In the Name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate
Right from the beginning I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those present who have come to share with us this centennial celebration of the event that led to the establishment of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It was on January 22, 1999 that we started celebrating this occasion. On this day, one hundred years ago in the Hijrah calendar, Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud entered the city of Riyadh and began his long struggle to establish our great country. I have to point out, however, that the setting up of a Saudi State dates back to 1744, the year of the founding of the First Saudi State, which lasted for 74 years. The Second Saudi State came into existence in 1823, and lasted for 73 years. It was in 1932 that King Abdul Aziz officially declared the establishment of the Third Saudi State.
The years between the conquest of Riyadh in 1902 and the death of King Abdul Aziz in 1953 were long years of hardship and difficulty, which I will briefly review.
At the beginning of this period the Turks controlled Al-Hasa, and the British were in the Gulf and in Aden; the Al-Rashid family had control of the Najd, the Al-Sharif Hussein family had control of the Hijaz, the Idris family was in Asir and Tihama, and Imam Yahia was in Yemen. King Abul Aziz managed, however, by the grace of God Almighty and by virtue of his own daring and courage to unite most of these areas into one State in less than thirty years.
This unification took place in two stages. The first was the unification of the Najd and Al-Hasa, over the period from 1902 to 1921. The second was the incorporation of the Hijaz, Asir and Tihama, from 1918 to 1930.
From that point on and until his death, King Abdul Aziz embarked on the development of the Saudi culture and economy in all areas, from foreign relations to administrative structuring. He turned his attention to expanding education, and developing infrastructure, linking together the cities of the Kingdom, and introducing postal, telegraph, and telephone services. He established the core of the Saudi army, extended his attention to agriculture and medical services, secured safe passage for all Muslims to perform Hajj, and recognized the importance of the media, whether print or broadcast.
Behind all these achievements in building up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was his belief in one God. He upheld Shari'ah - Islamic Law - and promoted Islam, setting up a society based on moral principles, dedicated to the One God and committed to the service of the Two Holy Mosques. He supported the principle of consultation, and endorsed modern means of progress, while defending the religion, the holy sites, the monarchy and the nation.
King Abdul Aziz was concerned with guaranteeing human rights in deeds as well as in words. He had great respect for human dignity and non-discrimination in matters of nationality, ethnicity, descent, or wealth. He also emphasized the cohesion of the family and cooperation among all people for the good of humanity, regardless of nationality or religion. He was also determined to protect religious freedom, the sanctity of property, life and privacy, and individual liberty. Furthermore, he advocated mutual cooperation within the society and eradication of ignorance, and guaranteed housing and health care for all citizens.
These were the human rights that King Abdul Aziz was determined to protect, and these are the rights that have been pursued by the righteous descendants who came after him.
You might wonder how the Kingdom managed to maintain its unity and cohesion over the years. In fact, the answer is simpler than you imagine. It is through adhering to the Holy Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet, and by safeguarding our good customs and traditions; and above all, the unique relationship that binds those who rule with those who are ruled. The doors of the offices of those who govern, are open to each and every citizen, to petition for support and help in solving problems. The dialogue that takes place in these offices is the highest form of democracy.
There is no doubt that the achievements of King Abdul Aziz are, by any measure, unique, and cannot be repeated. He was a rare, exceptional personality, who baffled historians. There is, however, unanimity among them as to his genius, his intelligence, his wit, his courage, and his boldness; and his awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, he possessed a comprehensive understanding of tribal customs and traditions, which enabled him to unify the Kingdom and mold it into one entity.
In the early 1970s the Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin was sitting with a reporter when he suddenly took up pencil and paper, calculated the income from the oil sales of a certain Arab country (which I will not identify), and compared this figure with its population. He came to the conclusion that each citizen of that country would be a millionaire within twenty years. Already more than twenty years have passed, and that country is still at the same level, in every respect. In his calculations, Kosygin missed other elements which that country lacked, and which are at the heart of the success of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: namely the quality of the leadership and that of the people, and their relationship of friendship, love and respect.
Once again, I would like to thank you and express my appreciation for your presence here, and I look forward to future celebrations like this in the months and years to come.