Earlier last week, there has been reports of the continued abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia. The country has been criticised for carrying out 48 executions so far since the beginning of 2018.
Being part of the United Nations human rights council brings to question on the legitimacy and integrity of it when some of the members don’t face competition to grant them a seat in the council. Saudi Arabia’s role in the conflict at Yemen– where there has been reports of war crimes being done to the country, has sparked condemnation by many political figures who have spoken of Saudi’s contradictory role in the human rights council.
The current Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman took office in June 2017 after his father, King Salman’s decision to removing his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef from every political position, making bin Salman the next heir to the Saudi throne. The new Crown Prince immediately took over in some of the areas which has been frowned upon by the rest of the world such as granting the right for women to be able to drive (being the last country in the world to do so). Alongside this, women are allowed to go to sports stadiums, visit the cinema, watch concerts and join the military, all areas which has previously been a male dominated field. Yes, there is a long way to go in creating an equal coexistence between the genders but changes like this brings forth an optimism that the country is heading towards a more positive direction.
Bin Salman has also tackled the corruption crises in Saudi Arabia. Many powerful and influential Saudis with a hand in corruption have been arrested and their assets seized, sparking widespread shock in the country and praise from its international audience.
However, such changes have been questioned by political commentators, politicians and Saudi citizens. Some are wondering whether there could be another motive to bin Salman’s new 2030 vision of the country. Highlighting on his vision on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 government website, he has expressed that one of his biggest plans is to “become a global investment powerhouse” and “transforming our unique strategic location into a global hub connecting three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa.” The Crown Prince has been labeled as a modernist champion.
While many of bin Salman’s plans sound enlightening, one cannot ignore or turn a blind eye to the breach of human rights in the country. There has also been fears of a totalitarian approach to leading the country like many of his past predecessors. Talks of this have been sparked from some of the actions he has taken. Becoming the de facto head of the entire government as well as being the Prime Minister under the Saudi system to taking over the security and defence forces and further enforcing the crackdown on public dissent have further added tension to the already tense state of the country.
Questions have been raised as to whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is really a reformer or if he is using all these changes as a way to impose complete control in Saudi Arabia which could easily be overlooked while people are interested to hear about these new reformations.