Saudi social contract... and ‘Free Iran’!


IN his memoirs, Sheikh Abdullah Balkhair, the first information minister, summarized in a short story a major tenet in the social contract between Al-Saud family and Saudi people.

After returning from the American University in Beirut in late 1930s, Sheikh Balkhair joined the Royal Court. His job was to record radio broadcasts with a team of monitors. Stories were summarized and read to King Abdulaziz three times a day— morning, midday and evening. Breaking news stories, however, were read as they came. The King was awaken from his sleep at times for major events in World War II.

During a summer trip from the capital, Riyadh, to the summer capital, Taif, the royal convoy stopped for a break. Tents were erected, including one for the radio monitors.

“We were sipping tea and coffee when a young hesitant Bedouin came by,” relates Sheikh Balkhair. “We invited him to join our coffee break and gave him some food. As he became more comfortable and assured, we asked how he liked King Abdulaziz. His answer was confusing, “I don’t hate or like him!,” he pronounced. When nudged for clarification, he explained: ‘I don’t hate him because now I could travel alone, day and night, across vast deserts without fear for my life or property. However, I don’t like him because if it wasn’t for Ibn Saud, I would have killed you and taken all your possessions.’”

“He wasn’t kidding! Before the Saudi rule, tribes used to invade each other’s territory for any reason — or no reason. Bedouins raided caravans and travelers, including Hajis. To be safe, pilgrims and merchants joined armed caravans, like those accompanying Egyptian and Syrian Haj, or paid tributes to every tribe sheikh in their way. The founder of Saudi Arabia ended all that. He appointed and provided for tribe leaders based on their abilities to secure their domains. They were made responsible to deal with wanted law-breakers and pirates. Failure may cause them their heads.

The next morning, Sheikh Abdullah read world news to the King, surrounded by the court council and the area tribal leaders. He also told him the Bedouin’s story.

“The King’s eyes were misted and he directed me to relate the narrative to his audience, then commented: If I’d meet my Creator now with nothing but this Bedouin’s testimony, I’d be blessed!”

The degree of interest Saudis have shown in the health status of the Public Security Director, Lieutenant General Saud Al-Hilal, after he suffered a heart attack, shows how much they appreciate their security and those who protect it.

Our youth and seniors, men and women, do value and commit to the social contract with their rulers. Prosperity, stability and security were promised and delivered. We have taken them for granted.

The world around us is on fire and in ruins. Wherever we look, no one is safer or better off. The so-called “Arab Spring” turned to be a nightmare. Revolutions and coups brought chaos, instability and misery. Most of those who were fooled and incited to revolt against their government by the US, Iran, Qatar and media networks, like Al-Jazeera, wish now they could turn the clock back. With all shortcomings of their former leaders, they were much more better off with them.

Saudi Arabia, however, has been an oasis in the middle of a burning desert. Both, rulers and people, are honoring their end of the deal. This family bond is getting stronger against conspiracies to break it. The more incidents of terror, threats of assault, calls for revolution happen, the stronger our commitment to our contract, appreciation of our leaders and attachment to our nation and unification becomes.

The tide is turning, however, against the conspirators. People of Iran and its axis of evil are revolting. They see how stable and prosperous our country is, and rightly demand the same. “Free Iran,” echoes all over the world, today, not just in Paris, where the opposition conference convenes every year. Our Iranian sisters and brothers deserve our cooperation, support and prayers.

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi