For many outsiders, Saudi Arabia remains an enigma. A kingdom of dazzling wealth and unmistakable global influence tied, in no small part, to massive oil reserves. It’s known by reputation as a land of glitzy shopping malls and luxurious hotels, but also as an oppressive religious state, showing very little tolerance inside its borders for the unrest and dissent that has found fertile ground elsewhere in the Arab world.

King Salman and Barack ObamaKing Salman and Barack Obama

With unprecedented access to an intrepid network of young activists, Saudi Arabia Uncovered reveals the simmering dissent inside the secretive regime. It provides a rare look inside the country, bringing together footage from previously hidden corners of life. It documents prisons, public punishments, and defiance - behind closed doors and out on the streets.

Forces from within - and without - are pushing Riyadh’s ruling regime to expand personal liberties and ease up on freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia Uncovered traces the efforts of men and women working to bring about change, often at great personal risk. It tells the story of Raif Badawi, a young blogger sentenced to prison and 1,000 lashes for writing about his government and religion.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: The scene at Chop Chop square, a place notorious for public punishments.

The stories of dissent are often harrowing and depict a society shifting under the feet of its rulers. It’s a fight between life and liberty, imprisonment and even death. The documentary follows the case of Ali Nimr, a school boy charged with treason and sentenced to death for joining in street protests when he was only 17. His family says he was tortured into confessing.

The kingdom is often described as a partner in the fight against ISIS, but Saudi Arabia Uncovered also traces the path of Saudi money and its role in helping to drive terrorism around the world. Recent legislation in the US has allowed the families of 9/11 victims the right to sue Saudi Arabia for any role its government played in the 2001 attacks.

Credits (Click to expand)

Narrated:                                          Tuppence Middleton

Archive                                            ITN Source

                                                        AP Archive

Corbis Images

Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images

Today Programme, BBC R4


Composer                                         Jack Ketch

Additional Camera                 Tim Grucza

                                                        Steve Standen

                                                        Patrick Smith

Colourist                                          Andy Elliot

On Line Editor                         Ben Lee

Dubbing Mixer                         Kate Davis

Head of Production                         Robin Barty-King

AP                                                    Vanessa Bowles

Production Coordinator                   Juliet Nagillah

Film Editor                               Graham Taylor

Associate Producer                          Sam Collins

Executive Producer                      David Henshaw

Produced and Directed by           James Jones