The Middle East Institute was pleased to host Joseph Kéchichian of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, who discussed his recently released biography of a remarkable political personality in the House of Saud. As queen to Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal until his assassination in 1975 and trusted by her brothers-in-law who succeeded him, ‘Iffat Al-Thunayan influenced the internal dynamics and public policy of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family over several decades. An advocate for modernizing and expanding health care and education in Saudi society, she also persuaded foreign investors to come to the Kingdom and was active as a philanthropist. Staking out new ground as queen, she took part in state functions and received female state visitors.
Drawing on his book, the first political biography of a Saudi monarch’s spouse, Dr. Kéchichian examined how Queen ‘Iffat achieved and exercised her influence within the royal family and the advances she secured for her people. Middle East Institute President Wendy Chamberlin moderated the Q&A session, which took place in MEI's Oman Library.
Joseph A. Kéchichian is a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and a periodic contributor to www.mei.edu and The Middle East Journal. He is the author of several books, including Legal and Political Reforms in Saudi Arabia (Routledge, 2013), Power and Succession in the Arab Monarchies (Lynne Rienner, 2008), Faysal: Saudi Arabia’s King for All Seasons (University Press of Florida, 2008), and Succession in Saudi Arabia (Palgrave, 2001), in addition to his latest publication, ‘Iffat Al Thunayan: An Arabian Queen (Sussex Academic Press, 2015).
Wendy J. Chamberlin has been president of the Middle East Institute since 2007. As the United Nations' deputy high commissioner for refugees from 2004 to 2007, she supervised the administration of the U.N. humanitarian organization. A 29-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, she was ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2002, when she played a key role in securing Pakistan’s cooperation in the U.S.-led post-9/11 campaign against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. She also served as director of global affairs and counter-terrorism on the National Security Council staff (1991-1993), as U.S. Ambassador to Laos (1996-1999), and as assistant administrator heading the Asia-Near East bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development (2002 to 2004).