Saudi Arabia and Iran Compared

By: Mr. BeatPublished: 8 months ago

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Mr. Beat compares and contrasts Saudi Arabia and Iran, two Middle Eastern countries with governments that apparently hate each other.

Special thanks to the AP Archive for footage for this video. It made a huge difference! AP Archive website:

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Produced by Matt Beat. All images used with permission or fall under fair use guidelines or found in public domain. Music by Electric Needle Room (Matt Beat).


Photo credits:
Behrooz Rezvani
Ali Mansuri
Gregor Rom
Greger Ravik
Adam Jones
Ehsan Mosleh
Erik Albers
Peter Dowley

Saudi Arabia and Iran

Separated by the Persian Gulf, the two neighboring countries that have been competing for dominance over the past few decades in a region referred to as The Middle East. Both apparently hate each other. Well, at least their governments do. In recent years, the two countries have been either directly or indirectly involved in several different conflicts throughout the Middle East.

Both countries are run by theocracies, or governments made up of religious leaders. Their religion? Islam. However, Iran does have democracy and a constitution, making it officially a theocratic republic. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. The king is in charge, making decisions under the guidance of religious leaders and top princes of the royal family. In Saudi Arabia, the Quran is the official constitution of the country.

But yeah, both countries have really authoritarian governments, both ranking near the bottom on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. An example of this? Both have state-run broadcast media that dominate how citizens get information and regularly feed them pro-government propaganda. There are no private, independent broadcasters. Satellite dishes are even banned in both countries, although people still have them anyway. Private newspapers or magazines are heavily censored. That all said, Iran is a bit more free than Saudi Arabia. At least their government has to be somewhat accountable or they get the boot. And in Saudi Arabia, it’s illegal to be an atheist, punishable by death. Wait, what’s that? Oh, apparently you can get killed for being an atheist in Iran, too.

The vast majority of citizens in both countries are Muslims. However, they are of two different branches of Islam. Around 90-95% in Iran practice Shia Islam, whereas around 85%-90% in Saudi Arabia practice Sunni Islam. This Shia-Sunni divide has been contentious for centuries and always demonstrated an underlying rift between the two countries. But Saudi Arabia can boast Islam started within its borders. It regularly attracts millions to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities for Muslims. Medina is where the founder of Islam, Muhammad, is buried. Mecca, the holiest city of them all, attracts Muslims from all over the world each year with the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage all Muslims are expected to make at least once in their life.

Both countries have a similar birth rate and a similar population growth rate. However, Iran has 2 and a half times more people than Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that it has less land area.

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