Home Consulate Women drivers in Khashoggi: the tumultuous reign of the Saudi crown prince

Women drivers in Khashoggi: the tumultuous reign of the Saudi crown prince

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Riyadh: saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was portrayed by some in the West as a reformer when he became the ultra-conservative country’s de facto leader five years ago.
But the honeymoon ended abruptly after dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Here is an overview of the main changes:
On June 21, 2017, King Salman named his then 31-year-old son, Mohammed, crown prince, crowning the meteoric rise of the ambitious defense minister.
It comes amid a major fallout with Qatar, which Riyadh accuses of supporting terrorism and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.
In November 2017, around 380 royals, senior officials and business tycoons were arrested in a dramatic purge billed as an anti-corruption campaign.
Many are held for weeks at the Riyad Ritz-Carlton hotel. Most are released after agreeing major financial settlements.
In September 2017, the monarchy ended the world’s only ban on female drivers by announcing that they could drive from June 2018.
Cinemas are also reopened, music concerts are held with mixed audiences allowed, and women are allowed in sports stadiums.
The enthusiasm aroused by the announcements is somewhat dampened by the repression of activists who had campaigned for the right to drive.
In November 2017, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in a televised address from Riyadh that he was resigning, citing Iran’s “grip” on his country.
Saudi Arabia is accused of forcing his hand in an attempt to weaken the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement that shares power in Lebanon.
Hariri is spending two weeks in Riyadh amid speculation he is under house arrest. After the intervention of France, he returned to Lebanon and canceled his resignation.
Riyadh entered the war in Yemen in 2015 leading an Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war is escalating the conflict, which is spreading across the country and producing what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The coalition is denounced for air strikes, particularly on markets and hospitals, which cause heavy civilian casualties. The intervention fails to rout the rebels.
In March 2018, the prince embarked on his first overseas tour as heir, visiting Egypt and Britain, where he had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.
Prince Mohammed then spends more than two weeks in the United States, meeting President Donald Trump and visiting tech leaders in Silicon Valley. He also travels to France and Spain.
On October 2, 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, sparking global outcry.
Prince Mohammed denies ordering the murder. The government blames rogue security officials.
A Saudi court sentences five people to death for the murder, but they are later sentenced to prison terms.
The case turns the crown prince into an outcast in the West, with a UN reporter and the CIA both linking him to the murder.
Energy giant Saudi Aramco completes the world’s largest IPO in December 2019.
The move is key to Prince Mohammed’s ambitious strategy to overhaul the oil-dependent economy.
In April 2021, Prince Mohammad provokes surprise by declaring that he wants to have “good relations” with Iran. The two sworn enemies begin talks in Iraq.
A fifth round of talks in April 2022, hailed by Iran as “positive and serious”, suggests that the Islamic republic and the Sunni kingdom could resume broken diplomatic relations in 2016.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition agree to a two-month ceasefire starting April 2, 2022.
Yemeni President, backed by Saudi Arabia, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, announces from Riyadh that he is handing over power to a new leadership council that will negotiate with the Houthis on a lasting peace.
In June, the truce is renewed for two more months.
On June 14, the White House announces that US President Joe Biden will meet the crown prince in Riyadh, signaling an end to attempts to ostracize him over Khashoggi’s death.