In Saudi Arabia, the tribe is dead, long live the one and indivisible identity!

A simple sentence has revived an old debate in Saudi Arabia, a country less homogeneous than it seems. The tribes are celebrated there in the speeches, but their real weight has continued to decline. Today more than ever, the regime encourages a purely Saudi nationalism, ignoring any other identity affiliation.

“The role of the tribes is over!” This little sentence pronounced on January 3 on the Saudi channel Khalijiya has continued to spark heated debates in Saudi Arabia. It is the anthropology professor Saad Al-Souweyan who expressed himself thus during a long interview, in which he spoke more generally in favor of the promotion of a Saudi national identity which ignores all the divisions. and divisions of Saudi society:

If I was close to the country’s decision-makers, I would submit an idea to them : that we encourage a rapprochement between tribals and non-tribals to put an end to this question. As well as between Bedouins and townspeople, between Shiites and Sunnis. ”

Because these divisions, according to him, “Annoy society” without bringing any benefit. “People are now educated, there are individual freedoms”, and no longer any child accepts parental injunctions to marry a cousin or a cousin to perpetuate the cohesion of such or such tribe, of such or such social group.

The state should therefore develop a policy to break these identities “Which are widely mystified”. For example, a young person from Hedjaz should be sent for his first job. “In Buraydah”.

Regional divisions

The example is not taken at random, because it covers one of the oldest and most structuring regional cleavages in the country. On the one hand, the Hejaz, with the large port city of Jeddah and the two pilgrimage cities of Mecca and Medina, all three historically cosmopolitan. On the other side, the city of


Philippe Mischkowsky

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