Highway 15: Kingdom at the Crossroads

12 of the 15 Saudi 9-11 hijackers came from the tribes that straddle Highway 15. A coincidence? It’s the equivalent of the Arabian Peninsula’s Route 66 – In the immediate aftermath of the US-UK invasion of Iraq, Oliver Steeds undertook a journey along it to investigate the ideological roots of the rise of Islamist fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Beginning at Bin Laden’s ancestral home in Yemen, passing through al Qaeda gun-markets, artist studios, meetings with Jihadis, friends and relatives of 9-11 hijackers before entering the Aseer Region of Saudi Arabia, passing Mecca and finally reaching Jeddah.

Highway 15 gives a rare street-level insight into a ‘kingdom at the crossroads’ of change – Saudi i the spiritual home of Islam, holds over a quarter of the world’s oil and the birthplace and a popular recruiting grounds of al-Qaeda. It’s also a demographic timebomb -70% of Saudi are under 30. Today they face an inheritance of internal political, religious and cultural change, the fallout of 9-11, the politics and wars of Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, a love-hate relationship with America, and what many believe is the West’s war on Islam. From al Qaeda gun-markets to wannabe gangsters on the streets of Jeddah, from jihadis to modern artists, this powerful, authored documentary tells their story.

As one jihadi interviewed at the end of the film hauntingly says: ‘there will be worse attacks in America or maybe in England’. In the middle of it all, a Kingdom stands at the crossroads. It will Saudi’s youth that will ultimately decide.

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Highway 15: Kingdom at the Crossroads Script & Editorial Summary (PDF, 2.4MB)

Highway 15 gives a rare street-level insight into a ‘kingdom at the crossroads’ of change – 70% of Saudi are under 30. Today they face an inheritance of internal political, religious and cultural change, the fallout of 9-11, the politics and wars of Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, a love-hate relationship with America, and what many believe is the West’s war on Islam. From al Qaeda gun-markets to wannabe gangsters on the streets of Jeddah, from jihadis to modern artists, this powerful, authored documentary tells their story.

Production details
Title: Highway 15: Kingdom at the Crossroads
Role: Writer, Narrator, Director/Camera, Producer
Transmission: excerpts used in art installation
Location: Yemen & Saudi Arabia
Format: 1 x 60 minute documentary (available on request)