By, Maya Alsughaiyer, BA Politics and World Philosophies
The current Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is 81 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s. But this is anything but representative of the Saudi society where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30 and roughly 25 percent are unemployed. The pressure on the government to enact reforms stems from the fact that 200,000 students (including myself) are studying abroad; 35,000 men and women are coming home with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and not finding work. The system, which caters to mostly relying on expats to do the tough jobs, is no longer sufficient for the increasingly changing society. The government so far has been depending on its savings to purchase stability, but with the unstable oil market crashing more and more, today it seems like this won’t be the case any longer.
The Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who also goes by M.B.S., is currently the next in line to the throne. M.B.S made international headlines by introducing reforms such as; allowing women to drive; and arresting high-profile Saudi billionaires and former government ministers on the basis of corruption charges, something that has never happened before in Saudi history. M.B.S’ various interviews with the news media depict him as a reformist with hopes of changing Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has a very long way to go before it would vaguely resemble anything similar to Western standards of women’s rights and free speech — some of the reforms are way overdue, such as Riyadh (the capital of Saudi) finally allowing music concerts to take place. Toby Keith held an all-male concert last September for the first time in Riyadh and Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji will hold an all-female concert on December 6. These changes come along with broad educational reforms, such as sending Saudi teachers to Finland to receive training in order to match their teaching with the highest educational standard and public schools finally allowing Saudi girls to have an hour of daily physical education classes. These reforms may sound ridiculously late, but better late than never.