INSIGHT: Year Four of the Arab Awakening

How will history judge the uprisings that started in many parts of the Arab world in 2011? The label “Arab Spring” proved too simplistic from the beginning. Transformational processes defy black-and-white expectations, but in the end, will the awakenings be more reminiscent of what happened in Europe in 1848, when several uprisings took place More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Arabia’s War on Twitter

Two studies released in November show once again Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary appetite for Twitter compared to that in other countries. This has renewed interest in the potential for social media to facilitate political mobilization in the kingdom. Indeed, the Saudi Twittersphere reveals significant public discontent with the government’s performance on addressing domestic problems like unemployment More »

INSIGHT: Yemen – Another Battlefield in Saudi-Iran Proxy War

In addition to Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria, Yemen represents yet another chessboard in the tactical maneuvers between Tehran and Riyadh in the Arab world. The current tide of the sectarian militancy between Shi’ite rebels and Sunni Salafi fighters, which began sweeping the northern provinces of Yemen on October 30, has once again put the More »

QUICKTAKE: Saudi ‘Hidden Hand’ Steering Iran Nuclear Talks?

The first round of Iran nuclear talks in Geneva broke down earlier this month after the P5+1 failed to reach consensus on a short-term deal that would have eased up sanctions and allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium at reduced levels.  Talks apparently ended over France’s demand that Iran stop construction on a heavy More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Tiff with Washington Latest of Many

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is seen with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Reuters file).

Once again, Saudi officials are on a rhetorical rampage against the United States. Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States and current Saudi intelligence chief, has warned that the kingdom will make a “major shift” away from its 80-year alliance with Washington. Turki al-Faisal, another former ambassador to the United States, said More »

INSIGHT: Saudi Women Jump-start Driving Rights Campaign

On October 26, Saudi women are expected to answer their sisters’ call to support women’s driving rights by driving cars in the kingdom – an act that can lead to detention, a fine, and in the worst case scenario, imprisonment. The campaign has garnered significant support on the internet, with an online petition attracting More »

INSIGHT: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

As the graph below makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.” I’ve previously highlighted troubling trends in youth employment, including the More »

INSIGHT: Women and Sports in Saudi Arabia

Last summer, I wrote about two young women from Saudi Arabia, Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, who were the first Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics. They had to endure criticism from conservatives at home and lots of discussion about what they would wear to compete, but they served as a powerful More »

INSIGHT: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

A great debate has been raging over whether the so-called Arab Spring has been good or bad for the women of the region. Some argue that the rise of Islamist governments in places like Egypt and Tunisia has led to a stark reversal of women’s rights. Others believe that the vibrant social and political More »

INSIGHT: Youth, Change, and the Future of Saudi Arabia

Saudi watchers have for years debated the stability of the kingdom. In the 1960s, with internecine rivalries dividing the royal family and the kingdom struggling to pay its debts, some American diplomats predicted that the House of Saud wouldn’t last but a few more years. When extremists took control of the Grand Mosque in More »

INSIGHT: Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Last year, Haleh Esfandiari, the program’s director, asked a diverse group of women from business, More »

‘Harlem Shaking’ It Up Across the Middle East

Just when the Gangnam Style craze began to fizzle, and we thought that the world would be spared another viral dance phenomenon, enter the Harlem Shake.   It began as a 2012 heavy bass instrumental music track produced by Baauer, the stage name of American music producer Harry Rodrigues,  uploaded to YouTube in August 2012.  More »

INSIGHT: The ‘Chicken and Egg’ of Skills, Jobs in the Arab World

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies – examines employment issues, the relative lack of dynamic private sectors, broken social contracts, and more in the Arab world. The chapter on education is particularly interesting. The report More »

INSIGHT: Will the Saudi Model Survive?

When the plane of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali touched down in Jeddah in January 2011, the Saudi monarchy’s worst nightmare re-emerged. Ben Ali was a close personal friend of then Saudi strongman, the late Saudi Crown Prince and longtime Interior Minister Naif bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. For the Saudi monarchs, seeing two More »

INSIGHT: Bolstering Education and Science in the Arab World

A decade ago, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) shone a spotlight on the sorry state of education in the Arab world with its inaugural Arab Human Development Report in 2002, and its 2003 follow-on report, “Building a Knowledge Society.” The reports’ statistics still shock: in one year, Spain translates the same number of More »

INSIGHT: Women of the Arab Spring, Beyond Objects and Subjects

The Arab Spring introduced us to the strength and determination of the many Arab women who took to the streets and the Internet to call for change in their governments and societies. Gone were the stereotypes of oppression and passivity. In their place were voices and faces of hope, courage and indomitable spirit, calling More »

INSIGHT: Women in Politics in Saudi Arabia

Just days ago, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah made history when he named thirty women to the kingdom’s Shura Council, an appointed advisory body that cannot enact legislation but is still the closest institution to a parliament in that country. He also amended the Shura Council’s law to ensure that women would make up no less than More »

INSIGHT: Small Step Forward for Saudi Women

Saudi King Abdullah is poised to appoint* women for the first time as members of the country’s Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council). The move is symbolically important, but the assembly itself lacks real power. The king first announced his intention to appoint women to the Majlis al-Shura over a year ago, and, since that time, newspaper reports More »

WATCH: Saudi Arabia’s Pre-Islamic History Revealed

The mention of Saudi Arabia often has people envisioning an oil-rich, nearly empty desert, where Islam originated. An exhibit in Washington, D.C., offers insight into the real history of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on its pre-Islamic role as a trade route, the influence of nearby cultures, and the evolution of language. VOA’s Faiza Elmasry More »

QUICKTAKE: The Complexities of Kingmaking in Saudi Arabia

Recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has been in poor health have fueled new questions about royal succession, an issue that has been looming over the Kingdom for years. Six kings have ruled Saudi Arabia since its creation in 1932, including its founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud. All of his successors have More »