Saudi Arabia's young prince hunts for power

Mohammed bin Salman has set out to reform the Kingdom. Among the changes he has rushed into effect are long over due liberties for women.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Saudi Arabia's young prince hunts for power - NewsMavens
Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Saudi Arabian politics can seem bewildering to those outside of the Middle East. But all eyes are on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who is facing battles on many fronts to consolidate power and reform the Kingdom.

My colleague, Linh Nguyen's piece on the prince is an eye-opening overview about the young man's quest to consolidate power in the Arab state.

Bin Salman, also known as MbS, was only 29 years old when he was elevated to Deputy Crown Prince, before rising to the rank of Crown Prince at age 31 in June 2017. This was despite the country's apparent prerequisite for maturity and makes him first in line for the throne.

He is a young man in a hurry; he has launched a war in Yemen, led a blockade against Qatar and ordered the arrests of royal family members and business elites.

And yet his biggest battle may be against the ultra-conservative religious establishment at home on which his family's rule depended. Bin Salman said he wants to "moderate Islam", but can he?

He has already ruled that women will be allowed to drive and enter sport stadiums in 2018, lifting a historic ban. He has also arrested prominent clerics and intellectuals for dissent, and ordered a crackdown on corruption.

But these moves may not only be about moderating religious control. Among the prince's goals are diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and moving it away from its dependence on oil.

This is a critical time for Saudi Arabia, in particular for its women. If MbS's move to allow them into the driver's seat is about securing power, where does that leave Saudi women?

Details from the story:

  • Until June 2018, Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.
  • The new and young Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been consolidating power.
  • He wants to "moderate Islam" in Saudi Arabia and is making moves to weaken the grip of the Kingdom's ultra-conservative religious establishment.
  • MbS appears to have been emboldened by support from Saudi Arabia's under-30s, which make up 70 percent of the population.
  • Since rising to the rank in June 2017, he has already launched a war in Yemen, led a blockade against Qatar, and ordered the arrests of royal family members and business elites.

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