By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.
The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.
“What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.
The answer is not simple.
Since taking the throne in 2005, King Abdullah initiated some positive reforms.
Women, for example, have slowly been included in the Shura Council, a powerless consultative body to advise the King, and incorporated into the workforce – with some being allowed to work in courts as lawyers.
The late King is credited for opening a dozen new universities and providing thousands of Saudi Arabian citizens with generous scholarships to study abroad. He also initiated seemingly ambitious judicial reforms that have not really gone anywhere.
He even decreed the founding of a formal National Human Rights Commission and allowed the establishment of a supposedly independent human rights organization.
But that’s where the good news ends.