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On the 4th of November in Saudi Arabia the recently appointed Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, began the movement to purge his government and country of corruption by detaining eleven princes, four ministers and several influential businessmen. This has been interpreted as both a positive action to benefit the citizens of Saudi Arabia, as well as possibly being a move to consolidate the Crown Prince’s power by keeping the people optimistic and removing opposition.
The Middle East director of the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Sarah Leah Whitson, stated on Wednesday that “while Saudi media are framing these measures as Mohammad bin Salman’s move against corruption, the mass arrests suggest this may be more about internal power politics.” HRW further stated that “Saudi authorities have not disclosed the specific reasons for the detention of the dozens of other people since mid-September. But the detentions fit a pattern of human rights violations against peaceful advocates and dissidents, including harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, travel bans, detention, and prosecution.”
The media has been quick to praise Salman’s actions, framing him in a positive light, but within politics there is always a need to question what the motivations and intentions are behind the movements of our leaders. There needs to be solid evidence to detain any person, despite the need to purge corruption out of many world systems. Without this evidence, this act is considered a human rights violation. This is important, because if the Crown Prince continues to be allowed to detain people without being questioned, his power will continue to increase and there is the potential for the situation to increasingly violate the rights of the people within the nation. It is important for the international community to take these actions seriously and not lose sight of the potential risks of this, as leaders with this much power can easily abuse their position and conduct injustice and conflict.
At 32 years old, Mohammad bin Salman is a young leader who was given the position of crown prince in June 2017 by his father King Salman. He has a great power of influence and responsibility as he is the defense minister and in charge of the economy. The international community has positively reacted to the crown prince because of his progressive visions for the nation. He has questioned the traditional religious clerics by promising to let women drive in the only country where it is still illegal. He further plans to increase female employment, improve education, create non-oil industries to support the economy and the environment, as well as invest in young people and the entertainment sectors. However, there is still a question of his motivations and whether all his promises are power plays to gain stable and loyal support from the people while he continues to detain his opponents without the evidence of the corruption required to have them accused.
While his visions for Saudi Arabia’s future are positive overall, it is vital that the international and local media do not get lost in the romantic idea that the Crown Prince has pure intentions for a utopian society. Like all political leaders, Salman must be kept in check and provide evidence of corruption by those citizen’s he continues to detain. By keeping him in check he will hopefully fulfill his promises of a brighter future for Saudi Arabia’s people and environment.