Saudi Arabia. On January 2, 47 people were executed in
twelve locations around Saudi Arabia, triggering protests
both in the country and abroad. Particularly sharp criticism
came from Iran's arch rival, when one of the executed was a
prominent Shi'ite Muslim imam, Nimr al-Nimr, who was
convicted of rioting in connection with protests in 2011.
Protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in
Iran. As a result, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations
countryaah, the current population of Saudi Arabia is 34,813,882.
The conflict with Iran also continued over the congestion
accident in Mecca in 2015 when 464 Iranians perished in
connection with the annual pilgrimage, hajj. Disappointment
over the Saudi stance resulted in no Iranians participating
in this year's shark. In September, Iran's supreme leader
accused Saudi authorities of assassinating pilgrims and
called the royal house "vicious". Saudi religious leader
Muhammad Abdul-Aziz Al ash-Sheikh said that the Iranian
leaders "are not Muslims".
The two arch rivals also supported opposite parties in
Yemen and Syria. In Yemen, the Saudi-led alliance of
countries continued to fight the Huthirbels who fought
against government-loyal forces. Saudi Arabia and its allies
were accused of indiscriminate bombings against the civilian
population, and both the UN and human rights organizations
warned that war crimes might be committed. Particularly
sharp was the criticism when around 150 people lost their
lives and over 500 were injured since a funeral home in Sana
met in October. It was the bloodiest incident since the
bombing started in March 2015.
The war in Yemen was also behind a temporary conflict
with the UN. It emerged when the United Nations placed the
Saudi-led coalition on an annual list of groups and
countries at war exposing children to violence, as they were
said to have caused nearly 500 children deaths in Yemen in
2015. After just a few days, the decision was changed. UN
chief Ban Ki Moon later said that the UN was under pressure
with threats of canceled contributions to UN operations,
which Saudi Arabia denied.
The government presented a far-reaching program of
economic reforms that was intended to enable Saudi Arabia to
succeed without oil as early as 2020. A series of concrete
measures were presented in June: a threefold increase in the
state's revenue from other than oil, the creation of 450,000
new non-governmental jobs, a reduction in the share of
public wages in the state budget from 45 to 40%, a continued
reduction in subsidies on water and electricity, an increase
in the proportion of women in the labor market from 23 to
28% and an increase in the number of foreign visitors during
the annual pilgrimage from 1.5 million to 2.5 million.