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Left: A 2005 photo of the ambassador.
Source: BBC News profile
Right: K-State President Jon Wefald welcomes the Saudi ambassador to the USA, HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud (click on photo to enlarge)
Source: Kansas State Collegian, photo by Christopher Hanewinckel

Today, K-State hosted a visit by the ambassador from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the USA, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. The K-State Collegian covered the talk in this article.

A grandson of the first king of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and the son of the late King Faisal, the third son of ibn Saud, Prince Turki Al-Faisal was Saudi foreign intelligence chief from 1977 to 2001 and ambassador to the UK and ROI from 2002 to July, 2005. He has been the Saudi ambassador to the US since July, 2005, and first met with President Bush in that capacity last fall.

Prince Turki during his talk:

Some fine antiques from the Saudi embassy, at the K-State Union exhibit:

banazir at the K-State Union exhibit:

I was invited to the talk by Waleed Al-Jandal, one of my Ph.D. students and a member of the Saudi student association; the president of the association (Mohammed Al-Anazi) is also a Ph.D. student in computer science.

The prologue: Images of Saudi Arabia. The ambassador's talk was prefaced by a 15-minute video called Images of Saudi Arabia, featuring everything from footage of Riyadh's shopping centers and parks, to the traditional sword dance (ardha), once a battle ritual and now performed at festivals, to desert scenery and ocean life. You don't think "anemones" when you think "Arabia" - or at least I didn't, until I saw the video. Videos on the big screen and photographs at the exhibit after the talk also depicted scenes from the holy cities of Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina).

The talk: History of Arabia. The talk proper (which lasted from 12:00 to 12:25) focused on the history of Saudi Arabia since the eighteenth century, in particular its seventy-five years of unified statehood as a monarchy.

Follow-up Q&A. The ambassador spent a goodly amount of time answering questions. Over the course of 25 minutes, he fielded seven, on:

  • Criticisms in international circles of the Saudi government's "aggressive promotion of Wahhabi Islam [the state-sanctioned Sunni fundamentalist Islamic movement prevalent in Saudi Arabia]"

  • Stuart Levy's advocacy of a U.S. federal charity commission, to oversee political lobbying and special interest contributions from overseas businesses and governments (including those of Saudi Arabia), and the expected time frame of this commission's formation - this question was asked by a new female Rhodes scholar from K-State

  • The educational system of Saudi Arabia in relation to that of the USA - the ambasssador replied that the grades are in direct correspondence with those of kindergarten, primary, and secondary school in the US

  • Recognition of the state of Israel - the ambassador recapped the recent (2002) proposal put forth by King Abdullah, then Crown Prince and de facto king, and ratified by the Arab League; it "calls for full withdrawal in return for fully normalized relations with the whole Arab world" (Wikipedia)

  • How the Saudi government plans to act in order to help stop innocent bloodshed in the Iraq-US conflict - this was asked by a female Iraqi-American student

  • The Saudi government's position on East Dharfour and the Sudan, humanitarian aid, and African Union presence in the UN

  • Segregation by gender in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: pros and cons of the status quo and modernization policy



Apr. 9th, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
Ambassador's answers to the questions, part 2 of 2

  • Iraq: He talked about establishing relations with the coalition government and the importance of restoring sovereignty, in deed as well as in word, to the Iraqi state.

  • East Dharfour and the Sudan: He outlined official state policy and said that his government was acting to support humanitarian aid and very much in favor of allied African Union and Arab League intervention in ensuring continued aid, adding that "this is not just an AU problem".

  • Segregation by gender in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: He alluded to the progress in education of women, but did not talk much about employment reform. As you may know, the Saudi government has distanced itself of late from the Mutaween (enforcers of Sharia law) since the school fire tragedy that killed 15 girls, among other well-publicized incidents. He noted that the "most prized women in Saudi Arabia... those most sought after by suitors... are those with jobs". As an Asian-American, I felt some unease at the choice of words, but that is, I think, an accurate reflection of attitudes in the Kingdom.


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