Saudi celebrations canceled to support Syria

National Day celebrations in Saudi Arabia subdued after King Abdullah announces cancellations in solidarity with Syrians.

Saudi King Abdullah 390 (photo credit: Reuters/Saudi Press Agency)
Saudi King Abdullah 390
(photo credit: Reuters/Saudi Press Agency)
Saudi Arabia’s National Day celebrations were more subdued than usual on Sunday, after King Abdullah announced he was canceling several events to show his nation’s solidarity with the Syrian people.
The Saudi king announced late on Saturday night that opera singing performances scheduled to be held across Saudi Arabia as part of the country’s 82nd National Day celebrations would be called off “in solidarity with the brothers of the Syrian people,” the kingdom’s state press agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has long voiced its support for the Syrian opposition, largely in order to counter the influence of the oil-rich kingdom’s major regional rival, and Assad’s chief ally, Shi’ite-led Iran.
The opposition Syrian National Council has said that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have supplied the mostly Sunni Syrian opposition with light arms.
Abdullah’s decision to express Saudi Arabia’s support for the regime in a national gesture comes after Assad slammed the kingdom as a “nouveau riche Western surrogate” in an interview with Egyptian weekly Al- Ahram al-Arabi last week. In that interview, Assad accused Saudi Arabia of arming Syrian rebels, and said the oil-rich kingdom was “behind Israel’s 1967 war on Egypt and does not appreciate the present Axis of Resistance against Zionism.”
Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zohbi has since denied Assad gave the interview, saying he instead held an informal conversation with nine Egyptian journalists, which was then reported out of context.
The move also comes after Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, chose not to attend a meeting of regional powers, including Iran and Egypt, on the Syria crisis last week.This year’s celebrations are heavily focused on the country’s younger population, with Saudi schools preparing dances and theatrical events to mark the occasion, a phenomenon the Saudi press has attributed to a growing sense of nationalism among young people.