Friday 9 December 2016

Follow the money and all radical Islamist roads lead back to Saudi Arabia

Published 18/11/2015 | 02:30

Saudi women attend a traditional dance performance in the capital, Riyadh
Saudi women attend a traditional dance performance in the capital, Riyadh

It's customary to open the first speech of a conference with the catch-all welcome of "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen". It's more of a habit than anything else. It is therefore unusual to then look down more carefully from the podium at the huge hall and realise that there are no ladies present at all.

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This absence was one of my first impressions of Saudi Arabia and, although it should have been expected, addressing an all-male audience - many in dresses - in this day and age, feels extremely backward. If a country is trying to be a leading global power and economic giant, excluding half its population seems a bit daft.

That's Saudi Arabia and I was in its main city, Riyadh.

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