Ambitious reforms will undoubtedly depend on the ability of Mb S and his government to steer modernity through a domestic landscape of reactionary, religious, tribal, and royal family fissures.On a regional level, the kingdom is beset with a protracted war in Yemen and the ascendancy of its nemesis, Iran, as the Islamic Republic develops a Western-sanctioned nuclear project and moves proxies into the vacuum left by Islamic State.
Are women able to drive safely without removing their veils?Will women be tempted to leave the house without permission? Would female traffic police be required to question women carrying a male passenger or mixing with men on motorways or petrol stations?The royal decree granting Saudi women the right to drive astonished the Western world and geared up approval for the house of Saud.What is driving the reforms and are they achievable?Women’s right to drive is also a necessity for ‘Vision 2030,’ an ambitious plan for economic diversification and reducing dependence on oil revenues and foreign laborers.
Announced last year by King Salman’s son, 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as Mb S, the plan aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce, unhampered by the constraints and expense of mandatory chauffeurs - mostly foreign workers. In the past four years, the number of women working in the private sector has increased by 130%.The group’s demand for an end to the monarchy, their accusations of dangerous Westernization, and the bloodbath that followed, still resonate through the House of Saud.Could women obtain a licence photograph in a culture that considers uncovering her face a sin?The recent ballistic missile attacks on Riyadh from Yemen, presumably aided by Iran, highlighted the kingdom’s vulnerability.However, the Saudi king remains Custodian of Islam’s Two Holy Mosques, and the House of Saud is in a position to lead the Sunni, if not the Islamic, world.If the laws of sexual segregation are discarded, the patriarchal system will be shaken to its foundations. According to the World Economic Forum, Saudi Arabia ranks 141 out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap.