Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia: A decade on after 9/11 | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Between the American insistence on portraying it as a modern holocaust, and the insistence of others on clinging to conspiracy theories, the world has experienced a frightening decade following the infamous 9/11 attacks. During this time the world has seen two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being killed and wounded. This is not to mention the financial cost of the war, estimated at $3 trillion, which has harmed the US economy and in turn affected the global economy. Although Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that was most affected by these attacks – as 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens – it has also, relatively speaking, suffered the least losses. Indeed these losses have today been transformed into gains.

Saudi society required long months to comprehend the extent of this disaster that a group of its citizens were accused of perpetrating, whilst the confession [martyrdom videos] of the hijackers failed to assist those who are trying to promote conspiracy theories. It was only natural that the shocking participation of 15 Saudi citizens in this terrorist operation would place Saudi Arabia in a vulnerable position, and this led to clear hostility towards Saudi Arabia in many countries, particularly the US, which even reached the point of some US parties calling for the bombing of Mecca!

However those observing the situation can see – merely by glancing at the Saudi street 10 years on from the infamous 9/11 attacks – the positive transformation that has been achieved by the people of Saudi Arabia in their dealings with this event. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Saudi Arabian society emerged stronger than before following the 9/11 attacks. There were, for example, those betting on the extremists increasing their influence in Saudi society [prior to 9/11], however following these terrible attacks the Saudi Interior Ministry secured successive victories against Al Qaeda cells inside the country, in addition to pursuing cooperation with other countries to prevent grand terrorist attacks being carried out in foreign capitals. Perhaps the greatest sign of the recovery in Saudi society from the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks can be seen in the fact that the people of Saudi Arabia did not fracture or splinter following the unjustified aggression they faced from official and unofficial parties, particularly within the US. Today, 37 percent of the 120,000 Saudi scholarship students studying abroad are studying at US universities, and this represents a confirmation that [Saudi] society was able to change the stereotypically negative manner that it was being portrayed. This is something that was not only achieved by official [Saudi] bodies, but also by the more than 40,000 Saudi students studying in the US today. These students sent a clear and concise message to their American counterparts, namely that 18 million Saudis are not at fault for merely sharing the same nationality as Osama Bin Laden.

We cannot discuss the successes achieved by Saudi society in overcoming the obstacles put in their path following the infamous 9/11 attack without making reference to the huge official efforts being exerted by Saudi Arabia, whether by establishing a specialist organization in 2001 to combat the financing of terrorism, or establishing a law to combat money laundering. Following this, Saudi Arabia became a vital member of the international community’s fight to combat money laundering, whilst also launching a campaign to prevent the financing of Al Qaeda – both at home and abroad – through the establishment of a robust local banking system. The US itself has begun to take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s experience in combatting terrorism, not to mention Riyadh’s experience with regards to its famous “Munasaha” rehabilitation program, which rehabilitates the extremist ideology of those affiliated to Al Qaeda utilizing proof and evidence.

9/11 was one of the most severe incidents to affect Saudi Arabian society in recent history, particularly after the world viewed Saudi Arabia to be at fault for the actions of 15 terrorists who were only representing themselves. However despite this the Saudi street did not withdraw into itself, or take pride in this wrongdoing, or respond violently. This represents one of the customs of a society that can emerge stronger from adversity, and ensure that such a disaster does not affect their national interests.