Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was not covered by US President Donald Trump’s entry ban at the beginning of the year. But in March, an electronics ban was introduced, which prohibited passengers from having larger electronic items in the cabin during flights to the United States. This ban affected eight countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen. The United Kingdom also introduced a similar decision, which also included Saudi Arabia.
According to Countryaah.com, sharp criticism was directed at Sweden, and other countries, which in April voted Saudi Arabia into the UN Women’s Commission (CSW). As the vote was closed, what Sweden had voted for was not made public. Later, however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that no country voted no to Saudi Arabia. Of 54 member states, 47 voted yes, while seven countries abstained. Many critics argued that the Saudi women’s view is incompatible with CSW’s work. However, something crucial happened in September when the very symbol of Saudi women’s oppression was removed: From June 2018 it will be allowed for Saudi women to drive a car, and in December it was announced that women will also be allowed to drive a motorcycle and truck. In the same month, the country also abandoned the ban on public cinemas.
In March, Saudi Crown Prince (and Defense Minister) Mohammed bin Salman visited the United States and President Donald Trump. In May, US President Donald Trump made his first trip abroad. As the first country he visited Saudi Arabia for two days, including for official talks with King Salman. A $ 110 billion arms deal was signed, as was a deal with General Electric and Boeing, among others.
Due to the fall in oil prices, the country is drawn with large budget deficits. Therefore, in April, it was decided to impose high taxes on tobacco and soft drinks in the near future – the tobacco VAT will be 100% while the soft drink VAT will be at 50%. This will bring the state up to the equivalent of SEK 25 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Egypt was anything but good because of an Egyptian court stopping a transfer of two islands to Saudi Arabia. An oil supply to Egypt was not punished. In April, it turned around when Egypt’s President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi met with King Salman in Saudi Arabia and talked about “the strong and brotherly relations and cooperation between the countries”.
In June, Saudi Arabia, along with a number of other neighboring countries, broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar due to suspicions that it supported terrorism. The Qatar-based TV station al-Jazira’s editorial board in Saudi Arabia was also closed.
In August, the Saudi-led military alliance allowed supplies of fuel to two UN planes transporting supplies from Aden to the starving in the Yemeni capital Sana, controlled by the Huhirebels. Aden is controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
In early November, eleven princes and a dozen former ministers were arrested on the orders of Crown Prince Salman through a newly formed anti-corruption committee, suspected of corruption. In connection with this, a “palace coup” was initiated by the Crown Prince to strengthen power. Among other things, he allowed his most difficult competitor to be deposed to the throne, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, from the post of Minister and Chief of the National Guard. A few weeks later, the arrested princes and ministers were offered the opportunity to buy themselves free at a cost of up to 70% of their private assets. In December, three princes had been released, but it is unclear if or how much they paid in ransom. In October, Crown Prince Salman had been interviewed by American CNN, promising a modernization of the country with a “moderate” and “open” Islam.
In December, it was revealed that Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator mundi”, which was sold at Christie’s auction in November and with its 450 million US dollars, became the world’s most expensive painting, purchased by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Death sentences against young people are being reconsidered
The death sentences against three Shia Muslims, who were minors when they were convicted, will be reconsidered. The three were arrested in 2012 while participating in protests in the wake of the Arab Spring, when demonstrations took place in almost all Arab countries. The government of Saudi Human Rights Commission now state that there are prosecutors’ decisions on the cases to be given a new trial (see 26 Apri l).