While Saudi leaders promote nascent rapprochement efforts with Iran on the official level, they are allowing an informal aggressive discourse, underpinning continued assertiveness toward Iran and suspicions about its motives.
Non-Resident Fellow, AGSIW
Eman Alhussein is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She previously worked as a research fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Her research focuses on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. Alhussein’s areas of interest include identity and nationalism, gender, cultural and societal change, and religious discourse and reforms.
Alhussein holds an MA in Gulf studies from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She is currently based in Oslo, Norway.
Saudi government outreach acknowledges the strains of diversification plans and austerity measures while also seeking to renew the public’s interest in achieving the economic transformation's goals.
This year’s Ramadan initiatives, focused on a sense of community and contributions to development, demonstrate how the Saudi government increasingly relies on citizens to play a role in the ongoing transformation.
The marginalization of religious figures in Saudi Arabia has prompted a rise of trends focusing on spirituality and meditation to promote self-awareness.
New labor reforms are an important first step to improve conditions for foreign workers and could open the door for wider reforms.
The new app Clubhouse is providing a much-needed space for contesting views and continuing debates that have been suspended for years in the Gulf.
Moderate Islam can be seen as a comprehensive strategy to tackle the kingdom’s regional and domestic concerns while at the same time reshaping the religious and social scene in line with the leadership’s new sociopolitical objectives.
The social dimension of change in the kingdom will continue to navigate a bumpy road, especially as it generates tensions and debate over the issue of decency.
Saudi Arabia has adopted strict austerity measures to combat the dual effect of falling oil prices and the coronavirus crisis. Unlike previous measures that were lifted when oil prices recovered, a July 1 VAT increase (from 5% to 15%) is more likely to stay in place, which could present challenges to low-income families, businesses, and plans to revive domestic tourism.
The coronavirus, along with the economic crisis due to falling oil prices, is having a direct impact on businesses in the Gulf, including migrant labor, the bulk of the work force.