Saudi Arabia under MBS: Has bin Salman brought progress to his country?

Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. MBS) is the young and new-ish Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

He put together a plan for social and economic reform known as Saudi Vision 2030, in hopes of modernizing the most repressive country in the world and diversifying its economy, which is struggling with the fall in oil prices.

How’s he doing?

Glad you asked.

MBS is helping to modernize Saudi Arabia.

economic diversification

Saudi Arabia’s wealth has depended on its oil, and as prices have dropped, the country has suffered. In addition, there is speculation that their oil reserves are dwindling.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that Saudi Arabia will run out of cash without serious structural reform.

In order to stabilize the economy they need to develop other sectors, and MBS has gone on the road to sell his new plan to prospective investors. He spent two weeks traveling in the U.S., using his charm to attract developers into public sectors including education, tourism and recreation.

social reforms

MBS’s attempts to bring the conservative Saudi Arabia into the 21st century has been popular in people under the age of 30.

Last year, women were allowed to attend sports stadiums. They were given permission to drive–which is not only a social reform but also makes it easier for women to enter the work force.

MBS has promoted live concerts, and opened movie theatres—both of which had been banned by the religious conservatives.

Wahhabism

Wahhabism is the uber-conservative version of Islam that policed the Saudi people. This group has also been responsible for the development of extremists globally, and produced several of the 9/11 terrorists.

Recently, MBS stopped funding Wahhabi institutions outside Saudi Arabia and severely curtailed the powers of the religious police.

corruption crackdown

MBS invited hundreds of Saudi princes, high-level businessmen, and government ministers to the Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, where they were arrested and detained—only to be released after they had paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bail. With this, he hoped to purge corruption from the government and, possibly, to consolidate his support.

MBS has brought more corruption and intolerance to Saudi Arabia.

Jamal Khashoggi

A well-known Saudi journalist, whose family is connected to the Saudi elite, moved to the U.S. when he worried about his safety. He had spoken out against Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman for the growing repression in his country and the war in Yemen.

When Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to get papers for his marriage, he never left. Rather, he left after having been killed, dismembered, and taken out in suitcases.

The message to the world? Saudi Arabia will punish its dissidents and doesn’t seem to care too much about repercussions.

President Trump comments on Khashoggi’s disappearance:

“It’s in Turkey, and it’s not a citizen, as I understand it,” he said. “But a thing like that shouldn’t happen.” Trump added later: “Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen. Is that right?” An aide specified that Khashoggi has been a permanent U.S. resident.

executions on the rise

During the same period, the number of executions in the kingdom has steeply increased.

Saudi Arabia, is the only country in the world that still employs beheading. And, according to human rights organization Amnesty International, the number of executions has sharply increased since the crown prince was appointed. In eight months, 133 people were executed, with an average of 16 people per month that he has personally overseen.

Yemen

MBS is responsible for launching a brutal military effort in Yemen that has created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

intolerance for reformers

MBS arrested dozens of critics of his reforms, including peaceful activists, writers, journalists and two popular Muslim scholars.

Under MBS, 13 women and men were arrested for speaking out against guardianship rules, among other things. Under MBS, an economist studied Vision 2030 and offered criticisms and suggestions for improving it. He is now facing long-term imprisonment. Two prominent religious reformers have been arrested, facing charges that could lead to long-term imprisonment.

guardianship law remains

The guardianship law says that every woman must have a male guardian — husband, father, brother, even a son — who can make decisions on her behalf, including applying for a passport, traveling outside the country, studying abroad on a government scholarship and marrying.

Women have been imprisoned for advocating for its revocation.

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