The rapid development of Saudi Arabia in recent decades has required major investments in education. Nowadays, most children, even girls, go to school and the vast majority of adults can read and write.
Teaching for girls began to be introduced in the 1960s, despite protests from religious circles. Co-teaching of boys and girls is still prohibited, but in 2009 opened a first university without gender segregation. In 2017 gymnastics was introduced for girls in state schools. The year before, the country’s sports ministry had formed a department for women’s sports. One of the aims was to work for facilities where girls can play sports.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Saudi Arabia, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
The children start school at the age of six. The first six years are compulsory. Around 90 percent of children also go through the two following stages in three years each. All schooling is free of charge.
In the past, teaching was completely dominated by studies in Islam. Nowadays worldly subjects have been given more space, but religion still occupies a large part of the curriculum. Teaching often shows major shortcomings, even though a quarter of the state budget goes to education.
During the 2000s, major investments were made, not least in higher education. The state emphasizes the importance of vocational training to reduce dependence on foreign workers. There is a particularly high need for people with technical training. About 60 percent of the students at the university are women, but women are excluded from many jobs and at most every tenth of women work.
In the country there are 25 state universities and about as many private. The oldest is the King Saud University in Riyadh, founded in 1957 and often ranked highest among universities in the Arab world. The largest is King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, founded in 1967. Princess Nora bin Abdulrahman University in Riyadh is the world’s largest university for women only, with around 50,000 students. There are also a number of specialized colleges.
A program introduced in 2005 and expanded in 2012 meant that a year later, there were close to 200,000 Saudi students studying with state scholarships abroad, the largest proportion in the United States. Around 75 per cent of the foreign students were men.
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Saudi Arabia, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
97.4 percent (2014)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
94.4 percent (2013)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
19.3 percent (2008)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
19.3 percent (2008)
Police strike against immorality
About 120 women and men have been arrested in the past week against persons who are considered to have challenged general morality, for example through obscene clothing. The arrests have been made public by the police via social media. “Moralrazzian” is believed to be the first since Saudi Arabia began to ease the strict norms and the powers of moral police. How long the people are kept under arrest and what penalties they receive have not been stated. Nearly 90 people have also been arrested for harassment. Women have complained via social media that they have been harassed at a music festival.
Oil field agreement in border areas
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait sign an agreement on the management of two common oil fields at the border, where production has been stalled for five years. The agreement deals with the Wafra fields, on land, and Khafiji, at sea. Before the extraction was stopped, the two fields produced a total of half a million barrels of oil per day, about half a percent of world production.
Death penalty for the murder of Khashoggi
A Saudi court sentenced five unnamed people to death for involvement in the murder of exile Saudi Jamal Khashoggi, committed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul (see mainly October 2, 2018 and November 15, 2018). No one in the circle closest to the crown prince is held responsible. The judgment is followed by more or less sharp criticism from the outside world. Turkey calls it “outrageous”.
Social media limits propaganda
The companies Twitter and Facebook say that they have blocked amounts of accounts in several countries that have been used for propaganda purposes in ways that violate the platform’s rules. These include accounts that spread a favorable image of US President Trump. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, as many as 88,000 accounts have been linked to state propaganda.
Another year of deficit
The state budget for 2020 is assumed, with a deficit that is projected to grow to 6.4 percent of GDP from 4.7 percent in 2019. Oil revenues, which account for two-thirds of central government revenue, fall despite the country producing nearly ten million barrels of oil a day. Saudi Arabia has shown a budget deficit ever since a race in international oil prices in 2014. Now the government is continuing its efforts to help other industries generate revenue and reduce government spending. Among other things, subsidies have been reduced to make electricity and fuel cheaper for citizens.
Saudis kill Americans
Following a shooting drama at a Florida base that requires multiple lives, the perpetrator is identified as a Saudi military on education in the United States. Judging by how he used social media, the 21-year-old, who himself was shot dead by the police, had political motives. The Saudi king rushes to condemn the deed. A few days later, the US Defense Headquarters announces to the Pentagon that more than 850 Saudi military, who are undergoing training on US bases, will continue to be content with theoretical training.
The state sells shares in giant companies
An offer to buy shares is announced prior to the partial privatization of the oil company Aramco. The state will sell 1.5 percent of the shares. Investors can be attracted by the fact that the Saudi oil reserves will last for a long time and that they are easy to access practically, compared to oil that is absorbed from great sea depths. For Saudi rulers, it is important to succeed in selling Aramco shares at a high price. But there are obstacles: Aramco operates in a region of great conflict risk and the regime may have frightened investors by the brutal murder of an opponent (see October 2, 2018 and October 2, 2019). Saudi citizens who buy ten shares get an extra charge. Once the shares are sold, in December, they pull in the record $ 25.6 billion, despite the fact that most Saudi and regional investors are picking up on the offer. After the IPO, which takes place at a domestic trading location in Saudi Arabia, the share price rises above the introductory price.
Knife attack against theater
At least three people are injured when a Spanish theater group is subjected to a knife attack in Riyadh. The group’s guest play is part of a cultural festival aimed at presenting a more open and happier Saudi Arabia. On December 30, a Yemeni citizen is sentenced to death for the assault; he will be executed in April 2020. A designated accomplice is sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Protective action for tankers on site
A US-led naval force, formed to protect merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf, officially begins operations. It happens with Bahrain as a base, since the US has access to a naval base there. Since the force began to form in June, several countries have joined, both Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. Cargo ships will receive military escorts through the Strait of Hormuz, where several tankers have been subjected to attacks or sabotage that the United States holds Iran responsible for.
Ministers are replaced
Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud becomes new Foreign Minister. He leaves the post as ambassador to Germany and is judged to have strong ties to western countries. At the time of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi 2018, which caused a diplomatic crisis for Saudi Arabia, he worked at the country’s embassy in Washington. The transport minister was also replaced in the wake of a bus crash in the holy city of Medina, which claimed the lives of 35 pilgrims on October 16. The large crowds of pilgrims are a constant challenge for Saudi authorities, not least the road network near Mecca and Medina tends to be severely burdened.
Hot topics: oil and robots
Russia and Saudi Arabia conclude several agreements when President Putin visits King Salman. The most important is cooperation between the oil exporting countries in Opec and other oil countries, including Russia, which all want to see stable and high oil prices. The meeting takes place in the wake of the attack on Saudi oil facilities (see September 14) and the Saudis accusing Iran, which has close relations with Russia. It is said that the meeting was also about “military and technical cooperation”. The statement can be seen in the light of Russia’s desire to sell robots to Saudi Arabia. Instead, the Saudis chose an American air defense system, which failed to stop the projectiles that knocked out oil production in September.
US forces are expanding
The United States is expanding its strengths in Saudi Arabia, which has asked for reinforcement following the oil plant attacks that occurred the month before. Not least, new air defense resources are added. US military personnel on site are growing from September to October with 3,000 men.
Military professions open to women
Women will be able to serve in the Saudi Armed Forces, such as private soldiers, corporals and sergeants, the country’s foreign ministry said. In 2018, the regime gave women clear signs of being included in security forces under the Ministry of the Interior.
New demands for investigating journalist murder
It has been one year since journalist Jamal al- Khashoggi was murdered and cut at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. His remains have still not been found. Before the anniversary, the Saudi Crown Prince has been interviewed. He says he takes responsibility for the incident because it happened “on his guard,” but does not admit that he himself ordered the murder. Through Turkish interception, it has emerged that the murder was not based on an accident and human rights organizations reiterated their demands for a UN-led investigation.
Tourist visas, and new moral rules
New, freer tourist visa rules are beginning to be applied. Citizens in 49 countries can expect a smooth process. The day after, the Interior Ministry announces that people who violate decency may be fined; 19 different violations have been identified. “Women should cover their shoulders and knees,” the instructions say. However, foreign women do not have to wear abaya, the footwear outerwear that is mandatory for Saudi dishes. Overseas couples should also be allowed to share hotel rooms without being married, authorities say a few weeks later. In recent years, Saudi Arabia’s notorious moral police have had less influence, but Saudis sometimes complain that the new, less stringent rules of conduct (adopted by the government in April) are unclear.
Peace striker from huthier
The Huthi movement in Yemen outsources a peace striker to Saudi Arabia. Mahdi al-Mashat, who is part of the political leadership of the movement, offers a halt to all attacks on Saudi territory. The statement is being made ahead of the anniversary of the huthirbeles’ entry into Yemen’s capital Sanaa. The offer is met with skepticism from Saudi Arabia but welcomed by the UN.
The United States is reinforcing the Persian Gulf
The US announces military reinforcements to the Persian Gulf in the wake of attacks on Saudi oil facilities that Iran is accused of carrying out. Shortly before the announcement, President Trump also tightened US sanctions on Iran. The reinforcements to be sent to the region, at the request of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are about aerial and robotic defense, says new Defense Minister Mark Esper.
Drone attacks stop oil production
Two important oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia meet in what is believed to be drone attacks. Almost half of the country’s oil production is knocked out. There are large quantities of oil in stock, but as Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest producers, international oil prices are rising after the attacks. The Huthi rebels in Yemen assume responsibility for the attacks, but the US accuses Iran of supporting the Huthis. Iran denies interference. After four days, Saudi Arabia shows off wreckage from robots and drones seen as evidence of Iran’s involvement.
Prince becomes Minister of Oil
A member of the royal house, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, becomes new Minister of Energy. It is the first time; In the past, the head of the ministry has always been a professional who did not belong to the royal family. From now on, the Minister of Energy will not be chairman of the oil company Aramco, which it plans to part-privatize. The change of minister is interpreted as the country’s powerful crown prince strengthening the grip on energy policy.
High-tech pilgrimage to holy places
The annual great pilgrimage hajj is going on around Mecca, where a couple of million Muslim pilgrims are there for rituals that take several days, not least the highlight of the al-adha, the great sacrificial feast. For the first time, visitors have access to 5G networks at the holy sites. Apps that help pilgrims to orient themselves have been around for years, and many are seen reading the Qur’an via mobile phone. After a tragedy when up to 2,500 lives were demanded in the hardship (see September 24, 2015), the pilgrims also wear electronic bracelets with ID information.
Split in Yemen setback for Saudi Arabia
Saudi warfare in neighboring Yemen suffers severe adversity: the Saudi government supports, and fights for, the grip of the city of Aden. The port city in the south has been a fixture for the Yemeni government since the Shiite Muslim Shire rulers took over the capital Sanaa in 2014, but Aden is now occupied by a South Yemeni separatist movement, which no longer wants to cooperate with the former central government. Nearly four and a half years after the start of the Saudi-led, very comprehensive war effort in Yemen (see March 25, 2015), Saudi Arabia’s allies continue to lose ground.
Women’s rights are being expanded
After notable cases where young women have escaped from their families and sought asylum abroad, the regime eases certain rules through royal decrees. Women over the age of 21 should soon be able to apply for a passport and travel without the approval of their male guardians. Women should also be able to have child births, marriages and divorces registered by authorities as well as receive care for young children. In addition, the new regulations will make it easier for women to work professionally. Several restrictions remain, including rules that, according to activists, make it possible to circumvent the right to pass. A woman must also still have permission from her male guardian to get married or live on her own. Imprisoned women activists, who pushed the issue of having custody lifted and demanded driver’s license rights before women were allowed to drive, are still awaiting trial.
Trump veto keeps gun deals going
President Trump vetoes three different resolutions in the US Congress created for members to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both countries active in a war on the dominion of Yemen (see April 16, 2019). Arms exports must be kept in motion, among other things because gun buyers are important allies to the United States, Trump writes to the Senate.
Saudi interests in South Korea are secured
Crown Prince Muhammad visits South Korea, and travels home with cooperation agreements worth over $ 8 billion, including with the Hyundai engine group. Saudi Arabia is the country’s largest oil supplier and the energy giant Aramco is the majority owner of S-Oil, which will now build, among other things, a new refinery. At the beginning of the year, the Crown Prince traveled to a number of important countries in Asia where there are Saudi interests (see February 18).
New rules should attract capital
New conditions for resident foreigners are presented. The purpose seems to be to attract capital to other parts of the economy than the oil industry. For a cost equivalent to just over SEK 2 million, benefits are offered such as being able to buy real estate or do business without having a Saudi partner.
UN reporter wants to see murder commission
There is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and other high-level individuals were personally responsible for the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, UN Reporter Agnès Callamard estimates (see January 24, 2019). She believes that the murder should be investigated by an independent international commission. Khashoggi’s life was extinguished by Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, but according to Saudi Arabia, it did not take place on the crown prince’s orders. The Kingdom holds eleven other responsible, five of whom are threatened with the death penalty (see January 3, 2019).
Huthier steps up border attacks
The head of UN observers in Yemen confirms that the Huthirbells have withdrawn militarily from three ports at al-Hudayda. But while the Hutians have thus fulfilled a step in the peace plan from the negotiations in Sweden, which aimed to initiate a real peace process between the Shi’a rebels and Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, recurring combat operations are reported at the border. 26 people are injured when a civilian airport in the resort of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia is shot by rebels. When the airport is shot again on June 23, a person loses their lives.
The Crown Prince’s sister is assaulted
A trial of Saudi princess Hassa bint Salman, sister of Crown Prince Muhammad, is planned in Paris. An international arrest warrant was issued in 2017. The suspicions of crime arose in the Princess’s luxury apartment in Paris 2016, when she must have ordered a bodyguard to spruce up a craftsman. The princess does not appear in court, but is later sentenced to fines and ten months’ conditional imprisonment. The bodyguard also receives a conditional penalty. In Saudi media, the princess is known for charity work.
Boycott call for support for Palestinians
The 57 member countries of the Islamic Conference (OIC) condemn the US decision to recognize Israel’s power over Jerusalem and to move the country’s Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv. The Mecca summit in Saudi Arabia also calls for a boycott of countries following the US decision. The leaders of Turkey and Iran, both of whom have conflicts with Saudi Arabia, are missing from the summit.
Authorities are distraught with social morale
Government-friendly media states that a new law of morality, adopted by the government in April, should come into force; but only a couple of days later, the countermeasures come, and no new date. In recent years, the Crown Prince has tried to give the country a more modern and appealing image through various measures such as allowing cinemas, and the bearded morality police – who among other things have ensured that women do not release the veil and that men do not wear shorts – have been “disarmed”. Faced with the prospect of a new law on the way, and thus perhaps a sharpening of the moral guard, an academic tweeted: “The Morality Police is back – without the beard.”
Drone attack and tanker sabotage
A large Saudi oil pipeline pumping oil from fields in the east to a port on the Red Sea is closed for review following a drone attack carried out by Yemeni squirrels. The 120-mile-long pipeline is built for use even if Saudi exports via oil ports in the Persian Gulf are blocked. The attack takes place a few days after the damage to four tankers, two of them Saudi, near the entrance to the Persian Gulf. No one has been singled out for the sabotage of the vessels, but many theories are circulating: everything from Iran behind it to the fact that it was carried out by someone who just wants charges against Iran, so that it provides a pretext for attacking Iran militarily.
Support for Sudan’s military rule
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking steps to support Sudan’s central government after the country’s longtime leader Omar al-Bashir has been forced out of power. In total, they promise three billion dollars. 500 million will be deposited with the Central Bank of Sudan to support the country’s currency, while 2.5 billion will secure food, medicines and oil products. Lack of currency – dollars – is one of the factors that fueled a popular wave of protests against the regime in Sudan. The Gulf states have expressed support for the military leadership that has taken over; it has so far opposed the demands of a civil, democratically elected government.
Mass executions and crucifixion
Saudi Arabia executes a total of 37 people accused of terrorist offenses – according to news agency SPA deadly attacks on headquarters for security agencies. Human rights groups state that most are Shia Muslims. One of them is crucified after the execution, a sign that his crimes are considered particularly serious. Public statistics on the death penalty being executed are not published, however, Saudi media reports that executions have taken place. Amnesty International has counted at least 104 executions so far this year and 149 last year.
US support for Yemen war continues after Trump veto
Donald Trump is using the president’s veto power to back up the regime in Saudi Arabia. US elected officials have made several attempts to end support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, and what Trump’s veto stops is a proposal passed by both congressional chambers. Party mates for Trump have also voted to stop the support. The United States has previously sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, but also helped with, among other things, intelligence information prior to the Saudi-led alliance’s airstrikes. It is very uncommon for Congress to vote to limit the president’s power over war efforts.
Saudi courtship: the sports arena in gift
Saudi Arabia’s Commerce Minister promises, on a visit to Baghdad, a loan package to Iraq: a billion dollars for development projects, half a billion for export promotion and also a gift – a sports arena for 100,000 spectators to be built on the outskirts of Baghdad. At the same time, the minister is opening a new Saudi consulate and more missions are planned. The parties say that the countries’ mutual relations, which have long been eclipsed by Saddam Hussein and his war train in the region, have entered a new phase. The Saudi eagerness to be in place should also be seen in the light of the regime in Iran, which is a bitter rival to Saudi Arabia’s rule, has strong allies in Baghdad and supplies large quantities of goods to Iraq.
Regional space program is created
Saudi Arabia and ten other Arab countries have agreed to set up a joint space program. The researchers to work on the program are based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The first project will be an Arab satellite. The Emirate already has four spacecraft queuing at the world’s great powers. The first will take part in a trip to the space station ISS starting September 25. Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, who was on a space trip in 1985, is considered the first Arab in space.
Opera returns Saudi money
The La Scala Opera in Milan has decided to return over € 3 million in support received from the Saudi government. In total, Saudi Arabia has pledged about € 15 million, but after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, support has become contentious (see October 19, 2018 and January 3, 2019). The agreement with the Italian opera could also have given the Saudi Minister of Culture a seat on La Scala’s board.
Female activists are brought to trial
the 13th of March
Women who were arrested in 2018 in the wake of gender equality campaigns are now facing trial. Two well-known activists who are among them are Aziza al-Yusuf, former teacher at King Saud University, and Lujain al-Hathlul, who both participated in women’s right to drive a car before the driver’s license was introduced (see September 26, 2017 and June 24, 2018). Some of the women are released in the spring, but the cases against them are not closed down. Foreign media and diplomats are not allowed to follow the trial.
36 countries condemn violations
The UN Human Rights Council brings together 36 countries behind a condemnation against Saudi Arabia. The criticism from countries in Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand is about human rights violations in general – not least women’s rights – and the murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi in particular (see especially October 2 and October 19, 2018). The countries behind the statement require a quick and independent investigation of the murder.
Saudi Arabia avoids shame
The European Commission has proposed that Saudi Arabia, along with some other countries, be included in a list of states that are not making enough efforts to stop money laundering, but representatives of the member states will vote no, unanimously. Saudi Arabia, with the support of the United States, has reacted outraged at the proposal.
Princess becomes US ambassador
Princess Rima bint Bandar Al Saud becomes Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador to the United States. She grew up partly in Washington DC, where her father Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud was ambassador from 1983-2005. This is the first time a woman has become head of a Saudi mission. Over the years in her home country, she is reported to have worked to give women greater access to sports and exercise.
Nuclear engineering plans are causing concern in the United States
The US House of Representatives is reviewing the US government’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia on nuclear technology. Saudi Arabia wants to build nuclear power plants and there are fears among congressmen that knowledge transfer can help build a nuclear weapons program. Strong commercial interests in the industry – US companies named in a congressional report – are reportedly courting the White House to enter into a contract with Saudi Arabia.
Expanded promises to crisis Pakistan
Saudi Arabia signs $ 20 billion investment agreement with Pakistan and promises to release more than 2,100 Pakistanis from Saudi prisons. These are the first results to be published since the Saudi Crown Prince embarked on a tour of important partner countries in Asia – first Pakistan and India, where the visit is obscured by host countries’ resignation of the divided Kashmir flared up again. Pakistan, which is also in the midst of an economic crisis, has already received Saudi commitments on port and refinery investments in Gwadar on the Indian Ocean (see September 20, 2018).
Luxury arrests completed with large state seizures
30th of January
Saudi authorities have ended the campaign that led to a 2017 house arrest for a few hundred wealthy people, including princes, ministers and businessmen. The state has taken over assets worth more than $ 107 billion. Agreements have been concluded with 87 people who have accepted charges against them. Eight who refuse are subject to action by the Prosecutor’s Office. In 56 cases, it is still unclear whether there will be any settlement with the state or prosecution. The mass prison land was based on an initiative by Crown Prince Muhammad who was reported to be targeting corruption. The Crown Prince has been internationally challenged since Jamal Khashoggi, who criticized the regime mildly but openly, was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul (see October 2 and November 15, 2018).
New trial with Vision 2030
The government launches a twelve-year program to encourage investment in industrial and transport industries. This is announced at a ceremony where 37 agreements and declarations of intent with local and foreign investors are signed. The program is part of the Crown Prince’s reform plan Vision 2030, which will in the long term reduce Saudi Arabia’s oil dependency. 120 km of railway and five new airports are part of what is planned. So far, Vision 2030 has generated both interest and commitments, but not so many building starts.
Billionaire released from luxury house arrest
Billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi, who owns oil companies in Sweden, among others, has regained his freedom. He was one of the very wealthy people who were locked in a luxury hotel in 2017 in a campaign that said to be directed at corruption and money laundering.
UN reporter reviews consulate murder
An UN-affiliated investigator will investigate the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi committed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on issues related to extrajudicial executions, visits Turkey around the end of the month. But the head of the Human Rights Watch organization Kenneth Roth says the investigation should be done by an official UN representative with a mandate from the World Organization, which has more authority than the reporter (see January 3).
Violations from both sides in the Yemen war
UN experts have concluded that the Saudi-led Alliance for War in Yemen committed at least four air strikes against rebel-controlled territory in 2018, including a bombing of a bus that claimed the lives of many children. At the same time, Iran must have used oil revenues to fund the adversary side of the warlords’ war. The UN experts have identified companies used to hide the real purpose of the oil business. The report shall be submitted to the UN Security Council.
The size of energy assets is written up
Saudi Arabia’s oil resources are even larger than previously thought, according to the Department of Energy. At year-end, reserves amounted to 263.2 billion barrels, according to certification by a consulting firm. In addition, there are 2.9 billion barrels in a border area against Kuwait. For almost 30 years, Saudi assets have been estimated at 261 billion barrels. Only Venezuela has more oil. According to new calculations, natural gas resources are also larger than previously assumed.
Sms if divorce is promised
From now on, Saudi women are notified via text message by a court when their spouses request a divorce. The women should find out through the Ministry of Justice’s website the diary number and where they can find documents in the case. Marriage is confirmed by a written agreement, but it has so far been possible for the man to terminate the contract without the woman’s knowledge.
Trial against accused of murder of consulate
A trial has begun in Saudi Arabia against people accused of the murder of freethinker Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul (see 2 October, 19 October and 15 November 2018). The Prosecutor’s Office is asking for the death penalty for five of eleven defendants, who, according to authorities, violated his powers by killing Khashoggi while he was being questioned. Turkey’s request for 18 suspects to be released and tried before a Turkish court has been rejected.