Episode 3 House of Saud: A Family at War


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Episode 3

Documentary series. The House of Saud is now facing a moment of unprecedented instability. This episode looks at how the family stays in power.


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This programme contains some scenes

which some viewers may find upsetting

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The House of Saud has unparalleled

wealth and influence.

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While the royal family

behaves extravagantly,

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travels abroad,

displays this wealth

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and sometimes behaves not according

to what they preach,

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we find that Saudi society

itself is controlled.

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Yet their grip on power is facing

its most serious challenge.

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You can see the perfect storm

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forming around Saudi Arabia

at this stage.

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A restless young population

is demanding change.

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You feel like you're not a human

and you have no right to even dream.

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No right to do anything.

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Now a new crown prince is promising

to transform the country.

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This leadership said - "To hell

with it, we're going to do it."

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A royal decree has been

issued in Saudi Arabia

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giving women the right to drive.

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APPLAUSE

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But staying in power also means

crushing opposition.

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It is trying to be

the ally of the West,

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suggesting that he is moderate,

whereas actually beheading

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people whose offence

was to attend a protest.

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For decades, this extraordinary

family have been the great

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survivors of the Middle East.

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Now their future rests on a young,

untested prince.

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I think it is crucial, I think

we should very much want him,

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want his country to succeed.

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If something happens to Saudi

Arabia, this would be catastrophic

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for the region and, frankly,

catastrophic for the world.

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DRUMMING AND SINGING

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Less than 100 years ago,

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the House of Saud ruled a relatively

obscure desert kingdom.

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But oil changed all of that.

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The Saudi royal family controlled

the revenue of the Kingdom that

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comes mainly from oil.

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They can spend it as they wish

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and nobody has the right to

challenge them.

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But their power doesn't simply

come from wealth.

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It comes from their role

within Islam.

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The King styles himself

as the custodian of Islam's two

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holiest sites - Medina and Mecca.

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And with that power comes huge

responsibility.

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It is important for them to be seen

as role models in religion

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in their country.

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The textbooks that the state

publishes

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and gives to Saudi citizens

teach that one of the greatest

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sins you could possibly

engage in is hypocrisy.

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Specifically one who

engages in un-Islamic acts

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while claiming to be a Muslim.

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And that's also why the royal family

is so sensitive

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when it comes to stories coming out

about members

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of the royal family that contradict

with the sort of public face

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that they are supposed

to be portraying at home.

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Few of those who work

for the House of Saud

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talk about their experiences.

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The majority of the Saudis

that I worked for were paranoid,

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not all of them,

but, yes, the majority of them.

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But it depends who it was

and where you were

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in different situations.

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And a lot of them were paranoid

because they did not want to be seen

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doing something they shouldn't do.

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Joao Ferreira is a former

bodyguard who has

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worked for several Saudi princes.

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They like to have girls for the day,

for the week, whatever it may be.

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They are extremely well-paid models.

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We'd get a description

of what the prince would like

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and this agency would ship girls

in from everywhere -

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even America -

if they fitted the description.

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In reality,

they are high-class prostitutes

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and they are getting paid

for a service.

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Money does buy love, of course,

because that girlfriend

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is madly in love with him for the

day or for the hour or for the week.

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Whether you say the word

prostitute or not,

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at the end of the day,

that is exactly what they are.

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I think Saudi princes are really

afraid of their secrets.

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It's a secret for them,

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or that their lifestyle

comes out in the public.

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Stephanie says her clients include

high-paying Saudi royals.

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The most amount that

I earnt in one day was 20,000.

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Then I also had some jewellery

from Bulgari and Rolex.

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Yeah, they are really good clients

and not only because of

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the money, because, of course,

they give, like, a lot of money,

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but the ones I met,

they were really respectful,

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they really treated me

as a princess.

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They always gave us the best,

you know, the best hotels,

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good hotel rooms.

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They didn't treat us as a number.

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They gave me like

an old-school phone

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so I had a Nokia or something

with my own SIM card.

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But it was more for them

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so that I couldn't take

pictures of the prince.

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Any time they are not

with the prince,

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then they are watched 24 hours,

basically, if need be.

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So you always know where they are

and they always have to report

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where they are going, who they are

going with, that is then reported

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to the prince and he will say - OK,

send somebody with her or not,

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depending on who it is

and how long they stay

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and how much they like them.

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Despite the secrecy that surrounds

the private lives of some Saudi

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princes, stories have circulated

about bad royal behaviour abroad.

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But very few cases

ever come to court.

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Some of those royal family members,

some of them,

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they live, themselves,

in a very narcissistic way.

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Pathological grandiosity.

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They believe they are above the law

all over the world.

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London has always been

a favourite playground

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for the Saudi royal family.

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Meet Prince Saud

Abdulaziz Bin Nasir al Saud,

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the great-grandson

of Saudi's first king.

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London gave the Prince

an opportunity

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to pursue a very

different lifestyle.

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I crawl up the back

and massage the back.

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Body to body, yeah, I'm excited,

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he's excited, he's underneath me,

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I'm kissing his ears,

massaging his head.

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You can tell he is horny as hell.

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Homosexual activity

is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

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But in the discreet surroundings

of a top London hotel,

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who could possibly find out?

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But this Saudi prince also had

extreme issues with his temper.

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In 2010,

CCTV from the hotel lift shows him

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attacking his manservant

Bandar Abdulaziz.

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Three weeks later,

Bandar was found dead

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in the prince's hotel room.

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The blood trails,

we could see the body had been moved

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and it had been dragged across

the floor of the room

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and been placed on the bed.

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The prince gave a story,

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saying that Bandar had been

attacked whilst out walking himself.

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He said he believed he died

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as a result of the injuries

from the robbery.

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Police were sceptical.

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A major alarm bell was the CCTV

in the hotel lift,

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where Bandar was lethally punched

around the head

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and struck about the body

by the prince.

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And the impression I got was that

this was something he was used to

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and he knew it was his place

to take a beating.

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That very quickly broke

the prince's story,

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we were able to get

really good evidence

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to prove that he was responsible.

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Next - the prince tried to

get off the hook by claiming

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he had diplomatic immunity.

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He had no diplomatic immunity,

that was pointed out

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and that claim went away

very quickly.

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At his trial at the Old Bailey,

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the prince denied any sexual

relationship with his manservant.

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His sexuality became

central to the prosecution case.

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His masseur was called

to give evidence.

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Gasps from all around

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and particularly from the Saudi

corner, you could...

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Because...

"What have I done here?"

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I just think, "Have I given

too much graphic detail?"

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But that's what you're there for,

right?

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Because the guy said, "Yeah,

I killed the guy, but I'm not gay."

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During the course

of the investigation,

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we examined the prince's

mobile phones,

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on the phone there were photographs

of Bandar naked in sexual positions.

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Again, that helped to prove

the nature of the relationship

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between himself and the prince.

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During the trial, the prince's

lawyer were anxious to prove

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that he was not in

a gay relationship.

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I take offence at that.

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Like being gay is the worst

thing in the world,

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far more than killing a guy.

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Hypocrisy.

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And a killer.

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The prince was convicted of murder

and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Three years later,

under a prisoner transfer agreement,

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he was returned to Saudi Arabia

to serve out his sentence.

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It is unknown what has happened

to him since,

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but the transfer angers some.

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And it's just so wrong. It's

an insult to the guy who was killed,

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it's an insult to the justice here.

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It's an insult to people like me

who actually stood up there bravely

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to be counted

and give evidence against

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one of the world's most

powerful families.

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It's an insult.

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I think he has got away with it.

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The royal family and the

King himself are obsessed

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with the way they are seen

in the West.

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And more people are aware

that Saudi issues

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are being discussed

in the Western media,

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the more they believe that

their regime is vulnerable.

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That is why they warn their own

members, they say, "Be careful,

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"when you leave the country,

don't put us in trouble."

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It's a matter of not to embarrass

the King

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in front of the British or American

press or European press.

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HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE

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SQUEAKY FART

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RUMBLING FART

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It does feel awesome

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to see millions of people

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reading my tweets

or watching my videos.

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HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE

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It gives me more encouragement

to do more.

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HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE

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Ghanem Aldosari is a Saudi blogger.

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From London, he runs one of the most

popular social media accounts -

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mocking the Saudi

royal family's bad behaviour.

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His videos have achieved

around 180 million hits

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and he has a huge following

in Saudi Arabia.

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In my videos, I cover

most of the bad behaviours.

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The parties, how they spend

their money, their gambling,

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the misuse of drugs.

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I'm very dangerous to them,

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otherwise they wouldn't

call me terrorist.

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I do think I'm a danger to them,

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because I talk to the public.

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And I start changing

the mind of the public.

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And they don't like it.

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The power of the House of Saud

relies upon maintaining

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its status as a family

that is fit to rule.

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But social media has given

Saudis more access

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than ever before to critical

information about their rulers.

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Saudi citizens have been in the dark

before, but at the moment,

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we have campaigns on Twitter,

for example, that track this kind

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of images of the princes

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of images of the princes

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when they are not supposed to be

behaving as they do,

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and people follow them and they are

aware of their excesses.

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It is building up consciousness

about those princes

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and what they can do.

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For decades, Saudi royals have

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enjoyed lives of extraordinary

privilege.

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They have been able to do so

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because of a unique social

contract which has

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provided their citizens

with well-paid jobs,

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free education and health care,

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almost no taxation and, of course,

cheap fuel.

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You know, if you're a Saudi citizen

today, since the founding

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of the modern Kingdom, we have had

continuity and stability.

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Now, people in the West

take that lightly sometimes,

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because they take it as a given.

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But your property, your family,

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the chance to get educated,

the chance to develop.

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Push come to shove, you know,

they have actually gotten the best

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deal of any citizen in the

Middle East over the past 100 years.

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But there is a new threat

to the House of Saud.

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A demographic time bomb.

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Around two thirds of the population

is under 30.

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And they are questioning

the conservative rule

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of the House of Saud.

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It is really hard,

you feel like you're not a human

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and you have no right to even dream.

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I'm not allowed to do anything,

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I'm not allowed to decide

anything for myself.

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I'm here just to get married and

have babies and just follow rules.

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Samah Damanhoori left the Kingdom

in 2014.

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She now lives in the United States.

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So imagine if you're

living your whole life like that.

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And whenever you dream,

whenever you have an opinion,

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you're not allowed even to

think like that.

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This is wrong.

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In 2017, a 24-year-old Saudi woman

called Dina Ali Lasloom

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was believed to be attempting to

escape an arranged marriage

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by flying to Australia.

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But during a stopover

at Manila airport,

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Philippines authorities

detained her.

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Fearing her family was coming

to force her back to Saudi Arabia,

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Dina was filmed pleading with

airport officials.

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Dina was put on a flight

back to Riyadh,

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but not before she sent her video

appeal to an activist.

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Then Moudi Aljohani brought world

attention to Dina's plight.

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Before Dina had even landed

in Saudi Arabia,

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#SaveDinaAli had gone viral.

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Can you tell us anything about

Dina's condition or whereabouts?

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The last thing we know is that

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she's been held

in the girls' detention,

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which is another name

of women's prison.

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Moudi campaigned for Dina,

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because she says her own family

wanted her to live

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under the control

of a male guardian

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who would decide many

aspects of her life.

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Moudi went to university in America.

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When she returned to

Saudi Arabia for a holiday,

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she says her family

tried to keep her there.

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When I went to visit my family,

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they said, "You are not going back.

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"Because you are being

too Americanised."

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That was the biggest

shock in my life.

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And I didn't believe it

in the beginning.

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And then it became real.

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I was a hostage.

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I was a prisoner in my own house.

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I call it slavery.

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Because there is no different than

slaves and the guardianship system.

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It's modern slavery.

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SALSA MUSIC PLAYS

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Moudi eventually escaped

and fled back to America.

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Anybody in my position who tests

the freedom for a little bit

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and go back to hell,

would do the same thing that I did.

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Some Saudis are not impressed.

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Fahad Nazer

is a political consultant

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to the Saudi Embassy

in Washington DC.

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He does not speak

on behalf of the Saudi government.

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If you listen closely

to the grievances,

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they almost begin and end with,

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unfortunate, I'm sure,

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but, you know, nonetheless problems

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that stem at their...you know,

family issues...

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problems stemming, you know,

in their households

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that they don't reflect.

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They have little bearing

on wider societal...

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or wider society. It's...

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Saudi Arabia's supporters claim

that many women

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back their strict Islamic system.

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WOMAN SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE

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Samah is no longer a Muslim.

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She has also publicly

criticised Islam.

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I broke a lot of rules in terms

of culture and religion.

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So it's really,

really hard to go back home.

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They would lock me up

until I get married

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to the man that THEY approve,

not me.

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And I would be always

a slave for them.

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Samah is seeking asylum in America.

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From there, she campaigns

for the rights of women back home.

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If I do what I am doing right now

back home,

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they would just simply

put me in jail,

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they would do whatever

to shut me and put me down.

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Saudi Arabia's growing

young population also faces

0:21:150:21:19

economic uncertainty.

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The economy is built around oil.

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But the fall in oil prices

may mean the party is over.

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The economy is not working,

the economy flat-lined in 2016

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and went into recession in 2017.

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One third of the reserves

that the Saudis had

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when King Salman ascended

to the throne had been spent.

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And you don't have to have a Masters

degree in business to figure out

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if you've spent one third in

three years, where you're ending up.

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Facing these challenges

is a new crown prince

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who has become the leading figure

in the House of Saud.

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APPLAUSE

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Just 32 years old,

Mohammad Bin Salman

0:22:070:22:10

has promised to fundamentally

transform the Kingdom.

0:22:100:22:13

At the heart of his project

called Vision 2030

0:22:170:22:21

is a promise to modernise

the Saudi Arabian economy.

0:22:210:22:24

This is a revolution that's going

on, this is not a transition.

0:22:260:22:30

And it's driven by the recognition

0:22:300:22:34

of a need for a revolution

in the economy.

0:22:340:22:38

They cannot continue

the way they have

0:22:380:22:40

with oil prices and gas prices

0:22:400:22:43

what they are

and generally predicted

0:22:430:22:45

to continue to be for some time.

0:22:450:22:47

Vision 2030 in the long term

and on the surface

0:22:470:22:50

is an economic diversification

strategy,

0:22:500:22:52

but it's underpinned

by social and cultural reform.

0:22:520:22:56

And it also placed woman on the map.

0:22:560:22:59

A royal decree has been issued

in Saudi Arabia

0:23:030:23:05

giving women the right to drive.

0:23:050:23:08

APPLAUSE

0:23:090:23:12

In 2017, Saudi Arabia became

the last country in the world

0:23:130:23:18

to allow women to drive.

0:23:180:23:20

It was an historic moment

for the Kingdom.

0:23:200:23:23

It is a very important reform,

0:23:250:23:28

because women who are working,

0:23:280:23:30

such as teachers, they need to go

to their schools on time.

0:23:300:23:35

They need to run their affairs.

0:23:350:23:37

They need to have freedom

of movement.

0:23:370:23:39

Social reform is under way.

0:23:390:23:43

CHEERING

0:23:390:23:43

For the first time in decades,

cinemas are opening.

0:23:430:23:47

Women have been allowed into

stadiums.

0:23:470:23:50

The feared religious police have

been barred from making arrests.

0:23:500:23:54

WOMAN SHRIEKS

0:23:540:23:57

SHRIEKING

0:23:590:24:01

And the male guardianship

system under which women need

0:24:030:24:07

a man's permission for many

activities is also changing.

0:24:070:24:11

The woman's guardianship issue has

always been a problem, but material

0:24:130:24:17

changes already happened

to the woman's guardianship.

0:24:170:24:20

For example, women now are allowed

to go to government departments

0:24:200:24:24

and get papers and execute official

documents without a guardian,

0:24:240:24:29

which is a huge step forward.

0:24:290:24:30

But it is only a start.

0:24:310:24:34

A mandatory dress code

remains in place.

0:24:340:24:37

And in some Sharia courts,

0:24:370:24:39

a woman's testimony

is worth only half a man's.

0:24:390:24:44

Women can't leave the country

without the permission

0:24:440:24:47

of their guardian and this is

still practised in Saudi Arabia.

0:24:470:24:50

There are certain professions

they cannot go into without

0:24:500:24:54

the permission of their guardian.

0:24:540:24:56

If a woman is employed

in the private sector and her job

0:24:560:24:59

requires her to travel outside Saudi

Arabia, she will not be able to go,

0:24:590:25:04

unless her guardian signs a form

to say that she can travel for work.

0:25:040:25:08

What we've seen so far

0:25:080:25:09

is some modest steps

in the right direction,

0:25:090:25:13

but the scriptures

that govern Saudi society,

0:25:130:25:18

especially gender relations,

0:25:180:25:20

involve thousands of decrees

from the clerical establishment.

0:25:200:25:25

One estimate is there's

up to 30,000 decrees issued

0:25:250:25:29

over the years by

the Wahhabi clerical establishment

0:25:290:25:33

that governs everything

about behaviour of women

0:25:330:25:37

and the interaction between women

and men in the Kingdom.

0:25:370:25:40

That's a formidable amount

of legislation

0:25:400:25:42

that has to be looked into

and reversed.

0:25:420:25:45

Social and economic liberalisation

may be crucial to maintaining

0:25:480:25:52

the House of Saud's rule,

0:25:520:25:54

but political freedoms are another

thing altogether.

0:25:540:25:58

SHOUTING

0:25:580:26:03

THEY PROTEST

0:26:030:26:06

The Arab Spring saw dictators

across the Middle East toppled.

0:26:060:26:11

SHOUTING ON MEGAPHONE

0:26:140:26:15

Protests erupted

in Saudi Arabia, too.

0:26:150:26:18

Social media exploded, becoming

a pivotal tool for activists.

0:26:200:26:24

CHANTING

0:26:240:26:26

GUNSHOTS

0:26:260:26:29

There was, I think,

a brief window of time

0:26:290:26:32

when the Saudi government was not in

control of what their citizens were

0:26:320:26:37

saying and able to say, and that was

with the emergence of social media.

0:26:370:26:40

That really brought about

a tremendous opening

0:26:450:26:47

in Saudi Arabia, the likes of which

we had not seen before.

0:26:470:26:51

SHOUTING

0:26:510:26:53

But the Saudi government

soon woke up to the threat.

0:26:530:26:57

RAPID GUNFIRE

0:26:570:27:00

After the Arab Spring,

0:27:000:27:02

the regime sees itself

as very vulnerable.

0:27:020:27:06

Any activity is seen by the regime

as dangerous,

0:27:060:27:10

whether it is somebody making

a tweet,

0:27:100:27:14

or a post on Facebook,

or a post on YouTube.

0:27:140:27:17

They try to chase them,

0:27:170:27:19

either by using the advanced

technology given to the regime

0:27:190:27:22

by the West, or by seducing them,

0:27:220:27:25

sending agents to speak to them.

0:27:250:27:29

So they use the social media itself

0:27:290:27:31

to arrest people,

to get rid of them.

0:27:310:27:33

In 2014, Bill Marczak was an analyst

0:28:210:28:25

for Canadian-based research team

Citizen Lab.

0:28:250:28:29

He uncovered a malicious bug

hidden in an app for a newspaper,

0:28:290:28:32

popular in the Shia

eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

0:28:320:28:35

We saw, for instance, on Twitter,

0:28:370:28:40

there were a few accounts

sending out tweets saying,

0:28:400:28:42

"Oh, check out the new version

of the Qatif Today app."

0:28:420:28:45

And if you had clicked on that

and installed that on your phone,

0:28:450:28:48

your phone would have been infected

0:28:480:28:49

and data would've been sent back

to the Saudi Ministry of Interior.

0:28:490:28:53

Bill traced the bug back to

a hi-tech company that develops

0:28:540:28:58

what it calls offensive security.

0:28:580:29:00

Italian company Hacking Team

has been criticised

0:29:130:29:15

for having supplied this kind

of mass surveillance technology

0:29:150:29:18

to Saudi Arabia.

0:29:180:29:20

Alberto Pelliccione is

one of the world's foremost hackers.

0:29:360:29:40

He worked for Hacking Team

0:29:400:29:42

when they used to run

this kind of operation.

0:29:420:29:45

When I understand which angle

I'm going to attack...

0:29:530:29:56

Saudi Arabia, in my estimate,

0:30:390:30:41

is probably one of

the more sophisticated governments

0:30:410:30:44

when it comes to surveillance

in the Middle East,

0:30:440:30:46

and the simple reason

is they've got a lot of money,

0:30:460:30:49

so this gives them access

to surveillance tools

0:30:490:30:51

that other governments

might not have access to.

0:30:510:30:54

You know, I'm sure that Saudi

is very interested in fighting

0:30:540:30:58

terrorism, but I'm sure also

that they're abusing the products

0:30:580:31:00

to spy on activists,

because, you know, what...

0:31:000:31:03

If you are the Saudi government,

who are the threats?

0:31:030:31:06

Well, the threats are anyone that's

kind of threatening your grip

0:31:060:31:08

on power and your...your...the

stability of your ruling family

0:31:080:31:12

and your government.

0:31:120:31:13

Social media had been

a mixed blessing in Saudi Arabia.

0:31:130:31:17

First, it allowed Saudis

to access the world

0:31:170:31:21

and make their voices heard.

0:31:210:31:23

However, there is an unfortunate

side to Saudi social media,

0:31:230:31:27

and that is a lot of people

got in trouble as a result

0:31:270:31:31

of circulating ideas,

even short sentences on Twitter.

0:31:310:31:36

Unlike countries

such as China and Turkey,

0:31:380:31:41

platforms like Twitter

have remained open.

0:31:410:31:45

But there is evidence

the Saudi government has begun to

0:31:450:31:47

manipulate social media

in ever more sophisticated ways.

0:31:470:31:52

The explosion

of the use of social media

0:31:520:31:55

does not mean

that the regime is silent,

0:31:550:31:58

it does not mean the regime

is allowing people

0:31:580:32:00

to use social media as they want.

0:32:000:32:02

It's believed they have

the capability to sabotage

0:32:040:32:06

online discussions about the Kingdom

using propaganda bots.

0:32:060:32:11

Bots, essentially, look like

real people, but it's software.

0:32:130:32:18

It's computer software

0:32:180:32:20

that uses social media

to look like a real person

0:32:200:32:22

and to spread propaganda.

0:32:220:32:24

Marc Owen Jones has studied

the accounts of Twitter users

0:32:240:32:28

in Saudi Arabia.

0:32:280:32:29

Half of that information

that you see will be propaganda.

0:32:320:32:36

And we're talking every day,

probably over 100,000 tweets.

0:32:360:32:40

It basically means half

of the internet Twitter population

0:32:400:32:43

of Saudi is computer software.

0:32:430:32:45

He says the bots are used for what

is called hashtag poisoning -

0:32:470:32:51

artificially inflating support

for the government position

0:32:510:32:55

in a huge, invisible wave

of propaganda.

0:32:550:32:59

Hashtag poisoning is basically

going onto a hashtag,

0:32:590:33:02

dominating it,

0:33:020:33:03

squeezing out any real, genuine,

critical information.

0:33:030:33:08

Again, it ties in with the idea

of making credible information,

0:33:080:33:12

real information, critical

information, difficult to find.

0:33:120:33:15

And you do it to such an extent

that it becomes almost...

0:33:150:33:19

Twitter becomes useless

as a tool of finding out

0:33:190:33:22

what's going on in real time

in certain parts of the world.

0:33:220:33:24

Criticism of the House of Saud

0:33:270:33:30

is also controlled through

sweeping anti-terror laws.

0:33:300:33:34

Now, in Saudi Arabia, you could be

classified as a terrorist

0:33:370:33:41

if you spread atheism,

0:33:410:33:44

if you attend

an international conference

0:33:440:33:45

that the State doesn't like,

0:33:450:33:47

if you speak to a rights group

or an international reporter

0:33:470:33:50

in a way that the State thinks

is undermining national unity.

0:33:500:33:53

One of the terms of the law

even said that if you harm

0:33:530:33:58

the reputation of the State, you

can be classified as a terrorist.

0:33:580:34:02

We would hope that the -

and we would expect -

0:34:020:34:04

that the relevant authorities

would be vigilant

0:34:040:34:07

in applying these laws

0:34:070:34:09

in such a manner

that they do not infringe

0:34:090:34:12

on the freedom of expression

0:34:120:34:14

of peaceful individuals

who are not resorting to incitement,

0:34:140:34:18

who are not resorting

to the encouragement of violence

0:34:180:34:21

or anything like that.

0:34:210:34:22

SHOUTING

0:34:220:34:26

The public has very limited

information about the evidence

0:34:260:34:31

that's presented, the nature

of the crime that is being alleged,

0:34:310:34:35

the way in which

a conviction is...is reached,

0:34:350:34:40

and in that kind of context,

0:34:400:34:42

it creates a kind of pervasive

feeling of repression,

0:34:420:34:47

so it takes a very brave person

in Saudi Arabia to speak out

0:34:470:34:51

about anything political,

0:34:510:34:53

certainly anything

that might shed a negative light

0:34:530:34:57

on...on the government.

0:34:570:34:59

There may have been individual

cases, there may have been

0:34:590:35:02

individual mistakes, but it is not

a common practice in Saudi Arabia.

0:35:020:35:06

We're not North Korea,

we're not, you know, the Gulags,

0:35:060:35:11

we're not anything like that.

0:35:110:35:14

We are a peaceful society

that is well integrated,

0:35:140:35:18

that is well...cohesive

0:35:180:35:20

and that has the right

to protect itself

0:35:200:35:24

and to protect its community

against the threat of terrorism.

0:35:240:35:27

In January 2016,

the Saudi Interior Ministry

0:35:520:35:56

announced it had executed 47 people

on a single day,

0:35:560:36:01

declared guilty of terror offences.

0:36:010:36:04

While some of the 47 were convicted

of Al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks,

0:36:080:36:12

others seem to be

simply political protesters.

0:36:120:36:15

King Salman wanted to show that he's

tough with any kind of dissidence.

0:36:170:36:22

The regime claims that

they are either terrorists or

0:36:220:36:25

sympathisers with terrorists,

0:36:250:36:27

but given that the judiciary

in Saudi Arabia is not independent,

0:36:270:36:31

it is very difficult

to verify these claims.

0:36:310:36:35

Among those executed

was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr,

0:36:390:36:42

a leading cleric from

the country's Shia Muslim minority.

0:36:420:36:46

Saudi Arabia's Shias have long

complained of marginalisation

0:36:460:36:49

and oppression.

0:36:490:36:50

This was a very blunt

0:36:520:36:55

and strongly worded message

to the Shia community

0:36:550:36:57

that this is the consequence

of stirring up dissatisfaction,

0:36:570:37:01

expressing that in any way.

0:37:010:37:04

The consequence is arrest,

prosecution, execution.

0:37:040:37:08

Taha al-Haji

was one of the lawyers

0:37:150:37:18

who tried to stop the executions.

0:37:180:37:20

The government concocted a case

0:37:340:37:35

accusing him

of undermining national unity,

0:37:350:37:40

and harming the reputation

of the State.

0:37:400:37:42

SCOFFS:

All of which are terrorist

offences in Saudi Arabia now.

0:37:420:37:46

HE SPEAKS ARABIC

0:37:460:37:50

Convicted criminals were executed,

simple as that.

0:37:510:37:54

They went through

the full process of the law,

0:37:560:37:58

they went through

multiple appeal stages,

0:37:580:38:01

and they were convicted of crimes,

of terrorism and other crimes,

0:38:010:38:05

and they were executed

in accordance with the law.

0:38:050:38:09

But the image of mass executions

plastered across the world's media

0:38:180:38:22

caused widespread outrage.

0:38:220:38:24

Now the Americans wanted answers

about the executions of the 47 men.

0:38:270:38:31

The President took it up

with the King.

0:38:340:38:36

I have to give President Obama

a lot of credit, I mean,

0:38:360:38:38

he was very forthright in bringing

these issues to the forefront,

0:38:380:38:42

and the King was very direct

with the President, too, in saying,

0:38:420:38:45

you know, "We have our customs,

we have our judicial system,"

0:38:450:38:48

you know, "I have to...

0:38:480:38:50

"I may be the King of Saudi Arabia,

0:38:500:38:51

"but I have to respect

my judicial system."

0:38:510:38:53

I think our human rights record is

0:38:560:38:57

one of the best in the world,

0:38:570:38:59

both internally and in terms

of our own systems

0:38:590:39:03

and as far as international

agreements and covenants.

0:39:030:39:08

We uphold the charter, we uphold...

0:39:080:39:11

Above that, we uphold

our own Sharia law

0:39:110:39:14

which protects human rights

for all individuals

0:39:140:39:17

and which guarantees the dignity

0:39:170:39:21

and the responsibility also

towards society of all members

0:39:210:39:26

of the community.

So I have no doubt that we uphold

0:39:260:39:30

the highest standards

of human rights.

0:39:300:39:32

I think Saudi Arabia

finds self-analysis

0:39:340:39:39

and self-criticism

extremely difficult

0:39:390:39:42

and extremely painful.

0:39:420:39:43

I certainly would not characterise

Saudi Arabia as one

0:39:430:39:47

of the countries with the best

human rights record in the world.

0:39:470:39:50

I think the Saudi Arabia record

on improving human rights

0:39:500:39:55

is extremely disappointing.

0:39:550:39:57

I think that the United States

and other partners of Saudi Arabia -

0:39:580:40:03

the UK, others in Europe -

have, for a long time,

0:40:040:40:08

addressed with Saudi officials,

0:40:080:40:12

our deep and consistent concerns

0:40:120:40:15

regarding things like

their violation

0:40:150:40:18

of freedom of religion and belief,

0:40:180:40:20

their use of the death penalty

for crimes that do not rise to the

0:40:200:40:24

level of the utilisation

of the death penalty,

0:40:240:40:26

a full panoply of concerns.

0:40:260:40:29

And, unfortunately,

0:40:290:40:30

I don't think that they've made

much progress at all.

0:40:300:40:34

There are those in the West,

if I may say, who want to mould us

0:40:340:40:38

in their own mould, and we say,

"Thanks, but no, thanks."

0:40:380:40:41

We are not Sweden,

we are not Switzerland,

0:40:410:40:45

we are not Britain,

we are not Norway.

0:40:450:40:48

We are our own country,

0:40:490:40:50

and we do not want to be moulded

in the mould of any other country.

0:40:500:40:54

The Kingdom's treatment

of dissenters is criticised

0:40:580:41:02

not just by diplomats

and human rights experts,

0:41:020:41:05

but also from within

the royal family itself.

0:41:050:41:08

Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud

can trace his family lineage

0:41:250:41:29

back to the original founders

of the Kingdom.

0:41:290:41:33

The Prince is openly critical

of how the Saudi Interior Ministry

0:41:330:41:37

has cracked down

on human rights activists.

0:41:370:41:40

Prince Khalid is speaking out

0:42:220:42:23

through a sense

of personal injustice

0:42:230:42:26

over what he claims is the illegal

seizure of land he inherited.

0:42:260:42:30

He feels the country

is deeply corrupt.

0:42:330:42:36

The social reforms introduced

0:43:160:43:18

by the new Crown Prince,

Mohammad bin Salman,

0:43:180:43:21

have led to hopes

that the human rights situation

0:43:210:43:24

in the Kingdom would improve,

0:43:240:43:26

but a new terror law

he has introduced

0:43:260:43:28

includes penalties of

up to ten years in jail

0:43:280:43:31

for insulting the King

and Crown Prince,

0:43:310:43:33

as well as the death penalty

for other acts of terrorism.

0:43:330:43:37

Yahya Assiri is

a Saudi human rights activist.

0:43:400:43:43

It has definitely had

a negative impact on activism,

0:44:070:44:10

when you see

all the leading figures,

0:44:100:44:12

and all human rights defenders

0:44:120:44:14

and the respected figures of

this movement being behind bars now.

0:44:140:44:17

If you dare to speak out

about the right,

0:44:200:44:22

dare to read

about the human rights demand

0:44:220:44:24

or express yourself

0:44:240:44:26

or your opinion or even contact

Amnesty International,

0:44:260:44:30

this can be considered

a terrorist crime.

0:44:300:44:32

The fate of Mujtaba Al-Sweikat

0:44:330:44:36

has been seen as a test case

for the new regime.

0:44:360:44:40

In 2012, he was arrested

for attending a demonstration,

0:44:400:44:44

when he was just 17 years old.

0:44:440:44:47

Mujtaba was

a very promising young student.

0:44:470:44:50

He had been awarded a place to study

at university in the US.

0:44:500:44:54

and was actually on his way

to the US

0:44:540:44:56

when he was arrested

from the airport,

0:44:560:44:58

brutally tortured by the police,

0:44:580:45:00

forced to sign a confession, and

0:45:000:45:03

then later sentenced to death for

attending a pro-democracy protest.

0:45:030:45:08

Mujtaba Al-Sweikat is one of 14

recently sentenced to death

0:45:080:45:12

for what human rights organisations

describe as protest-related crimes.

0:45:120:45:17

His charges include overseeing

a dissident Facebook page

0:45:170:45:20

and publishing photos of protests.

0:45:200:45:23

His case is typical of

the kind of death penalty cases

0:45:230:45:27

we are seeing

now increasingly in the Kingdom.

0:45:270:45:31

Those young students, like Mujtaba,

are brutally tortured

0:45:310:45:35

and sentenced to death for calling

for exactly the same things

0:45:350:45:39

that the Crown Prince is saying

he's in favour of.

0:45:390:45:43

The Saudi Ministry of Justice

maintains that all the trials

0:45:430:45:47

of the 14 Saudis sentenced to death

0:45:470:45:49

have met international standards

for fairness and due process.

0:45:490:45:53

They say the death sentences

are only handed down

0:45:530:45:56

for the most serious crimes.

0:45:560:45:58

Since the Crown Prince

came to power,

0:46:000:46:02

dozens of people have been detained

in what UN experts have called

0:46:020:46:06

a worrying clamp-down

on human rights.

0:46:060:46:09

What we've seen

since he took office is...

0:46:120:46:15

..certainly an increased use

of mass executions.

0:46:180:46:21

There were seven people

executed on the 28th of November,

0:46:210:46:24

among whom a number of those,

four of them,

0:46:240:46:26

were peaceful protesters.

0:46:260:46:28

We're also seeing an attempt

to disguise the repression

0:46:280:46:35

and abuses of fundamental

human rights by the Crown Prince,

0:46:350:46:40

disguise it in this guise

of countering terrorism.

0:46:400:46:44

He's trying to be

the ally of the West.

0:46:440:46:46

SHOUTING

0:46:460:46:51

Repression in Saudi Arabia has

never been at the level

0:46:520:46:55

of really repressive countries.

0:46:550:46:57

It is not a police state

in the sense Syria or Iraq was,

0:46:570:47:00

even Iran is, frankly.

0:47:000:47:02

So, it is not as repressive

as really repressive states are,

0:47:020:47:07

but obviously, it does not have

the political freedom

0:47:080:47:10

that the West does.

0:47:100:47:11

For political and economic reasons,

Western governments have long

0:47:170:47:20

tolerated the House of Saud's

record on human rights.

0:47:200:47:23

I have sat around

the Situation Room table

0:47:260:47:28

in the West Wing of the White House,

0:47:280:47:30

where we've grappled

with precisely these issues.

0:47:300:47:32

You know, isn't it time

that we finally told Country X,

0:47:320:47:35

"This is it"?

0:47:350:47:37

OK, well, then what?

0:47:370:47:38

Well, Country X then goes to Russia,

they go to China,

0:47:380:47:42

or they go somewhere else,

and then we've lost whatever

0:47:420:47:45

influence we had,

however inadequate it may be.

0:47:450:47:48

No country is ever perfect.

0:47:480:47:51

Saudi Arabia certainly has

its imperfections, its flaws,

0:47:510:47:54

but at the end of the day,

I would judge that they are a flawed

0:47:540:47:57

friend and that others in the region

are our adversaries and our enemies.

0:47:570:48:02

Few things have focused attention

0:48:070:48:09

on the West's support

for Saudi Arabia

0:48:090:48:11

like the brutal war in Yemen.

0:48:110:48:13

The Saudi coalition has been led

by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

0:48:170:48:20

The Saudis maintain

they are defending

0:48:250:48:27

the rightful government of Yemen

against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels

0:48:270:48:31

who had seized power.

0:48:310:48:33

But from the outset,

the Saudi-led coalition used

0:48:390:48:42

its air superiority

to bomb suspected rebels.

0:48:420:48:46

Reports emerged of civilians

being targeted.

0:48:460:48:50

The Saudi government and the rebels

have been accused of war crimes.

0:48:540:48:59

What we have documented in multiple

investigations in Yemen,

0:49:000:49:04

on the ground, is that this war

has been characterised

0:49:040:49:09

by a very widespread

and systematic pattern

0:49:090:49:12

of indiscriminate bombardment

of civilian areas,

0:49:120:49:16

in some cases deliberate bombardment

of civilian areas,

0:49:160:49:20

that has killed thousands

of civilians.

0:49:200:49:22

In 2015, in Geneva,

0:49:250:49:28

the head

of the UN Human Rights Council

0:49:280:49:30

called for an independent

international investigation

0:49:300:49:34

into war crimes committed

by both sides.

0:49:340:49:37

But there was a problem.

0:49:440:49:45

Saudi Arabia is one

of the 47 countries

0:49:450:49:48

on the United Nations'

Human Rights Council.

0:49:480:49:51

Saudi Arabia's effort

to seek leadership

0:49:550:49:57

in the UN Human Rights Council

0:49:570:49:59

came basically at the same time

that Saudi Arabia

0:49:590:50:02

was putting out an ad to hire

more executioners, by sort,

0:50:020:50:06

for beheading its citizens,

0:50:060:50:07

or ex-pats, who are sentenced

to die.

0:50:070:50:09

I mean, this is a real contradiction

here in terms of,

0:50:090:50:15

on the one hand, Saudi Arabia's

international legitimacy

0:50:150:50:19

and acceptance by, you know,

0:50:190:50:23

some of the most prominent leaders

in the UN system

0:50:230:50:26

while at the same time chopping

people's heads off for doing things

0:50:260:50:30

that we don't even define as crimes

here, in the West.

0:50:300:50:32

In terms of why the Saudis want

to be on the Human Rights Council,

0:50:320:50:36

I think it's very simple -

0:50:360:50:37

they want to block any efforts

to shine the light on themselves

0:50:370:50:40

and some of their other allies

0:50:400:50:42

who have horrific

human rights records.

0:50:420:50:45

Clear and simple.

It's not for good reasons.

0:50:450:50:48

Keith Harper was the US ambassador

to the Council at the time.

0:50:500:50:54

I think that countries

like Saudi Arabia being

0:50:570:51:00

on the Human Rights Council

undermines the Council.

0:51:000:51:03

And I think it makes it

a weaker institution

0:51:030:51:06

and it makes it an institution

that can be...

0:51:060:51:10

..whose veracity can be

more greatly questioned.

0:51:100:51:12

And I think that that undermines

human rights, ultimately,

0:51:120:51:15

when countries like Saudi Arabia

are on the Human Rights Council.

0:51:150:51:20

Saudi Arabia's presence

on the UN Human Rights Council

0:51:220:51:26

helped block the independent

international investigation.

0:51:260:51:30

A Yemeni government investigation

went ahead instead.

0:51:320:51:36

We did not block an independent

investigation of the UN.

0:51:360:51:39

The norm at the UN is that

such investigations are carried

0:51:390:51:42

by the competent leader authority

of the land.

0:51:420:51:46

If that authority is unable

or unwilling to conduct

0:51:460:51:50

that investigation, then the UN

may step in and provide such...

0:51:500:51:54

such an investigation.

0:51:540:51:56

SHOUTING

0:51:560:51:59

For two years, the bitter war

has raged in Yemen,

0:51:590:52:03

with the Saudi coalition

backed and armed by the British

0:52:030:52:06

and American governments.

0:52:060:52:08

In October 2016,

0:52:140:52:17

a funeral in the Yemeni capital

Sana'a was hit by a Saudi jet.

0:52:170:52:21

140 were killed, 500 injured.

0:52:230:52:26

SHOUTING

0:52:260:52:30

We have investigated those cases.

0:52:400:52:42

In some of them, we have

acknowledged responsibility

0:52:420:52:45

and we have taken measures

to address

0:52:450:52:48

the results of the incident.

0:52:480:52:51

We do not deny that there may have

been some cases in which errors

0:52:510:52:57

have been made, but those who say

otherwise are respectfully

0:52:570:53:03

requested to present their case

to us, and we'll take a look at it.

0:53:030:53:08

As the war escalated,

0:53:100:53:11

missiles were fired towards

Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.

0:53:110:53:15

A Saudi-led blockade

on the main ports of Yemen

0:53:180:53:21

has lead to starvation

and an outbreak of cholera.

0:53:210:53:24

After two years of wrangling,

0:53:430:53:45

the United Nations

Human Rights Council

0:53:450:53:47

has finally passed a resolution -

0:53:470:53:50

an independent investigation into

war crimes will now be undertaken.

0:53:500:53:56

But around 10,000 civilians

have already died in Yemen.

0:53:560:54:01

For decades, through years

of extraordinary global changes,

0:54:130:54:17

the House of Saud has offered

stability in a volatile region.

0:54:170:54:21

But in just a few months,

0:54:270:54:29

a 32-year-old Crown Prince

has changed all that.

0:54:290:54:32

Mohammad bin Salman has pledged

to end Islamic extremism.

0:54:340:54:38

King Salman

and Crown Prince Mohammad

0:54:460:54:48

have taken dozens and dozens

of measures

0:54:480:54:51

to crack down on terrorists,

0:54:510:54:53

on terrorists cells

and terror financing.

0:54:530:54:56

They have dismissed

thousands of imams and teachers

0:54:560:54:59

who espouse extremist views.

0:54:590:55:01

He has launched

a crackdown on corruption,

0:55:010:55:05

with hundreds detained,

including ministers, billionaires

0:55:050:55:09

and members of his own family.

0:55:090:55:11

Well, this is a monumental shift

in the way the government is

0:55:130:55:16

tackling corruption.

0:55:160:55:17

In the past, the government

has fought corruption,

0:55:170:55:19

but they were always half measures.

0:55:190:55:21

What's happening today is that

the government is sending

0:55:210:55:24

a very clear message, that

corruption will not be tolerated,

0:55:240:55:26

regardless of who's behind it.

0:55:260:55:29

He has begun a process of

economic and social reform.

0:55:290:55:32

I think there's actually

a veritable revolution

0:55:320:55:35

in Saudi Arabia right now.

0:55:350:55:36

There's a revolution in governance,

0:55:360:55:38

the social/religious context,

0:55:380:55:40

there's a revolution

in the economic sector

0:55:400:55:43

that's driving the need

for all of these others.

0:55:430:55:46

I think now there's leadership,

there's decisiveness,

0:55:460:55:49

there's determination.

0:55:490:55:51

Concrete action has been taken.

0:55:510:55:53

May it run over a few people

or hit a few potholes? Maybe,

0:55:530:55:56

but it's in the right direction.

0:55:560:55:59

The Crown Prince's reforms

have been welcomed in the West.

0:55:590:56:02

But the House of Saud

has now entered

0:56:020:56:05

a period of unprecedented

instability.

0:56:050:56:08

There is no sign that

the political sphere is opening up

0:56:090:56:13

to our new ideas.

0:56:130:56:15

In fact, what we have is

a regression into a very,

0:56:150:56:18

very repressive absolute monarchy

0:56:180:56:21

with no freedom of speech

whatsoever.

0:56:210:56:24

THEY CHANT

0:56:240:56:27

The Crown Prince,

0:56:270:56:29

he has the Armed Forces,

0:56:290:56:31

the security services,

0:56:310:56:32

the intelligence services,

the police,

0:56:320:56:35

everyone under his command.

0:56:350:56:37

It reflects a generational change

in leadership.

0:56:380:56:41

It's risky, it's unprecedented,

0:56:430:56:45

and where it will lead,

no-one can say.

0:56:450:56:48

It is aggressive, it is assertive,

0:56:530:56:56

and it is getting itself stuck into

some real conundrums in the region.

0:56:560:57:00

And all of a sudden,

we don't quite know where this goes.

0:57:000:57:04

SHOUTING

0:57:040:57:06

Saudi Arabia today

is at a crossroads.

0:57:060:57:09

Its foreign policy has

a series of disastrous ventures.

0:57:090:57:13

Its economy has flat lined,

going into recession.

0:57:130:57:18

You can see the perfect storm

forming around Saudi Arabia.

0:57:180:57:22

A 32-year-old prince now holds the

fate of the world's most powerful

0:57:230:57:28

family in his hands.

0:57:280:57:30

I think we should very much want

him, want his country to succeed.

0:57:340:57:39

If something happens

to Saudi Arabia,

0:57:390:57:42

this would be catastrophic

for the region

0:57:420:57:45

and frankly catastrophic

for the world.

0:57:450:57:47

The House of Saud, rulers of the modern kingdom for nearly a century, are now facing a moment of unprecedented instability. This episode looks at how the family stays in power.

The film features some of those who have worked for Saudi princes. They describe how the wealth allowed lives of privilege and pleasure out of the spotlight. But the growth of social media has meant Saudis are getting increasing insight into the behaviour of their rulers, including their transgressions.

The uniquely generous social contract that has existed in the kingdom for decades has protected and bolstered the House of Saud, yet this is changing. Facing a demographic time-bomb of a hugely young population and an economy beset by low oil prices, the new ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has embarked on an unprecedented programme of social and economic reform. Allowing women to drive and relaxing rules on the male guardianship system, his modernising agenda has pleased many. At the same time, his government has recently introduced strict anti-terror laws and is conducting what many consider to be a crackdown on any critics. This month, a leading a group of UN experts attacked the kingdom's behaviour as a 'persecution of human rights defenders'.

The film also features information security experts who believe that the Saudi government uses sophisticated methods to monitor social media in order to suppress dissent and internal criticism of the regime.

With this crucially important country facing a historic crossroads, the programme asks what the future holds for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world.