Saudi Arabia and Appreciation of Freedom and Democracy

It really was not until living here in Saudi Arabia that the value of growing up in America with its freedom and democracy hit home. I don’t think many Americans fully appreciate the freedoms and liberties they have simply by being an American citizen until they find themselves in a place which has limited freedoms and democracy. I’m not complaining about living in Saudi Arabia at all but simply highlighting the distinctions.

In America (and elsewhere in the democratic world) one takes freedom of speech for granted. However in Saudi Arabia both the Saudis and expats are careful on what they say and to whom and how they may express themselves. Saying the wrong words to the wrong audience can have negative repurcussions. Also in America one takes for granted to dress as one pleases. To a degree this happens in Saudi Arabia but few “push the envelope” in that women will wear the abaya in public places and men will not wear shorts above the knees even if the temperature is over 45 degrees C.


Religious freedom is also taken for granted in the United States. Whereas religious freedom is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia does not permit religious freedom and bans all visible forms of non-Muslim worship.

In a democratic environment one is accustomed to elections to public and high positions and having the ability through legislator and various public interest groups for positive change to occur. Saudi Arabia held its first ever public elections in 2005 with its municipal elections. Saudi analysts remain mixed on whether these elections are a true indication of the introduction of democratic processes in Saudi Arabia. And of course only men were allowed to vote in those elections as well.


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