Netflix documentary 'History 101' claims Saudi Arabia 'has been independent since 1932'

Independent of what? The episode has faced some backlash online for the mistakes it makes about Saudi Arabia and the region's first oil well

An aerial view shows Kingdom tower and a the King Fahad road, which remains empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr feast marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on May 24, 2020. Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, began a five-day round-the-clock curfew from May 23, in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. / AFP / FAISAL AL-NASSER
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Netflix's new show History 101 is receiving backlash on Twitter for a few key mistakes about Middle East history.

In the show's fifth episode, called Oil and the Middle East, the narrator simply states that "Saudi Arabia has been independent since 1932", without explanation. She then goes on to say in the same sentence, "In 1946 Syria and Lebanon free themselves from France, and that same year, Britain leaves Jordan". This clearly implies the "independence" they state is connected to colonial rule.

However, Saudi Arabia has never been under colonial rule and has thus never had to gain independence from an occupying force.

The kingdom, instead, was established in 1932 after its founding father, King Abdulaziz Al Saud, known as Ibn Saud in the West, united the four regions: Hejaz, Najd and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa) and Southern Arabia ('Asir).

The episode has faced considerable backlash on Twitter for its error.

“Dear Netflix,” Twitter user Talal Mohamed Al Abdullah Al Faisal wrote. “Would you care to share with us, Saudis, who we gained our independence from? Because it’s news to us.”

Al Mohannad Al Hashboul, a Saudi petroleum engineer, pointed out that the episode also mistakenly states that oil was first discovered in the Middle East in 1938 in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

However, an oil well was discovered in the early 1930s in Bahrain. The well, situated below Jebel Dukhan, first spurted oil in 1931 and finally began spouting heads of oil on the morning of June 2, 1932. The show lists when oil is found in most major GCC countries, but leaves out Bahrain entirely.

“Mediocre at its best,” Al Hashboul wrote.

History 101 is a British production and it premiered on Netflix on Friday, May 22. The 10-episode documentary series by ITN Productions uses archival footage and graphs to explore a range of topics from robots to the fast food industry and nuclear power.

The show's trailer: 

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