Saudi Arabia consisted of fourteen provinces, or amirates, each governed by an amir (governor) appointed by the king. In 1992 these amirates included Al Banah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah, Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Al Qasim, Al Qurayyat, Ar Riyadh, Ash Sharqiyah, Asir, Hail, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, and Tabuk. The larger, more populous amirates were subdivided into districts and subdistricts.
In theory, the governors were responsible to the minister of interior. In practice, however, the governors usually reported directly to the king. In 1992 all amirate governors and most of their deputies were members of the Al Saud. King Fahd's brothers, sons, and nephews ruled the most politically important amirates; other kin ruled the smaller amirates. The governors maintained administrative offices in the principal cities of their respective amirates, although none of these cities was designated a capital. The governors' principal responsibility was to oversee the work of both central government and municipal officials within the amirates. The governors also served as commanders of the local police and Saudi Arabian National Guard units and supervised the recruitment of local men for these security forces. In addition, each governor followed the example of the king and held a public majlis, often on a daily basis, at which he heard petitions from local residents. Typically, the petitions pertained to local disputes, which the governor either arbitrated or referred to an appropriate court. Some governors considered the majlis an important link between the people and government and employed several special assistants who investigated local disputes and grievances.
The governors were assisted by one, or sometimes two, deputies and, in some amirates, by one or more deputy assistant governors. In amirates that were subdivided into districts, the district officials were subordinate to the amirate governors. The mayors of each city, town, and village within an amirate were formally responsible to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, although in practice they also were subordinate to the governor. Since the 1960s, the Al Saud princes have discussed the merits of creating amirate councils, elected or appointed bodies of local men to advise and assist the governors. In early 1992, King Fahd announced that he would appoint councils in each amirate; these councils would assume limited local authority over some central government functions.
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