Shaikh Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah (1895-1965) ruled Kuwait between 1950 and 1965, a period of spectacular development and change in the shaikhdom.

The eldest son of Salem Al Mubarak Al Sabah, who ruled Kuwait from 1917 to 1921, and the grandson of Mubarak the Great (1896-1915), who created the modern entity and established a thorough succession rule in the shaikhdom, it fell on Abdullah Al Salem to secure the shaikhdom's independence from the United Kingdom in 1961.

This was a crowning achievement and while he exhibited pro-British preferences, Abdullah Al Salem was first and foremost pro-Kuwaiti and, towards that end, moved swiftly to equip the newly independent country with a constitution (1962), followed by a parliament, with the first elections to the 50-member National Assembly being held on January 23, 1963.

A composed man, Abdullah Al Salem delved into history and poetry and lived a somewhat austere life, especially when compared with many Al Sabah family members.

Cohesion of state

Because the British government declared that it had never admitted Ottoman “tutelage'' over Kuwait, and though the shaikhdom succumbed to Ottoman influence, the ruling Al Sabah family experienced and manipulated outside influences to consolidate its power base.

By the turn of the 19th century significant bloodshed stunned the shaikh's family, pushing senior leaders to accept the “fait accompli'' that its very survival was linked to their abilities to play the Ottomans against the British.

Before long, London forced an agreement on the Al Sabah, with Shaikh Mubarak pledging “himself, his heirs and successors not to receive the Agent or Representative of any Power or Government at Kuwait, or at any other place within the limits of his territory, without the previous sanction of the British Government'', nor “to cede, sell, lease, mortgage or give for occupation or for any other purpose, any portion of his territory to the Government or the subjects of any other Power without the previous consent of Her Majesty's Government for these purposes'' (January 23, 1899).

It was because of this accord that Britain recognised Kuwait as “an independent Government under British protection'', which further allowed it to exploit several oil concessions through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum).

Following the discovery of oil, British interests in Kuwait increased substantially and relations between the two countries improved considerably because Kuwaiti oil redefined the shaikhdom's intrinsic value. In fact, by 1961, close to 40 per cent of British oil imports originated from Kuwait and, since the shaikhdom operated within the sterling bloc, Britain had an added incentive to protect the stability of its currency.

Naturally, London asserted itself in the Gulf region and considered its privileged ties with the Al Sabah vital to its national security objectives.

Abdullah and the ruling family

Within the ruling family, internecine warfare led to the establishment of an elaborate hierarchy, which transformed Al Sabah rule into a dynastic corporation.

Under Mubarak the Great's authority, the succession lineage was restricted to descendants of Salem and Jaber, two of Mubarak's seven sons who ruled immediately after him.

Consequently, all existing succession dilemmas were traced to the constant jockeying between the Al Jaber and Al Salem offspring, who alternated as rulers since 1915, to the exclusion of descendants from Mubarak's remaining five sons: Sabah, Nasr, Fahd, Hamad and Abdullah.

Remarkably, the tenor of political difficulties between 1921 and 1961 probably fine-tuned all Al Sabah response mechanisms, especially as shrewd rulers developed and relied on astute compromises.

While every move was undertaken under watchful British eyes — and, presumably, approval — the Al Sabah developed a rare sense of nationalism for their separate identity.

That perception kindled genuine sovereignty aspirations at a time when the Arab world experienced unprecedented political awakening from Baghdad to Cairo and from Beirut to Sanaa.

The Al Sabah and independence

On June 19, 1961, London concluded a new treaty with Abdullah Al Salem by virtue of which Britain recognised Kuwait as a sovereign independent state, in effect terminating the 1899 treaty.

It was a rare moment in the Gulf because a major outside power — an intruding authority — conceded local influence to indigenous rulers.

The new treaty pledged British military assistance to defend Kuwait against unspecified aggressors, placing, in effect, a burden on the latter's proclaimed independence from London.

In fact, this vow could no longer be simply imposed on Kuwait — whose rulers successfully removed the shaikhdom from the “British-protected Arabian Gulf states'' orbit because it created a whole set of dynamics between the ruling family and a foreign power.

Membership in the United Nations and the League of Arab States, and the institution of a limited parliamentary system all permitted Kuwait to conduct independent domestic and foreign relations, albeit within limits.

Remarkably, the shaikhdom owed its political freedom to a British presence in the Gulf throughout the early 1960s, when Kuwait experienced several threats against its territorial integrity.

On June 25, 1961, Iraqi strongman Abdul Karim Qasim revived an old claim to the shaikhdom, arguing that Kuwait was part of the Ottoman Governorate of Basrah, and declared that the 1899 treaty between London and the Al Sabah was “illegal'' because it was negotiated in secret without Constantinople's approval.

While no Iraqi military action was initiated at the time, rumours of such activities were rife. Fearing for his rulership, Abdullah Al Salem called on his allies for assistance.

Reaction from the Arab world was overwhelmingly pro-Kuwaiti. President Jamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt joined other leaders in expressing cordial greetings to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia sent troops to help the shaikhdom seal its border with Iraq.

The Al Sabah further requested military support from London. On June 29, 1961, Britain ordered its aircraft carrier, The Victorious, and other warships deployed throughout the Middle East and Africa to sail towards Kuwait.

Within two weeks, 5,000 British men were ashore, demonstrating to Qasim that his intentions would not be easily carried out.

Qasim's weakness led Baghdad to move cautiously. The Iraqi strongman declared on July 8 that his country would not use force to regain Kuwait.

Still Baghdad refused to renounce its claim and as the crisis subsided, Britain began to withdraw forces.

British troops were replaced by an Arab League unit of 3,300 men drawn from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Republic, Sudan, Jordan and Tunisia, under the command of a Saudi Arabian officer, Major General Abdullah Al Eisa.

All British combat forces left Kuwait on October 11, 1961, but this was not the last time that London would stand by the Al Sabah.

Still, the task of securing long-term British objectives in Kuwait was duly accomplished, as Iraqi claims on Kuwait were temporarily shelved.

On February 8, 1963, Qasim was overthrown by a Revolutionary Council headed by Abdul Salam Aref, who declared that Baghdad wished to ease tensions that prevailed in its neighbourly ties.

Simultaneously, Riyadh intervened to buttress its conservative ally in Kuwait, as the shaikhdom was admitted to the UN as its 111th member on May 7, 1963.

This was only accomplished after a softening of the Soviet position that agreed not to exercise its veto.

In fact, the Soviets had vetoed Kuwait's membership application in 1961 but relented in 1963 after Egyptian president Nasser cajoled Moscow.

No final settlement on the demarcation of borders between Kuwait and Iraq could be negotiated at the time even though the issue was of some importance, given that Iraq was interested in enlarging its only outlet on the Arabian Gulf, through the Shatt Al Arab estuary, which is almost entirely blocked by the Bubiyan and Warbah islands.

As later events would illustrate, this contention took on great significance, leading to the 1990 invasion.

Constitutional continuum

Seventeen months after Kuwait gained its independence on June 19, 1961, Abdullah Al Salem announced that the shaikhdom would be given a constitution consisting of 183 articles.

Parliamentary life was consequently introduced to the “principality'' on November 11, 1962.

This was the first date when a Gulf ruler granted his subjects a written constitution in contemporary times.

Moreover, this democratic system of government was eminently acceptable to the Al Sabah, so long as real political power remained nestled under their control.

Assembly members could advise and even work alongside the executive branch but Kuwaiti rule was locked in its set pattern.

Remarkably, and within a short time, Kuwait was transformed into a welfare state that inevitably bolstered Al Sabah legitimacy.

Few resisted the state's ability to appear generous and act munificent.

Interestingly, individuals largely indebted to the ruling family drafted the 1962 constitution and despite glaring anomalies — citizenship that must be traced to 1919, familial lineage, the exclusion of women [until 2005], along with various suspicious clauses — the political document guaranteed the Al Sabah rare privileges.

Naturally, such privileges were restricted to the two branches of the family, although less prominent cadet branch members played important political roles as well.

For example, descendants of Jarrah and Mohammad — the murdered brothers of Mubarak the Great — returned to Kuwait in the 1950s from forced exile.

Abdullah Al Salem welcomed his “cousins'' not only to strengthen the ruling clan but also to expand his own intra-household alliances.

Smooth successions were recorded after independence, especially after Abdullah Al Salem named his brother Sabah as heir apparent in 1962.

The choice, which broke the alternation pattern between the Al Jaber and Al Salem lines, came as a total surprise.

It was the exception to the unwritten rule practised by the Al Sabah throughout the 20th century. In the event, Abdullah Al Salem apparently settled on Sabah because the leading contender from the Al Jaber faction, Jaber Al Ahmad, was too young.

The latter's youth did not prevent him from serving as finance minister, leading many to speculate that the real reasons for rolling past his nomination lay elsewhere. In fact, Jaber Al Ahmad displayed pan-Arab tendencies that enhanced his popularity among Kuwaitis, even if they preoccupied Britain.

Beholden to London for ensuring Al Sabah power, these sentiments engrossed the ruler, who settled on his full brother to avoid a schism with the British Crown.

It must be underlined that Sabah was a compromise candidate. Therefore, his appointment was not expected to offend, least of all Jaber Al Ahmad.

Still, Sabah was amply qualified, having served as police commander and director of health. He succeeded Abdullah Al Salem when the ruler died in 1965.

It may be arguable, but unprecedented social and political changes occurred during Shaikh Abdullah Al Salem's reign, which transformed Kuwait from a benevolent, autocratic government to a representative one.

Over his 15-year rule, the shaikhdom became a model for other Arabian Gulf states, especially with respect to entrusting authority to wise and prudent leaders.

Abdullah Al Salem gave benevolence new meaning, introduced democracy and encouraged solid development policies — which Kuwaitis learnt to take for granted but which were painstakingly created to transform a small desert hamlet into the Gulf region's first El Dorado.

Dr Joseph A. Kechichian is an author, most recently of Power and Succession in Arab Monarchies, Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008.

This article is the thirteenth in a series, which appears on the second Friday of each month, on Arab leaders who greatly influenced political affairs in the Middle East.

Ever at the wheels of change

Abdullah Al Salem succeeded his cousin Shaikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah as the Emir of Kuwait on February 25, 1950. A reform-minded leader, Abdullah Al Salem understood that large oil reserves would constitute the primary source of the country's prosperity.

Towards that end, he carefully added to his ancestors' astute initiatives — the establishment of a consultative council (Al Majlis Al Istishari) and participation on the issue of succession — to limit internal rivalries.

In fact, and long before Abdullah Al Salem acceded to power, he played a leading role in domestic affairs, handling administrative and financial responsibilities with ease.

After 1950, he presided over the swiftest and most complete transformation of the country in its history, ushering in spectacular programmes that left their marks in the fields of education, health and other social services.

It was under his rule that Kuwait built schools, recruited large numbers of qualified teachers from more advanced Arab countries such as Egypt and Palestine, hired physicians and nurses for free health services and, for citizens only, established a near-perfect welfare state (including free housing, guaranteed income and generous medical coverage).

In fact, Abdullah Al Salem put Kuwait's oil income to such good use that he even had enough left to support less fortunate Arab and Muslim countries, through the renowned Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

Abdullah's long preparation for power and significant political clashed through the 1930s and 1940s, persuaded him to promulgate the country's first constitution on November 11, 1961.

To further strengthen the nascent country's institutions, he inaugurated the National Assembly (parliament) following elections on January 23, 1963, in what was then unprecedented.

Importantly, the constitution guaranteed freedom of the individual and the press, and eliminated all discrimination on the grounds of race, social origin or religion.

While Islam was designated the official state religion, other practices were permitted.

Over the years Abdullah Al Salem married several women to better consolidate his various constituents.

He wed his cousin Mariam Al Sabah and Hasa Al Ganem, a member of one of Kuwait's most important trading families.

A slave concubine gave him a son, Sa'ad Al Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah (1930–2008), who would be a long-time heir apparent and ruler of Kuwait for a mere nine days — from January 15 to January 24, 2006.

Poor health forced the latter to abdicate. Abdullah Al Salem died on November 24, 1965, at the age of 70 from a heart attack during the opening session of the National Assembly.

As Arab Files mark one year of publication, we bring to you a synopsis of all the Arab personalities who figured on these pages in the past year.

Sa'ad Al Shazly (1922-)

Egyptian army chief and diplomat

The Egyptian army's crossing of the Suez Canal and destruction of the Bar-lev line in the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war is a classic chapter in Arab military studies.

The mastermind behind the offensive was Sa'ad Al Shazly, an unassuming officer who provided president Anwar Al Sadat with the necessary negotiating tools.

Al Shazly had served in the king's guard until 1948, when he participated in the first war against Israel. Over the years, he distinguished himself in the army.

He founded the paratroopers division in 1954 and commanded its first battalion until 1960. At the pinnacle of his military career, however, the warrior-diplomat was exiled for his opposition to the Camp David agreements between Egypt and Israel.

In addition to a three-year prison sentence, he was stripped of all political rights and his property was sequestered.

When he returned to Egypt in 1992 after a 14-year exile in Algeria, he was arrested and served his prison term.

Like most soldiers Al Shazly, too, did not trust non-uniformed personnel and loathed politicians. He was unable to forge political alliances.

But the impact Al Shazly had on the Egyptian army was great and that fame may outlive him.

Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000)

Founder and first president of the Republic of Tunisia

Habib Bourguiba's association with Tunisia's freedom struggle began with writing think pieces in newspapers on his return from the Sorbonne after graduation.

Bourguiba's involvement was strengthened when in 1931 he was prosecuted for “incitement of racial hatred''. He later joined the Dustour party and also launched the militant newspaper ‘L'Action Tunisienne'.

Dissatisfied with the Dustour party's working, Bourguiba founded the Neo-Dustour party, which grew in popularity across the country, leaving the French horrified. In 1934, Bourguiba and many of his associates were sent to the Burj-Leboeuf outpost in the Sahara Desert.

He was released after two years but continued his struggle against the French. After 1939 Bourguiba was imprisoned several times.

In 1945 he fled to Cairo to evade arrest and for the next four years focused on drawing international attention to the Tunisian cause. In 1949, he returned to Tunisia and reorganised his party.

He was arrested again in 1952 after he called for an insurrection against the French and was imprisoned in jails across France.

On June 1, 1955, he returned to Tunisia with the “Internal Autonomy Agreement'' and in 1956, Tunisia became independent.

From July 25, 1957, to November 7, 1987, Bourguiba was president of the republic.

He was an active president but he was probably guilty of excessive benevolence, believing in his abilities to always make the right choices for the country.

Zayn Al Sharaf Bint Jamil (1916-1994)

Queen of Jordan

Queen Zayn Al Sharaf Bint Jamil helped shape the destiny of her country. In many ways, Queen Zayn was the power behind the Hashemite throne, a woman of unparalleled abilities who seldom shied away from making key decisions for her family.

The late “queen mother'' was married to King Talal Bin Abdullah in 1934.

Though often remembered for her pioneering efforts in charitable work and her indefatigable efforts to advance women's rights in Jordan, she did a lot more.

She proved quite effective especially in the care she displayed in raising her three sons, Hussain, Mohammad and Hassan.

Queen Zayn created the first women's union in Jordan in 1944 and took part in the writing of the 1952 constitution that gave full political rights to women.

Her political instincts and courage allowed her to successfully fill a constitutional vacuum after the assassination of King Abdullah in 1951, while she helped nurse a debilitated King Talal.

She again performed this role in the period between August 1952 — when King Hussain was proclaimed monarch — and May 1953, when he finally assumed his constitutional duties at the age of 18.

An active behind-the-scenes adviser, she guided family members through many difficulties, earning the epithet “queen mother''.

Mousa Sadr (b1928)

Kidnapped religious leader

Even 30 years since his disappearance, Mousa Sadr continues to fascinate as few Lebanese have.

He was perceived as a moderate religious figure who demanded that the Maronites and Sunnis, the historically dominant religious communities in Lebanon, should relinquish some of their powers to establish a more equitable system.

Mousa Sadr was a reformer who worked tirelessly to improve the population's standard of living.

He won over not only his Shiite constituency but also many of Lebanon's cosmopolitan citizens.

But his capabilities and confrontations with established patronage mechanisms that served the few made Mousa Sadr many enemies.

A deeply spiritual individual, he knew enough about religion to understand its manipulative features.

As Baathism flourished among impoverished Shiites, Mousa Sadr appropriated Leftist slogans to mobilise his flock in what became the Harakat Al Mahrumin (Movement of the Disinherited), a popular mass association that pressed for better economic and social conditions.

One of Mousa Sadr's most remarkable attributes was his empathy for Lebanon's Christians.

Sadr managed to be viewed as a genuinely spiritual leader of all Lebanese, including Christians — a feat that has not since been duplicated.

Shukri Al Quwatli (1891-1967)

Syrian leader

Shukri Al Quwatli was probably one of the most important political innovators in Syria and a statesman who helped create its national character even when Baathism eroded most of those attributes.

Al Quwatli became president of the Syrian republic twice, first from 1943 to 1949 and for a second time from 1955 to 1958. Al Quwatli was a statesman whose political career started with his opposition to the French mandate.

He entered political life as a member of the National Bloc, became its leader in 1940 and was elected president in 1943 under French occupation.

After mounting international pressure, Paris pulled the last of its military personnel from Damascus in April 1946, bringing to a close 26 years of near-total hegemony.

Al Quwatli was overthrown in 1949 in a military coup led by Husni Al Zaim and was expelled to Egypt.

His exile ended five years later, following a series of military coups in Syria that prompted various parties to conduct relatively free elections.

Al Quwatli was elected president once again but resigned in February 1958 after Damascus signed the Union Pact with Egypt, which established the United Arab Republic that ushered in Jamal Abdul Nasser as head of state.

He fled Syria in 1963 after a military coup which brought the Baath Party to power and lived in Geneva for a while before returning to Beirut, where he died 20 days after Syria's defeat in the Six-Day War.

Sa'ad Zaghlul (1859-1927)

Egyptian prime minister

Sa'ad Zaghlul rejected the miserable conditions imposed by the British in Egypt and awakened the country against the occupying force.

A champion for freedom, Zaghlul led nationalist forces to form the Wafd — a name later adopted by his party — to seek the right to self determination at the Paris Peace Conference.

When London rejected the Wafd's demands for independence, the Egyptian nationalists adopted methods of systematic agitation.

Zaghlul played a unique role in awakening the Egyptian consciousness and thousands mobilised against the British, which led to his arrest and deportation in 1919.

Soon opposition spread to the provinces. Calm was restored only after the declaration of independence in 1922. In January 1924, the Wafd Party won the elections.

A series of protests, civil disobedience and riots eventually led to Zaghlul's appointment as prime minister from January 26, 1924, to November 24, 1924.

Zaghlul had to resign from premiership after he was politically compromised in 1924.

A stickler for parliamentary life, he had tried hard, but always struggled, to keep the country's constitutional fires burning.

While some of the ills that befell Egypt throughout the 1950s and 1960s were traced to the Wafd Party, Zaghlul encouraged the people to fight for freedom and made them realise liberty was seldom granted without paying a price.

Michel Aflaq (1910-1989)

Co-founder, Baath Party

Michel Aflaq was a pioneer Arab nationalist who dreamt of Arab unity long before Jamal Abdul Nasser mobilised the masses to that end.

For half a century the Damascene philosophy teacher struggled against “imperialism'' and for Arab unity.

Though he attended university in Paris and spoke French fluently, Aflaq returned to Damascus as a schoolmaster in 1934 and devoted his life to his beliefs.

Aflaq preached militant Arab nationalism, secularism and socialism. In 1947, he established the Baath Arab Socialist Party, based on the principles of unity, freedom and socialism.

The party played a major role in Syrian politics in the mid-1950s and, in 1958, supported the formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR).

The UAR significantly weakened the influence of the Baath and the 1958 Abdul Karin Qasim coup in Baghdad, shattered the party's pan-Arab quest for unity.

When the UAR collapsed in 1961, the Baath orchestrated its gradual return to power. This was accomplished in 1963 in a bloodless coup.

Internal tensions in 1966 brought to power the right-wing faction of Baath and Aflaq was forced to leave Syria, first to Lebanon and then to Iraq, where he became party secretary-general in 1968.

He died at 79 in Paris after complications from open heart surgery.

Aflaq, who is said to have converted to Islam, received a burial with national honours in Baghdad.

Anbara Salam Al Khalidi (1897-1988)

Pioneer of change

Though Anbara Salam Al Khalidi came from a conservative society, she received a modern education, following in her mother's footsteps.

In 1912, Anbara visited Egypt, which had several marvels of modern civilisation then not available in Beirut: “electric lights [introduced to Beirut in 1914], lifts, automobiles, the cinema [and] theatres with special places for women''.

She was dazzled by the modernity but what she cherished more were the opportunities she got to meet leading writers.

From 1925 to 1927, Anbara lived and studied in England. This was a unique opportunity and she was able to master the English language and familiarise herself with Britain.

Anbara refused to be betrothed to a relative at an early age and decided she would marry someone whom she met and got to know well.

She later married Ahmad Samih Al Khalidi, who she loved. Though family members fondly remember Anbara, few of her countrymen or women, or other Arabs for that matter, remember the central role she played in the emancipation of Muslim women and in Lebanese independence.

She saw the future and in her own way shaped it for the better.

Houari Boumédienne (1927/1932-1978)

First defence minister and fourth president of Algeria

An “utterly unromantic revolutionary, with a coldly searching intellect'', Houari Boumédienne joined the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN) — later Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) — in Algeria's struggle for independence from the French.

Boumédienne was born Mohammad Ben Brahim Boukharouba in Clauzel, near Guelma (Oran), probably in 1927 — though some biographies claim he was born on August 23, 1932.

After independence in March 1962, prime minister Ahmad Ben Bella appointed him defence minister of Algeria.

On June 19, 1965, Boumédienne seized power in a bloodless coup and abolished the constitution and parliament.

He was labelled a socialist because of his 1971 agrarian reforms. But Boumédienne fared better in foreign policy, particularly in his pursuance of non-alignment.

He also championed cooperation among developing states and called for a new world order that granted equality among nations.

Boumédienne was not Algeria's founding father but he had become its indispensable caretaker even before the country gained independence.

Saeb Salam (1905-2000)

Six-time prime minister of Lebanon

One of the youngest “founding fathers'' of independent Lebanon, Saeb Salam criss-crossed the political spectrum of the turbulent 1950s and 1960s and defended his “One Lebanon'' coexistence model during and after the internal clashes that tore the country.

Saeb exuded optimism and infused hope among the people, who cherished life even if they were trapped in tribal obligations.

His “La Ghalib, La Maghlub (No Winner, No Loser)'' motto defined Lebanon after the 1958 political crisis.

It confirmed that no community could dominate the other in Lebanon. Saeb made history by supporting Arab nationalism.
He was a stickler for constitutional authority and opposed attempts to use the military to create a police state.

Saeb assumed his first Cabinet position as minister of interior in 1946, which built on his parliamentary successes and inaugurated several decades of national service.

On September 14, 1952, he became prime minister of Lebanon — a stint that lasted just four days.

Between 1953 and 1956 Saeb's political outlook underwent significant changes, propelled by Nasserism and the Suez crisis.

In 1969 he formed a triumvirate with Sulaiman Franjieh and Kamal Al Assad to protect democratic institutions against the 2e Bureau's officers. Saeb loved Lebanon.

Yet he knew that what made his country unique, and worth defending, were its critical institutions.

Ìffat Al Thunayan (1916-2000)

Queen of Saudi Arabia

Their segregation notwithstanding, many Saudi Arabian women have achieved remarkable successes, thanks mostly to the work of one remarkable woman, Queen Ìffat Al Thunayan, who, along with her husband King Faisal Bin Àbdul Àziz, established the foundations for change.

The queen, who loved to listen and speak, was also an avid reader. She encouraged her family to discuss and comment on a range of subjects. She also travelled extensively.

King Faisal relied on Ìffat for rare insights that helped formulate appropriate state policies.

He trusted her judgment. Queen Ìffat played a vital role in shaping the ruler's vision for excellence.

Faisal considered education the founding investment to build a working society.

Riyadh, therefore, set aside a significant share of resources to promote education. Queen Ìffat established the first girls' college in Riyadh, the Quliyyat Al Banat, and started the Nahdah Al Sa'udiyyah, a progressive association that provided illiterate women of Riyadh free classes in hygiene, childcare, foreign languages, typing and other useful subjects.

Ìffat was deeply interested in building an educated class in Saudi Arabia and worked tirelessly to promote women in all fields.

She concentrated on education, health services and philanthropy as fields where the employment of women could be promoted and encouraged. Queen Ìffat propelled her nation to new heights.

Omar Al Mukhtar (1860-1931)

Guerrilla freedom fighter

In October 1911 when Italy advanced on Tripoli to occupy the territory under Ottoman suzerainty, Constantinople ordered its men to surrender. Rome proclaimed victory.

But what followed was a series of battles between the occupiers and guerrillas organised and led by an extraordinary man — Omar Al Mukhtar.

Al Mukhtar awakened among his followers love for their country and duty, and put to rest an often-used Western claim that Arabs did not consider their lands dear.

Al Mukhtar embarked on an organised resistance in 1912. This quiet teacher quickly became a master strategist in desert guerrilla tactics because he knew his country's geography better than most.

Before long, he was the undisputed leader of the Sanusi resistance movement, which became a model for others throughout the Arab world.

After 20 years of guerrilla engagement, Al Mukhtar was captured by the Italian army in the desert near the city of Zaltan, south of Benghazi, on September 11, 1931.

As expected, he was tried by a kangaroo court, convicted and sentenced to death. Rome hoped the speedy execution of the fighter — on September 16, 1931 — would wither the resistance. It didn't.

Al Mukhtar was a practitioner of freedom, whose understanding of authority compelled him to fight and die for his country.