Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia has hosted numerous ousted leaders and political refugees, who had lost the power and influence they once enjoyed in their heyday. As a result, observers and analysts often describe the Kingdom as a country that seeks to diffuse the tension which may arise following political turmoil. Should such an occurrence take place in a ‘friendly’ country, Saudi Arabia, as a major Islamic state, would ensure that there was no opportunity for mutual revenge and bloodshed, whilst always maintaining an impartial stance between the parties, as well as taking care not to interfere in the internal affairs of other states. This is as stipulated in Saudi foreign policy.
Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose plane landed late Thursday evening, now takes up residence in Saudi Arabia. Thus he can be added to the list of politicians and leaders, to whom Saudi Arabia has generously opened its doors, so long as they do not exercise political activities [within the Kingdom].
The Kingdom’s history of hosting Arab politicians and Islamists dates back to the era of The Founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman, and has continued through to the reign of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
During the reign of King Abdulaziz, the Iraqi politician Rashid Ali al-Gaylani lived in Saudi Arabia until the end of Iraqi monarchical rule, in July 1958. He had been exiled by the regime in Iraq after serving three ministerial posts, which prompted him to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia also hosted Mohammad al-Badr, the last Imam descending from the dynasty that ruled North Yemen between 1911 and 1962, although his term in office did not last longer than a week. He died in London in 1996, and was buried in Medina.
Idi Amin, the African dictator who ruled Uganda from 1971, fled to Saudi Arabia after he was overthrown in 1979, [and remained there] until he died in Jeddah in August 2003. [During his time in Saudi Arabia] he mixed with the residents of Jeddah and could be seen in the local markets, living a normal social life, away from politics.
As for Nawaz Sharif, a resident of the rich Punjab province, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan, he sought refuge in Saudi Arabia after [being exiled] following a military coup led by President Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Sharif (aged 61) subsequently returned to his country in 2007, after spending years abroad, although this was in violation of his exile agreement, which was due to last 10 years.