq, Saudi
Arabia supported Iraq financially due to the fear that the
Islamic Revolution in Iran would spread to the Gulf. Fahd
changed his title from being the king to now the guardian of
the shrine, but over the years the protests of the pilgrims
in Mecca increased; a growing indignation over the alliance
between Riyadh and Washington and over what was considered
to be the commercialization and westernization of the
shrines, now surrounded by shopping malls, highways and
other symbols of Western culture. A march involving Iranian
women and invalids was stopped by police bullets and
hundreds of pilgrims perished. As revenge, the Saudi and
Kuwaiti embassies were attacked and burned down, and
relations between the two countries cooled considerably.
In the early 1990s, Amnesty International criticized what
they called the systematic human rights abuses, including
the use of torture against union leaders and opposition
politicians, the majority of whom were Shia Muslims.
Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, August 1990, Saudi
Arabia formed the framework for a colossal military auction;
a multinational coalition headed by the United States. Apart
from the loss of human lives, the war caused significant
environmental disasters. After the end of the war, Saudi
Arabia purchased about $ 14 billion worth of North American
In March 1992, King Fahd issued a series of decrees aimed
at decentralizing political power. These laws, consisting of
83 paragraphs, were called "the fundamental system of
government", and a council was set up, among other things,
to assess all national policy issues. However, the real
power remained on the king's hands.
The royal decree also introduced the religious police,
"Mutawein", whose task was to ensure compliance with Islamic
laws. Acc. these are home to a sacred place and therefore
the state, in this case the police, has access to conduct
home investigations without having to have permission.
Against this backdrop, several people suspected of violating
the law could be arrested.