Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presents himself as a progressive. His Vision 2030 aims to include more women in the Saudi economy, increase employment and decrease oil dependence among many other grand claims.
MBS’s blueprint seems to offer a new hope for the Saudi Kingdom; one where women’s rights, poverty and other vices will improve. As the Saudi Embassy phrased it, they seek to establish “a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”
Unfortunately, the Crown Prince’s actions have been the antithesis to this vision. Saudi Arabia’s genocide of Yemeni civilians, oppression of journalists and activists and assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are enough to reveal MBS’s true intent. Unfortunately, his crimes don’t stop there. He jailed many in his campaign against corruption, and champions China’s concentration camps for Muslims. The Saudi government is not at all one in reform, but one vying for power, and Americans must see MBS as a threat to human rights instead of a champion of them.
MBS’s constant airstrikes in Yemen have directly resulted in thousands of deaths. According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least 6,872 Yemeni civilians have died and 10,768 have been injured between March 2015 and Nov. 2018. The document notes that “the majority of these casualties- 10,852 resulted from airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition.”
In addition to the numerous victims of Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes, a massive famine is ravishing Yemen. Save The Children reports that 85,000 children “under five may have died from extreme hunger or disease since the war in Yemen.” This is a conservative estimate, according to the organization.
And this ongoing famine has strong ties to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition has imposed naval blockades on ports, stemming Yemen’s supply of food. This coalition’s setup of blockades have “stopped life-saving goods for the population from entering [Houthi-controlled] seaports,” according to the Human Rights Watch. The blockade in Hodeidah- one of the North’s main seaports for food and medicine- has especially harmed civilians.
All of these food supply disruptions have exacerbated an already worsening humanitarian disaster.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also demonstrated its true, grisly intentions when it arrested eight supporters of women’s rights activists this month. Among the arrested were two American citizens. They were protesting against Saudi Arabia’s detainment of 11 women who had protested for women’s right to drive a year ago.
Arresting activists who want to reform Saudi Arabia is an indicator that Saudi Arabia does not seek reform, it seeks power.
As someone who wants to appear to the public as a reformer, MBS failed when he backed China’s Uighur concentration camps. He said on Chinese state television that China “has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extermination work for its national security.” Xi Jinping’s government has detained hundreds of thousands of Uighur people; Turkic Muslims living in Central Asia and Northwestern China.
Given that MBS is a part of a regime which has jailed advocates for women’s rights and stamps down on dissidence, the Crown Prince is no progressive. He has no right to brand Uighur Muslims as extremists, because he represents an extremist government. Wahhabism , Saudi Arabia’s austere interpretation of Islam, has spread to multiple countries and inspired radical Salafist groups.
Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption purge expanded power. Among the many business and political elites detained were 11 Saudi princes; rivals to the Crown Prince. He accused the detained of bribery and other corruption charges.
Americans must realize that the Saudi Kingdom and MBS are a major threat to human rights. They have and will continue to bomb Yemen, claiming thousands of lives. Their blockades coupled with the bombings have intensified an already worsening famine. In MBS’ own country, the Crown Prince has detained hundreds of elites who disagree with him. During his time as de-facto leader of Saudi Arabia, women's rights activists, including American citizens, have been arrested. Although Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on women driving, these activists were arrested over their protest. Then the government arrested the activists’ supporters this month. As an alleged reformer, MBS is failing to reform. In fact, his backing of China’s concentration camps is backwards and extremist. The Saudi government does not intend to reform itself. It hopes to maintain power.